Reports

Growing up at the Prague south-west housing estate offers two existential possibilities. One is to come to like it and the other one to get quickly out of there. The option of having no choice has been left out. Michal Drozen’s positive attitude to the housing estate developed into a feeling similar to love. Recently he has got hold of a studio in one of the prefabricated houses in Žižkov with a view of other prefabs. His liking is evident in many of his drawings faithfully imitating frontages of block of flats across the road.
Jakub Hošek said in connection with Michal’s work “A hero is everyone who remains authentic with himself” The housing estate drabness where the issue of authentic survival in the greyness has been topical has inspired Michal to portray himself as the main theme of present days.
Michal makes exclusivelly series, this way he used to paint for example shoes, fruits or matchbox cars, everything live-sized. Gradually he got to compositions of his self-portraits which he fully devoted to during the third year at the Academy. He evolved them progressively into a huge scale. In 2014 he presented them at the Critics’ Choice Awards. “I covered the whole wall with them and there was no other way but to start portraying myself,” he says.
He has drawn inspiration from other painters such as Jason Brooks (he saw his canvases at the exhibition Beyond Reality in Rudolfinum) or Chuck Close. He worked on his self-portraits during his scholarship at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp under Vaaston Colson. He was captivated by an independent platform led by his professor Ultra Eczema, which is very similar to the Prague’s A.M. 180 Michal is a big fan of. Michal’s last year’s diploma work called Indie Hero consisted of four paintings, each four metres high. The pantings presented a scrum of smaller formats depicting Michal in different situations, his stylization with the help of different fashion creations into a position of a twenty five years old hero of urban indie community, who is broke all the time but wants to be satisfied mainly with himself. The result is kind of a lifestyle diary.
In the Start up cycle he displays a series of paintings depicting happy moments from Michal’s introverted life. He painted his graduation work, as well as his exhibited cycle called Start up and Down, according to photographs of himself taken by his girlfriend Linda. She takes pictures of both of them at different informal places and she sometimes, by his side, gets into the paintings and becomes another character in his work. The paintigs’ quality such as low depth and impression of being unfinished contribute to the overall effect of the work and has got a snapshot character. There isn’t too strong contrast between light and shadow. The canvases contain human scale corresponding to Michal’s figure (193 cm) squeezed into the painting’s frame.
The cycle is rather a social document, capturing ordinariness of situations, the environment and pride of a young couple, when one supports the other one.
We can see Michal individually at a garden shower’s pole with red painted nails during a summer party, in the corridor of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague or at Mykki Blanca concert. Something from his lifestyle diary has remained, for example when he puts on Linda’s dress which is a bit parody (with all due respect) of paintings of his former teacher Jiří Petrbok who painted his daughter. It isn’t the first time Michal responds to Petrbok’s paintig. If we take into consideration Petrbok’s recycling of other artists’ paintings, it is a real irony. A publication for the exhibition resulted from the both authors’ dialogue between their drawings.

Michal Drozen (*1989, Prague, Lužiny) is a fresh graduate of the drawing studio headed by Jiří Petrbok at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague.

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