press release

Masken & Fassaden by German photographer Olaf Martens (1963) contain a variety of photographs made in the Russian city of St. Petersburg from 1996 till 2003. Exaggerated artificial and excitingly sexy, the pictures represent a symbiosis of exuberant lust for life. Martens has been focusing on St. Petersburg for some time now, continually seeking to discover new things, looking to change his perspectives on the city and it’s people. His subjects are mostly women, whether actresses, revue girls, ballet dancers or runway models. In a pictorial world where the female seems to be the centre of the universe, Martens portrays them as strong and bold but also as cheerful, provocative and arrogant. His females live in a world where illusion is preferred above reality.

In a theatre in which Martens is its own director, he undermines the ideals of Western capitalism and let the old socialist glory prevail. In backgrounds full of old houses, shabby elevators and ruined palaces, his women, whether skinny or fat, short or tall, seem to be in full harmony with one another. They look amazingly cheerful and show no hesitation in posing for the photographer.

Born and raised in the former DDR, Martens grew up having liberated ideas about sexuality. That’s why his pictures are informal and show a relaxation. No pretension allowed, Martens arranges his pictures in a way which is surreal and humorous at the same time. His vision on life is a joyful one where it seems that he doesn’t take things too seriously.

The power in the work of Olaf Martens is mostly that he keeps his images amaze and intrigue. They are an expression of as historian Quentin Bell calls it ‘a spiritual desire to colour our erotic needs.’ Martens removes with his work the feeling of déjà-vu which has been a part of overexpose of the medium photography and reminds us –again- that the camera can seduce us. Especially that female creature, which has been for centuries –like a magic spell- on the imagination of mankind.

At the same time, the collages of Dutch artist Lie van der Werff (1962) show a same kind of exuberant sexiness which can be found also in the work of Olaf Martens. Like the German photographer, she makes her subjects amazingly sexy, arranging them in strange and controversial juxtaposes.

Van der Werff makes use of old fashion- and erotic art magazines and catalogues. Ferociously cutting the pages, she transforms different body parts into new objects of surrealistic anonymity. The resulted collages are amusing as encouraging, and in true surrealist fashion, they are harnessed to a vivid imagination on order to evoke an atmosphere of poignant eroticism. Almost Freudian, the anatomies of the new bodies represent a pleasure that only Eros could propose and communicate a plastic vision of simultaneous pleasures.

Like the Dolls of Hans Bellmer that departs so far from realistic principles, Lie van der Werff creates a world in which she manages to make a system of the physical unconscious. As the great surrealist artist, she explores the thin line between pleasure and suffering, between the mental and the physical, between sexuality and eroticism and between the sacred and the profane.

The collage figurines of Van der Werff are isolated in a box. Headless and pinned by a circular mechanism, she turns them into spectral and dreamy tableaus. Bodies warp and regenerate according to unspeakable boundaries. Put into a 3-dimensional way, the collages have an unusual sense of colouring, whereby it looks like if they are hand painted. Layer by layer and cut by cut, the collages reflect an artifice and gives the spectator a view of world yet to be discovered.


only in german

Olaf Martens - Masken & Fassaden
Lie van der Werff - Pinned Up