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 & Fait Gallery MEM
Božetěchova Street 1 (entrance from Metodějova Street), Brno
7/12/2012 – 26/1/2013
Opening: 6/12/2012 at 7pm
The work of Tomáš Bárta is firmly anchored in the tradition of modernist painting, the interpretation of which we have learned to use a simple structuralist metaphor: the images are texts of its kind. Unlike the painter, the writer has far more freedom, is not limited by the range of existing vocabulary or syntax rules. He can “re-invent” his language and rules for its use again and again. In practice, this idea of the painter as a demiurge is limited in several aspects: first, not even the experiments in painting can avoid the limitations by conventions; moreover, there is a particularly persistent awareness of everything that has already been done in this field for the last hundred years. Eventually, the painter doesn’t direct himself towards an entirely new language, but rather towards the speech itself – to idiolect.
When I look back at the way the painting of Tomáš has been developing since the end of his studies up to the present, I can think of, as the most adequate label for this process, the word sedimentation. There are no radical breaks in it, but rather slow motion in a slowly growing set of elements. Its core consists of fragments of the “non-architecture”, various bars and slats, pieces of corrugated metal, broken brick walls converted into nervous pen drawing. During the months spent in Berlin in 2010, Tomáš started using more elegant, elongated lines. Curves and vectors, as if taken from meteorological maps or bold drawings of future cities, however, still enclose not only colored spots and surfaces (Tomáš’s work got at this point considerably closer to noticeable style of Julia Mehretu), but also the remnants of do-it-yourself pseudo-architecture.
In the following period, Tomáš was charmed by e. g. morphology of Gothic architecture, also by content-wise completely depleted aesthetics of predefined shapes of various rulers and French curves. In his paintings, crumbling into even finer details, there are unexpected fusions. Platforms, whose geometric rigor filled with warm colors reminds us of bright tiles of the 70s‘ disco, bear rickety structures, shape hybrids in which increasingly permeates the reference to late modern style, geometric abstraction of the 50s and 60s, and specifically to their local versions.
This formal tendency is most fully manifested in the current set of paintings. Although their dark tonality dominated by gray, brown and ocher implies a significant shift at the first sight, but what is the morphology of the new work concerned, we can see here another particular synthesis or another reinterpretation of elements which were used many times in the past. By converting them into the large format and combining them with a fuller body of colored mass, the “identical words” acquire a new meaning.
Recent paintings by Tomáš Bárta are unquestionably one of those inspiring a great interest in reinterpretation of the language of modern style. In this context we can recall Vasil Artamonov and Alexey Klyuykov or the winner of the Jindřich Chalupecký Award, Vladimír Houdek. The difference of Tomáš’s work lies precisely in the sediment set of forms, the composition of which can not be well interpreted in relation to any external (historical) narrative. For Tomáš Bárta remains particularly important the formalistic process towards an autonomous form. Morphology of modernism in his case is not a symptom of a shift towards the current “historiographical turn”. It reflects mainly the present and its eclectic style-making as a paradoxical process towards originality.