the little infinity

Marian Palla

Matter in Eternity

Habima Fuchs

Marian Palla / the little infinity

21.02.2024 - 04.05.2024

Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno

Curators: Denisa Kujelová a Vít Havránek

Opening: 21st February, 7 pm


To create a picture using earth from a Moravian orchard is to abandon the modernist tradition of expressionism, fauvism, impressionism, and also what preceded them. For someone who doesn't paint every day, such a decision may seem easy. But it isn’t, as both the painter and the picture lose the joy of a brush sweeping across the palette and canvas, as well as the effects conveyed by colour. For curators and the visitors, the earth pictures, one of which gave the exhibition its title, are a gateway to the most extensive display of Marian Palla's work to date. We enter Palla's oeuvre from roughly the centre of its material sediment, literally crashing, like country schoolmasters, into the middle of a giant molehill. Because, in keeping with the artist's programme, this is neither a complete nor a scholarly retrospective but typically, or occasionally, a taxonomic (exploring the species diversity of the artefacts) and random show.

Palla's very first participation in a public presentation of young Brno artists (1971) grabbed the attention of Jiří Valoch, for whom the Nature picture was "something different at first sight".[1]. This event led to their acquaintance and Palla became an active member and a driving force behind the now-legendary[2] Brno circle. His studio in Kotlářská Street provided the space for countless meetings, debates, studio exhibitions and performances by invited guests. The distinctiveness that had enchanted Valoch was not only visible against the backdrop of the conformist art of the time, it also characterised Palla's work within the Brno circle. It centred around two opposites, seriousness resulting from the experience of land art and drawing performances (I existed in this painting for two days and ate 7,799 grains of rice, 24 hours, Journey to a touch, Drawings with tea, etc.), and humour, or more precisely, naivety, constantly present from the earliest paintings (My parents, Nature, etc.).

Palla actually describes himself as a naive conceptualist.[3] The starting point for this conceptualism was not Duchamp nor his idiosyncratic interpreter Kossuth, but rather Magritte's painting This is not a pipe. The language, idea and definition of art around which the interest of Anglo-American conceptual artists gravitates has its roots in Palla’s work in fiction, poetry, and increasingly in Zen spirituality. Humour, naivety, self-criticism, empirical observation, description of obvious facts, absurd questions, paradoxes, the great subjects of the philosophy of life. We find all this condensed in every single one of Palla's poems, objects, pictures which are created because the artist wants to "experience intensely" but at the same time "to do things without purpose". Art and Zen practice mutually intertwine.

The concept of abandoning modernity mentioned in the introduction (with the exception of conceptual art) was employed by the artist to move through the history that far predates it. He could view the manifestations of the zeitgeist and modernity with the hearty kindness of a caveman, and painting with sticks or body parts, Neolithic pottery, imprinting and other prehistoric practices hold a prominent place in his work. Perhaps due to his pre-modern perspective, his work naturally constituted itself from the positions of interspeciesism and radical sustainability topical today. He arrived at it not by reading Bruno Latour but through a concentrated meditation on the reality that surrounds him.

For that matter, even the essay Against Interpretation[4] relevant today draws attention to the simplification (undoubtedly related to conceptual art) committed by art theory when it forgets the qualities that arise in primary sensory perception and assesses the value of an artwork only through interpretation. Sontag notes the "experience of something mystical, magical" that the prehistoric creature had in the Lascaux cave. Palla's conceptualism was aware of the brain's one-sidedness and involved body parts and nature in creating art. Projecting the ideal of enchantment into a remote French cave, as the New York theorist did, was not an option for Palla; in contrast, he demonstrates that it can be experienced by anyone in their surroundings. In his case, also between cities, Brno, a country house with a yard and animals, and cosmic nature.

Note, for example, that the Spoilt picture, Crack and other works by Palla owe their existence to the correction of the insight into the meaning of error; the error of artistic skill or material in the creative process. The consistent concept of doing things without purpose directs the artist not to exclude error, awkwardness, displeasure, or any other option based on the outcome. It grants each variation a potential for intense experience, its own inherent and healing beauty. This may seem a serious error of judgment, a naivety in a society organised around the pragmatic pursuit of success and profit. But once the crack opens, the beauty of error and ruining starts working, as a source of therapy of the imaginary common sense.
T: Vít Havránek

[1] VALOCH, Jiří. Marian Palla: Ticho, čekání a dech (kat. výst.). Galerie Na bidýlku, Brno, December 1987.

[2] Let us note here the publications and exhibitions of Barbora Klímová, long-term research of Jana Písaříková and Ondřej Chrobák of the Jiří Valoch Archive in the MG in Brno, the similarly focused research of Helena Musilová, the catalogues of the works of Vladimír Ambroz (Tomáš Pospiszyl), ČS koncept 70. let by Denisa Kujelová (ed.), Akční umění by Pavlína Morganová, etc.

[3] Marian Palla, Naivní konceptualista a slepice,2014.

[4] Susan Sontag, „Against Interpretation." In Against Interpretation and Other Essays, 1966.

Tomáš Hlavina / TLNVXYK Puzzle


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.

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