Karel Martens is a Dutch designer and teacher. After training at the school of art in Arnhem, he has worked as a freelance graphic designer, specializing in typography. Alongside this, he has always made free (non-commissioned) graphic and three-dimensional work. His design work ranges widely, from postage stamps, to books, to signs on buildings. All this work is documented and celebrated in the books Drukwerk / printed matter and Karel Martens: counterprint. More recently his work has been represented in the books Full color and Reprint, which was published following the award of the Gerrit Noordzij Prize to him in 2012. Martens has taught graphic design since 1977. His first appointment was at the school of art at Arnhem (until 1994). He was then attached to the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht (1994–9). From 1997 he has been a visiting lecturer in the graphic design department at the School of Art, Yale University. In that year, together with Wigger Bierma, he started a pioneering school of postgraduate education within the ArtEZ, Arnhem – the Werkplaats Typografie. He left the Werkplaats in 2014. Now, in addition to his position at Yale, he teaches at the Design Academy Eindhoven.
The work of Karel Martens occupies an intriguing place in the present European art-and-design landscape. Martens can be placed in the tradition of Dutch modernism – in the line of figures such as Piet Zwart, H.N. Werkman, Willem Sandberg. Yet he maintains some distance from the main developments of our time: from both the practices of routinized modernism and of the facile reactions against this. His work is both personal and experimental. At the same time, it is publicly answerable. Over the now 50 years of his practice, Martens has been prolific as a designer of books. He has also made contributions in a wide range of design commissions, including stamps, coins, signs on buildings. Intimately connected with this design work has been his practice as an artist. This started with geometric and kinetic constructions, and was later developed in work with the very material of paper; more recently he has been making relief prints from found industrial artefacts. This book looks for new ways to show and discuss the work of a designer and artist, and is offered in the same spirit of experiment and dialogue that characterizes the work it presents.
Out of print. Find out more
Now that stocks of Karel Martens: printed matter are exhausted, we have published a short book that shows some of the uncommissioned printed work of Martens, with an essay on ‘The world as a printing surface’ by Elliman. This is very much an object-book, in which the work is not so much reproduced as bodied forth.
Out of print. Find out more