08.10.2020 - 17.04.2021
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curator: Denisa Kujelová
Special opening day: October 8, 4 pm–9 pm
Jiří Kovanda’s work is typified by several trademark aspects which manifest themselves continuously, from early actions and installations through postmodern drawings and paintings, collages, assemblages and objects of the 1990s to the current interventions, installations and performances: inconspicuousness, efforts at contact, humbleness, simplicity, spontaneity, sensitivity, humour and manipulation with ego.
The austere rendering of low-key, almost indiscernible installations and interventions is already apparent in Kovanda’s early actions in which he examined the most elementary possibilities of nonverbal communication. Back in the 1970s, the philosopher and art theorist Petr Rezek pointed out an interesting fact, saying that Kovanda’s actions signified, above all, a desire for contact. At the same time, they are set not to be fulfilled: they were often conceived so that they forced the artist to work with his natural shyness and to go beyond this mental barrier. The participants were placed in unknown situations outside the framework of art, or situations which through their non-diversion from normal behaviour remained invisible for viewers, and were only made visible by their subsequent documentation by means of photography and presentations in gallery contexts.
Photodocumentation was crucial in the next phase of Kovanda’s work in which his physical presence was gradually replaced by mere records of his activity. With installations intervening in private and public environments without the presence of viewers, photography presented the only possibility of recording the artist’s traces in the form of various objects of daily use and trivial materials installed completely inconspicuously in different places, both outdoors and indoors, also regarding the indiscernibility and ephemerality of these interventions. The artist already articulated his completely natural strategy of creating an unexpected context for an object and leaving a trace of his activity in his early works such as fallen leaves stuck to the ground with a sellotape, wooden wedges inserted between cobblestones and a pile of pine needles and nails in the forest, or interventions in interiors, for example, a flower pot hidden behind a pillar, a string tied around the same pillar two months later and a white string stretched across a room in Kovanda’s home.
Kovanda’s actions frequently involved banal situations, ordinary activities and mundane tasks that we do automatically, yet acted out in a shifted context. Likewise, in his installations and interventions the artist shifts ordinary, routinely used objects to a completely new, unexpected level by removing them from their original situation and taking away their primary utility function. Thanks to his work in the National Gallery depository Jiří Kovanda first started to use in his installations material related to installation practice in the everyday gallery run, for example strings, paper, glass and wooden wedges. He also employs things of daily use and household objects including foods in his current installations and interventions, along with objects typical of a particular place. Through them he makes a space more visible and defines its individual parts, and thus also slightly manipulatively determines how a particular space and its layout is perceived by viewers and sets a new manner of movement in this space. Jiří Kovanda’s installations are not rooted in an idea of a certain place suitable for or adjustable to a particular work; instead, he executes an idea and the preparation of a situation which is to make up the base of a new project, or of the employment of some of his older works, directly on the spot. This is also the case with the central installation Gold Ring which, perhaps most of all the works on display, prompts a reflection of values, in a metaphorical comparison of a string and a ring, an ordinary thing and an exceptional object. Everything has the same value, all depends on context and interpretation.
A virtual tour of Jiří Kovanda's exhibition - Ten minutes earlier can be found here.
 It was a provisional gallery space in Provaznická Street. The basement room of the Odeon publishers where Jan Mlčoch worked from 1978 was originally designed as an archive, and until Mlčoch’s resignation in 1980 was used by three Prague body artists (Karel Miler, Petr Štembera and Jan Mlčoch) as a meeting place. They staged there their own performances as well as those by their close friends, including Jiří Kovanda.
 In this respect, a key role in Kovanda’s art was played by Marcel Duchamp’s exhibition in the Václav Špála Gallery in 1969, prepared by the chief curator Jindřich Chalupecký in collaboration with the Milan art collector, gallery owner and art theorist Arturo Schwarz.
 In 1977 Karel Miler got Kovanda a job in the National Gallery in Prague; he was responsible for a depository housed in the Municipal Library. Kovanda worked there until 1995 when he became an assistant professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, in a studio headed by Vladimír Skrepl.
 Not surprisingly, the artist’s installations tend to be confused with ordinary things accidentally left in a space, and as such must be carefully protected from the over-enthusiastic cleaning staff.
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curator: Pavel Kubesa
Special opening day: October 8, 4 pm–9 pm
The Event of Painting
The RAFA MATA exhibition project is, after some time, the first solo show of Tomáš Absolon in the Czech Republic. The artist develops in it his internal motivation to go back to the issues of pure painting. He chooses as his means of expression the most elementary components of the paining arsenal, colour and shape, and at the same time reduces the possibilities of the exhibition and installation aesthetics to bare minimum. Such artistic strategy places in the centre of attention the format of a picture per se, and presents Absolon’s found forms of contemporary painting in condensed form.
Work with his own, continuously built corpus of inspiration has always been important for Tomáš Absolon. His extensive database of subjects, symbols and influences stemming from broad cultural consciousness framed by experience of the global world of web 2.0 enables Absolon in his visual reductions to go beyond the conservative approach to the picture towards “postmodern mythologies“: the picture is only linked with external phenomena existentially, i.e. ontologically, not in reflected form (i.e. semantically). The pictorial visuality is thus not iconically (not even “arbitrarily“) associated with inspirational contents: the reference function of the pictorial symbol is completely suppressed and the “theme aspect“ of the series is created by a defining aesthetic and formal environment in which Absolon explores the possibilities of the development of new picture motifs.
The aesthetic environment, i.e. the sum of aesthetic features and qualities, traditional symbols, myths and representations making up the backdrop of the RAFA MATA project, is a hybrid territory stretching between top-level sport and corporate ideology: Absolon’s topical pictures are rooted in specific internal aesthetics of top-level tennis and sophisticated visual systems of the tobacco industry. These two worlds seem miles apart but share visual attractiveness, as well as distinct pictorial representations and an equally powerful emotional charge of the overall image of these two “incredibly sexy lifestyles“. However, Absolon wipes off the borders between these two inspirational stimuli, only extracting from them their typical colour composition and essential shapes.
The RAFA MATA series marks a shift from the previous ones in which Abssolon embraced formal trends from other avenues of art such as graphic design and typography, and subordinated the individual pictures to a pre-defined summarizing concept. He now focuses on the painterly solution to a particular picture. In each painting he attempts, by means of a unique visual motif, to develop the purely painterly inner logic of a picture which only unfolds in the very event of painting. The colour scheme approached more through space mediated by both gradual and sharp colour transitions, and loosely rendered shape lines return to the play of Absolon’s pictures re-found objectivity of motifs; at the same time, they open the possibility of the theme of a painting error: the space of the error is also the space of the happening of painting which visualizes and unveils this inner logic.
Absolon’s latest pictures require an interest in detail. They make a picture present in time and physical space, they remove it from interpretation and reception strategies of the consumption of visual representations in the environment of digital platforms and place it in a physical relationship with the viewer. The event of painting thus becomes (in a more and more dematerializing manner of experiencing everyday life) a directly accessible event of experiencing painting; this gives rise to an inherent continuity between the inner self and the surrounding world, a continuity which is not mediated and which can’t be mediated, a continuity which is undergoing a major crisis in the current situation of a global pandemic.
A virtual tour of Tomáš Absolon's exhibition - RAFA MATA can be found here.