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Iconic designer Karel Martens to Seoulites: Stay curious, test your limit

All Headlines 16:20 October 11, 2018

By Woo Jae-yeon

SEOUL, Oct. 11 (Yonhap) -- When Karel Martens started practicing graphic design, the subject didn't even exist as a form of independent study. A graduate of fine art, Martens freely crossed the line between fine art and graphic design.

That experience gave him a broader perspective, allowing him to look at different things in combination and to experiment with various materials for artistic as well as commercial purposes, the 79-year-old Dutch artist said during a press conference in Seoul on Thursday.

He is visiting Seoul for his first solo exhibition in the country, "Karel Martens: Still Moving," at Platform-L Contemporary Art Center in southern Seoul.

This photo courtesy of Platform-L Contemporary Art Center shows graphic designer Karel Martens. (Yonhap)
"The secret code of Colours on the Beach" on display at Platform-L Contemporary Art Center in southern Seoul on Oct. 11, 2018 (Yonhap)

The title combines the ideas of still photography and moving images like kinetic and interactive items. It also conveys the artist's passion, creativity and never-ending curiosity even as he approaches 80, the museum said.

As the title suggests, the exhibition, covering his earlier printed works and books and interactive installations, is not so much a retrospective as a showcase for his on-going projects, although it does bring together decades of works that have had deep, lasting impact on graphic design as it is known today.

On display are the collections of the famed architectural journal "OASE" that he designed, the time-themed kinetic installation "Three Times," which was inspired by the Korean national flag, or Taegukgi, the site specific work "Colours on the Beach" installed in France in 2017, "Letterpress Monoprints," his printing experiment on newspapers, and "Icon Viewer," his long-term interactive project exploring icon-pixel language.

This collection of the famed architectural journal "OASE" is installed at Platform-L Contemporary Art Center in southern Seoul on Oct. 11, 2018. (Yonhap)
"Printed Matter," a book by Karel Martens, is on display at Platform-L Contemporary Art Center in southern Seoul on Oct. 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

Born in 1939, the iconic typographer and influential graphic designer founded the Werkplaats Typografie, a renowned typography school in the Netherlands, in 1998. He's also been teaching graphic design at Yale since 1997. He has designed multiple books and worked with the Dutch government in designing coins, stamps and telephone cards.

His Seoul exhibition also includes a work commissioned by the museum titled "Time Difference Between Amsterdam and Seoul ," the Seoul version of his 2013 work, "Time Difference Between Amsterdam and Tokyo." The huge installation visualizes the time difference between the two cities in a mathematical and poetic way.

Since the '60s, he's been creating his own clocks, however simple and primitive they might be, because he is endlessly fascinated by the mundane objects, which make "intriguing" patterns and offer "endless amount of (graphic) combinations."

"Nothing is normal. Everything is special," he answered to a question about the source of his inspiration.

It is important to "follow your curiosity" and not be afraid of failure as "good things aren't good and bad things are good, sometimes," he said, adding that he sometimes regrets he didn't "go crazy enough" in trying different things and challenging himself.

"It is about discovering who you are. What interests you? Explore your own talent. I believe everyone has talent."

The exhibition runs through Jan. 20, 2019.

This photo courtesy of Platform-L Contemporary Art Center shows the installation "Colours on the Beach, 2017." (Yonhap)


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