26.02.2020 - 25.07.2020
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Opening: 26. 2. 2020 at 7pm
Curator: Miroslav Ambroz
In my past lives, I was a hunter and a gatherer. I would always start my everyday routine
with decorating tools, weapons and creating musical instruments for myself.
1) Even though you were considered as the creator of spatial objects, in this exhibition your major emphasis is on paintings. What was the impulse?
The new atelier, where for the first time in my life, is light, space and warmth, this helped me to finally start painting. An eternity of horizons was open in front of me, together with two big travels to Columbia and Australia, I understand this happy season as staying on an abandoned island, therefore the name "Two years’ vacation".
2) In 2004 you painted large format canvases "Roads of swifts" and "Mother Earth". In the sametime frame you also painted "Chaple of Karlin", and even before that, "Envelopes" were created, therefore in your own way you are continuing with something that was created long before?
Of course, I was already painting in the '70s during my studies. Back then I inherited very rare pigments from prof. Slánský, which I am using presently. The first time I used them was during my exhibition in Rudolfinum, when there was a need to paint something great for "Silent Hall" and a figure of the central deity arose, which is appearing in my works in different varieties. Connection with the material was always important for me. The type of work on the ground on the non-gesso canvas, together with water diluted pigments and acrylate bonds demanded this physical contact. Even in some places on the paintings, there are my footprints.
A wall painting "Chaple of Karlin" was in somewhat a cleansing exhibition after the floods in 2002, and according to an agreement I had to turn it white. The oldest envelopes date back to 1986. The style of their decoration is connected with the style of "Third rococo" and that epoch is accumulated in my works. In the '90s I created multiple large format envelopes, which I perceived as the object/pictures having multiple-meanings and it opened an inexhaustible line packed into certain cushions, similar to guitars. This is related to my favourite non-standard formats (ovals) and adjusting large canvasses "free" without the stretcher bar.
3) What was most interesting thing about Australia?
First of all never ending space and starry skies. Five weeks, every evening by the fire in the desert. Furthermore, colours and rock paintings as old as 60 000 years. This was the first time I have seen baobabs and eucalypti that were 800 years old, which existed way before the arrival of whites... breathtaking scenery. I brought back a lot of collected materials and natural clay, with which I am painting. Australians have a "story" for each god, they are mostly cautionary stories, which have helped to keep the tribes viable. It appears to me as there are various imaginary divinities, however, they were born from the transcultural backdrop. Something interesting is that the rock paintings and figures on it are very similar all around the world, but I am not the type who would study these things in much detail. On the other hand, I deliberately keep certain blindness, to be astonished, and I would recommend this to consumers. Those who ask too much will learn too much.
4) Some rusty images look a bit apocalyptic, did it have any specific impulse?
"Rusty images" are painted by some rusty mud from a forested swamp in West Czech. In fact, they are ferric nano-shells of microorganisms. I discovered this beautiful colour in the '70s, which came back to me now, to extract it artistically. Thematically, they partly follow the cycle of thermo-drawings "Landscapes from Timelessness" or the cycle of graphics "Giants", where the power of nature is personified into supernatural beings. People desire to witness a miracle or other paranormal acts, and we have this advantage that we can also paint them. Also, people are drawn to the aesthetic of natural disasters and the theatre of extinction. Towards the end however, the road took me elsewhere.
5) When you were in Columbia, did you try yagé -the most renowned shamanic hallucinogen?
I don’t need to check what I suspect. I don't need to meet God. I don't want to upset him. He
could stop passing me.
The interview led Miroslav Ambroz
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.