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 MEM
Božetěchova Street 1 (entrance from Metodějova Street), Brno
22/3 – 16/5/2014
Opening: 20/3/2014 at 7pm
Curator: Jan Zálešák
The Fait Gallery invites you to a solo exhibition of last year's graduates from the Prague Academy of Fine Arts Jan Brož (*1988). The exhibiton installation presents a constricted dramaturgical unit, the most important parts are six large drawings, a neon object and an author's book. At the SSSSSS exhibition the political clashes with the poetic in a way, which is not very common today. What is missing is an explicit "political iconography", we will not find here the proven model of engagement, which leaves the gallery world to consequently return to "conquer" the necessary symbolic capital. The greater burden lies on the audience, who can not quite hold of the established clichés, the greater might be the synergistic effect of understanding of the author's message.
I want to start the closer introduction of Jan Brož’s exhibition SSSSSS a bit unusually: by residency stays. In the last two decades the artistic residency has become a routine part of artistic life. Since the adoption of the Bologna Declaration fifteen years ago the possibilities for exchanges during university studies have dramatically expanded. Even in the routine system, that - especially in the concept of the EU - most of all implicits support of tourism, there are exceptions when staying in a new environment significantly influences the students. One of the places that have long retained this ability to influence and move the young artists in their development, was the Cooper Union in New York, where the students from the Prague Academy of Fine Arts used to be sent. Jan Brož spent at Cooper Union nearly six months in the spring of 2012. At that time, the school had just entered a dramatic period when its leadership began to consider a move away from the 150-year-old declaration of its founder, industrialist Peter Cooper, that the school should be "free to all men and women". The fact that the school management had accepted the neoliberal logic seeing the studies as an investment in the future and introduced tuition fees, led to the activation of both students and a big part of teaching staff. It is surely significant that Barbora Kleinhamplová, who interned along with Jan Brož, after returning to Prague significantly profiled her activities leading into the organisation of the art scene and she is getting more and more involved in the area of engaged in journalism and organisational activities.
After returning from New York Jan was finishing work on a long-term project The Intruder (2011-2013), by which he completed the studies at the Academy of Fine Arts last year. Therefore the SSSSSS exhibition in Brno Gallery MEM is the first significant evaluation of almost two years of formative experience. The content of Brož‘s exhibition is substantively political. The author asks for the way in which individuals and communities are working within the structure of the world of late capitalism; a world that Jonathan Crary identifies by the well put three digits: 24/7.
Even though I point Brož’s work as "political" (and certainly I also could have used the adjective "conceptual"), it is also work that exclusively holds the autonomy of art, and artistic means of expression. In the longterm the dominant means of expression in Brož’s work is drawing. The author also uses his experience gained with graphics and graphic design that he gets through both the PhD study in studio 304 at the Prague School of Applied Arts and at work in the studio Parallel Practice. A substantial part of the exhibition is the artist's book of the same name, which in addition to reproductions of exhibited artwork also includes examples of the artist's older works and fragments of the "moodboard" that preceded the installation of the exhibition and also accompanied our discussions over the nature of the accompanying text.