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
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
opening: 23. 5. 2018 at 7 pm
A grid becomes a symbol of organisation in the most general sense of the word, a kind of order of things, and at a symbolic level also a world order.
- Jan Nálevka
The A4 format paper is the most widespread kind of paper in both households and offices. We use it to print ordinary documents, for photocopying, notes and sketches. It is also used for the printing of formal court decisions, meals of the day in cheap restaurants and university theses, as it is the only format with which one can be sure that the diploma work will be bound in covers imitating leather as late as an hour before the deadline. Files for this size are available from any stationery shop, and millions of sheets pile up in millions of metres of office archives. Text editors now offer the digital version of A4… The standardized A4 format is guaranteed by the ISO 216 international standard for paper of the A, B and C categories. The first attempts at standardisation go back to France during the Revolution in the late 18th century. The main advantage of this proportion of sides is the simple division in halves after which the sheets retain the same proportion of sides. The major benefit of the adoption and dissemination of the standard was its compatibility and coordination of the manufacture of a whole spectrum of products. Nowadays, when you ask someone to picture a “common sheet of paper”, they will most probably visualize paper of the A4 format.
When lining A4 sheets, Jan Nálevka adjusts the drawing to the standard. He opts for a neutral handwriting, and steps back as an artist. He uses blue ballpoint pens in order to emphasise office work where the compliance with prescribed administration procedures is essential. Reams of paper covered in lines and square grids are virtually indiscernible from mass-produced prints. And since Nálevka further segments the paper with lines and square grids, while in fact still preparing it for writing and drawing, he can talk about the creation of “standardised blankness”, a blankness achieved through work. Its volume, as well as the time it requires, are not proportionate to the result. However, in their reflection there is always space to realise the absurd nature of this activity. Nálevka’s drawings can thus be considered implicitly critical, yet at a more general level they are abstract visualizations of an order introduced into art, or into a work activity as such. And in its ultimate form, the segmented A4 paper format is a symbolic representative of standards predestining our factual possibilities, shaping our perception and behaviour, and providing a basis for our imagination in the private and social dimension of life.
The And now, finally, let’s finally turn the page exhibition can be understood as a public audit due to which the material that in the previous decade had progressively emerged at preliminary, autonomous and semi-autonomous presentations was gathered in a single place. And although the show exclusively presents drawings from the years 2009—2018, it captures Nálevka’s thinking concerning the external conditions of the organisation of human life. It is divided into three basic sections. The first one observes the subjects of the basic organisation plan and “standardised blankness” as the consequences of the adopted art-work load. In the second section, the issue of the time invested in the drawings, and lost, comes to the fore. Finally, in the last section Nálevka abandons the point of view of an individual and with plans drawn over reproductions of books on modernist art comments on the historical and possible future social orders.