A busy-busy, successful fortnight that. Winding down slowly after 9 days of Prague Fringe Festival events and preparation for and presentation of my own Open Studio Weekend (more on that below).
And for anyone who's interested here is a link to my Fringe show reviews on FringeReview.co.uk. Another spectacular year.
Fortunately, just before the Fringe Festival kicked off I got the chance to go to an art show which gave me enough food for thought to be feasting on for months.
Thursday May 25th 2017
EXPOST GALLERY, PŘIČNÁ 1, PRAGUE 1
Chantelle Goldthwaite (USA)
Maryanne Hawes (UK)
Isabelle Rizo (USA)
Yasmin Lambie-Simpson (USA)
Deborah Taylor (AUS)
Sheila Metcalf Tobin (USA)
Curator – Jessica Serran
"Who is the happiest? They who value the merits of others, and in their pleasure take joy, even as though 't'were their own." Goethe.
Straight from Jessica Serran's 'Becoming Artists' stable came 6 incredible artists from around the globe. I have rarely found it so easy to 'take joy' in others' merits as Goethe puti t. . As Jessica, deservedly, beamed with pride at the gathering she had procured it was immediately evident that she was showing off some massive talents.
Firstly I have to say I was excited to see a group show of painters and painters only. It has become clear to me over the last 6 months that 'Painters', in Prague gallery circles, are still talked of in hushed tones. But it has been this way for almost 4 decades now. The painter still feels they must excuse the medium they have chosen. This situation has lead to some of my favourite conceptual work of course but it almost seems anathema for curators to choose an oil painting over a conceptual piece without a damn clever conceptual reason for it.
While the conceptual has always excited me, the 'She Spoke' experience woke something up inside which,it now feels, has been missing from the local art scene.
You see! You are probably cringing at the very idea. In a recent interview the comedian Stewart Lee said that the most shocking thing you can do these days is be 'sincere'. I believe that is the case here in Prague. Cool, shocking, meaningless and political are our staple diet, which IS cool, but you should have seen these ladies and their bloody, beautiful, painful, powerful paintings. The closest I have seen to this here in Czechia recently is the work of Josef Bolf, Jessica Serran, Marika Volfova and Delaine Le Bas (more about her next time).
My own current series of paintings are concerned with how artists see themselves and how they want to be seen. When Jessica asked each of the artists present 'If you could shake off one thing by the end of the evening, what would it be?' I was impressed and surprised by the answer which each and every one of the artists gave....'To get rid of the feeling that I am a fake.'
This is a profoundly interesting answer. Especially given the current climate of 'art which is unjudgeable'. Where one can appraise the surface qualities of most paintings rather quickly it is practically impossible to claim that a torn piece of paper pinned to the wall with a charcoal scribble on it and the artist's name written in pencil below the pinned paper is 'great'. It can take 4 decades to decide if the torn paper is 'great' or not. It takes time - it takes context.
To walk through room upon room of beautiful paintings was like a breath of fresh air. Nova Gallery does give me this feeling occasionally but there is still a modicum of chilliness to the pictures hung there. The warmth and depth of these works shimmered on the surface and touched all the people I spoke to with little recourse to intellectual probing.
That is not to say these paintings didn't have a wealth of history and mystery hidden within their allegorical, abstract, collaged complexities, they most certainly did. And how did we know that? Because we felt it.
From the bold, messy, written-on abstracts of Maryanne to the wonderful, voodoo-child collages of Chantelle to the pure abstractions complementing the video installations of Isabelle to the beautiful spiritual sound installation and hypnotising coloured hanging sheets of Yasmin to the mesmerising abstract drawings and paintings of Deborah to the overwhelming grace and strength of Sheila's figurative allegories on wood.
We felt it all.
Congratulations Jessica and congratulations ladies on the first International 'Becoming Artist' Artist Exhibition.
3rd and 4th of June 2017
Michael John Rowland
- Open Studio Weekend -
This was a first. Letting friends and strangers into my inner sanctum and having a ball.
The positive energy brought into my two modest studio spaces is lingering still. Oh, and I just installed a hammock into studio No.2!
One degree of seperation. In Prague everybody knows everybody. And if you don't know someone, someone you know will know them for sure. One degree of separation.
I was torn between drinking enough to take me to the Dark Lodge Jackson Pollock was when he urinated in Peggy Guggenheim‘'s fireplace or to temper my behaviour by drinking tea and propounding the well worn theory that art above all else must be serious.
I hovered somewhere between the two I think and managed not to frighten anybody.
Favourite comments of the day:
.Why do you have me wearing Nike Hi Tops in the painting? I was wearing Jordans that day!
.It's great to see this because I didn't know if You were a real artist or not after seeing your crap from 4 years ago.
.You made me look old.
.You made me look more beautiful.
.It's like a dwarf version of me.
.11.30 is not too early for red wine.
.I am interested in buying this one, this one, this one, this one and this one.
.I sat next to Josef Bolf in primary school.
.You are like a better Carravaggio.
.This may be your masterpiece.
.What does 'Don't be soup' mean?
The Caravaggio comment (thanks Anat) was the only time anyone mentioned my art looking 'like' someone else's work. That was nice. I think it may be because there is such a smorgasbord of ideas down here my guests were discombobulated. Or else they were just being polite. Both work for me.
As part of my 333 daily paintings project I assumed the role of Andy Warhol in his factory and had my last four guests paint my piece for that day for me.
If you would like to keep track of where I am up to you can check them out here on my FB page.
Anyway, like I said, it was a weekend of smiles and laughter and general positivity.
It felt good.
Now to continue painting my masterpiece.
If you are in town this Friday evening there is a one-year celebration of the existence of Obejvak studio in Kolbenova.
Be there or be soup.
I enjoy showing people the Prague art scene and what it represents and presents to us.
Simple stories. Short messages. Quick news. Small Aha! moments, guidance, encouragement and perhaps a little exhilaration.
So if you have a group of friends who have the same interests, let them know about this blog and follow me on Facebook.