Although Martin Disler was never part of the Neue Wilde (New Fauves), his work has often been linked with this movement because of the closeness of his concerns and similarity of his engagement. This group of artists, which emerged in a number of German and Austrian cities in the early 1980s, contributed to the renewal of figuration that had begun in the previous decade. Affirming the expression of subjectivity in art, they invented a raw, free and fiery form of painting, capable of expressing the themes of the body and sexuality with a very personal truthfulness. In Switzerland, Disler adopted the same approach.
His paintings are the fruit of an introspective process which leads him to exhume images that are buried deep within. Emotions, often violent ones, clash in these swiftly executed works. The intensity they exude is due to their imposing formats and saturated surfaces and, even more, the power of the artist’s gesture. The subject of the composition is not immediately legible. As here, abundant traces of paint teem on the surface of the paper. This chaotic profusion gradually gives way to the images of an immense, hostile-looking naked figure, reminiscent of Willem de Kooning’s Woman paintings. But Disler does not represent a subject; he conveys an inner agitation, an emotional state.
Legs apart, the folded right arm resting on the hips, and the left hand resting on a thigh, this figure, which is sometimes read as the artist’s self-portrait, is on his knees, in an offensive position. The body, which occupies most of the centre of the work, is at once evanescent and solid, a diffuse island of flesh. The artist paints energetically, using different tools (brushes, knives, fingers) and scrapes the acrylic in certain areas. The pictorial surface thus bears the marks of Disler’s passionate élan in the heat of creation.
Franz Müller (ed.), Martin Disler 1949–1996, Zurich, Schweizerisches Institut für Kunstwissenschaft, Zurich, Scheidegger & Spiess, 2007: 142.
Erika Billeter (ed.), Chefs-d’œuvre du Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne. Regards sur 150 tableaux, Lausanne, Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1989: 336-337.
Suzanne Pagé, Zdenek Felix et alii, Martin Disler, exh. cat. Essen, Museum Folkwang, Paris, ARC/Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1985.