The art scene in Prague this March - Embracing Compassion
'FAKE ART - NOT WAR'
All the Beauties of the World
9.3.2017 - 31.3.2017
Vojtěch Horálek, Vendula Chalánková, Mark Nader, Ivana Sláviková, Jana Šárová, Marika Volfova
Like a one woman Pussy Riot. Think Munch meets Basquiat meets Tracy Emin meets Jung and you would still be insulting this artist who is riding her very own wave of mutilation; optimistically challenging her viewers to stop being so squeamish, open up, get honest and connect.
Hieronymus Bosch's visions of hell seem playful in comparison to Marika's paintings. This may be because although her images may seem hellish and apocalyptic they are not based on fantasy but the very world we live in today. Her use of Archetypes and Native American/Egyptian/European Myths act as echoes and signs of our universal psyche where the sometimes horrific images Marika paints are representations of all too human humans and our darkest, shallowest fears and desires.
After ungraciously barging through the other 5 artists to speak to Marika, I ungraciously used the word 'entertaining' to describe one of my numerous responses to her work.
"They are not meant to be 'entertainment'!" she told me.
"They are more like documents of our current condition and testaments to our damagingly blinkered attitude to what is happening around us every day."
Whilst looking at her work my friends and I toyed with which questions one might ask an artist like this.
"Are you okay?" they suggested.
"Do you need help?" they suggested.
"What are your 3 favourite movies?"
I did ask her question number three.
She was very obliging and took her time to answer accurately.
"Documentaries about animals, Hany-Abu Assad's 'Paradise Now' (an incredible film about two brothers preparing for their suicide bombing mission) and the third...well I stopped asking her the name of the other director she said she liked after four failed attempts to catch the Polish name she was saying.
I think Wajda but I could be wrong. (Get your 'fake news' here!)
Check out her website for an honest to goodness and evilness visual treat.
I will be keeping my eyes and ears peeled for upcoming shows.
Maybe I will get the chance to ask her about her top 3 favourite bands/artists/authors and deserts.
I have not felt compelled to ask any of the other artists I have spoken to this year these sorts of personal questions.
Lucky Marika 'not-if-I-see-you-first' Volfova!
More of Marika later in this blog...
Universal Hospitality 2
03.03.2017 - 28.05.2017
Artists - Oliver Ressler / Anca Bener / Arnold Estefan, Victor Lopez / Gonzalez, gRAM, Halil Altindere, Rafani Marina Naprushkina, Hito Steyeri, Martin Krenn, Nuri Guell Artur Zmijewski, Szabolcs KissPal
Curators - Edit Andras, Birgitta Lurz, Ilona Nemeth, Wolfgang Schlag
This month the Prague art scene is embracing the joint themes of Migration, borders and the dismantling of democracy as we know it.
The new exhibition at Meet Factory (in conjunction with Futura Gallery) has plenty to show and tell.
The Kostka Gallery (the one up those precariously steep metal stairs which almost demand to be climbed down backwards) is currently displaying Szaboles KissPal's fictive museum tracing the rise of fascism worldwide from its Hungarian roots. The documentary video loop jokingly suggests at one point that the historical roots might lead right back to the arrival of aliens on planet earth.
This exhibit is persuasive, amusing and disturbingly close to the fiction which we have come to accept (out of both gullibility and sheer laziness) as our 'reality'.
Back in the factory Nuria Guell shows the letters he sent to the Spanish government in an attempt to unpatriotise himself (i.e. become stateless) Something which cannot be done voluntarily but can be done as an authoritarian move by governments unwilling to take responsibility for a human life. The letters are profoundly convincing statements against unsolicited identification entirely dependent on where one happens to be born. The letters' logic is faultless; their purpose...illegal.
My favourite piece here was Rafani's short film ‘Mostars’ which portrays an extreme example of a possible future where a far right wing state runs unapologetically racist, bigoted, elitist news reports in a non linear, kitsch-collage cheap video style reminiscent of Ryan Trecartin's frazzled futuristic films.
The fact that Trump recently barred 'reporters from the 'liberal' press from one of his press secretary's regular addresses makes this film of Rafani's doubly pertinent and troubling.
F.Y.I. - In the MF cafe they are selling a t-shirts which reads 'FAKE ART - NOT WAR', which coincidentally is a concept which crops up in relation to Ai Weiwei’s talk at the NTK…
Art Prague Fair 2017
February 28 – March 5, 2017
Kafka's House (Kafkův dům)
There were easily over a hundred artists represented here, which makes it a wonderful opportunity to get an overall view of which artists local private galleries find interesting / salesworthy. It is an equally valuable chance to see which galleries local artists find interesting / appropriately representational.
There were roughly 20-30 private galleries showing their wares which meant walking into that awkwardly quiet room with one person sitting at a desk 20-30 times. Something akin to a recurring nightmare.
