21.02.2018 - 05.05.2018
Ve Vaňkovce 2, Brno
Vernissage: 21.2.2018 at 7 pm
Curators: Denisa Kujelová & Jiří Zahrádka
Return is the movement of the Tao, yielding
is the way of the Tao. Ten thousand things
in All Under Heaven are born of what there is.
What there is is born of what there isn’t.
In a distinctive visual style rooted in his personal memory, Jan Merta transforms real-world subjects into specific projections of his own experiences. This unusually sincere approach is in its intensity and truthfulness towards the viewer remarkably transferrable and communicative. In most cases, the artist chooses as the subject matter of his paintngs, drawings and objects things and situations on the edge of ordinary attention that, however, are personally highly important for him. By removing them from their original context and by their free processing he fills them with new contents. The pure essence of seemingly ordinary objects demonstrated on a monumental scale with the use of unconventional; spatial structures provides Merta’s paintings with a strange tension, which is in some works even intensified by the refined employment of light and the atypically approached relationship between object and area when an accentuated background creates an illusory perspective.
All of Jan Merta’s works have their own raison d’etre in particular stories, and his art is so closely linked with personal experiences that it could be understood as the artist’s diary records of events, experiences, memories and reminiscences of people, objects and places. Every new painting is for him a return in thoughts, and it is therefore hardly surprising that he has chosen this word for the exhibition title. However, it should be viewed at several levels of meaning: apart from the tite of a sculpture, the motif of return also refers to the show itself, organised in exhibition rooms to which Jan Merta returns with his new project after eight years. First and foremost, it refers to regular returns to the artist’s key theme circles, as well as to particular motifs which are, nonetheless, always approached in a different way.
Within the Return exhibition, sections such as Liberec are important; the artist returns in it to the places associated with his childhood and has worked on it, on and off, for several years, as is the subject of civilization threats and cultural codes as homage to Old Masters and specific works of art. One example is Goya’s painting Third of May 1808 (1814) from which Merta borrowed the motif of a lamp. The lamp as a source of light is a vital element of the picture, not only in its form but also in its content, and Merta has utilised it several times. Last but not least, the exhibition presents works referring to the artist’s penchant for Eastern philosophy. In 2010 and 2013 Jan Merta designed the book Laozi translated by Oldřich Král, and his close friendship with this extraordinary figure reinforced his interest in Chinese philosophy. In the Fait Gallery exhibition project this leading sinologist agreed to incorporate into the LAOZI installation his sound recording of the book accompanied by Merta;s paintings with fragments of cups and saucers. These symbolize clay vessels: according to the teaching of the Tao, the meaning and purpose of their internal parts only come from emptiness.
Being next to the the works of Jan Šerých, however, is that rare moment when there are more than any other time revealed other implicit aspects of her work. This time it, undoubtedly, highlights the formal aspects Kotzmannová’s way of photographing. Central symmetry of her still lifes and yellow striped frame are reflected in Šerých‘s strict drawing structures and the photo installation Tornádo /Tornado inspired by a found picture of a woman posing for the photographer far enough (?!) from the trunk of a whirlwind. Šerých used two captured axes – the first one is a woman standing in the ideal center of the frame and the other one is a twisted column of dust spinning around its eye. By spinning the photo printing around the vertical axis Šerých emphasised this principle and in accordance with the tone of the installation of his drawings it seems he is claiming that the adjustment is more important than the depiction (despite that it is the adjustment he uses to relate to the exhibited works).
And this fact brings us back to the photographs of Alena Kotzmannová. Not only that yellow stripes along the edges of the photographs change the perceptual quality of the pictures, they also - as well as adjustments - are actually a commentary on what is captured in the pictures: objects are variously "adjusted" and shown this way to the viewer (and the lens of the photographer).
The Chiliagon by Alena Kotzmannová and Jan Šerých could be compared to the two punch cards laid over each other. At first glance, there is an obvious formal kinship, that actually brings the theme of "proximity" (ad-juxtare), including the contrasting opposite at long tables covered with Jana Šerých drawings, that actually "recede" from the viewer, because he/she can actually not properly inspect them, could then be considered as the adjacent holes in punch cards. However these aspects should not cover the last metaphorical evocation, I have noticed in the combination of their work. In a Chiliagon Šerých as well as Kotzmannová create an environment referring solely to artistic problems. But the impression of selected pictures evokes a strong affective as well as associative response, and also the kind of laboratory atmosphere of the exhibition, create together a generally understandable key also for the audience prefering emotions and ideas. And this brings us – althought from a different side - very close to the storytelling, where we actually started.