Hynek Martinec

Hynek Martinec’s paintings and drawings explore ideas about time, history, reality and spirituality, often appropriating imagery from vintage photographs and the Old Masters.


Martinec’s recent paintings are grisaille still lifes that play with the archetypes of the devotional picture and the vanitas. For example, both Every Minute You Are Closer to Death (2013) and Experience of Being Alive (2014) are still lifes in the tradition of the Dutch masters of the genre, yet contain contemporary objects from the twenty first century, a digital radio and a tablet computer displaying Damien Hirst’s grinning diamond skull. You Will Become As My God (2013) depicts a complex still life before a vague interior space. The composition includes not only flowers, bread and a crab, but a party balloon. The whole is distorted with shaving foam and pierced by an arrow like a strange St Sebastian. The setting is an abandoned dancehall.


Martinec uses religious symbolism as he feels that in the twenty first century religion is still a pervasive part of our daily lives. It surrounds us and permeates throughout society, a fact of life whether we choose to partake or reject. However, there is also a powerful sense that in his work Martinec is pushing beyond the surface of things, perceiving meanings and interconnections that locate profundity in mundane reality. His intense contemplation of the world through which he moves seems to allow him to perceive a spiritual life like a shadow behind everyday reality.


Alongside the still lifes are new works are derived from vintage portrait photographs. The original images of anonymous sitters are rendered in Martinec's characteristic monochrome photorealist technique but are enlarged to the scale of traditional grand portraiture in the manner of Van Dyck or Rubens. In each painting Martinec has made subtle alterations, such as shifts in scale, as well as making telling interventions. In The Dog Knows (2015-16) a small flame flickers in the air above the head of the hound, suggesting a state of enlightenment in contrast to his self-important but gormless owner. In Good Afternoon Mr Martinec (2016), which Martinec relates to his own family, each person is granted an attribute – mushroom, apple, planet and, again, a flame of enlightenment – suggesting different qualities. The youngest member of the family – perhaps a cypher for the artist himself – clutches a massively enlarged paintbrush.



Hynek Martinec (born Broumov, Czech Republic, 1980) has exhibited internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include Every Minute You Are Closer to Death, Parafin, London (2014) and Intellectual Properties, Vaclav Spala Gallery, Prague (2015). Important recent group exhibitions include Blow Up: Painting, Photography and Reality, Parafin, London (2015), the John Moores Painting Prize 2014 at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, as part of the Liverpool Biennial (2014), Beyond Reality: British Painting Today at the Galerie Rudolfinium, Prague (2012) and the Prague Biennial (2009). He was included in the BP Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London in 2007, 2009 and 2013, winning the Young Artist award in 2007. Martinec’s work is in private and public collections internationally including the National Gallery, Prague and the British Museum, London. Martinec lives and works in London. In 2017 he will have a major solo exhibition at the National Gallery in Prague.





© Parafin Ltd. 2016