"Conceptual art has so little to say in itself that its only achievement of meaning is the inspiration of a very low level of poetry in the critic.'' Billy Childish - 'The Decrepitude of the Critic - 2000
Vernisáž Jan 11, 2017
I profess myself to be a fan of Conceptual art.
To me Conceptual art is like a box of chocolates - you have to read the descriptions on the leaflet thingy or you won't have a clue what you're looking at.
Now they say conceptual art should tackle your preconceptions of what can be expected in the art world. I have always thought free stuff would scupper my preconceptions. Usually if my preconceptions are being tackled I'm expecting it, which sort of defeats the purpose, but tonight I was beaten.
Ladislav Kyllar was pointed out to me by a polite Umprum student who was kind enough to talk with me over Vietnamese Pho. In actual fact packet shrimp soup made by artist Frantisek Svatos to compliment his sculpture which (he later explained) was a comment on Consumerism and Tesco's shrimp debacle of 2014 (Tesco along with other large companies were linked to Asian slave labour in the collection of the world shrimp supply). The soup was appreciated and Frantisek had added real shrimp to make the meal feel a little more like a meal. There were limes and chilis too. I had skipped dinner and so was very grateful for the gesture. This was already my favourite piece.
Ladislav was also polite and generously explained his work to me. Plastic consumerism and commercialism played a large part here too. 4 Shrink wrapped bags of designer clothing resting on metal stands. The clothing scrunched up like 2nd hand junk repackaged. Ugly and colourful and displayed in such a way as might fool a person into thinking there was still some worth to the junk presented. This was a nice piece. What pleased me most about Ladislav's explanation however was his casual attitude towards his own work. He told me that he is a photographer and that this is just a hobby.
There it was! I loved that! My preconceptions of conceptualist artists banjaxed. The ego removed from conceptual art.
I had just that same evening been to see an exhibition of a retired architect Zdenek Hornicek at Prague 7s town hall. A man who has been painting landscapes in his free time for many years. A hobbyist by his own admission.
I imagined Ladislav here, after a lifetime of professional photography, creating concept pieces and being politely praised by his peers; his grandkids covering their grins at his old fashioned style, "That glass of water on a shelf doesn't remotely conjure up historically contradictory notions of transubstantiation. Good effort though, granddad!"
I unfortunately did not get the chance to meet Lenka, as I don't think she was there, however, her massively enlarged photograph of the himalayas with some sort of non-dissolvable foam plastic rubble resting at the foot of it was about...The Transformations of Landscape at the turn of the 21st century and its Impact on Society (i.e. the relationship between landscape and society reflected in natural and social sciences), I reckon.
The three artists had worked well together as regards the subject matter but I am not sure if each 'sculpture' benefited hugely from it's proximity to either of the others. There was the physical 'plastic' connection, but still.
I am happy to add that there were no unhappy repercussions from the faux Pho.
Official exhibition spiel:
Duna warns against sloth and the loss of initiative, leading to stagnation. It speaks out against the language of desires, addictions, and consumption. Without so much as the blink of an eye, nations have begun to prepare for a world four degrees warmer. The IPCC’s self-fulfilling prophecy stands in as a modern Quietism. The final extinction of the species is happening during our lifetime while the biological and limited order is replaced by a deceptively unlimited technological imperium, an exponential need of growth.
The Chemistry gallery
The Honey gatherers
from 2.12. 2016 till 14.1. 2017
curator: Martin Herold
There is something weird about The Chemistry Gallery. Unless you are here for the opening night of any exhibition, you are confronted with a gallery space which, I don't know how to put it, makes you do all the work. Even I am not sure what I mean by this. Maybe you felt it too. There is the uncomfortable 'mild-mannered assistant behind big desk' situation which confronts us in most private galleries, but it's not that...it's the emptiness. The silence. The hollow hum of 'would it matter if nobody ever walked through this space?' -ness.
Alzbeta's work is beautiful. She seems to be examining the communion between technology and nature in the most delicate, ephemeral manner, practically breathing her images into the room.
Her light wash depictions of body parts inner and outer, appear to emphasise human vulnerability in an increasingly digital world.
I appreciated the gossamer thin kissed looseness of her paintings (like Luc Tuymens illustrating Grey's Anatomy) but was also very taken with her minimalist knee sculpture set alone in one massive plain white display case downstairs. The sculpture complimented the paintings in a warm, simple, deceptive way which hinted more at conceptualism than it did a figurative painting exhibition.
There is a lot more to Alzbeta's work than meets the eye and I would have liked to meet it, but I slowly began to feel like I was outstaying my welcome. To sit patiently in front of a Kokoschka at Veletrzni Palac might be acceptable but to spend longer than ten minutes in the Chemistry gallery just makes you feel weird, you know?
