21.02.2018 - 05.05.2018
Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Vernissage: 21.2.2018 at 7 pm
Curators: Denisa Kujelová & Jiří Zahrádka
Return is the movement of the Tao, yielding
is the way of the Tao. Ten thousand things
in All Under Heaven are born of what there is.
What there is is born of what there isn’t.
In a distinctive visual style rooted in his personal memory, Jan Merta transforms real-world subjects into specific projections of his own experiences. This unusually sincere approach is in its intensity and truthfulness towards the viewer remarkably transferrable and communicative. In most cases, the artist chooses as the subject matter of his paintngs, drawings and objects things and situations on the edge of ordinary attention that, however, are personally highly important for him. By removing them from their original context and by their free processing he fills them with new contents. The pure essence of seemingly ordinary objects demonstrated on a monumental scale with the use of unconventional; spatial structures provides Merta’s paintings with a strange tension, which is in some works even intensified by the refined employment of light and the atypically approached relationship between object and area when an accentuated background creates an illusory perspective.
All of Jan Merta’s works have their own raison d’etre in particular stories, and his art is so closely linked with personal experiences that it could be understood as the artist’s diary records of events, experiences, memories and reminiscences of people, objects and places. Every new painting is for him a return in thoughts, and it is therefore hardly surprising that he has chosen this word for the exhibition title. However, it should be viewed at several levels of meaning: apart from the tite of a sculpture, the motif of return also refers to the show itself, organised in exhibition rooms to which Jan Merta returns with his new project after eight years. First and foremost, it refers to regular returns to the artist’s key theme circles, as well as to particular motifs which are, nonetheless, always approached in a different way.
Within the Return exhibition, sections such as Liberec are important; the artist returns in it to the places associated with his childhood and has worked on it, on and off, for several years, as is the subject of civilization threats and cultural codes as homage to Old Masters and specific works of art. One example is Goya’s painting Third of May 1808 (1814) from which Merta borrowed the motif of a lamp. The lamp as a source of light is a vital element of the picture, not only in its form but also in its content, and Merta has utilised it several times. Last but not least, the exhibition presents works referring to the artist’s penchant for Eastern philosophy. In 2010 and 2013 Jan Merta designed the book Laozi translated by Oldřich Král, and his close friendship with this extraordinary figure reinforced his interest in Chinese philosophy. In the Fait Gallery exhibition project this leading sinologist agreed to incorporate into the LAOZI installation his sound recording of the book accompanied by Merta;s paintings with fragments of cups and saucers. These symbolize clay vessels: according to the teaching of the Tao, the meaning and purpose of their internal parts only come from emptiness.
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.