23.02.2022 - 14.05.2022
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Exhibition design, artistic collaboration: David Fesl
Graphic design of the book and pendants: Daniela & Linda Dostálková, Sonni Scheuringer
Text: Marek Pokorný
Opening: 23. 2. 2022, 7 pm
I’ll do something somehow
The most remarkable, for some perhaps somewhat old-fashioned but at the same time unusually topical aspect of Lenka Vítková's work is its emblematic nature. However, not in the art-history sense of the word when an image is directly linked with a text in a single sign unit which contains a gnomic title, allegorical representation and an epigram revealing the meaning of the enigmatic title and the even more enigmatic representation. In her case, the emblem is more appropriately understood as a metaphor for a variety of rather personal tactics and artistic strategies in uncovering meaning by obscuring it, and a multifaceted manifestation of the unity of poetry and image.
It is therefore not a literary extension of a work of art, or, conversely, of the imagery of texts but, first and foremost, a condensation of lived experience that allows the artist to perform meaning through a multi-directional exchange between the seen, the thought and the written, an exchange conducted through words, a spatial intervention, sound or moving image, a painterly gesture or the selection and processing of a specific material - in recent years, for example, plaster, which is not just the basis for painting etudes but also comes into play as a visually and haptically active thing-sign. The title of Lenka Vítková's current exhibition and the accompanying publication, First Book of Emblems, is therefore an explicit acknowledgement of the principle of her creative practice, as well as the artist’s suggestion of how the viewer (and the reader) could approach them.
Waving, circling, approaching and receding, leaning, walking, falling. Transformation. A meaning created by the movement of words and the action of the painted surface, by an image related to a sentence. A meaning emerging from the image following a sentence, from a sound or film sequence as a transposition of a word or image. Lenka Vítková's approach to her work is typified by a special kind of civility and ability to speak for herself in relation to the emerging whole of the world through subjects whose prospective banality is cancelled not only by the mentioned emblematic nature but in recent years predominantly by working on the painting, painting as a still-effective way of showing what I mean. Clues which are obviously distilled starting points include not only signs, abstract patterns and abstracted realities or objects and configurations of the seen - glimpsed, but also objects, body fragments and figures. Yet it is always about the whole. Indeed, the subtle objectivity of the subject with which Lenka Vítková is currently working is accompanied at every step by her ability to share much broader contexts, more like a condition than an explanation of the present ones, which make the choice even more significant. Or, last but not least, there is that unsentimental way in which the artist, through painterly means, lays out and activates the surface in order to keep in play the affective qualities of the creative process and their sources.
If Lenka Vítková's works and exhibitions sometimes make the sympathetic viewer feel slightly dizzy, it is due to the continuous stream of exchange between seeing and intellectual work. Her art (she is an exceptional colourist among painters of her generation and beyond) amplifies and intensifies the feeling of the viewer's physical presence in front of the painting or in its space, while at the same time giving meaning to the actual experience that the recipient is undergoing in a difficult-to-convey state of consciousness. One aspect of this type of artistic experience (emphasized by the tradition of modernism) is the result of long-standing exercises through which we still, albeit rarely, and then with a certain suspicion that we are definitely missing something, master the dialectical relationship in which the self and the universe, immediacy and mediation, subjectivity and impersonality, or tradition and its unique fulfilment, can be found. Although we can speculate about what the postmodern emancipation of the sign universe has made possible for the artist and which line of modernist subjective universalism she may be following, the artist herself has described her art practice most accurately: “I’m coming,/ don't know what I’m bringing./ I’ll start somewhere,/ I’ll do something somehow./ Some things the material will do on its own. The gestures I own.”
Text: Marek Pokorný
The project was financially supported by the City of Brno and Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.
Fait Gallery MEM, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Opening: 26 Februar 2020 at 7pm
Curator: Denisa Kujelová
The interest in the record of natural sounds and rhythms links Olga Karlíková with the context of conceptual artists and composers of experimental music who combine tones with visual art. Her work captures the sounds of various animal species and natural phenomena in the painting medium, with the graphic records of bird songs making up the most prominent part of her oeuvre.
Olga Karlíková started to work on a cycle of original drawings involving the acoustics of anatural space, represented in her case by the songs of birds and later by the trajectories and rhythms of their flight, in 1965, and the series anticipated the efforts of other Czechoslovak conceptual artists responding to nature: It was in 1965. I was walking through the Chotkovysady park, I remember this distinctly, and I was listening to a thrush. Suddenly I also saw it. I made some very awkward notes in my pocket calendar. Apart from numerous, systematically created series of drawings capturing the songs of birds and whales, the croaking of frogs as well as the sounds of bells and drums, the artist produced over the next forty years drawing records of various natural phenomena, for example, the trajectory of a ray of sunlight at equinox.
Karlíková’s creative approach and thinking in the 1960s came close to Josef Šíma, and especially to Václav Boštík and Jiří John. However, the intuitive, lyrical and intimate sensitivity to landscape is in her work subordinated to the fascination by natural phenomena and laws and their ardent exploration, with strict self-discipline and precise, systematic work. Her unique records of acoustic perceptions show parallels with the work of artists experimenting with the new possibilities of musical record. Yet in contrast to John Cage and his pupils from the Black Mountain College, Milan Grygar and his performance acoustic drawings and other artists employing free musical records, Olga Karlíková’s work did not primarily serve reinterpretation but captured actions in progress. Olga Karlíková’s work in its unique fashion of the transformation of natural acoustic phenomena anticipated conceptual leanings in Czechoslovak art, and through its strong ties with landscape also the work of Dalibor Chatrný, Marian Palla, Miloš Šejn, Inge Kosková, Pavel Holouš, Milan Maur and others.
In order to induce synaesthesic perception, i.e. the interlinking of the visual aspect of an artwork and its sound model, the records of bird songs are presented together with their possible sound “templates” - the recordings of the songs of particular birds. The identification of the individual bird species and the following classification roughly corresponding to audio-recordings could be reconstructed thanks to the artist’s natural need for making records of different types of bird voices, thus creating a kind of index of linear signs. Selected drawings of a more intimate character produced authentically in the natural environment include both records of the individual bird voices and the wholes reflecting the layering and intertwining of the songs of several species of song birds.
Olga Karlíková’s conceptual works place various natural phenomena and processes in direct connection with landscape, making its time present. She understood her work as a process taking place in a real time and space, directly linked with it, which is why the creative process can’t draw on memories or a sudden inspiration. Her perception and interpretation of natural phenomena resonating with universalism are close to the ideas of the Swiss philosopher and anthropologist Adolf Portmann and his neo-evolutionary findings published in the 1960s. Portmann stated as early as 1951 in his lecture “Time in the Life of Organisms” at the conference of the Eranos association: Each form of life is for us a shape which evolves not only in space but also in time. In a sense, living creatures are materialized time, like melodies. Life manifests itself in time shapes.