Enrique Marty realises work in various media including sculpture, installation, painting and, almost in keeping with the tradition of Spanish 20th-century artists, in the realm of theatre, including stage design.
Originally educated as an artist in his hometown at Salamanca University, his talent was recognised early with a grant from the prestigious Marcelino Botín Foundation. He has shown extensively in Spain and abroad. His institutional credits include Museo Patio Herreriano Chapel, Valladolid; CCEC, Córdoba (Argentina); CCEBA, Buenos Aires; Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim; GEM Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hague; MUSAC, León; Musée Rops, Namur; Museo de Bellas Artes de Murcia, Murcia; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; and S.M.A.K.,Ghent, among various others. His work is included in important public collections such as Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Madrid; Ozil Collection, Istanbul and Fundación Marcelino Botín, Santander among others.
But, in the context of True North, he is arguably the Spanish artist of his generation that has shown the most extensively in the Lowlands in both institutional and commercial gallery settings. In another context, this might seem arbitrary, but here, especially when approaching his works from his The Raft series (2017), it becomes highly resonant.
In the paintings from The Raft, Marty directly engages with the convoluted and complex history of Spain and the Low Countries, a joint past entwined and snaking back to the days when Flanders was occupied by Spain. There are glimpses of narratives and insights unlikely to appear in the work of a Spanish artist who has not spent so much time working in the region—where, no doubt, he was regaled with the Flemish take on its 16th and 17th-century occupation by the Spanish. Here is a kind of contemporary “history painting”, but one that could not be actualised through purely academic research. The entire series, right down to some of the choices of content and locations depicted, speak of a Spanish artist who has been in direct contact with those imparting the Flemish mythology of their region’s experience under Spanish overlords, something that remains alive in local folkloric narratives in Belgium.
History and, more specifically, the history of art is something that underpins Marty’s practice. This might have been less evident in his earlier works where preoccupations such as Gothic pop culture, trashy horror films and a general punk sensibility were more foregrounded, reflecting a kind of exuberance that we associate heavily with his generation of Spanish artists in the immediate post-Franco world of a new Spain taking up its place in the EU.
Nonetheless, this deep awareness of European visual culture is overtly present in a new sculpture created by Marty for True North, continuing his artistic research into a series of works that consider the motif of the Caritas Romana.
In the ancient legend attributed to 1st-century Roman historian Valerius Maximus, a devoted daughter Pero secretly breastfeeds her father Cimon after he is incarcerated and sentenced to death by starvation. The legend became a prevalent motif during the Baroque with Rubens and Caravaggio, among others, offering their versions. Unsurprisingly it was also depicted by the few women painters who rose to prominence during the period including Barbara Kraft and Artemisia Gentileschi.
Enrique Marty’s latest realisation of the theme is a work of beautiful circularity. Both buxom daughter and decidedly chavvy dad are dressed in renditions, in miniature, of cheap sportswear, pulling the historic works back into the realm of contemporary political realities. It at once reminds us of Marty’s own generation of artists that engaged directly with popular “street culture” as their opening artistic shot. And yet, it might also offer an askance jibe: the motif looks as if it might come straight out of the latest Rosalía hit pop video. Yet, it subtly reminds us all that it is, in fact, Marty’s generation of Spanish artists who first owned this territory. There is nothing resentful nor accusatory going on here, merely a mature artist taking up his rightful place with a nuanced but powerful visual statement.