So, why are you still painting?
The case for glass cases.
The 333 challenge I set myself is coming along well, thanks. 20 in and going strong.
Below is a taster of the 'one piece' concept at it's early stages. Of course these pictures can be set up 2 x 2 or 10 x 10 or 30 x 30 - either way there is no doubt in my mind that this is a painting with only one style, regardless of the numerous different techniques. Let us call that style 'Random Chance' for the time being.
Here are some of the new pieces alongside one of their older cousins.
You know how you do things to have memories of these things and enjoy the memories at a later date through story telling, or photograph albums, or mere melancholic reflection?
Well maybe it's time for the art world to stop and reflect.
Louis C.K. recently joked about the lack of need for more porn. "There's so much porn. If we stop, no one will run out."
It's time to pause.
As I get older I am more able to sit quietly and enjoy my own life story.
I stay home a little more often than I used to in my drinkier days and man, there is so much I have done which I haven't even thought twice about.
The most productive artistic time for me in recent years is when I went to Vietnam for one year and did very little painting and a moderate amount of sketches. I paused...
I came back hungry.
The art scene in Prague looks like it needs to pause, take a look at itself and ask "What would stand out in any place other than Prague?" These are strong sentiments but I aim them at myself also.
The question I have been asking all month is what can we do to liven up this comfortable scene?
It is becoming apparent that the unusual, the minimal and the conceptual is becoming increasingly mainstream. Why then are people still asking why painters still paint (see below)? I imagine it is for the same reason conceptualists are still conceiving and minimalists are still minimalising.
Because we can.
May 16th only
Piotr conducted the guided tour in English and Lucia in Czech. Piotr and Lucia are two of the regular curators at Meet Factory.
Aside from wanting to have a nosey at the Meet Factory's residency studios I was also excited to meet Josephine Pryde (2016 Turner Prize nominee and Photography lecturer at the University of Arts Berlin). Lucia apologised. Josephine could not make it.
Josephine Pryde was represented by a few of her students from the University of Arts on their project theme 'Land Art' in Studio 18 where, during the tour, a man asks one of the students about their reason for being this type of artist and not a Mona-Lisa-painting-type artist.
"We've seen lots of 'art' tonight," he began, "and this is more of the same thing. What makes an artist like you become an artist like this? What is the drive to not paint something like the Mona Lisa?'
The artist answered "You may be better off asking Leonardo Da Vinci that question."
He then said "I of course have a set answer for that question."
"You do?!" Asked Piotr.
"Well you kind I have to don't you?" answered the artist.
His answer didn't really live up to the promise of his response and It wasn't as well rehearsed as we were lead to believe. But man, it is never easy to answer such an accusation. Because thats what it was. It was not a question it was an accusation that the artist being asked is a fraud.
Our guide was a little disingenuous when he placated the questioner by reminding him that he has only seen four of the studios and the ones coming would blow his mind.
Josephine pryde's protoge visibly whinced at that. Understandably.
There are three painters amongst the nine residents and Piotr was keen to point out that having 'painters' in the residency programme is always problematic since the curators always know what will be shown in the final exhibition a long time before the residency is over. They prefer to be shockedandsurprised at what the secretive conceptualists have been up to in their well lit holes.
It may be interesting to note here that Josephine Pryde's Turner prize exhibit began production only after she had been nominated for the prestigious competition and finished just weeks before the 2016 show. Even the artist herself could not have know exactly how her work would appear when complete.
The painters, it is very interesting to note, had the smallest studio spaces, canvases sometimes literally stacked to the middle of the room, whereas the artists working in the video/digital spectrum had an abundance of space. Considering the fact that their films and photographs were made outside of the Meet Factory and the physical work could be done on a laptop, I am kicking myself for not raising my hand and asking why they need 70 metres squared to work in.
Kamil Kukla (studio 6)
Kamel is an abstract expressionist painting organic, feminine, hairy sex insects. Kamel had also created some cool sounding 'Drone' music to accompany his presentation.
"Why are you still painting this way?" Piotr asked Kamil.
Piotr had appeared happier introducing us to Milan Bagac's paintings as they were very minimalist. "Influenced by the minimalist painters of the 1920s." he pointed out.
Piotr seemed mildly disturbed at the thought that Kamil was being influenced by painters from the 60s and that this might make these particular works look 'old fashioned'!
I asked Kamil if he had gained any inspiration from his fellow residents at the Meet Factory.
"I rarely leave my studio," he said "I'm not even sure what everyone else is doing."
