Martin Eder: Phantasma and fairy dust

Martin Eder‘s Phantasma recently opened at Eigen+Art. It features beautifully detailed oil paintings using old world techniques and….cats.

Why cats? Eder gets asked this question all the time. And of course, being the crazy cat lady that I am, I asked it too. His answer still has me thinking.

He uses cats and other animals to represent the innocence of youth. Naughty, playful or loving, they are pure and unbound by societal convention. They are who they are and they see you for who you are. His cats are without fear. Eder sees fear as the main obstacle humans face.

A world without fear

He believes in order to be open to the present and future, we must free ourselves from fear. There is no better time to witness the power of fear than right now during the pandemic. Being in a constant state of fear can have long-term physical effects. It weakens our immune system and can cause cardiovascular damage, gastrointestinal problems, decreased fertility, can lead to accelerated aging and even premature death.

three cat paitings by Martin Eder from Phantasma in Eigen+Art Leipzig

However, the physiological response that is meant to protect us from danger may actually be putting us in the thick of it. According to the BBC, the constant bombardment of rising figures and statistics, “can result in heightened anxiety, with immediate effects on our mental health. But the constant feeling of threat may have other, more insidious, effects on our psychology. Due to some deeply evolved responses to disease, fears of contagion lead us to become more conformist and tribalistic, and less accepting of eccentricity.”

Are cats by Eder the answer?

So, can Eder’s cats be the answer? Companion animals have been proven to reduce anxiety. While this is true for me, Eder’s cats are not really cats. They are more of a representation. With great skill and precision, he alters scale or morphs them with other cats or creatures. Again, if we can face the world with child-like curiosity, there is nothing to contain our imagination.

And it is imagination that make Eder’s paintings his own. When I talked to him, he was in one of his three studios. Each studio has its own purpose. This one was full of props. Behind him was a four poster bed. Next to a wall nearby was a suit of armour. He talked of his love of antique and vintage textiles, especially velvets and tapestries. While a bolt of fabric may start off uniformly, as it becomes objects, the cut pieces take on lives of their own. Creased from being folded or faded from exposure to light, like us, each piece is unique and a product of experience. Eder is not really interested where the pieces have been. He is interested in what they have become.

The beauty of time

In a lovely unexpected game of dress-up, he drapes the life models he hires in fabrics or clads them other objects he has collected over the years. He arranges them and takes digital photos to work from. Once he starts painting, he allows his imagination to materialize.

For the works he created for Phantasma, I can describe the result as no less than fairy dust. Eder is right when he says, “The quality of a painting is not what’s on it, but what’s in it.” The exquisitely painted pieces are beautiful, magic and a little disturbing. It is almost like you are looking in a mirror, except you know it isn’t you. The figures playfully beckon and you don’t want to resist.

Happily entranced

And all the while you feel caught in a warp of time and dimensionality. This interplay between old world techniques, fabrics, esthetics is intertwined with new world perspective. 3-D models and textiles are flattened digitally. The painting transforms them back into 3-D with new elements. All the while, it was unsure if people could actually enter the space. It seemed the exhibition would probably only be seen online and therefore in 2-D. Once the paintings find their new forever homes, and it is clear to sell out, they will be returned to a new form of 3-D. There it is highly likely they will find themselves in a selfie.

I love all the places your mind can take you when there is no fear. Eder encourages us to live in the now…and gives us permission to allow fantasy to play a role.

Martin Eder Phantasma Exhibition view, 2021 Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig Photo: Uwe Walter, Berlin
Martin Eder
Exhibition view, 2021
Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig
Photo: Uwe Walter, Berlin


Martin Eder

Galerie EIGEN + ART
April 10 – May 29, 2021

  • Spinnerei will be open for Rundgang this weekend
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  • masks and social distancing

Artist, curator and writer: maeshelle west-davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums.

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