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
Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
11. 10. 2017 - 13. 1. 2018
Opening: 11. 10. 2017 at 19:00
Curators: Beata Jablonská, Denisa Kujelová and Jana Písaříková
The arrival of conceptual art in the mid-1960s was associated with the shift of interest from aesthetic and material qualities of artworks towards personal, social, historical and often also theoreticizing contexts. In contrast to the art scene in the West, the conceptual approach of artists in Czechoslovakia was motivated by a more personal search for the essence of the relationship between artist and art, at the artistic level as well as the political-ethical, social or even ecological level. The turn towards conceptual art was thus not viewed as dematerialization and iconoclastic efforts but, rather, as a utopian escape from the official, state-controlled culture. It provided the artists with a free space which they worked with a wide range of media and subjects.
The exhibition “CS CONCEPTUAL ART OF THE 70s” charts the trends that were first distinctly employed in the art of ideas, records of projects and actions in the late 1960s and faded in the early 1980s. It presents different forms of conceptual work with drawing and photography, conceptual art exploring the relationship between type and image, and also futurological, action and environmental projects.
The exhibition observes, through its interconnected themes, the closeness of the Czech and Slovak art scenes that have been approached, since the breakup of Czechoslovakia, as two separate entities. The exhibition concept is rooted in a quest for their intersections and joint points of departure. Never in the history of Czech and Slovak art was the need for a mutual dialogue cultivated and developed as much as in the 1970s.
WORD AND SIGN AS A CONCEPTUAL MESSAGE
While concrete poetry of the 1960s reduced the semantic component of language to a minimum, the 1970s saw the return to its meaning. Words were placed in contrast with other types of communication in the form of pictograms, pictorial symbols and numerals, which resulted in a tension between different types of representations.
Graphic music with its formalized language came to the fore in the 1970s. Visual and acoustic art was produced both by musicians active in the field of new music and artists who observed the visual order and the semantic potential of musical scores.
GEOMETRY, ORDER AND ITS DISRUPTION
Under the influence of conceptual art, the geometry of the body, space, area and form grew more sensitive and started to involve aspects placed by the modernist order outside its boundaries. It became a platform for interventions challenging the distinctive nature of geometrical compositions, the relationship between order and randomness, while being enriched with a social, anthropological and political dimension.
ART AS A RECORD AND EXPERIENCE OF EXISTENCE, PERSONAL RITUALS, INTROSPECTION
Reflections of everyday activities and gestures, perception of their stereotypical nature and escape from it in the form of ritual and through the intense experience of one’s existence. Reflections of a person’s immediate surroundings and the passing of time.
REFERENCES TO THE RUSSIAN AVANT-GARDE, CONCEPTUALIZATION OF PAINTING, DRAWING AND POINT ZERO OF A PICTURE
Search for the point zero of a picture, a moment when the invisible becomes visible. The picture medium refers to itself, to its area, colour and matter. It makes its elementary properties present or, conversely, induces their gradual dematerialization. Frequent references to the black square, an important symbol of the Russian avant-garde, to the belief that the art experience leads to a more intense perception of reality.
PROJECTS, MANUALS, INSTRUCTIONS, OBSERVATIONS AND COSMOLOGY
The emancipation efforts of art in the sense of exploiting scientific and rational thinking are, to a certain degree, subversive as they apply a pseudo-scientific language even to the phenomena of a personal, spiritual and transcendental character. The artists were inspired and fascinated by scientific progress, by the language of natural sciences and statistics.
NATURE AS A MEDIUM, EXPLORATION OF THE LAWS OF PHYSICS, NATURE AND ZEN BUDDHISM, EPHEMERAL MATERIAL DEMONSTRATIONS, ENVIRONMENTAL SUBJECTS
The natural environment as a place where one can hide from the estranged and impersonal urban space, a territory beyond the state’s control, a place suitable for art activities. Many of them echoed ecological and ethical issues that were frequent subjects of unofficial discussions and meetings.
CARTOGRAPHY AS AN INSTRUMENT OF RECORDING A PERSONAL JOURNEY
Artists appropriated the rationalizing language of topographic drafts, plans and maps, and through them made visible phenomena and spatial relations that cannot otherwise be mediated to the human perception. They emphasise the objective and factual aspect of real phenomena; at the same time, they lend validity to those that have a utopian character.
In the 1970s, artists’ books became alternatives for gallery and exhibition rooms. With the post medium, they were among the key ways of mediating and distributing conceptual art. In addition, many artists pushed through their work the very limits of the definition of books. They created books-objects, accentuated the haptic qualities of paper and the principles of browsing, and made the reading process complicated. Conceptual art of the 1970s was often the subject of personal communication between the artist and the recipient, or a group of friends.
QUOTATIONS, INTERPRETATIONS, APPROPRIATIONS
Interest in the analysis of the art medium, its intellectual reflection. The hierarchy between original and copy was disrupted in favour of the concept of art as a changing structure open to interpretations. The majority of artworks produced as quotations are actually visual reflections on the functioning and continuity of art and its lasting values.
Artists represented at the exhibition: Milan Adamčiak, Karel Adamus, Vladimír Ambroz, Peter Bartoš, Juraj Bartusz, Ján Budaj, Pavel Büchler, Robert Cyprich, Hugo Demartini, Milan Dobeš, Ľubomír Ďurček, Rudolf Fila, Stano Filko, Daniel Fischer, Peter Graham, Milan Grygar, Sonny Halas, Olaf Hanel, Vladimír Havlík, Vladimír Havrilla, Pavel Holouš, Dalibor Chatrný, Jozef Jankovič, Ivan Kafka, Olga Karlíková, Michal Kern, Martin Klimeš, Svatopluk Klimeš, Milan Knížák, J. H. Kocman, Július Koller, Vladimír Kordoš, Inge Kosková, Jan Kotík, Jiří Kovanda, Milan Kozelka, Miloš Laky, Milan Lasota, Dáša Lasotová, Otis Laubert, Milan Maur, Juraj Meliš, Karel Miler, Jan Mlčoch, Alex Mlynárčik, Marian Mudroch, Eduard Ovčáček, Květa Pacovská, Marian Palla, Vladimír Popovič, Pavel Rudolf, Tomáš Ruller, Jan Ságl, Zorka Ságlová, Rudolf Sikora, Jan Steklík, Miloš Šejn, Petr Ševčík, Petr Štembera, Ivan Štěpán, Margita Titlová Ylovsky, Monogramista T.D/Dezider Tóth, Jiří Valoch, Jan Wojnar, Ján Zavarský, Jana Želibská