I had my worries walking around the book shelves in the art book shop San Serriffe. I didn’t know anything about art books how to look at them and how to look at the design.
I skipped though some books but didn’t find them interesting. Then I saw a cover that caught my attention. I didn’t know the artist but I was enchanted by the simplicity of the graphic black-and-white book cover with Japanese text on the side and the title ‘Full color’. The size of the book felt a bit small in my hand, handy and easy to flick through the pages.
I turned the first page and discovered a colorful photo showing a bookshelf filled up with paper rolls and used fruit boxes properly containing more papers. The photo only shows a small part of the room but on the following pages the panorama of the room which turns out to be an art studio is shown. Page by page I was guided into the head of a graphic designer’s studio.
It turned out to be the head of the Dutch graphic designer Karel Martens. He is specialized in typography, working with prints and books.
After his studies at the School of Art at Arnhem in 1961, he became a freelance graphic designer.
Since 1977 he has been teaching in graphic design at his old school in Arnhem and at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. He is now working as a supervisor at the master-program Werkplaats Typografie [x] together with Armand Mevis. This program is based on practical assignments and self-initiated projects. It also works as a meeting place for graphic designers.
The book ‘Full color’ which is showing Martens’ studio was published on the occasion of the exhibition KM, Ginza graphic gallery in Tokyo in May 2013 [published by Roma Publications].
With the information about the artist and his work I started to look deeper into the book.
The photos by Johannes Schwartz are divided into 4 parts by the graphic designer Julie Peters together with Martens himself.
The first part contains photos from the artists’ studio. They seem to form a long panorama, cut up and organized so you see some parts of a room at one photo and the second part of the room at the next photo. This way of organizing the photos gives you the impression of flashbacks and even more if you already know his work.
The next part is Martens’ archive, collected in boxes from the bookshelves. Here you look directly into the boxes which contain sketches, illustrations and prints of the artist. If you look at the prints you’ll find some of the shapes recognizable. When you flick through the book you get the impression of a system of colors and shapes which are being repeated. An example of that could be the small industrial metal pieces which shapes are to found on some of Marten’s prints. It seems like the editing of the book creates some sort of pattern – just like Marten’s prints.
The third part is a close up of Martens kinetic work with clocks seeing from behind. A study about composition and color, by printing a dot pattern on two glass disks and attaching the disks to the second and minute hands of a clock. The chose of photographing the clocks from behind is again a way to show the process from his work.
The last pages in the book are writings by David Senior and Martens him self. The text is in English and Japanese describing the project around the book and the work of Martens.
One thing I was wondering about was why Martens choose to have a graphic designer on this book when he himself makes books. I asked Johannes Schwartz about that and he told me that the making of this book includes a close co-operation between all 3 artists. This book does not only work as a documentation of an artist. Not only the contents of the book tells about the artist and his work but also the editing is very important.
The result is this fascinating portrait which gives you a good insight knowledge of Martens’ visual language.
If you are curious for more please check one of his other books “Karel Martens: printed matter/drukwerk, 2nd Edition” which contains a big amount of exhibitions, art works and articles he have been taking part in. This book gives you a good insight into Martens’ environment and way of working too.
Rietveld library catalog no: marte 1