19.10.2022 - 14.01.2023
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curators: Denisa Kujelová, Ondřej Navrátil and Jana Písaříková
Opening: 19 October 2022, 7 pm
Following the Sun was undoubtedly one of the key points of Milan Maur's work. This radical action, documented by an unclosed circle on a map and accompanied by the text on 9 May 1983 I followed the sun from dawn to dusk, anticipated his future direction as an artist. In the course of the 1980s, Maur developed in the Czech milieu unique conceptual practice based on the observation of minute natural sequences and events. This was not, however, a “desk-job” investigation at a safe distance from the observed subject but in situ research, requiring physical involvement and vigilant attention close to meditation. Specific examples include the artist’s numerical series documenting the autumn falling of leaves of various species of trees over several days, or his shadow images in which he recorded shadow shifts throughout the day at given intervals. This individual research was certainly also a personal ritual and self-preservation method of the artist's survival in totalitarian Czechoslovakia of the 1980s.
The first part of the exhibition presents works that convey the artist's natural science interests and at the same time seek to answer the following question: what is actually behind all this endless swarming of nature? Is it a coincidence or another level of order? And is it possible to unravel its system, to relate to it, or to identify with it? We thus enter a world of thought that hasn’t lost its relevance even after all these years but opens up to us further and new meanings in the times of climate crisis and a search for a way out of the solitary confinement of anthropocentrism and its blindness, deafness and arrogance.
By the mid-1990s, Maur's work seemed to have reached its end. However, the feeling that this was one of those short-lived careers is quickly suppressed by the further parts of the exhibition. The extensive body of photographs from the period after the turn of the millennium is linked to his earlier work primarily by a conceptual strategy of recording the environment that works with the principle of a predefined creative process, more exactly, with the experimental adjustment of the optics of a sophisticated Hasselblad camera. The titles of the cycles testify that they were created during expeditions to distant lands, which on the one hand echoes the several-month-long pilgrimages of Maur's youth and on the other introduces us to the new life situation of the artist, who in the 1990s went from being an outsider and a night watchman in the Plzeň cemetery to a successful entrepreneur and an enthusiastic traveller.
An essential part of the exhibition is a new installation related to the artist's recent experience in a hospital environment - a place where every person becomes a constantly controlled and measured subject in the gears of a fixed order. Here, Maur returns to and approaches his own body as concretely as possible. Whereas until now we have only suspected the artist’s external and internal sentiments behind informative and poetic notes in the margins of the paper (...I was tracing the shadow of a pear tree...), we now see the outlines of his body, captured by his son on a hospital bed, and for the first time ever he himself becomes the subject of the record - in an attempt to record the very fragility of human existence and the potentiality of its end. Milan Maur's drawings, photographs and installations can thus be understood as a record of a sequence through which a particular event is singled out from an otherwise cyclic universe. This might be the world, the universe, nature, or a person’s existence.
Fait Gallery PREVIEW, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curator: Jiří Dušek
Exhibition architecture: Jakub Němec
Opening: 19 October 2022, 7 pm
The Eye, its Brain, our Universe and Jiří Staněk's Wavefronts
Sight is a miraculous organ and clearly the most important human sense. Through it we receive up to eighty percent of information about the world around us. It is an amazing result of evolution which has brought it to near-perfection over tens of millions of years. Its marvellous anatomy, the intricate processing of the captured image, the interaction between the eyes and the brain - we still have only very vague ideas about all this.
Yet the wondrousness of our world goes even further... A stream of visible light, i.e. light which the human eye can perceive, sometimes acts like a staccato of the individual elements and sometimes like a wave, and not only at the level of the imperceptible microworld but also in our own eyes. The passage of light through the cornea, lens and the vitreous body is defined by the laws of geometrical optics. And we know that it only takes a few dozen individual photons to irritate the light-sensitive cells - cones and rods.
We don't know why our eyes get flooded with tears as a result of an emotional outburst. We don't know why nature has endowed us with the sclera that enables us to communicate without words. We don't know why the sensitivity of our eyes - unlike many other living organisms - is so limited. We don't know why and how the human brain can organise so well the chaos our eyes record. We don't actually see reality, the perceived world is not real. Everything is a stream of photons that is somehow interpreted by our brain - everything exists only in our imagination.
Jiří Staněk also took the path of visualization of waves and elements. His grids of paper installations are in fact macroscopic wavefronts that change appearance with the viewing angle of an astonished viewer. On closer inspection, they resemble detailed views of the surface of the Sun. The surface is structured by granulation, i.e. peaks of upward currents several hundred degrees warmer than the surrounding environment, which transfer energy from the inner areas towards the surface.
Thanks to this, the visible part of the Sun is heated to the temperature of five and a half thousand degrees Celsius. Thanks to this, life on planet Earth has been possible for four billion years. Thanks to this, the eye that has hatched from the brains of our ancient ancestors can perceive its own universe. Thanks to the imagination of the artist Jiří Staněk and the visitors, the Brightness exhibition exists.