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Edouard Martinet


Twelve years ago, a successful French graphic designer called Edouard Martinet had
his Damascene moment. He became severely bugged, by bugs – but not for the first
time. He was 10 when one of his primary school teachers began to teach his pupils
about insects, and in a rather obsessive way.

Having studied at L’Ecole Supérieure des Arts Graphiques in Paris, he lived and
worked as a graphic designer in Paris from 1988 to 1992. Predictably, he found work
in publishing, and in advertising and trademark logo design. But after little more than
a year, he knew he was only marking time. The desire to create sculptures which
linked the precision of graphic design with his instinct for rearranging detritus
became too strong to ignore. “I like giving life to found objects,” he says, “and I don’t
want to make them useful. I only want them to seem alive, but not as if they could
be functional robots. I want the sculptures to give the impression, for example, that
a bird is about to fly, a grasshopper is about to hop. In a word – life!”

We encounter fishes made largely with kitchen spatulas, spoons, and trumpet parts;
a crayfish made with tool-parts; the swift ( in french a martinet !) with dark gleaming
steam punk wing ; a weevil with bike-chain feelers; and a praying mantis of such
complex delicacy that its individual parts defy recognition. Martinet has a “huge
storage” of material, cast-off bits and pieces whose shapes appeal to him. “And I
don’t always know what I am going to do with them. I use any sorts of bits. Bike
parts, utensils, radio parts, car and moped parts, car lights, umbrella ribs, sunglasses.
I find them everywhere – boot sales, brocantes, garages, everywhere you can find
used objects.” Almost anything can be of use. The strangest? “Ski-boot fasteners
from the 1950s, which I found in a brocante in the Dordogne. For some pieces, I
have to wait months. I had to wait 15 years to complete the first dragonfly. “
Edouard Martinet works mainly at night and his fabrication process requires
relatively few tools – essentially a drilling machine, grindstone, pliers, screwdrivers –
because he uses parts that will fit together naturally, only ever screwing piece to
piece. And he keeps them in their true found state, which could be almost new, wellworn,
or even rusted. If he has the right parts to fit his vision for a sculpture, its
making will take about a month. “The most difficult thing is to find the right part, the
one that will seem obvious – as if it had been manufactured specially for the
sculpture.”

It is, perhaps, something like patience and tact that gives Edouard Martinet’s
sculptures their fundamental value in terms of form: he certainly knows how to take
ostensibly conflicting bits and pieces and sculpt them into something that is
figuratively refined, yet also full of surprising inflections of fact. This, ultimately, is
where the true resonance of his art lies. His sculptures force a re-imagining of the
obvious in which a meticulously finished object glows not only with perfection, but
with character and beauty.

Earlier Event: May 5
5 Ceramists
Later Event: June 7
James Gillick - The Horse