Viktor Valasek is the other painter in studio 7. The smallest studio of the nine. Not every visitor could fit in here for the presentation so I went to the toilet instead.
In defence of Piotr's and Meet Factory's slight bias towards conceptualists I am reminded of a line from Alex Garland's 2014 movie 'Ex-Machina' - "If you knew what what was going to happen next after an action you would more than likely choose not to make that action."
Have we really seen the limitations of the painted canvas? My slight bias towards the painter tells me we have not. This is akin to saying 'written' poetry has nothing new to reveal.
It is far more likely that we have seen the limits of minimalism is it not? There is only so much nothing to spread around.
Roman Tyc - Im Boden (in the ground)
5.5.2017. - 13.6.2017
Roman Tyc is a member of the controversial and entertaining art group Ztohoven whose greatest hits include the live televised mushroom cloud on 'panorama' and more recently in 2015 the replacing of the Castle's presidential flag with a large pair of red boxer shorts. Roman has been arrested a number of times.
A pamphlet issued on June 5 1945 titled "Ten Commandments for Czechoslovak Soldiers in the Border Regions" directed soldiers that "The Germans have remained our irreconcilable enemies. Do not cease to hate the Germans... Behave towards Germans like a victor... Be harsh to the Germans... German women and the Hitler Youth also bear the blame for the crimes of the Germans. Deal with them too in an uncompromising way."
On discovering that his grandfather was a member of the Revolutionary Guard Unit in Decin, Roman decided to dig into his and his country's own history and feelings in relation to the terrible revenges taken on the German occupants of Czechia after the Second World War.
On these grounds the exhibition shows its worth. It is both poignant and educational. The use of pigs bladders to create busts of the perpetrators of the lootings and murders is significant and a striking visual element of the show.
Bordering on 'museum exhibition' pieces for the main part (a recurring local theme) the stand out point is the pile of dirt in the first room. You can see this from the street window. It was this which attracted me to see the exhibition and I was admittedly disappointed that there was such a clear explanation for why it was there. Roman returned to Decin and excavated various objects of historical interest which had been overlooked or simply left there to be forgotten. The pile of mud is a three dimensional illustration of exactly this.
There is hair in a glass display case, rope in a glass display case and empty photo albums in a glass display case. The paintings of deleted German place names are notable for their abstract quality but reminded me too readily of other artists who have painted deleted things. The old bullets with insect wings in glass display cases also seemed very familiar.
This exhibition closes a trilogy of exhibitions relating to the artists personal family history.
I would recommend this exhibition on the strength of its educational value and pig's bladders.
Jan Bohac - CAN I?
25.4.2017 - 27.5.2017
Curator - Anezka Bartlova
It's always nice to pop into Umprum's UM gallery when passing. This could well be seen as a one room stepping stone for Czech-based artists to the outer world of non-commercial art.
Jan is a graduate of Umprum's sculpture studio and has worked as an emergency operator for 15 years.
The title of the exhibition comes from a phone call he once received where the caller's opening remark was 'Hello, please can I jump?'
This month the room is almost filled by Jan's wooden frame skeletal structure representing the inside of a person's head. There are curving pathways leading into a circular room with some paths blocked by metal barriers.
There is one projection on the wall of an actual conversation Jan had with a caller and one video projection of descriptions of callers which garnered most of my attention.
This piece is about our inability to get into someone's head, what we can say to someone in need of help and how we can ever know that what we are saying is 'right'.
It's a bit messy but I think some of it went in.
Hunt Kastner Gallery
Viktor Pivovarov - Czech Pivovarov
19.5.2017 - 15.7.2017
I knew nothing of this famous Russian artist until the vernisaz of this sweet old man's work here in Prague.
The water colours laid flat in glass display cases are 30 year old paintings Viktor made when he first came to Prague and began to hang around with the likes of Karel Malich, Vladimir Janousek and Vera Janouskova to name but a few. Their influence on the work here is very evident but these influences only show in his later (more recent) works in a very subtle way. They have never been shown before.
Mr Mulson (our old art teacher) once told us "Never throw away or paint over anything you do."
This exhibition is a terrific example of why an artist should stick to this credo. You simply never know when what you are doing will plant a seed which you may not see grow for decades.
For want of a new canvas I have committed the sin of painting over paintings I thought were weak. There is not one time when I haven't seen a photograph of the original and kicked myself for destroying it. Art is not a science, it is a whim and whether ones whim is attractive or not it is never false.
If I have learnt anything from the local art scene this year it is this - If you put your discarded/weaker works in a glass display case; attractive or not, they will look a hell of a lot more worthy.
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