Hide and Seek
In their usual style and following their now established tradition, Rex Romae organised a temporary and ephemeral pop up show featuring the artworks of the Norwegian stencil artist Martin Whatson. A street art follower since the nineties decade, it wasn’t until he discovered Banksy when he decided to try with the stencil. This is why his work combines these two elements in a unique way and it is characterized by grey monochromatic images done with stencils and decorated with graffiti of vibrant colors. Martin Whatson is inspired by people, posters or other graffiti and has a weakness for urban spaces that are decayed and abandoned. When starting out he found himself drawn to political subjects, inspired by DOLK and Banksy, but over time found his depth in more subtle types of expression. His work is not charged with a political or social criticism but he likes to leave a subtle message on which anyone can reflect and draw his or her own conclusions. Martin Whatson creates unique stencil scenes, with a message signifying peace and love, and a very distinct female edge. For Whatson’s new body of work RexRomae took over a huge and beautiful archway with brick walls in a converted warehouse from 6th to 9th November.
The welcoming sculpture
Near the entrance, positioned in the centre of the room, there is a very special sculpture. The spotless marble bust of a woman, with her nose a bit damaged, has a framed canvas depicting tag-made flowers stuck onto it. This work makes soon clear the intention of the artist. In fact, his aim is either to create conflict or unity between materials and motives. Both the bust and the framed canvas symbolize fine art and oppose to the flowers, which clearly are in a graffiti-style, therefore hinting to street art.
Mixing and Juxtaposing
As Martin Whatson stated in various interviews, his work mixes fine art, which he indicates in his stencilled figures, and street art, represented by the vibrant tags. He brilliantly translated on canvas the artworks he usually paints in the street. In this solo show he aims to explore the continuous metamorphosis of the urban walls and the antagonistic relationships between right and wrong.
The brick walls of this industrial space host a rich variety of works, always marked by the contrast, the juxtaposition of clean monochrome stencils and colourful tags. Everything seems to be plain and quiet, until the grey ‘normality’ and quietness is suddenly broken by an explosion of colour. It happens with ‘The Unveiling’, where a lady pulls down the wallpaper and reveals tags.
Function of tags
Sometimes the scribbling becomes just part of the settings, such as in the ‘Climber’ where the writing turns into the wall, or in ‘Velicoped’, where it composes the big front wheel, or in ‘The Thinker’ where it creates a kind of support for the man’s elbow.
Other times the tags are part of the body or of the clothes of the depicted figures. In ‘Umbrella’ and ‘Dancer’ they make up the ladies’ dresses, while in ‘Angel’ and ‘Venus De Milo’ they form respectively the wings and the whole body.
The fusion between fine art and street art mentioned by the artist is presented in these last two works in a clearer way. While the first one recalls the figure of the angels of the classical sculpture the latter directly depicts the famous Greek marble sculpture found on the island of Milo and that portrays Venus, the goddess of love and beauty.
‘Riot’ is quite hilarious, with a grey antiriot policeman, who turns his back to the public and protects himself with his shield from a big pink tag reading RIOT. The artwork conveys a slight touch of irony, both towards the police that tend to exaggerate things and towards weak protests that pretend to be a riot. ‘Riot’ also offers a powerful example of Martin Whatson’s purpose to explore antagonistic relationships unfolding in the city.
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