Michal Škoda

A Spectre in the House

Tomáš Bárta

Gerbera won't break

Anna Ročňová

Michal Škoda / Interweaving

22.05.2024 - 27.07.2024

Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno

Curator: Silvia L. Čúzyová

Opening: 22nd May, 7 pm


Michal Škoda's representative exhibition entitled INTERWEAVING is not a retrospective but thematizes a constant creative dialogue with the past, present and the possible future of his work - a continuous intertwining of subjects, meanings, media and materials. It is also a continuation of a focused interaction with Places with Specific Qualities. Škoda consistently works with a reduced abstract form and realises his subjects – an interest in space and architecture, a place for the human, archiving of existence and everyday life - through a variety of techniques. Drawing is one of the main means of expression in his work, along with artist’s books, and in recent years his sculptural nature has re-emerged in objects that work, to some extent, with architectural morphology. While the large-scale drawings and objects are essential and highly abstracted works, their imaginary counterparts involve Škoda's diaries and so-called Records, where he maps his everyday life through immediate drawing and photographic records. It is literally an archive of the artist's existence where countless stimuli take place, even those seemingly different from what he represents.

Diaries and Records are two series from Škoda's rich output in the field of artist’s books developed since the 1990s. Diaries represent a more traditional form of hand-bound notebooks with classic pagination. Each exists in a single copy. They have a chronological character and are numbered according to the order of their creation. The extensive collection of diaries is based on original black and white photography with artistic interventions in various techniques. Photography appeared in Škoda's work in 1996 as part of his first book, Places. Over the following decades its form matured and evolved through a multitude of visualizations and photographic records. The textual component is absent in the diaries and it is not clear whether it is possible to "read" them in a linear way. However, they clearly show what interests the artist, what catches his eye and engages his mind. The diaries are the artist's private field of experimentation, a reservoir of inspiration and ideas. The images follow one by one as if from a dictionary of Škoda's perception: structures and grids, found architectural situations, details, accents, horizons and vistas - inconspicuous but formative moments of existence, subtle contemplative beauty. The artist's ability to generate image after image in flawless composition is fascinating. The positioning of images on the pages is highly important, and perforations appear as physical intersections into the world of the following pages.

Records, as Michal Škoda calls his mixed-media drawings on A4 paper, are primary messages in the simplest of ways, "continuous touches" - a dialogue with the everyday reality and the result of countless hours over a sheet of paper when concentrated work in the studio takes on meditative dimensions. Elementary visual units indicate the inner constellation of more complex images and reveal Škoda's creative process. For these records, the artist uses the techniques of drawing, pen drawing, painting and collage, adding pieces of time-relevant reality such as photographs, frottage, fragments of various printed materials, ground plans, etc. He still works with inscriptions (more precisely with words) and typographic compositions, albrot to a much lesser extent than in the past. The specific character of Records lies in the fact that the individual sheets are not bound, and can be selected and used to intervene in space, thus presenting a simple and at the same time eccentric form of an artist’s book. It was impossible to resist the distinctive character of the Fait Gallery in Brno and not to attempt a creative confrontation of a magnificent industrial space with A4 drawings and records. Hundreds of pieces of Records placed in succession, as they were created, make up a unique whole of an enormous picture and reflect Škoda's intense analysis of space and its potential, "space as a phenomenon and an infinite territory of subjects."

Marian Palla / the little infinity


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.

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