Theatre of Survival. Martin Disler: the Final Years

Davos, Kirchner Museum
dal 29 Novembre 2020 al 18 Aprile 2021

The exhibition

Martin Disler (1949–1996) was a Swiss painter, draughtsman, sculptor and poet. In his work the self-taught artist reflects on the fragmentation and vulnerability of human existence. The materialisation of Disler’s physical thinking, this ‘theatre of survival’ places him in a fascinating dialogue with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and his wooden figures, paintings and drawings. The exhibition focuses on the last ten years of Disler’s career and relates his output of this period to Kirchner’s works. Each of their artistic practises covered an impressively wide variety of genres and formats ranging from the intimate sketch to the monumental painting.
Just like Kirchner, Martin Disler attributed creative agency to his body. He would put himself in a trance by dancing for hours, exploring his own subconscious in the process. Through radical sleep deprivation he would push his body to the limit and, in a state of delirium, create powerful paintings, prints and sculptures. The tremendous overexertion and restlessness characterising Disler’s artistic process is clearly evident in his works and can be similarly observed in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Disler’s later paintings owe their power, as well as their size, to this particular way of working. In a highly physical process, the artist would alternate between applying and removing paint. He would mould matter with brushes and knives as well as with his hands and nails until his body merged with the work, thus giving rise to the vigorous immediacy we can admire in the exhibition.
Disler focused a great deal on monotyping and experimented with various printing processes and techniques, using very large formats for his prints as well. He took up the special challenges the printmaking technique presented and tested the limits of the art form. Some of the prints on view are from Disler’s estate and shown to the public for the very first time.
In the early 1990s, Disler created the human-sized bronze sculptures of the series ‘Shedding of Skin and Dance’. The intertwined figures symbolize the entire spectrum of human existence. In Davos they are presented alongside sculptures by Kirchner, a juxtaposition revealing obvious similarities between the two artists. The art of Martin Disler thus offers a new perspective on the work of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.