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
Curator: Michal Stolárik
Opening day: May 12 2021, 5 pm–9 pm
A compositionally and dynamically balanced exhibition environment, formal purity of artefacts, obsessively precise rendering of the individual segments or a naturally developing vocabulary of art symbolism. The latest exhibition projects (Children of Ján Moksó, 2020, New Synagogue; Monument of Possible Fall, 2019, At Home Gallery) of the Slovak multimedia artist Kristián Németh (*1983) define from a perspective view his current artistic handwriting and probably also set imaginary standards of his future work. It is characterised by a natural combination of general subjects and intimate, almost traumatic contents, while the artist does not shun institutional criticism masked by a symbolic artistic language inspired by and derived from everyday reality.
Németh in his post-conceptual approach to the creation of objects, installations, performances, video art and staged photographs continuously touches upon subjects rooted in the functioning of the Catholic church. In some cases he examines, in an almost investigative manner, personal and family traumas, sexuality and sexual abuse, the dichotomy of power, the distorted values and intentions of the protagonists of the church, while at the same time questioning the general idea of the (false) positivity and transparency of the perception of a religious society. Although the institutional criticism of the church makes up a greater part of the artist’s research, he gradually updates it with a more universal content line which is related to more general subjects responding to the state of society.
The unplanned change of the dates of the solo exhibition Warm Greetings caused by the pandemic situation gave the artist an opportunity to review the original project and thus to come up with something new, as well as to reflect on the current political and social situation. At a glance, this site-specific project is based on Németh’s previous work and an imaginary library of the artist’s approaches from which he has selected significant light colours, an airy installation, material and formal variety, minimalist stylization and a stage design approach to the building of the exhibition experience.
The central motif placed at the core of the exhibition environment involves wax objects bent by the effect of warmth and force. Candles deformed by an art technique which Németh originally took from the context of the Eucharist represented in his past projects the vulnerability and the unconscious adjustment of individuals to the canons of the church power. In the current update, their numbers are multiplied, resulting in accumulations of organic wholes that appear homogenous yet, on closer inspection, reveal their unique heterogeneous character. Through the accumulation of destroyed candles Németh illustrates the influences of a superior power, unshakeable external stimuli, social norms, pressures and expectations affecting an individual or a group in the present world. Through the form of an invisible physical gesture and an imaginary “warm greeting“ the artist creates symbolic relics and comments on the process of their birth in the form of stylized images communicating the poetics of a simple gesture between creativity and destruction.
The subtle yet unmistakeable colour scheme of the exhibition project which, apart from the fact that it helps dynamize the space and accentuates the meaning of the individual segments, also reflects the symbolism of the colours used. White is connected with purity, innocence, truth ad justice, while the shade of incarnate pink is related to the feminine, corporeality and homosexuality. Apart from fabrics employed in a stage-design fashion we can observe the selected colour scheme on specially designed abstracted wooden pedestals illustrating stylized traces of the melted candles. Together with stigmatically rendered burnt spots, they indicate the invisible yet clearly present elements of warmth and fire, constituting an important ideological background of the whole project.
Supported using public funding by Slovak Arts Council.