Thoughts On: Martin Honert at Johnen Galerie

So I went to see some Art-stuff in Berlin and this is one of the things I saw.

Schlafsaal Modell, Martin Honert : Image borrowed from the Johnen Galerie website
Martin Honert's fifth solo show at Johnen Galerie provided a completely mind-blowing experience of sculpture. 

Honert is keen on exploring memories of his childhood and this show featured a small model of the boarding school dormitory in which he slept in as a child, complete with glowing beds and wardrobes. On first viewing I didn't know what kind of room it was. The atmosphere in the miniature seemed cold and bare, devoid of personality like a hospital ward, prison or a homeless hostel. The beds and the wardrobes, with the texture of sea glass, pull focus making me think that they would be the only place in which one staying in such a room would be able to catch a small snatch of personality or privacy whether in sleep or the shelter of possessions. Five beds and only four wardrobes - I can only imagine the arguments and power-struggles that would have caused. 

Knowing afterwards what kind of room it was made me think of a particular episode of Red Dwarf called Timeslides where Rimmer and Lister travel back in time to give versions of their younger selves the opportunity to "invent" a particularly successful but stunningly simple invention called the "Tension Sheet". Needless to say, they fail spectacularly, but the sense of desperation and the brutality of Boarding School Life cut through that hilarious episode. 
Ziegelie, Martin Honert

Sending children off to these cold, featureless rooms is a brutal practise well explored in Art and Literature. As the daughter of two boarding-school-raised parents and survivor of many a torturous Girl Guide camping trip in bunkhouses not dissimilar in essence to Honerts' dormitory, this sculpture really touched me.

There were two other sculptures showing within the gallery. The first one I actually saw on entering was Ziegelie, an impressive wooden structure in front of a backlit image of a house. According to the press release that symbolised his memory of playing in a brickyard, the dimensions distorted as to replicate the viewpoint of a small child looking out through racks. I am always awed by big structures, impressed by scale, planning and execution and this was no different.

After the first two dimly lit rooms, the only light source being the gentle glowing from the pieces, the final dazzlingly bright room hosting Honerts' VS-Gruppe hits powerfully. The six men, realised out of polyurethane and sand, are a vintage photograph come to life. The personality and individualism of each man shone through brilliantly, the detailing on their bodies from head to toe was exquisite. Because words are not enough, I've posted a few more snaps for you to enjoy on my tumblr blog.
VSG-Gruppe Martin Honert

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