Klaus Mertens (*1950 in Bonn) is a German contemporary artist
In the 70th Klaus Mertens first studied architecture. After some years on the job he started his studies of fine arts in 1984 at UDK Berlin. 1991 he graduated with his master at the class of Georg Baselitz. For many years he lived and worked in Berlin as an artist. Since 2007, when he travelled to Ethiopia the first time, being attracted by African culture and art Mertens stayed in Addis Ababa to work and live there till today. He started teaching at the Addis Ababa University, Ale School of Fine Arts and Design (ASFAD) in 2010, where he founded a new class for lithography. Since 2013 he established a partnership between the Ale School of fine Arts and Design and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden/Germany (HfBK). Now he coordinates the exchange program between both Academies.
In his early career Klaus Mertens attended to the figurative art by series of large woodcuts he called "Woodcut Tattoos". This work celebrated the human body appearing as grand and at once austere images, playing with patterns giving the surface an occult and strength expression. His handy "Social Prints" are graphics showing poetic, sensitive images like landscapes and portraits combining elements of pop art and traditional woodcarving. When he moved to Ethiopia Mertens artwork expanded to sculpturing, photography and design. There he transferred his kind of working with ornaments and patterns - known from his woodcut prints - into the third dimension. Using materials of a lower aesthetic value like plastic bags, branches, bones or sculls of animals he created emblematic pieces of art like the Fashion Racks 2008, Jungle Fighter 2009, Knitted Egg 2014, True to Nature 2015, Global Suit 2015, Hypoxylon Addis 2015. For that reason one of his exhibitions in Addis Ababa at the Asni Gallery in 2012 was called: Big Pretenders, Trophies and a Drunken Donkey. Mertens' work is reflecting the human behavior of wasting nature or hunting for trophies practiced all over the African Continent. That this kind of power counts more than knowledge, spirit and science provokes Mertens' reflections in his art. Deconstructing perceptions, materials and meanings are part of his work. Since 2010 Klaus Mertens creates sculptures that can be used as furniture as well. Working with this kind of design Mertens can be seen in the tradition of artists like Richard Artschwager or Ron Aaron. His stool design got a prize in Vienna 2010 by Habari and branded ato klaus. In the meanwhile the stool is distributed worldwide. Other furniture objects" are the ato goethe collection constructed from recycled floorwood of the German institution in Addis. At least there are the ato goma, objects shaped from woven rubber stripes of car tyres.