The Conceptual Art Detectives
The Role of the Existential Exile
The Role in Prague this year so far seems to be to become someone who does not accept any role at all.
An individualistic society beyond the 'ME' society. ME no longer enough.
To connect (something still desired by most artists) is to rid oneself of conditioning. This is more than a 'hippy' gesture at this time however. If only because no one trusts themselves. To claim to 'like' something or not 'like' something can be blamed on conditioning. Art works often remain untitled today for fear of conditioning others. Czech art today has almost become a hands off process. A post process.
One is either entirely political or exclusively detached.
These are not in fact mutually exclusive in this post democratic Western society
Being a supporter of contemporary and conceptual art I sometimes feel like a priest who tells non believers that he too still has doubts.
To explain the joy one receives from a piece of art would be like trying to explain why we mammals laugh.
I have been inspired by the work I have looked at over the last three months.
Whilst working on my 'Artist as...' Series I found myself compelled to work into it a couple of elements outside of my recent pattern of canvas and oils.
The new, larger studio space allows for more work of this kind since I have the room to work on more than a few pieces at a time now. This I am confident will encourage brevity in the more delicate pieces.
Artist as Clicktivist and Artist as Recluse - see below - bare as much weight for me as Artist as Martyr or any of the works which took me a month to complete.
Anyway, I have a new series under way now. A long time brewing. Wasn't sure exactly which way I was going to turn. Lots of fun to be had. Months gestating till it popped in fully realised today. Watch this space.
Until then here is a synopsis of what I had a gander and think about this last fortnight.
"Cigler relates to these works as aids for people to exist in harmony with their surroundings. In this way he uses glass to investigate the cosmic order and its meaning." Official Vaclav Cigler website.
Like with Friends or Monty Python, sometimes the jokes don't hit home. You know it is comedy and it has a job to do but it doesn't tickle you. But you don't dismiss the show because of that and you trust them to get you next time. This is how I feel about minimalist glass art.
I believe I comprehend what the idea behind it is. But I don't 'feel' what it is. You can't know something till you feel it too.
It has to be part of you.
It's art made with big glass.
Konec nekonecna (infinite ending)
See, I thought I got this but not because of the subject matter. I felt I got it because it was in a language I have practised - not just studied or read about.
I am sure if I took a course in glass art and had a bash at if myself I could appreciate Cigler's precise, clean, clear, large, sharp, gestures.
As I did in fact study painting, and have been practising, I have an instinctual trust of certain painters based on gut feeling. At the point of entry I was instantly pleased with David’s paintings.
I will try to answer why I liked it. My Mum, by the way, didn't.
This I see as significant. Mum didn't say 'I don't get it', although this is generally the reason she doesn't like expressionism; no she actively disliked it.
Interesting since Cigler didn't do as much as that to me.
In other words David Pesat’s paintings DID something to both of us. I would argue that my mother's dislike of David's work actually meant that she got it. That the images at first glance appear sad and disturbing might be some people's reason to be turned off by something; for others this can be exactly what they are looking for in a work of art.
These briskly painted pieces with their beautifully executed sweeps of mucky primary colours turned me on.
The 'dead' or 'Depressed-to-the-point-of-collapse' or 'huddled in a fetus position' figures were wearing adidas tracksuit bottoms which first conjured images of the painters own attire in his studio and/or the universal artist's popular penchant for attacking commercialism. I got the feeling David just likes adidas. I think this Art Detective got it wrong on all three counts.
I was lucky enough to meet David in his studio shortly after my visitto Vysehrad and he put me straight on the adidas score. David suggested that the one of the main reasons for the inclusion of adidas wear was for the visual value of the three stripes which sometimes guide, inform and sometimes intertwine the spooning, huddled shapes and figures on the floor.
I suspected there to be a cheeky wink hovering under the surface of these bright, strong paintings; it could however also be seen in the reverse, in that the wink is on the surface and the dark, menacing element is rumbling just below.
David's large, blackened abstract works in his studio certainly hint at the latter.
The abstracts in the show bore definite libidinous qualities giving the exhibition the overall effect of a personal revelation. There is a lot divulged in these paintings which allows the viewer to engage in David's private poetry on a very visceral level. Though it doesn't take long before you begin to get sucked into the curious depths these paintings tease you into.
To say you do not like a work of art means you have engaged already. To say you do not understand it is to echo the sentiments of almost everyone who is encountering the work for the first time, including the artist.
Mum liked the intimate space (and the nice, informative, octogenarian gallery lady) but did not appear to like what looked to her like the messy pictures of dead people.
Catch this show if you get the chance. I personally will be keenly looking out for more of David's work.
Dangling photos of rooms with things in them to make the room they are hanging in look like it has things in it.
"Satirical', my friend suggested as we tried to uncover some meaning to this elusive show.
Till we thought of our own show - The Conceptual Art Detectives.
It was not that there were no obvious answers but were we asking the right questions?
"Is this work which works without other work?"
This question worked.
Max's Tumblr page ( Mxlsck.tumblr.com ) helped me grasp a little better what he was getting at. There is a link to six short videos which are digital in nature. (Side note - digital in nature could well be the key expression here). They put me in mind of a sort of digital Mathew Barney. Like a mini Cremaster Cycle. The juxtaposing images never jar since the compositions are so lovingly arranged. Robot arm in snow, plastic bottles in sand, all polished reflective surfaces married with natural elements and all observed/tracked/filmed by some unknown observer. I didn't feel like I was looking at this through Max's eyes but that even he had distanced himself as observer and allowed a third, non-human party to witness the scenes for us.
This lack of emotion or gut feeling on entering his space at Berlinskej Model started to make sense.
My fellow detective had suggested 'Satire'. Maybe this was close to the truth. I think perhaps this is what satire would look like after the automaton revolution.
Minimalist Simpsons for the digitised viewer.
Within the pictures at the show were subtle touches of the personal also lest Max disappear from the equation completely. A mirrored Adidas sign (back again) and layered messages in the screens of the computers present in the clinically white rooms of the pictures.
All of these pictures were hung from the ceiling by thin brightly coloured striped string. The 3D element to the two dimensional prints.
I spoke with Max who was happy and keen to share his thoughts on his work. Although I struggled to catch his true meaning on the night, I did not doubt his sincerity for a second.
For me at least this was in fact work which worked with his other work.
From the painting studio Room 307, headed by Jiri Cernicky and Marek Meduna.
Umprum certainly are getting around.
Grayson Perry may have been right in his book 'Playing to the Gallery' - If you want to get noticed by the galleries it is practically impossible to do so without having been to Art College.
This is not simply to do with what one learns but with who one gets to know.
This show is familiar now and reveals how quickly The New becomes The Norm. That is not to say I didn't enjoy the collection. Martin Lukac, Gabriella Tethalova and Katerina Palesnikova tickled me, and I really did feel that indescribable chuckle of joy which hints at something bigger and better than that which we have settled for and grown accustomed to.
Note - The role of Today’s existential exile may not to be to be new but to be beautiful.
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