The purpose of keeping this diary of exhibitions is primarily to inform my own paintings and work practices.
All the artists I have spoken to in my first five weeks of nosing around have impressed upon me their determinedly laissez-faire attitude towards labeling and what might be expected of a working artist.
If any theme is creeping into 2017 so far it appears to me to be a mix of 'fuck it' and 'I don't know', both of which excite me very much.
Jan 1st 2016 - Ongoing...
I would like to take a moment to mention the work of a friend who modestly calls herself a hobbyist when in fact she has created a body of photographic art which affect s me in complex ways and with such ease - almost like a Raymond Carver short story but in the form of self portraits.
Petra Schutzova is a lawyer.
It began as a 365 day challenge which Petra met with aplomb.
Petra was utterly self-effacing when I asked her if she had studied photography or art. No and no and laughter at the thought of it. You would ask too if you saw her frequently brilliant compositions. In a few words they are intimate, unusual, personal, avant garde at times and effortlessly sexy.
Quite often I have found myself wondering what I was looking at but being warmly attracted to the image all the same. There is a tenderness here mixed with an understatedly sharp wit.
Her only platform for this work so far has been Tumblr shared via daily Facebook posts.
Petra avoids obscurantism even in her most abstract photographs. She manages this I believe by putting in the effort to make every image entertaining. She has decided to take up another 365 challenge now the new year has begun which pleases me no end, and I hope more people will get to see her work. This only begs the question, how many photos is she keeping to herself if she is only sharing one a day.
Check out her Tumblr page and tell me there isn't a book just itching to be made out of this collection.
City Surfer Gallery
Commodities / Fetishes II : Histories of Violence
Feb 3rd - 12th 2017
"I did all of them this week, so..."
I was lucky to meet Slovakian artist Radim Labuda (resident of Prague for the last 12 years) and talk to him about his show at the City Surfer Office Gallery in Zizkov.
This is stark, overtly political work. About 10 large pill shaped objects displayed in one room. Each gold painted pill bearing a spray painted stencil of something disturbing and current affairsy. Mainly violent stuff.
One gold pill has a silhouette of the assassin shooting the Russian ambassador in Turkey last year. (An image which interestingly cropped up again in the NTK ‚Fear of the Unkown‘ exhibition.)
Radim summed up his connection to these pieces quite succinctly when he told us of his other activities. "I call myself a 'post-practice' artist because I do not want to be attached to any one thing, or style. I help organise concerts, design kitchens, and I make videos and I cook soups and I make salads. Why should any of these things be exclusive to one another in a world where 'anything can be art'?"
I liked the cut of his jib.
The pieces look like those things you lean on in a bus or a metro if you have to stand but want to sit, so you have to lean. I asked if that is what they were but no, he made them from scratch with board and plastic sheeting stuffed with foam.
Radim was actually the second person to display at Berlinskej Model (another private 'artist run' gallery in Prague) seven years ago and showed there again three years ago with his video art.
Radim was anything but pretentious and possessed that curiously attractive element missing in many 'creatives' - he still cared what me and my gallery-visiting-partner-in-crime thought about what he said.
It is interesting to note that had I not met the artist, and had been left alone with the curator's description of the work, I would have had a much harder time connecting.
As it worked out, I liked it very much.
NTK (National technical Library)
'Fear of the Unknown'
Radovan Čerevka (SK), Pavlína Fichta Čierna (SK), Janka Duchoňová (SK), Alena Foustková (CZ), Mandy Gehrt (DE), Grandhotel Cosmopolis (Svět/World), Zahra Hassanabadi (IRN/DE), Oto Hudec (SK), Lukáš Houdek (CZ), Mario Chromý (SK/CZ), Daniela Krajčová (SK), Ilona Németh (SK), Kristián Németh (SK), Nová věčnost (CZ), Martin Piaček (SK), Dan Perjovschi (RO), Tomáš Rafa (SK), Oliver Ressler (AT), Birgit Rüberg (DE), Kateřina Šedá (CZ), TOY_BOX (CZ), Ján a Olja Triaška (SK), Eliška Vrbová (CZ), Anna Witt (DE/AT), Tobias Zielony (DE), Artur Żmijewski (PL)
Don't miss this show.
A political comment quickly understood in art always brings to my mind Brant, the physical Cartoonist on the satirical comedy show The Day Today, which is a shame because there is so much at 'Fear of the Unknown' which feels very important art-wise.
The overriding memory of the show for me however is the subject matter and not the individual art works making FOTU border on being a brilliant interactive museum exhibition as oppose to a public art show. This in turn may be where the strength of the exhibition lies. The message is most definitely put across to the visitor in the clearest possible manner - a change from the vast majority of recent shows which I have been to.
Each piece is a well thought out reaction to the current refugee crisis with enough personal touches to make you feel like the two floors of the show are haunted by the bodies of those who never made it whilst being blessed by those did or are still trying to make it.
Two pieces stopped me in my tracks. One is a video of an art workshop in Poland called 'Them (2007)' by Artur Zwijewski (PL). The individuals filmed were divided into four groups according to their political beliefs; elderly Catholic women, a group of Jewish youths, a radical right wing youth group and a left wing activist group. In the tradition of an old art school practice they create work symbolising their values and when finished they move to the other groups work and are encouraged to make their own alterations. This goes on till you are back to what once was their own work.
This illustration of 'nonfunctional discussion' is painful to watch as the groups teeter on the edge of physical violence.
The next and most effective piece in the show for me was the shipping container.
On the second floor there is an actual shipping container which you can enter. The gallery assistant guided me to try it. He told me afterward that he usually closes the door behind the viewers for 2 minutes. I am glad he didn't do it when I went in.
There was the sound of a truck driving along a road - and the feeling that I was not alone. My eyes took a long time to adjust to the dark and when they did there was a slither of light catching the side of a man's face. The metal container was filled with life size models of men and women and children.
I lasted a minute before the situation started to overwhelm me.
Safe back in the well-lit gallery I wandered to another exhibit which presented zines which viewers could take with them. I picked up two and noticed my hand was shaking uncontrollably. It took quite some time to get over the visceral experience I had just had which made it a little difficult to fully appreciate any of the remaining exhibits.
I will be going back, if only to find out the name of the person who created that piece.
1.2.2017 - 7.3.2017
Curator - Vlado Beskid
'Viktor Freso predstavuje svuj mongoloidni pop art' reads the information sheet.
I am torn the whole time I'm there thinking about whether or not that soundbite sounds as bad in Slovak as it does in English:
'Viktor Freso presents his Mongoloid Pop Art'
I google the fucker.
I read about him.
"Another very typical aspect of Viktor's work is the interference into the world of media where without any respect he publicly presents his radical and often despising opinions of the society and art scene which might irritate and provoke a discussion about what is and what is not acceptable as contemporary art or just a self-centred affect of the artist." - Viktor Freso website
Not convinced either way.
Regardless of his dated, horrendously offensive subtitle for the exhibition, the work Freso has on display at DSC is.......
....nah, fuck it.