Martin Disler

Martin Disler is a rarity among German-speaking artists of the postwar generation in that he managed to survive the rapid rise and fall of wilde Malerei (wild painting), even though his name was linked to that movement for a while. He continues to produce work and to show in international galleries and museums. During the ’70s and early ’80s he filled spaces with trails of paint, in works with titles such as Öffnung eines Massengrabs (Opening of a mass grave, 1982), Die Umgebung der Liebe (The environment of love, 1981), and Streams of Eros, 1985. In a kind of dance ritual, Disler raged across huge unrolled streams of paper or canvas, hurtling figures onto the white surface with all his might, so that his entire body followed the movement of the brush, every stroke, every line surging forth from his painterly rhythms. He created sequences of red pictures and black pictures, all of which took possession of space like tidal waves. Disler also made easel pictures with equal vehemence, painting with all kinds of instruments—palette knife, brush, even his own fingers.

Disler has always been an obstinate loner. He is the peintre maudit, the social outsider. He has never attempted to translate someone else’s theme; he has always created his work from the strength of a liberated unconscious, giving form to painterly maelstroms. Disler has always seen his paintings and also his texts as absolute self-renunciations. His spontaneity is never flippant. It ferments slowly within him until his paintings erupt like a painful release.

In this exhibition, Disler took a similar stance. Sculpture has become an increasingly important part of his work in recent years. Here, he presented emaciated white figures that look as if they were made of washed limestone; they recall both Willem de Kooning and Alberto Giacometti, but without showing either artist’s power. Disler’s strongest new work is his paintings. The palpability of and struggle with the canvas has become more courageous, more perilous. Occasionally figures surface from the spontaneous strata, the free rhythms: gnomes, ghosts, faces. Disler accepts the fact that he is surrounded by these invisible shapes, by the souls of the dead. Relentlessly direct, he bears witness to his own internal world. He draws images from his unconscious, from the spontaneous movements of his body, from the hectic struggle with color and canvas, but his unconscious is the theme, the screen. His imagery likewise fuses the inner and the outer world. Disler’s originality, his struggle to achieve the intrinsic, the unique, the unattainable dream-image, are all manifestations of his special creative energy.

Doris von Draetln

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.