Cerna Labut - Art Event Gallery
10.12.2016 - 29.1.2017
"It is the Stuckist's duty to explore his/her neurosis and innocence." Article 8 of the first Stuckist Manifesto.
Encrypted in the melodic brush tones of Jaroslav's paintings are the gremlins of our universal psyche.
Let me put that another way.
In these normal looking landscapes there's a lot of weird shit.
Between the painting of a woman shot in the head, called 'Dead Woman' and a beautiful snowy landscape called 'plane', reminiscent of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman but with a crumpled, crashed plane in the middle, we are made aware of a dark neurosis being explored in a classic figurative manner.
The paintings are almost too charming to believe that there could be anything surreptitious in the stories they are telling and then you notice that there is a lightly painted, pastel-coloured chap flinging himself off the top of the lovely building you have been tricked into admiring.
We are informed that Jaroslav was inspired by one of the founding texts of Stuckism. The second time I had read this word in the same day in relation to an artist's work.
"Oh to be the member of an 'art movement'" I thought. "What's a Stuckist?" I thought. "Maybe I'm a Stuckist," I thought.
I had heard the word before but couldn't remember where. so I took out my phone...
THAT'S where I had heard it before. Billy Childish. The musician/artist. I like him - And I like the new album 'Wild Billy Childish and CTMF - SQ1' 2016 - highly recommended - He wrote a Stuckist manifesto in 1999 with Charles Thomson. All about figurative art over conceptual art.
"Artists who don't paint, aren't artists." 1999 - The Stuckists - Manifesto - Billy Childish (intriguingly entertaining) and Charles Thomson (curiously dull)
The name of the group appears to be a reaction to something Tracey Emin once said...
"Your paintings are stuck,
you are stuck!
Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!"
Jaroslav is a prolific painter. There were three beautiful books of his paintings on display at the gallery. His style has remained solid over the years and brings to mind the work of Edvard Munch. Jaroslav seems to be biting into his fist and smiling with his eyes rather than bearing an out and out existential scream however. His enviably rustic atelier near Ceske Budejovice may have something to do with his cool restraint.
Very glad to have seen this and very annoyed that he is one year younger than me and has already done so much. What have I been doing with my life? Time to become unstuck.
As a footnote, gallery Cerna Labut seems to have come into its own. The once domineering, albeit beautiful view from the 8th floor now plays second fiddle to the ample wall space given to its exhibitors. Be on the lookout for upcoming events.
Curators: Lucia Gavulová & Jaro Varga
Author of the concept: Matej Gavula
Opening: 19.1. 2017, 19:00
Exhibition duration: 19.1. – 19.2. 2017
Artists: Ján Gašparovič, Matej Gavula, Jonáš Gruska, Daniel Grúň, Roman Ondák
I don't plan to write about everything I see this year and I was not going to write about the Shell Game show at Meet Factory. Not because I didn't like it, so much as I felt nothing from it.
Today I plan to visit Umprum for the last day of the Art Semester Zimr 2017 show. I expect the art to adhere to the same rules (non-rules) of post-conceptual/post-minimalistic art but for some reason I suspect it will hold my interest longer.
I intend to answer why this is. I may be wrong, but the last half a dozen times I went to Meet Factory for a group exhibition I was left feeling....flat. I know that the space itself can influence the way the pieces are seen, so perhaps by this reasoning Meet Factory is not complimenting the artist's work as I see them. This of course could be personal negative projection; unusual though since I really like the Meet Factory as a venue.
Where The Stuckists fundemental issue with Conceptual art seems to be with the artists, my fundemental issue with the artists showing at Meet Factory seems to be with the gallery.
One student I interviewed on the night, when asked, "What did you think of the show?" replied, "I feel angry. Angry and sad." She did not appear to be a massive fan of 'art which is not a painting', but even so, a disturbing sentiment from one of our youngest and brightest.
ARTSEMESTR zima 2017
Vernisáž: 24. 1. 2017 od 19 h
25. 1. – 29. 1. 2017
This was a large-scale exhibition of end-of-term work by students of UMPRUM
Umprum have it all - From architecture, glass, ceramics, textiles, photography, graphic design, film, t.v., industrial design and on and on to the most important of all sculpture and painting (two of only three subjects, it is interesting to note, whose chosen topics were listed as 'free').
You might expect everyone to look dirty, distant and drunk, but you would be wrong; everyone was clean, communicative and cool. Lots of apple laptops sitting on couches in tight half mast trousers and neat beanies ready to give you directions or make you a cup of tea.
I'm sure hipsters are tired of being accused of being healthy, vegetarian, non-smoking, business-minded teetotallers, but they all were. Every single one of them. I mean it. All of them. However, despite their lack of filth or drunkenness their work was thoroughly engaging.
