Martin Widmer


Martin Widmer is a Swiss artist based in Geneva. He studied at the Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD / ESBA) in Silvie Defraoui’s studio, and the École nationale des beaux-arts of Paris in Jean-Marc Bustamante’s studio. He has shown his work in numerous art centers and galleries in Switzerland and abroad. He is also active as a curator, mainly at the Centre d’art contemporain de Neuchâtel (CAN), having joined the staff there in 2012.

While initially Martin’s art took shape around photography and sculpture, he has since focused almost exclusively on the photographic medium. He is currently pursuing writing under hypnosis, which he connects with his work in the plastic arts.

Martin has always shown great interest in poetry, literature, and philosophy. This deep connection with language led him very early on to create works whose finality was not the object as such, but rather the viewer’s mental experience through them. His first important work of art, La Saisie, comprised a collection of poetic proposals couched in a poetic language and combining texts and geometrical shapes that combined texts and geometrical shapes. These digital files were then simply screened on the venue’s walls. Continuing in the same logic of distancing, the following works were called Exercice or Exemple. These were large sculptures akin to furniture or architecture that functioned like venues, preparing the viewer to have various mental and meditative experiences.

Martin then redirected his work into photography in such a way as to completely integrate the question of the object and from then on gave up on producing them. For him, the physical and temporal distance that photographic images generate with the viewer goes hand and hand with his project of locating the experience of art in a space more mental than physical. The various series from that period, however, all took the title Objet, clearly situating the question of sculpture (and that of the object in the philosophical and phenomenological senses of the term) at the very heart of their processes. This block of series (1-8) also questioned the complex relationship between photography and reality. While the first series (Objet I “Scène Nocturnes”) was a way of revealing ready-made sculptures in a direct and banal environment, most of the others dealt with ghostly objects (Objet V “Phasma”), for example, or objects that had been removed (Objet IV “325’000”), or objects that eventually prove to be fakes (Objet VI “Plantes”). In this, as Martin had already done in his sculpture, the subjects and the finality of the movement created by the work are always located beyond what we actually see.

With Présence Martin started in on new series of photographs. By abandoning the term Objet for that of Présence, he is indicating that he wants to include the question of the living (both human and animal) in his work. This has meant distancing himself even more, taking a step back and incorporating in the image first its direct, even private environment (Présence I “Les Ambassadés”), but also the viewer and the display installation (Présence III “Serpent”). The artist and the viewer (subject), who, to this point, had been separated from the work of art (object), found themselves joined and being treated on the very same footing. The term Présence therefore has to be understood here as a surpassing of the subject-object duality for a state in which beings and things are not separated. In this latest movement, the artist pulls off a spectacular reversal of the situation in which art, by being put at a remove and forced outside the object-artwork, really does in the end take up a position in the reality of the day-to-day world.

In 2015, Martin began a writing project carried out under hypnosis. The artist describes these texts as “narrative devices making it possible to deal in motion with the question of the image and the object.” Intended to be first of all a method that allows the artist to go and seek images directly at the source in the mind before they pass through the filter of conceptual thought, this work is also a way of building and sharing an ideal space that does not suffer the constraints and limitations of space and time.