08.10.2020 - 17.04.2021
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curator: Denisa Kujelová
Special opening day: October 8, 4 pm–9 pm
Jiří Kovanda’s work is typified by several trademark aspects which manifest themselves continuously, from early actions and installations through postmodern drawings and paintings, collages, assemblages and objects of the 1990s to the current interventions, installations and performances: inconspicuousness, efforts at contact, humbleness, simplicity, spontaneity, sensitivity, humour and manipulation with ego.
The austere rendering of low-key, almost indiscernible installations and interventions is already apparent in Kovanda’s early actions in which he examined the most elementary possibilities of nonverbal communication. Back in the 1970s, the philosopher and art theorist Petr Rezek pointed out an interesting fact, saying that Kovanda’s actions signified, above all, a desire for contact. At the same time, they are set not to be fulfilled: they were often conceived so that they forced the artist to work with his natural shyness and to go beyond this mental barrier. The participants were placed in unknown situations outside the framework of art, or situations which through their non-diversion from normal behaviour remained invisible for viewers, and were only made visible by their subsequent documentation by means of photography and presentations in gallery contexts.
Photodocumentation was crucial in the next phase of Kovanda’s work in which his physical presence was gradually replaced by mere records of his activity. With installations intervening in private and public environments without the presence of viewers, photography presented the only possibility of recording the artist’s traces in the form of various objects of daily use and trivial materials installed completely inconspicuously in different places, both outdoors and indoors, also regarding the indiscernibility and ephemerality of these interventions. The artist already articulated his completely natural strategy of creating an unexpected context for an object and leaving a trace of his activity in his early works such as fallen leaves stuck to the ground with a sellotape, wooden wedges inserted between cobblestones and a pile of pine needles and nails in the forest, or interventions in interiors, for example, a flower pot hidden behind a pillar, a string tied around the same pillar two months later and a white string stretched across a room in Kovanda’s home.
Kovanda’s actions frequently involved banal situations, ordinary activities and mundane tasks that we do automatically, yet acted out in a shifted context. Likewise, in his installations and interventions the artist shifts ordinary, routinely used objects to a completely new, unexpected level by removing them from their original situation and taking away their primary utility function. Thanks to his work in the National Gallery depository Jiří Kovanda first started to use in his installations material related to installation practice in the everyday gallery run, for example strings, paper, glass and wooden wedges. He also employs things of daily use and household objects including foods in his current installations and interventions, along with objects typical of a particular place. Through them he makes a space more visible and defines its individual parts, and thus also slightly manipulatively determines how a particular space and its layout is perceived by viewers and sets a new manner of movement in this space. Jiří Kovanda’s installations are not rooted in an idea of a certain place suitable for or adjustable to a particular work; instead, he executes an idea and the preparation of a situation which is to make up the base of a new project, or of the employment of some of his older works, directly on the spot. This is also the case with the central installation Gold Ring which, perhaps most of all the works on display, prompts a reflection of values, in a metaphorical comparison of a string and a ring, an ordinary thing and an exceptional object. Everything has the same value, all depends on context and interpretation.
A virtual tour of Jiří Kovanda's exhibition - Ten minutes earlier can be found here.
 It was a provisional gallery space in Provaznická Street. The basement room of the Odeon publishers where Jan Mlčoch worked from 1978 was originally designed as an archive, and until Mlčoch’s resignation in 1980 was used by three Prague body artists (Karel Miler, Petr Štembera and Jan Mlčoch) as a meeting place. They staged there their own performances as well as those by their close friends, including Jiří Kovanda.
 In this respect, a key role in Kovanda’s art was played by Marcel Duchamp’s exhibition in the Václav Špála Gallery in 1969, prepared by the chief curator Jindřich Chalupecký in collaboration with the Milan art collector, gallery owner and art theorist Arturo Schwarz.
 In 1977 Karel Miler got Kovanda a job in the National Gallery in Prague; he was responsible for a depository housed in the Municipal Library. Kovanda worked there until 1995 when he became an assistant professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, in a studio headed by Vladimír Skrepl.
 Not surprisingly, the artist’s installations tend to be confused with ordinary things accidentally left in a space, and as such must be carefully protected from the over-enthusiastic cleaning staff.
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.