I would go so far as to say this beat all the Prague Biennale exhibitons I have seen hands down. The gallery space matters. The light, love, fun, commaradery, excitement, modesty, shyness and innocence is Umprum's strength. You would have to be a hard hearted dick not to enjoy a show like this.
Out of the hundreds of exhibits it would be a drag to cover the multitude of high points so I will stick to the four which turned me on the most.
David Fesl (of the recent Young Czech Artists exhibition at Veletrzni Palac with his Ocean Floor series) wowed me again with his exquisite wee sculptures made from bits and bobs and glue and string and mini photos and sticks and dust and funstuff.
The names of the artists were not always easy to find throughout the show and I initially thought it interesting that someone was emulating Fesl's style, though not altogether surprised. I asked a female hipster and she informed me that this was a piece by David Fesl and I was all like "Ahhhhh, from the National Gallery show, riiiight." and she was all like, "Yeah."
I asked another student (no available artist information again) who had painted the bold, beautiful, huge canvases on the third floor. "Lucie Michnova," she said. "Thanks," I said.
Their 2 metre by 2 metre imposing presence spoke of an artist just bursting with inspiration and positive energy.
Some of Lucie's unfinished pieces were stored haphazardly in the hallway leading to the painter's studio space. This meant I had already had the chance to fall for her work before I saw the solitary painting she had chosen to hang for the show.
I loved that the canvases seemed so full, so complete, with their sketchy human imagery combined with the more expressionistic, controlled explosions, and yet the paintings looked like they might have been dashed off in an afternoon. An hour even. This loose, happy confidence in dealing with large canvases has always impressed me but this was one of the most successful 'Art Brut'ish examples I have seen in a while.
Neither artist spoke to me of politics or contemporary issues as such but they did offer an insight into the inherent power of art to transport the viewer to a better place. Whether this place is unifying and utopian in essence or just a cosy destination for individual escapism, neither of them felt derivative in any way and stood alone, casually fresh and undaunted by art history or the dispensable inevitability of critique.
The third and fourth favourite bits were the two Virtual Reality headsets in the Graphic Design and Visual Communication studio with its 'Horror' theme and black flap door with the warning - Enter and be scared to death - "Yiiissss." I said.
The creators of both the film and then the game put the big goggles and headphones on me and I said, "Yiiiiiiiissssssss!" again for about 5 minutes more and when I took the 'other world' off my head there was a queue of twenty onlookers giggling and waiting to do the same.
I am sad to say I don't know the names of the girl and the guy who created them. But thank you, thank you.
I cannot wait for the Umprum summer show (or to own a VR headset).
Galerie NTK (National Technical Library)
2. 12. 2016 - 21. 1. 2017
A spit out the window of a tram away from Dejvice is the National Technical University with it's grand looking modern library with writing all over it.
Inside is the NTK Gallery.
The 'desk' lad was late so I had to wait a bit outside the windowed wall separating the gallery space from the library hall space.
I took photos through the window because you can kind of see everything in the one big room and I was just about to go round to the front of the building and take more advantageous photos of the other half of the exhibition through a window when the 'desk' lad turned up.
I'm glad he did because the modern sculptures deserved walking around. I'm double glad he did because of Filip Dvorak's all black, square painting 'Bez Nazvu' (untitled).
I had just read Yasmine Reza's play 'Art' about the man who pays $200.000 for a painting of white stripes on a white background and his friends call him out on it, and here was the current day Czech equivalent of that potentially cliche art statement. I say potentially because regardless of Malevich's square black painting of the nineteen fourteen and Ad Reinhardt's 'black paintings' of the 60s, plus numerous other anti-consumerist monochrome works, Filip Dvorak's 'Bez Nazvu' hung dominantly in the corner of the room as a reminder that artists can do what the fuck they want. It's art. They're artists.
I leant in to the painting and was pleasedandsurprised to not be able to tell if the surface was painted canvas, dyed cloth, black felt or that stuff they made the frictionless, black spaceship Zaphod Beeblebrox steals in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy out of.
I was suddenly very aware of the importance of keeping dust well away from the surface of this picture.
I would gladly hang this in my home.
Jakub Choma with his magnificently exuberant and entertaining, large canvas, mixed media 'Scooby Doo Series' also caught my attention. Difficult for it not to since it was mad glossy colourful.
The curator, Milan, explains in his spiel that the work on display is both superficial AND serious, which gleefully covers all bases. The group show's theme was about fresh, post internet visions and physically represented responses to a digital world of omnipresent media and super-media.
A common theme these days but one which will continue to entertain as we look to others to peek round the edges of art's intangible limits and tell us what they see.