Painting, a technique used since primeval times and the oldest artistic medium of all (already declared dead by various avant-garde movements of the 20th century), has experienced a significant revival over the last decade,and many progressive and young artists of today have taken to this form with élan and obvious enthusiasm. One might speak of painting as a primal human instinct and the natural, fundamental gratification of a creative being.
Perhaps, or certainly. On the other hand, we may not forget that painting still best corresponds to the demands of the market, and that paintings are in the global economy a much better commodity than other media. We should keep in mind that the current revival of painting also has its roots in this fact.
The aim of the exhibit is in part to document this “joy of painting” from a few particularly evident cases, and in part to examine the currency of painting as a medium in the 21st century through the work of several artists who paint differently. The work of these artists is found somewhere on the fringe, resulting for example in video-art or installations, but continues to reflect albeit in other media the same essential features of painting: form, colour, rhythm, or its conceptual dimension and current relevance. Rather than a systematic display of painting which we have recently seen several times in Prague, we wanted to present various approaches to the question of “painting”, and moreover to the definition of the concept of “picture”.
Painting as history: in the sad stories of Josef Bolf, painting, whether using either classic brush techniques or graphically engraved drawing on a dark background, best corresponds to the author’s need for free lyric storytelling, where children’s fairy tales shift between dream and nightmare and pink and black colours combine in typical symbolic contrasts of opposites.
Painting as evocation: Nathan Ritterpusch intentionally deforms his masterful painting technique. His subjects are in continual motion so that the technique corresponds to his poetic sense and depicts the interference of time in the creative process. His favourite models are actresses and models from the sixties of the same age as the painter’s mother. He paints them with all of their long-faded beauty and captures the fleeting moments of their perfection, but their faces (like the Picture of Dorian Gray) gradually decay on the canvas
Painting as style: the works of Jakub Hošek quickly found their place on the Czech art scene thanks to his successful development of an original style. The word style in his case is not as old-fashioned as might appear at first glance. To the contrary, it properly defines his self-confident classification among street artists: somewhere between graffiti and comics, two underground worlds where style, as the artist’s signature, is the alpha and omega of each creative process.
Painting as provocation: Oskar Davicki has long been involved with performances and various artistic gestures pushing the boundaries for himself as an artist and for his public. As a non-artist invited to a painter’s exhibition he has focused his work humorously on examining questions of the role and significance of painting and painters in the broader social context.
Painting as interaction: Roland Geissel paints a three-dimensional room, then photographs it, and then finally exhibits it, generally as photography. The time-consuming process begins with a few sketches and models, then comes alive in real space, only to be returned in abstract photographic pictures to the same gallery. It is a metaphoric merging of all media and experience into a synthetic whole.
Painting as culture: In his recent works Dušan Zahoranský quotes relatively well known paintings taken from the entire history of art. In painting them, these subjects are deformed through his favourite mannerist technique of anamorphosis. He plays with the tension arising between the deformed painting and the artificial return (through a photographic process) to its original form. The artist reflects the relation between art and its history, between everyday action and memory of the long artistic tradition. His work highlights the process which is essentially present in the work of every other artist.
Painting as existence: Federico Pietrella captures a temporal dimension in the painting process which interests him most. The action of painting becomes a symbol of human life, its endurance and absurdity, its unrepeatable nature and its morality. The painter’s technique adapts to his thought, the author always finds a way to connect a concept to the work itself. Whether he is painting data stamps or his own fingertips, it’s always the same thing. To depict what cannot be depicted: the face of time. His silicon paintings, where every mark can be read independently as a miniature action painting, also tell a tale of time as a sequence of individual actions.
Painting as a trade: Milan Salák is defined as a painter, although he works with many other media. His internal needs regularly bring him back to painting, most likely whenever he is seeking himself. The installation he is exhibiting this time concentrates on the foundations of painting itself, which he impugns in one of its primary premises: the rectangular format.
Painting as synthesis: Marek Kvetán most often works with a computer using sophisticated programs which he has designed himself. He draws from diverse sources: from literary texts, photography, web pages, cult films. The result of his work is generally a picture, an elegant, abstract composition of colours and lines. Like many other artists, he most acutely feels the need to clarify, arrange, and depict the complex reality of the world around himself as a single, comprehensible picture.
Painting as a system: for several years Tomáš Vaněk has been examining the question of painting and its significance. To come as close as possible to the conceptual essence of painting he has abandoned the brush and paints in a much more abstract manner using sprays and stencils. Each new contribution, often a discrete and minimal intervention on the border of visibility, brings a subtle new commentary, not only on painting but also on the artist and the role of art.
Painting as research: Jeff Wyckoff is the Renaissance figure of the artist and scientist wrapped into one. In his work and life it is not possible to separate the artistic from the scientific, since the two are so closely intertwined and affect one another. As a scientist he frequently turns to art in his search for truth. As an artist he has the tendency to look upon the microcosms under his microscope in a much more complex and enchanted manner than his colleagues in the laboratory.
Painting as tension: Evžen Šimera has been dealing with questions of authenticity in painting and art in general for some time (first in his canvasses and now in his dripping frames). His regular dripping is not only an ironic paraphrasing of the painting technique popularized by the masters of American Action Painting (Pollock et. al), but is also an interesting commentary on several material questions, continually repeating throughout the entire history of Western art; order versus chaos, rules versus anarchy, discipline versus spontaneity, Apollo versus Dionysus.
Painting as a game: to speak of games in reference to the work of Jan Šerých is not to diminish the significance of his work among the most interesting painters of his generation, but to emphasize the role of the playful (and at the same time systematic and methodical) elements which are found at the centre of his interest. The interaction between purely geometric (abstract) features and other features (texts, letters), equally abstract in a formal sense but with rich additional significance, acquires in the sequences of video pictures an even greater dynamic than in the static pictures.
Painting as evidence: the photography and video of Anna Orlikowska attempts an impossibly daunting task: to catalogue the world and its parts, such as natural phenomena and forms, as well as human artefacts and relics. In her attempts she is able however, almost as if by accident, to attain another dimension. “A Film about Worms” certainly came about due to her fascination with pulsing living matter. The result however is an entirely clear and powerful visual experience reminiscent of the best pictures of Action Painting and Informel.
Painting as desire: Ádám Szabó is a sculptor who in past years has been most involved with creating video. His magical videos stem from his sculptural background and forma mentis, while at the same time evincing a strong need to depart from the static nature of a single media into more interesting combinations. In his new videos Szabó adds to his work yet another dimension and confronts the classic subject of painting: the still life. The result is not only a moving picture, but also an interesting reflection on the passing of time, memento mori.