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
Fait Gallery PREVIEW
Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Vernissage: 21.2.2018 at 7 pm
Curator: Tereza Rudolf
The sewing machine needle goes up and down at a steady pace. The work finished is observed, with equal persistence, by a sliding camera of the Friend of the Moon video. The close look at fabrics and their structure is typical ofTania Nikulina’s work. The camera which she uses always seems to stare a bit too long, longer than it is pleasant for the viewer, as if it was trying to penetrate the surface of objects and things which it observes, or as if trying to grasp the relations of the people in the video that are far too human, and not only for a machine. The seams of objects inhabiting Tania Nikulina’s stories are created by the same hand as the editing of the final videos. Digital cuts of the individual takes are layered like the multiple materials used by the artist, be it plastic, felt, naturalia, foam or polystyrene.
A motif often present in Nikulina’s work is the longing for a touch. This involves the need to touch a soft fabric with one’s hand, as well as touching unusual structures only with one’s eyes, like performers (in a video or gallery) not only touching one another but also simultaneously present for the objects-costumes which they inhabit and which touch them. It might be slightly exaggerating to say that this trend is stronger with the artist as a sculptor than with others, as touch can be understood as one of the primary elements of communication, both direct and indirect.
Friend of the Moon video has been stripped (with the exception of the final section) of expressive rituality and theatricality characteristic of Nikulina’s previous efforts. In contrast, the video is unusually plain, striving to appear as a routine affair. Nonetheless, the behaviour of the characters (character) in the video differs from what we see as ordinary. Not so much in the sense of strange clothes and the manner of speech, but the Moon or its friend (or both) differ from the rest of the society and find it difficult to participate in its rhythm, time and manners. Based on Sasha Sokolov’s book A School for Fools, the artist asks what our surroundings mean to us: the surroundings which sometimes softly enwrap us and at other times choke us furiously. She asks: who am I, who are you, and who are they? In the end, we all meet at one feast at one time or at different times. Some are protected by their costumes, others are imprisoned in them.