Representing themselves were the fascinating OBEJVAK group. Obejvak is a shared studio of like-minded, pro-active, D.I.Y. artists who throw parties, workshops and such. Check them all out at Obejvak.com
There were some beautiful pieces here by one of OBEJVAK’s group, Andy Allen, a figurative painter who's mastery of colour puts a subtle energy into subjects which could otherwise be considered artistcally obscure or even mundane, i.e. garages, vases of flowers, modern homes etc. As it happens there is an ethereal quality to each of his landscapes which draws the viewer in, or rather invites the viewer in and calmly asks that they také of their shoes and feel the ground.
One of Andy's stand out paintings, 'Midnight Swim - 2017' shares best this charming way he has of embuing scenes with a warmth and melancholy which put me in mind of the hypnotic magic in the art films of Pierre Huyghe. (photo below)
Representing his own abstract paintings was Slovak Photographer Martin Iman who happens to be an artist-poster-boy for Slovakia. Chosen by the Slovakian government to represent their contemporary taste in art culture in Slovakian embassies all over the world. A Tree of a man who paints mainly colourful abstracts. He was most personable and encouraging as regards my own search for representation.
I would like to mention Frantiska Janeckova represented by Latin Art Gallery also. Frantiska is interesting for a number of reasons; the main one to me being the fascinating contrast between herself and an artist like Marika Volfova who I mentioned earlier.
Both are avidly committed to making the world a better place and both are attempting to do this in as physical and emotional a way as possible. Their choice of visual output however is as different as chalk and cheese.
I am not sure where Marika stands on Carl Jung's work but I do see these two artists as being connected through him.
Frantiska is a doctor and art therapist. Her work reflects this very clearly. Frantiska wishes to affect poistive change in her viewer's mood by utilising the relevant palette conducive to calming troubled souls. These she applies to her paper/canvas lightly taking care to lay down simple abstracted patterns and delicate daubs which flow effortlessly and are easy on the eyes.
Marika on the other hand employs multiple techniques and materials and uses her figurative, archetypal narratives to jolt the viewer into some sort of psychological action. Where Frantiska works to rewire the brain in order to sooth it, Marika is actively working to shake her audience out of its slumber.
Whilst Marika regards her fellow humans as passively accepting hell on earth, Frantiska seems to be sharing a world with those who have experienced hell first hand and wish to be released from the concomitant anxiety.
I may be reading too much into this randomly curated coupling of mine but hey, that's what it's there for, right?
Once it's up on the wall its all yours to do with what you will.
Either way, I was intrigued by both of them and forced to take a hard look at my own work and the methods and philosophies I employ to affect the viewer. Thank you Marika and Frantiska.
National Technical Library
Ai Weiwei talk in Ballinguv Hall
Speakers: Francesca Von habsburg / Karel Swarzenberg / Ai Weiwei / Olga Lomova / jiri fajt
There were 2 rows of national gallery bods in attendance and a slew of journalists and curators and gallerists as well as a number of emotionally charged spectators (some refugees) with questions about homeland and how to affect positive mind change in others.
"A classical question," answered Wei Wei. Donald Trump is asking himself that also. It is not so easy to change others minds but you can change your own easily."
Wei Wei has spent the last two years visiting refugee camps around the world. 40 in all. Interviewing and preparing for a new documentary.
"Do You show them your work? What would you like refugees to get from your art?" one of the audience members asked.
"I would be embarrassed to show them my work." Wei Wei replied, "It is a different language. I do fake art for fake museums and fake collectors." Fajt and Habsburg accepted his point graciously. Swarzenberg slept.
"As well as a hot cup of tea and blankets, refugees need attention. They need to be paid attention to and they need care. Lectures like this and art from a fake world cannot help."
I did wonder at this statement about his embarrassment to show his art to the refugees; it did after all strike me as a suitably humble answer. The Calais Jungle might be an inappropriate place to grab a person’s iPhone and google yourself in order to show off your famous art, but the fact that there were a number of refugees in attendance at the talk begged the question ,Embarrassed of what exactly?‘
Swarzenberg’s narcoleptic exhibitionism did not seem wholly innapropriate during the talk since Ai Weiwei himself spent a good third of the evening playing with his own phone. I will of course give him the benefit of the doubt and propose that he was busying himself with google translate.
Brian Eno had a seat reserved in the second row but didn't show. I thought I might have been standing next to him afterwards however as I asked my friend if they knew what Eno actually looked like. A quiet, baldy man at the cafe bar smiled at us at that moment and looked for all the world like he was keeping something to himself.
"I'm Brian Eno....I'm Brian Eno...."
I don't think he was Brian Eno.
