The two parts of the exhibition by Michal Pěchouček with the telling title Lessons in Art are interconnected by the motif of a young man sitting on a chair with his back turned to the spectator.The photographic film (Filmogram #8) shows twenty four images of a person looking at a horizontal black line reminding of a stripe dividing the frames of a film strip. The quilted painting Time for Bed XIII captures a young man in shorts sitting on a folded towel. The figure is looking at a tiled wall and is depicted in the mode of mimetic naturalism, metaphorically alluding to the genre of romantic painting. While the former seems to lack any emotions, the latter is explicitly referring to the world of people’s feelings, urges and desires. The double representation of the same motif is reflecting the “dioecious“ concept of the exhibition in The Stone Bell. Situated on the Gothic floor of the building, the first part of the exhibition reflects the author’s fascination by the rationality of representation typical of film and video technology. The latter part – the Time for Bed painting cycle situated on the Renaissance floor of the building – is completely different and rather fleshly. The author’s installation can be understood as a dialogue between two different media; historical layers; or as a story narrated and negated by the very same person.

Michal Pěchouček is an artist whose works are linked by various forms of the narrative. He focuses on the meaning of the narrative, its archetypes and primarily the style which can be employed to narrate by means of various media. Already in his photonovels Fabulous Past II (2000) and Like a Guest (1999), Pěchouček has been systematically “constructing“ a narrative style of his own with distinctive poetics. As for the form, he started employing photography as the structural unit of his narratives. His ties to photography as well as the poetics of his further works in general were influenced by a significant moment; that of artistic appropriation of photographs from his family archive originating from the 1960s – 1970s. Pěchouček was fascinated by the photo albums of his father, who was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, and the home-made notebooks of his mother, who used to paste in photos of figure skaters, hockey players and actors when she was young. These albums have become significant sources of style and poetics; not only for his photonovels but also for his graphics, painting novels and videos made in the period of the late 1990s to 2006.

The amateur spirit of the family albums also inspired Pěchouček’s method of “deliberate dilettantism“ emphasized and demonstrated in his works. This is obvious in the intentional naivety employed to appeal on the spectator’s emotions, reminding of the touching scenes from the silent movie era (Gentle Mail, 2003); the excessively exact scenarios; and the deliberately awkward, tedious stage-managing (Guard of Honour, 2006). The visual form of Pěchouček’s artworks has undergone a significant change, which became apparent at his solo exhibitions Playtime (Brno Gallery 2006) and Screen (Jiri Svestka Gallery 2008); having dealt exclusively with human stories depicted in the mode of realist mimetic figuration, the artist started to employ a “cool” antipode in the form of geometrical abstraction.

In many respects, the exhibition Lessons in Art in the Stone Bell represents a continuation of the Screen exposition due to its direct polarization of abstraction and figuration both in the artworks and the approach to exhibiting. Lessons in Art, nevertheless, are even more extreme, giving an impression of two separate exhibitions. The first floor houses a cycle consisting of minimalist or even “cool and rational“ artworks (filmograms and video installations). The second floor exhibits figural textile paintings Time for Bed depicting “boarding school stories“. The exhibition also presents a sarcastic puppet video by Pavel Švec about a fictitious gallery, featuring a character who might remind of Pěchouček and his activities on the art scene. The difference between the two floors reflects the difference between two lessons in art: those of painting and film, though they are absent from the exhibition in their traditional form. While the textile paintings (ready-made nightclothes) are made according to photographic originals, the filmograms consist of contact prints and slide film strips. Thus the essential dialogue of the exhibition is held between figural painting, which is primarily seen as realistic, mimetic, historical and narrative; and the filmograms, which are based on the principle of film codes and are employed to create a minimalist illusion of movement.

Olga Malá

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