Christopher Cutts, Director of the Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto talked to galleryIntell about Martin C Herbst, a German artist who drew inspiration from a classic painting by Parmigianino and offered a new perspective on treating surfaces. The gallery deals in critically acclaimed, important new and historical works of modern and contemporary art produced by high-caliber artists from Canada, the United States, Britain, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Denmark.
Christopher Cutts: My name is Christopher Cutts, from the Christopher Cutts Gallery. I have been kickin’ around for over 25 years. I’m showing in the Modern section at The Armory, so a big part of my program is Canadian Modernism. Here’s the spanner in the works, as I bring a European contemporary artist into the Modernist section – Martin C Herbst and his Parmigianino series.
This is from a series that he has been working on for about 4 to 5 years, which he calls his Parmigianino body of work, inspired by the Mannerist painter Parmigianino. In the 16th century, he painted a self-portrait, while looking in a shaving mirror. He then presented that self-portrait on a red velvet cushion to the Pope. You must remember that in the 16th century, all mirrors were convex, so when you look at the portrait, you will notice that everything is distorted. His hand – which is close to the mirror – is distorted, and so is the rest of the background. However, his face is perfectly flat, almost as if he is looking in a 21st century mirror.
That was a point of departure for Martin, and he started doing a series of portraits on stainless steel spheres. And, as you can see on the sphere, since (of course) it is impossible to make the face flat because it is painted on a convex surface, you get a distorted feel.
Now, this isn’t Parmigianino, in fact, this one is a part of the Lena series, and he has actually painted his daughter’s face. It is important to notice the reflection on the back of the sphere. He goes through great pains to make sure that it is as perfect as one can possibly make it. There is a wonderful mirrored finish when you come over here – where you can see us reflected. Also, it is great the way the sphere reflects the whole room that it is in. This is a three dimensional object, which takes a big space because of the face on one side and the reflection from the mirror element on the other.
Interview © galleryIntell. Images Courtesy of the Christopher Cutts Gallery. Artwork © Martin C. Herbst
The Parmigianino painting (a very small canvas, easily missed in the salon-style installation) is in the permanent collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.