National Gallery Spring Opening
Artists - Ai Wewei, Magdalena Veterova, Brian Eno
17.03.3017 - 07.01.2018
Law of the Journey
Curators - Jiri Fajt and Adam Budak
Contrary to his ‚Different language’sentiments at the NTK talk Ai Weiwei is exhibiting a piece which can be understood by everyone.
The boat full of refugees along with his photographic diary leave little to interpretation but play effectively on one's imagination. This piece thunders out the message 'THINK ABOUT US!'
That he chose Prague to premiere this sculpture is interesting since Czechia has only let 12 migrants into the country. Not 12.000.
"I say clearly that I don't want even a single refugee in the Czech Republic, not even temporarily," Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babis wrote in August 2015. Ai Weiwei told the BBC that the Czech government’s attitude is “by any means not acceptable because it’s morally wrong. It’s short-sighted. It’s a coward’s behavior.
In his own language Ai Weiwei professes to be 'unbeatable' in an argument. While he is relatively shy speaking in English, I'm sure he could still give the Czech Anti-Islam/immigration crowd a run for their money.
It is his willingness to put his money where his mouth is which elevates Ai Weiwei above many self proclaimed 'political' artists and has him sitting up there in ArtReview's No.10 in their top 100 most influential figures in the art scene today.
'To have recognition and fame for being an artist and not say or do anything would be a travesty.'
His work does draw attention and this is what those who are victims of humanitrian violations need.
One observation I did not make until the following day however was that I didn't feel the need to look at the massive Lifeboat a second time. His other installations on the upper floors, ('Laundromat' 2016 and a circular pile of ceramic sunflower seeds on the first floor the title of which escapes me) on the other hand, possess a warmth and elusive familiarity which will call me back again and again.
Touch of Time
17.03.3017 - 03.09.2017
Curators - Milena Kalinovska
This exhibition is a real treat for art lovers and art historians. Magdalena's photography, site specific installation art and land art has been shown all around the world over the last 40 something years - including New York's MoMa and Tate London, Documenta 8, etc...
That's her big chair on the Vltava outside Museum Kampa.
She must have been aware that Ai Weiwei would be exhibiting his largest work ever just next door since Touch of Time has to be one of the largest works she has ever produced also. For the last few months you may have noticed the elaborate construction work going on in Veletrzni Palac. there's water, there's layers, there's Lazers and mirrors and the overall effect is both subtle and incredibly bold at the same time. Perhaps that is her signature; to be able to take a place over completely without you noticing anything unnatural or forced going on.
On the ground floor where the work lies there is a notice on the floor which reads 'Do not enter. The exhibition begins on the mezzanine.' This is curious as there is obviously no practical way one could 'enter' the hall as it is completely filled with water. It made me feel like I shouldn't be looking at what I am already looking at. As if I were cheating or breaking the law. I even felt pressured to get to the mezzanine viewing balcony before I missed the whole purpose/effect of the piece.
There is of course no real rule of law here and one can gaze at the display from any angle they wish and still be witnessing a monumental work of illusory powers. I suspect this meaningless message may be echoing the unreasonable Muslim travel ban Trump is attempting to put into play in America.
Occupying the entire mezzanine is a retrospective of Magdalena's art. I was as excited to walk past her famous sculptures and photos, which I have seen in any number of books and magazines since I was a teen, as I was to stand alongside Brian Eno, the man, the legend (which I eventually did for realsies).
In an interview I saw of her's, she said that the greatest moment for an artist is to have the idea. Regardless of the practicalities of the project, to have the idea is the key to good art; art which is not created in an atmosphere of physical, material limitations and fear. I love that.
Her concepts are courageous and kissed with a pioneer's love for imagination. Her literary touches compliment the land and the buildings she works with, even if only temporarily but these and her iconic sculptures place her permanently in the category of one of the most important figures in contemporary art.
I arrived one hour before the opening and I did gravitate straight to Brian Eno's sound installation. There was me, Czech Television presenter Marek Eben and Brian. Their presence upset the ambient scene as I couldn't block out the noise in my own head, "That's the real Brian Eno. That's the real Brian Eno." And this one standing next to me in the shiny silver trench coat was most definitely not the duffer sitting in the student bar the night before.
I will be returning soon to spend some quality time in the moving image department of the gallery to soak up Brian Eno's 25th-solo-album-cum-muti-channel-three-dimensional-sound-installation 'The Ship' (2016) on a 50 minute loop. "You can pretty much jump in anywhere," he told us, "but it should be worth staying for the full 50 minutes. There's a few surprises."
On a personal note I am in the process of shifting my work place into a larger studio. I cannot wait to build on my current project entitled ,Artist as…‘ . More about that soon.
Twenty something exhibitions into the year and it is becoming increasingly fascinating to try to get to grips with the very things which connect artists to each other, and to the issues they endeavour to tackle.
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