Reports

Do you still reach for curator’s accompanying text with confidence? The incomprehensibility of contemporary art has become the subject of articles on different levels, the topic of lectures and conferences, miscellanies, professional books, and night talk shows. An accompanying text to explain to the viewers what they see is far from being a rule. Be it in our case a rite, a habit, or a bizarre indulgence, or simply desire to get all available information and usual little items, it’s quite obvious that it is not necessary to complement the picture with words this time. This lack of understanding comes among other things from the fact that art (the same as other fields) develops faster than what general public can follow, the artists cross the boundaries with other disciplines at will, still claiming the results to be art. From this perspective, the exhibition I Don’t See Stones for the Mountains, I don’t See Mountains for the Stones appears to be a great move by the gallery. In a “Nutshell” (in Czech, the word “Kostka” – cube – is used in this phrase): A collector of minerals and a mountaineer! Why, they are people like us, with normal pastime activities.

In the avalanche of artistic pretenses and creative constructs, we viewers crave authenticity. We crave stories. Testimonies. Fascination. We are fascinated if somebody is so fascinated that they can change their lives strikingly depending on that fascination. In our pursuit of authenticity in art, the modernist need to live (one’s own) art is coming back. To become addicted to one’s hobby. Is it then the artist’s extra-artistic interest that rescues (confirms) art for the viewer?

With how many stones does a mountain begin? We might rephrase the question of Marian Palla about a forest, but we would dig our own grave, as a mountain is quite exactly defined as a relative elevation above the surrounding terrain by three to six hundred meters. Both Štefan Papčo (1983) and Šárka Koudelová (1987) create inspired by the mass of stone, only on a different scale. If Papčo literally fills the gallery with a mock-up of a mountain peak every inch of which he had felt with his body, Koudelová makes us brood over meticulous brushstrokes, with which she touches just a small fragment – maybe for as long as Papčo molded his complex. And this very process, the artistic experience, becomes the revealing common key.

Štefan Papčo confronts us with the anxiety, drive and adrenalin he himself experiences when climbing real rocks. With him we follow the fate of a mountaineer who sleeps under the stars, of a statue its author has moved into an inaccessible terrain on his own shoulders, or we circumvent the mock-up that defies our full view – the installing solution reduces our viewing angle like when climbing, we are physically confined and oppressed is our need to observe, grasp a thing by capturing it with our own eyes, in the need to achieve a bird’s eye view… for which one climbs to the top. For the purpose of joint exhibition in the Kostka gallery, Štefan Papčo “made his own” a climbing wall, which he cut into irregular chunks. Its monumentality of boulder piling revokes the image of its original model; it is a mountain, but it is also an avalanche, or at least its potential threat, making real something that was not offered by the training wall. The installation does not stand there just as a convincing illusion of a massif, but, in the spirit of post modern ambiguity, it also suggests our game of “playing the mountains”. Beside the atavist respect or romantic longing, it is also the artificial satisfaction of both by means of a (sportive) climbing wall. The fact that for the sculptural illusion of a mountain, its formerly realized illusion was transformed as a ready-made, accentuates, despite otherwise even banal straightforwardness, an underlying ironic, humorous line, creates a metaphor of human endeavor, which, no matter how much redeemed physically, remains with one crampon in the comic and self-delusion.

Šárka Koudelová leads us underneath the surface, letting us, by means of her detailed micro-investigation, look into the mineral’s structure, unveiling its growth, colorful ripening, movements of the inanimate (?) matter. This serves her successively as a matrix of other movements, crystallization of events, stories, of phenomena. The traditionally understood eternal character of mountains is put in contrast with elusive motives and observations. In the mirroring principle, both poles thus positioned obtain the characteristics of their counterpart – mountain peaks in which molten rock gushed out and crystallized, are accidental fleeting creations of moments and changing mood, and a situation seen just from the corner of one’s eye at a streetcar stop, or the awkwardness of surrealist works as the topic of conversation acquire monumental timelessness, becoming firm part of a structure that will “outlive us all”, or better, within whose grid we live. The static is happening and the dynamic can be viewed as a solid structure. In this oneness of matter and semantic emptiness of centers as if something from the Eastern thought resounded, as transcribed e.g. by Roland Barthes in his Empire of Signs: “From the slope of the mountains to the neighborhood intersection, here everything is habitat (…) the place has no other limit than its carpet of living sensations, of brilliant signs (flowers, windows, foliage, pictures, books); it is no longer the great continuous wall which defines space, but the very abstraction of the fragments of view (of the “views”) which frame me (…) the garden is a mineral tapestry of tiny volumes (stones, traces of the rake on the sand), the public place is a series of instantaneous events (…).”

The exhibition is conceived within a philosophical framework of contrasts complementing each other: the mesmeric monumentality of the sculptural gesture with obsessively precise details of many months of painter’s record. The directness of this connection and the narrative solution of the installation through which the viewer is lead, surprised, restricted, in the good sense of the word, and made to take a stand from different points of view, offers, I am not afraid to put it this way, a viewing attractiveness even if the viewer will not turn into a reader of more floors of speleological and mountaineering adventures.

Petr Kovář

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