23.05.2018 - 04.08.2018
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
opening: 23. 5. 2018 at 7 pm
A grid becomes a symbol of organisation in the most general sense of the word, a kind of order of things, and at a symbolic level also a world order.
- Jan Nálevka
The A4 format paper is the most widespread kind of paper in both households and offices. We use it to print ordinary documents, for photocopying, notes and sketches. It is also used for the printing of formal court decisions, meals of the day in cheap restaurants and university theses, as it is the only format with which one can be sure that the diploma work will be bound in covers imitating leather as late as an hour before the deadline. Files for this size are available from any stationery shop, and millions of sheets pile up in millions of metres of office archives. Text editors now offer the digital version of A4… The standardized A4 format is guaranteed by the ISO 216 international standard for paper of the A, B and C categories. The first attempts at standardisation go back to France during the Revolution in the late 18th century. The main advantage of this proportion of sides is the simple division in halves after which the sheets retain the same proportion of sides. The major benefit of the adoption and dissemination of the standard was its compatibility and coordination of the manufacture of a whole spectrum of products. Nowadays, when you ask someone to picture a “common sheet of paper”, they will most probably visualize paper of the A4 format.
When lining A4 sheets, Jan Nálevka adjusts the drawing to the standard. He opts for a neutral handwriting, and steps back as an artist. He uses blue ballpoint pens in order to emphasise office work where the compliance with prescribed administration procedures is essential. Reams of paper covered in lines and square grids are virtually indiscernible from mass-produced prints. And since Nálevka further segments the paper with lines and square grids, while in fact still preparing it for writing and drawing, he can talk about the creation of “standardised blankness”, a blankness achieved through work. Its volume, as well as the time it requires, are not proportionate to the result. However, in their reflection there is always space to realise the absurd nature of this activity. Nálevka’s drawings can thus be considered implicitly critical, yet at a more general level they are abstract visualizations of an order introduced into art, or into a work activity as such. And in its ultimate form, the segmented A4 paper format is a symbolic representative of standards predestining our factual possibilities, shaping our perception and behaviour, and providing a basis for our imagination in the private and social dimension of life.
The And now, finally, let’s finally turn the page exhibition can be understood as a public audit due to which the material that in the previous decade had progressively emerged at preliminary, autonomous and semi-autonomous presentations was gathered in a single place. And although the show exclusively presents drawings from the years 2009—2018, it captures Nálevka’s thinking concerning the external conditions of the organisation of human life. It is divided into three basic sections. The first one observes the subjects of the basic organisation plan and “standardised blankness” as the consequences of the adopted art-work load. In the second section, the issue of the time invested in the drawings, and lost, comes to the fore. Finally, in the last section Nálevka abandons the point of view of an individual and with plans drawn over reproductions of books on modernist art comments on the historical and possible future social orders.
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.