19.10.2022 - 14.01.2023
Fait Gallery, Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Curators: Denisa Kujelová, Ondřej Navrátil and Jana Písaříková
Opening: 19 October 2022, 7 pm
Following the Sun was undoubtedly one of the key points of Milan Maur's work. This radical action, documented by an unclosed circle on a map and accompanied by the text on 9 May 1983 I followed the sun from dawn to dusk, anticipated his future direction as an artist. In the course of the 1980s, Maur developed in the Czech milieu unique conceptual practice based on the observation of minute natural sequences and events. This was not, however, a “desk-job” investigation at a safe distance from the observed subject but in situ research, requiring physical involvement and vigilant attention close to meditation. Specific examples include the artist’s numerical series documenting the autumn falling of leaves of various species of trees over several days, or his shadow images in which he recorded shadow shifts throughout the day at given intervals. This individual research was certainly also a personal ritual and self-preservation method of the artist's survival in totalitarian Czechoslovakia of the 1980s.
The first part of the exhibition presents works that convey the artist's natural science interests and at the same time seek to answer the following question: what is actually behind all this endless swarming of nature? Is it a coincidence or another level of order? And is it possible to unravel its system, to relate to it, or to identify with it? We thus enter a world of thought that hasn’t lost its relevance even after all these years but opens up to us further and new meanings in the times of climate crisis and a search for a way out of the solitary confinement of anthropocentrism and its blindness, deafness and arrogance.
By the mid-1990s, Maur's work seemed to have reached its end. However, the feeling that this was one of those short-lived careers is quickly suppressed by the further parts of the exhibition. The extensive body of photographs from the period after the turn of the millennium is linked to his earlier work primarily by a conceptual strategy of recording the environment that works with the principle of a predefined creative process, more exactly, with the experimental adjustment of the optics of a sophisticated Hasselblad camera. The titles of the cycles testify that they were created during expeditions to distant lands, which on the one hand echoes the several-month-long pilgrimages of Maur's youth and on the other introduces us to the new life situation of the artist, who in the 1990s went from being an outsider and a night watchman in the Plzeň cemetery to a successful entrepreneur and an enthusiastic traveller.
An essential part of the exhibition is a new installation related to the artist's recent experience in a hospital environment - a place where every person becomes a constantly controlled and measured subject in the gears of a fixed order. Here, Maur returns to and approaches his own body as concretely as possible. Whereas until now we have only suspected the artist’s external and internal sentiments behind informative and poetic notes in the margins of the paper (...I was tracing the shadow of a pear tree...), we now see the outlines of his body, captured by his son on a hospital bed, and for the first time ever he himself becomes the subject of the record - in an attempt to record the very fragility of human existence and the potentiality of its end. Milan Maur's drawings, photographs and installations can thus be understood as a record of a sequence through which a particular event is singled out from an otherwise cyclic universe. This might be the world, the universe, nature, or a person’s existence.
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.