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: Jiří Ptáček
Opening: 23. 2. 2022, 7 pm
In his native Slovakia, Martin Vongrej's creative strategies are perceived as a distinctive continuation of the local characteristics of conceptual art of the second half of the 20th century. Vongrej's ability to draw on a meticulously thought-out programme that ascends from the human subject to cosmic heights (and from there – pulled by gravity, enriched and expanded - descends again to the human ;evel) places his work alongside the most remarkable artistic concepts his predecessors have left us. In his conception, a work of art is inserted between the human senses and the surrounding world, visualizing the present (physical and spiritual) principles while stimulating their direct experiencing.
The core of the exhibition in the Fait Gallery is formed by Vongrej's new paintings. They are among the most subtle the artist has created, and obviously invite aesthetic contemplation. In the paintings, coloured points are placed between parallel and intersecting lines making up constellations in which the points are either separated or grouped together. We also see points of the same colour shade in sets and rows wedged into each other. Elements of asymmetry are masterfully woven into the symmetries of geometrical compositions. In the intentions of Vongrej's artistic work, the perception of all relationships is intrinsically linked to the processes of unconscious decision-making and our ability to comprehend them, including the paradoxes inherent in them. Is it possible, for example, to "see" symmetry and asymmetry at the same time? Is it possible to perceive points as separate and connected at the same time? Under these circumstances, a kind of "quantization game" takes place between seeing and thinking, in which one cannot actually perceive both, but only arrive at one qualitatively different result at any given moment, while being aware of both.
In connection with light, the theme of "qualitative difference" also features in the title of the exhibition. Martin Vongrej has previously worked with the paradox of a rotating mirror whose movement is not reflected on its surface, and we are thus unable to observe it. The illusion created is naturally not an empty optical charade but a meaning-inducing component accompanying the relations between the seen and thought, the realised. The moment we know that something is moving underneath an image yet the image is not responding to it properly, we can experience a certain doubling of the meaning of the observed phenomenon. This is also the case with the circular lights that the artist has placed in his new exhibition. In these, too, photons disregard the movement or immobility of the source, so we are unable to notice any qualitative difference sensorically. But since we are able to be aware of it, we must relate the term "qualitative" to the unit of the seeing and thinking recipient.
Unlike mirrors, however, Vongrej's circular lights contribute to the illumination of the surrounding space and objects in it. As light sources, they are a condition of vision, but their position in space, or the range, intensity and inclination of their rays, co-determine what we see and how we see it.
It might follow from the above how important a role participating (!) observers play in these systems. Vongrej's exhibitions operate with a kind of active situatedness. They emphasize that we are surrounded and drawn into newly created relations as perceiving, thinking and acting "points" in space and time. However, they extend from the factual experience we gain at a specific venue of the exhibition to the extra-artistic and extra-gallery reality, the “out there”. Each of Vongrej's exhibitions thus takes on a model-like quality which contains the laws that track our experience in imaginarily separate spheres of interpersonal sharing, earthly nature closest to our physical existence and its (only more distant from man) cosmic extension.
Text: Jiří Ptáček
Supported using public funding by Slovak Arts Council.