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Karel Martens: Re-Production
Karel Martens
Karel Martens: Re-Production
Oct 15, 2021
Nov 15, 2021
Curated by
Zhongkai Li

This book¹ is an exhibition;² the exhibition³ is this book.⁴

Uranus, 2021
Karel Martens
688 pages, 21 x 29.7 cm
Paperback, English/Chinese
ROMA 412
ISBN 9789464460025


  1. On Martens’s first trip to China in 2009, he discovered a Chinese lunisolar calendar at a local shop in Chongqing. These calendars are familiar to those born and raised in China before the millennium, as they are often hanging somewhere in a corner of their parents’ and grandparents’ houses. Printed on rough, inexpensive, thin paper, they employ a hybrid timekeeping system that indicates the phases of the Moon and the time of the solar year. Each day is displayed on an individual page that also includes advice, admonitions, and notes on the auspiciousness of each period of the day. Having spent decades capturing and perceiving shapes and images from daily life and incorporating them into his design practice, Martens was fascinated with the unfamiliar diagrams and graphics that appeared in the calendar. Twelve years later, Martens connected the format of the calendar to his study of celestial bodies with the book Uranus. “I'm interested in making a synthetic image based on an existing fact, not necessarily recognizable as such,” stated Martens. Uranus is a systematic and geometric representation of the seventh planet’s atmosphere. His first Chinese and English bilingual publication, the book was co-published by IS A GALLERY and Roma Publications in 2021.
  2. Karel Martens: Re-Production is Martens’s first site-specific exhibition in China and is produced by IS A GALLERY in co-production with Roma Publications. The book Uranus will arrive at the gallery from the printer as a bound object, then its pages will be removed and arranged in sequence on the gallery’s western wall, creating a site-specific installation of 340 individual images over 21 square meters. The installation will be exhibited from October 15, 10 a.m. to November 15, 5:30 p.m. in 2021 (GMT+8). The installation will respond to the rich and complex design history of the site on which the gallery is located: the Shanghai Printing Technology Research Institute. Established in 1956, the Institute was the birthplace of modern Chinese typographic design and has continued to contribute to the digital development of Chinese fonts.
  3. The exhibition will be distributed in one thousand editions. Martens invites participation in the transformation of the book as an object and the movement of the exhibition through time and space. As a collaborative project, our interest is in providing a fluid space for reconstruction, using it as a place to gather collective knowledge, and observing where and how the exhibition will be carried on by shifts of ownership and context—how it continuously sprouts, develops, disintegrates, and reproduces itself.
  4. Use this book as your own statement.

            About the Artist
Karel Martens is a Dutch designer and teacher. Since graduating from the Arnhem Academy of Art and Industrial Arts in 1961, Martens has worked as a freelance graphic designer for the publishers Van Loghum Slaterus, the Socialistiese Uitgeverij Nijmegen (SUN), the Netherlands national postal service, and other clients. He has designed the architecture journal OASE and glass facades for the Philharmonie in Haarlem.

Martens won the H.N. Werkman Prize (1993) for the design of Oase, the Dr. A.H. Heineken Prize for Art (1996), the Gold Medal at the Leipzig Book Fair (1998), the Gerrit Noordzij Prize (2012), and several other distinctions. He taught at the Arnhem Academy of Art and Industrial Arts as well as the Jan van Eyck Academie and has been a visiting critic at the Yale School of Art since 1997. Martens co-founded the Werkplaats Typographie program with Wigger Bierma in 1998.

            About ROMA
Roma Publications is an Amsterdam based art book publisher and design studio, founded in 1998 by graphic designer Roger Willems and artists Mark Manders and Marc Nagtzaam. It is used as a platform to produce and distribute autonomous publications made in close collaboration with a growing number of artists, institutions, writers and designers. Related to the content, every issue has its own rule of appearance and distribution, varying from house to house papers to exclusive books. The publications so far are in editions between 2 and 150,000 copies. Occasionally, Roma also curates exhibitions.

The book-exhibition is produced by IS A GALLERY in co-production with ROMA Publications.

*Uranus will be available for purchase from Idea Books and Bananafish Books soon.

Exhibition Assistant
Ruini Zhou
Exhibition Design
Zhengzhong Pan
Editorial Team
Ziming Lin, Matthew Schwager
Exhibition Photography