22.02.2023 - 06.05.2023
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curator: Ondřej Chrobák
Opening: February 22, 2023
In the local context, viewers are not used to the possibility of retrospectively looking back at the work of an artist "in the middle" of his career. In the (Western) art world, however, the literal term "midcareer retrospective" is used for this type of exhibition projects. An essential prerequisite for the appeal and success of such an undertaking is that the artist has a high-quality and large body of work from which to build a retrospective. Tomáš Hlavina is almost a model example for a retrospective in the imaginary middle of his artistic career. His consistent work spans three decades and has regularly attracted attention. Its beginnings were accelerated by the artist’s studies, environment and fellow students in Milan Knížák’s Intermedia School at the Prague Academy where Tomáš Hlavina enrolled immediately after its establishment in 1990. Since the mid-1990s, his objects and installations have formed an integral part of most of his generation's defining shows, curated by the duo of Karel Srp and Olga Malá and by the husband and wife tandem of Jana and Jiří Ševčík. At the turn of the millennium, Tomáš Hlavina was nominated three times for the final selection of the Jindřich Chalupecký Prize. His works gradually made its way to both large institutional collections and major private ones. Furthermore, the artist has headed the sculpture studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague for many years. All this makes an important prerequisite for the current exhibition recapitulation; at the same time, it opens up a space for new discoveries or a revision of the interpretive frameworks of Hlavina's oeuvre.
Tomáš Hlavina’s TLNVXYK Puzzle is conceived as an exhibition of a single "meta" work to which the constellations of art objects arranged on the elementary plan of a board game are subordinated. The individual works are removed from their natural artistic context, chronology and theme connections. The codified rules of the game on the basis of which the objects have been moved and grouped are not part of Hlavina's plan. Instead, the viewer is invited to closely observe the situation and then enter the "game plan". This might give rise to brand new sensory interactions with the artefacts going beyond the artist’s original intention. Rather than the traditional principles of art theory and history, it seems more appropriate to apply to this experience mathematical models derived from game theory or, conversely, methodological approaches from archaeology and anthropology. One discovery can perhaps be generalized, that on the large-scale installation of the retrospective, an analogical situation is taking place, one which we have become accustomed to experience on a small scale when confronted with Hlavina's objects and installations. These are similar puzzles. Tomáš Hlavina very often employs in them objects and situations of everyday use, which he finely works, arranges and combines with each other or with similarly artistically transformed natural objects. At first glance, they resemble kinetic objects or variable structures, yet movement and rearrangement is only their seeming potential. Tomáš Hlavina draws direct inspiration for many of his objects from the study of ancient cultures, religions and philosophy, but their resulting material reality and poetic metaphoricity is stripped of almost all illustrative dependence. A special chapter involves the artist’s sense of humour which remains hidden under the surface but is a good insurance against falling into the clutches of academism. This is probably where Tomáš Hlavina's need not to omit the title from the process of finalizing the artwork but rather to rely on its evocative effect stems from. This is also the case of the title of the current exhibition, TLNVXYK Puzzle, which might sound like an instructional description, a reference to mythological archetypes or an unsuccessful anagram of the artist's surname. Last but not least, the Puzzle is an invitation into the artist's head.
Project was created with financial support of Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and Statutory city of Brno.
Fait Gallery MEM
Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Vernissage: 21.2.2018 at 7 pm
Curator: Jan Zálešák
“It’s a man’s world,” James Brown sang fifty years ago, a world of strong men who give and take, and to which the ultimate sense is only given by a woman’s love. I realise that I inadvertently experienced the slow decline of this world as a boy and later as a teenager when watching TV series with David Hasselhoff. Detective Michael Knight, the hero of the Knight Rider series, became Mitch Buchannon, a Baywatch lifeguard chief, self-confident on the beach but a failure at home. The truth is that the images of the crisis of the western man flashing between the slow-motion takes of luscious female lifeguards seemed as unreal to me in the post-socialist universe of the 1990s as KITT the talking car.
When discussing the exhibition with Peter Puklus and Radek Brousil, we didn’t talk about these TV series. However, I’m sure they had watched them as well, at least occasionally, and found in them the prefigurations of manhood that they were later forced to reassess and throw away, along with many other men who no longer feel part of the “man’s world”. I want to believe that this world is steadily declining, yet its images, perpetuated on and on, still dominate the imagination of most people. With this exhibition centred around counter-hegemonic images of manhood Brousil and Puklus enter an imaginary battlefield. Raising questions about the nature of the modern man, which is the leitmotiv of the show, is general on the one hand, while on the other it is anchored in the personal experience of the artists.
They were both born in 1980, and their work is rooted in the photographic medium, without being bound by conventions of what a photograph is and what it should look like. They learnt about each other through an artists’ residence centre in Banská Štiavnica, and a certain fascination with the similarity of their work – which at some moments had an air of them being each other’s creative double – has culminated in a joint exhibition in the Mem gallery. This, however, also brought to light distinct differences between the artists: while Radek Brousil seeks the most up-to-date language for his works, Péter Puklus has long focused on the fine-tuning of his own idiolect.
The exhibition entitled briefly Stupid can be viewed as a double introspection developed in a dialogue. Specific experience and attitudes, particular concerns, uncertainties and desires are transformed into symbolic contents that are more universal and leave space for an empathetic identification. In a divided world in which listening to others seems more difficult than flying to the Moon, the understanding born of empathy appears to be the highest purpose of art.