01.06.2022 - 30.07.2022
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curators: Denisa Kujelová and Jiří Ptáček
Opening: 1. 6. 2022, 7 pm
In the exhibition project of the versatile visual artist Petr Nikl, his creative approaches intertwine in a vast imaginative garden - a kind of ecosystem of moving and seemingly static organisms cultivated by the artist, but at the same time partially self-grown, much to his delight.
Petr Nikl is one of the few Czech artists who need little introduction to the cultural public. Almost everyone will remember some of his exhibitions, a painting, drawing or print, an exhibition project he initiated, a music recording, a concert, a theatre play or a performance or, for example, a book for adults and children he wrote and illustrated. However, it is not this multi-faceted and decades-long presence of Petr Nikl in our cultural space that makes him an unmistakeable and a rather unique figure. Indeed, this presence would not be worth talking about and would be just mindless hyperactivity were it not characterized by the imaginative poetics with which the artist draws us into a fascinating space of fantasy and play.
If we were to sum up what Nikl communicates to his viewers and listeners, it would probably be a non-violently subversive impact on the consensus of dignified and pragmatic adulthood which creates a wall of restrictions and a hard-to-fulfil desire to break it, and Nikl's ability to indicate, through the outcomes of his work, a path towards the fuller experiencing of the multi-layered and mysterious nature of existence that spreads underneath the veneer of the mundane and the superficial absorption of reality.
Nikl co-founded his puppet theatre company Mehedaha as early as 1985. At that time, he was a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where intermedia fusions or performative forms in visual art were not discussed and taught. In accordance with the ideas of the cultural nomenclature of the period about clearly defined fields for the individual artistic disciplines, they were not even considered potentially enriching.However, he soon found kindred spirits among the members of the Tvrdohlaví art group which made its first public appearance in 1987, with understanding not only for artistic activity but also for self-realization in music and theatre. Yet only in Nikl’s case involving the wide spectrum of image, sound, language and body did it become the basis of all creative activities.
Like the performances of Nikl's plays where his visual sensitivity is strongly applied, many of his art projects are determined by the performative and procedural aspects of art. This is by no means limited to paintings which are executed by mechanical machines with the artist's assistance, often in the presence of the audience. This is also true, for example, of his recent works on paper in which he explores new possibilities by dipping rolls of paper in paint in anticipation of (again) only partially predictable results. Randomness and spontaneity help the artist to cross the horizon of his own imagination and provide him with the possibility of wonder at the resulting image. They are not far from Nikl’s drawing method in which his skill taps unconscious sources and the drawing is thus "let" grow out of contents which otherwise remain inaccessible. In them, too, Nikl is merely a participant who does not have a hundred-percent control over what kind of treasure his mind and hands will bring.
The exhibition in the Fait Gallery is rooted in the metaphor of a flower bed. While a garden is associated with a branching cultural symbolism, the flower bed as its sub-component is only a kind of working subject. Under normal circumstances it is cultivated and maintained in a state where it serves well the greater whole or a given purpose which, depending on the intentions of the grower, is either ornamental or utilitarian. A flower bed that is not weeded and consequently wild is a sign of neglect, while care is characterized by a high degree of restriction and control over what can take place in this demarcated area. In contrast, Peter Nikl lets his imaginary flower beds overgrow in anticipation of the unsuspected and surprising. For him, they are not what he carefully prepares and then follows a plan but a combined activity of plants, soil, sunshine, rain, insects, earthworms, moles and other elements that enter into the process. The flower beds - not dissimilar to stretched canvases or sheets of paper because of their limits - are thus filled with actions that we can only partially observe. And anticipate even less.
Thanks to this, they can turn into fascinating revelations which, through their self-organization and somewhat "disorganized organization" take us beyond (or "under") an objective and clear understanding of reality, to its massive organicity and complexity that is never fully graspable. And yet, this "big" takes place in the encounter with something as "small"... as a flower bed, a drawing or a painted image.
Text: Jiří Ptáček
Fait Gallery MEM
Božetěchova Street 1 (entrance from Metodějova Street), Brno
23/1 - 13/3/2014
Opening: 23/1/2014 at 7 pm
Curators: Denisa Kujelová and Martin Nytra
Petr Nikl is an exceptional type of artist oscillating between various media as the perfect Renaissance Jack of all trades with unprecedented playfulness, naturalness and modesty. The mood of human modesty, kindness, and also a large degree of imagination, fascination by the shape and neatly defined form are a set of characteristics which gives the impression of obviousness, set up by childish, but not infantile, perspective, which makes Nikl‘s work understandable and intimate to the general public.
The author's unique and sophisticated artistic expression is influenced by his interest to master the painting techniques of the early Renaissance and Baroque periods, this manifests itself also as a reference in the deliberately exalted topics, that change apparently ordinary object into a highly unusual phenomenon with unique importance. The stylised coloured background from which, almost exclusively, the object stands out alone, creates a balanced tension between the holy and the ordinary. The atmosphere of mystery and the precise shapes of realistic expression are changed into an abstracted automatic process that isolates the subject from the practical needs of daily practise. The paramount dimension of the holy is objectified in the intimacy through the appearance of availability, but untouchability. Through this the subject becomes both ordinary and majestic. It rather turns into the scale of achievable experience. From the symbolist character of painting stenographs, the fragility and poeticism of metamorphosis and anthropologisation of plants and animals, as well as a hint of surrealism in figurative work, there is evident, except of the desire for passion, play and enchantment, also of the author's effort to find his identity.
The focus of the exhibited series of portraits of characters randomly met in the streets of New York is also based on a form of identification. However, the emphasis is not on the identification of recorded people, who form only part of the diverse spectrum of residents and participants of this cosmopolitan city, but on the identification of New York as New York. Taking the characters out of their original context, which is shown by the photographs, that are an integral part of the exhibition and are primarily used, except of the documentation of the atmosphere of the unusually mapped city, also as templates for the exhibited drawings and canvases and thanks to the neutral background their specificity is again accented, their almost bizarre appearance even more so and despite this procedure is already a sort of art license and a catalyst of a vague feeling of dreaminess and melancholy in Nikl’s work. As a result there is created a different version of stolen reality and by it‘s gentle humor, in the context of Nikl‘s work, it almost gets which for the author is not rare, the character of decently created grotesque. The result is an album of New York's houses of the bizarre, cabinets of curiosities, a manifestation of the spirit of Manhattan and it’s media charisma. By their amazement at the diversity and variety of human beings they correspond with the world of Nikl’s metamorphosis, but they are disentangled because of their real essence, as a specific kind of social studies and excursions to realities of a different cultural identity.