Kris Martin

Kris Martin, Mandi XV, 2007. Photograph by Thierry Bal

Kris Martin, Mandi XV, 2007. Photograph by Thierry Bal

In myth and legend, swords are symbols of protection, purity and truth. Frequently they have the power of magic attributed to them, and act as harbingers of transformation and the fulfilment of destiny. Kris Martin (b. 1972, Belgium)’s deeply contemplative works revolve around the conundrum of existence, its transience, its moments of enchantment and its incomprehensible mysteries.

For Touched, the artist presented an upscaled version of a medieval cruciform sword. Made of bronze and stainless steel, and seven metres in length, this larger-than-life physical realisation of a mythical motif found a piercing point to cut through and touch our innermost imaginings. The work was part of an ongoing series of works that included Martin’s well-known Mandi III, a blank train arrivals and departures board that turns over endlessly without offering either origin or destination. The title, Mandi, stemed from a colloquial Italian term for ‘goodbye’, an expression originating from the words mano (hand) and dio (god) and meaning ‘to leave in the hands of God’.

Mandi XV was exhibited for the first time as a hanging sword. Suspended in mid-air over our heads, as in the story of Damocles, it was a memento mori, posing questions about chance and destiny, and reminding us of the precariousness of all things.

Martin’s work offers an allegory of the uncertainty of humankind’s journey through life. His work sits squarely within a tradition of conceptual art, yet it engages not only our critical and intellectual faculties, but also deep-felt emotions. In this way, it clearly conjured up the affective dynamic of Touched, in which the viewer engaged with the artwork equally through the senses, the intellect and the emotions.

Kris Martin at Liverpool Biennial 2010 

Mandi XV, 2007
Cast bronze, stainless steel 702.2 x 136 cm  
Edition of 2 + 1 AP
Exhibited at The Black-E

Supported by

Courtesy of the artist
Seis + Höke Galerie, Düsseldorf
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation