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Albert Mertz

Albert Mertz (1920-1990) had his first exhibition already at the age of 14, and at the age of 16 he was admitted to Kunstakademiet (the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts) in Copenhagen. The same year he made his debut at the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition. His first paintings were still lifes and portraits, but he soon began experimenting with the expression and content of the picture.
The meeting with Dadaism and its ironic and anarchist view of art and the art institution became crucial to Albert Mertz. During World War II Albert Mertz made a number of films together with Jørgen Roos. The film work inspired him to experiment with collage, photograms, photomontage, sound, motion and writing.
After World War II Albert Mertz became one of the leading members of the artists’ group Linien 2. He worked with simplified motifs, where the form and composition of the picture are central – either as almost abstract representations of objects and situations from everyday life or later on as expressive landscape pictures. For a short while he is affiliated with the group Martsudstillingen (the March Exhibition).
Albert Mertz noticed at an early stage how other media and visual ways of expression started competing with painting. For this reason the picture had to be as simple as possible. The motif should appear as symbols to make it work almost as a signal. In the 1960s he got in touch with the Fluxus movement, and in the years 1962-76 he lived in France where he made valuable contacts in international art circles.
From 1969 he began working with the characteristic red-blue pictures. To Albert Mertz the picture does not represent anything else but itself. Meaning is not a property of a picture – it is something that we as spectators attribute to the picture. Likewise with colour. Colour is colour – it does not represent anything and has no symbolic value. It does not matter whether the picture is yellow, green or orange.
In this way the picture becomes an object just like the other things that we surround ourselves with. Its purpose is itself and nothing outside itself – a landscape or an idea. It only has a function, because it, by holding visually annoying and disturbing elements, departs from what we normally understand by art. In this way the picture makes us see without having a preconceived expectation of what we are going to see. The picture becomes the tool of our sight – we see by means of the picture.
Albert Mertz was an experimental artist, and his entire work shows a complete lack of respect for the traditional ways of expression of the individual media. But that is exactly why he was capable of adding something new to them.
The painting ”Fløjtemanden” (1952) – one of his principal works – hangs at Sønderlandsskolen in Holstebro. And the curtain that he created in 1965 for Holstebro Musikteater hangs in the theatre’s Prism Hall.
Albert Mertz