Kevin Maritz has followed a path over decades from a reductive abstraction toward an engaging and intuitive figuration as exemplified in these recent bronze sculptures. His earlier work embraced the tendency toward modernist purity and its elegant paring away of references to the real world (or narrative) – the inevitable ‘modernist’ trajectory as the textbooks used to tell us! Instead, and over a number of years, in part as he has said ‘…to avoid the boredom’ his imagery has embraced an immersion in the vagaries of human form and temperament – breaking the grid and flatness into a space fit for an exploration of the infinitely variable emotional states closely linked to the personal, psychological and spontaneous. Thinking about this journey of transition I am reminded of Philip Guston’s comment – “I got sick and tired of all that purity”.
We could easily think of a number of key 20th century precursors working in the broad genre of figurative bronze sculpture, perhaps most obviously the monumental (often in all but size) bronzes of Matisse and the supremely ‘existential’ works of Giacometti – both artists that Kevin has looked at keenly. But rather than lineage the key to appreciating these recent sculptures (I feel anyway) rests in taking each as an encounter, much as you would the differing personalities in our everyday lives. And personality is a key here. At times whimsical, abject, maudlin, humorous, self possessed and even stately, each of these individuals is contained within a complex formal bearing that the artist arrives at after much ‘push and pull’, subtraction, addition and even at times a deliberate abuse and violent fragmentation and disruption of agreed figurative (or realist) tropes – ultimately in service of an engaging ’lumpiness’ that emerges as highly expressive and associative – for the artist a ‘not classical’ ideal. Their success is in the realm and the play between both a discreet ‘id’ and a more universal ‘type’, rather than existing as merely anecdotal or arch or dully ironic.
So, individually each of Kevin’s sculptures stand as the result of many playful and risky adjustments and much wilful disassembling – each form, first built with foam and plasticine then ultimately cast in bronze. They remain generally small (in relation to our own bodies), but as such encourage intimacy and a close inspection. And when we do we find that the silhouette is surprisingly variable as we move around each figure – often (almost) evoking a balanced anatomy at one moment, only to flip into the more fragmented, asymmetrical and abstracted (not quite Linda Nochlin’s “The Body in Pieces”, but at times heading that way!). The fracturing of some limbs and the exaggerated bending and twisting of torso’s reminds us of the body’s limits ‘in extremis’ – this registering as much emotionally as physically. We also notice in some, the character of individual faces has been clearly delineated, making the particular even more direct, yet in others the expressive and associative qualities of the whole figure render that unnecessary – a pleasing ambivalence.
Accompanying the fourteen or so sculptures is a suite of works on paper. Made ‘after’ the sculptures, these feature successive silhouettes drawn from both the sculptures and their shadows, taking the abstraction from the figures a step further. Yet they respect the inevitable flatness of paper and curiously, in a round about way bring us back closer to a modernist space.
Andrew Browne – 2015
Born in South Africa and currently based in St Kilda, Maritz graduated from the VCA with a Bachelor of Fine Art (Sculpture) in 1984 and has exhibited consistently since in group and solo shows. His work is held in a number of important Australian collections including The National Gallery of Victoria.
Collections include: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; BP Collection, Melbourne; BHP Collection, Melbourne; The John McBride Collection; The Margaret Stewart Endowment, National Gallery of Victoria.