Appealing to Heaven: Elusive exhibit leaves you looking for more

Eight countries, 17 pieces, 12 artists — the Prague exhibit ‘No Borders. Appeal to Heaven’ is a collaborative mix going beyond the canvas

Arts & Leisure
Guest Writer | 25.11.2011
‘This is my blood’ by Hungarian artist Agnes Toth

Young visual artists from across central, eastern and southeastern Europe have been gathered together in Dvorak Sec Contemporary’s latest exhibition. No Borders. Appeal to Heaven aims to bring together a representation of artists from across the region while contrasting the different styles that are evolving. The fact that the main medium is painting on canvas should please classical art lovers with proof that innovative and fresh approaches can still be experienced.

“We contacted artists whose work reflected on borders, social lives … many have sky in their pieces, and they are all open to interpretation — and that’s what the exhibit is about, being open,” curator Tara Semenov told Czech Position. “We wanted a collaborative mix and looked for artists who have already achieved some success, won awards.”

There are 17 pieces in the exhibition by 12 artists from eight countries. Senenov says the front room is more abstract, while the work in the back is more figurative.

‘Untitled’ by Croatian artist Dragana Živanovič

“We wanted artists from around Europe and we hope the theme represents the countries being put together in one space,” she added.

The front room is dominated by three large format paintings – Michal Černšák’s Western Promises is muted in color but packed with action; perhaps apocalyptical, your eyes dart from busy scene to busy scene, trying to take it all in.

Contrasted are two pieces by Matěj Fabian. Similar in style, Tank in Vegas has yellow paintballs splattered across shades of black. You can nearly glimpse some action underneath. The second, Skull, is brighter, but again a feeling of frustration and angst permeates.

‘Sad girl’ - Tired girl activit by Hungarian artist Gábor Szenteleko

Staying on the “is there or isn’t there?” theme is Prase v lese by David Pešat. He told Czech Position that his work is somewhere between figurative and abstract.

“I want to show something you can see, maybe even touch,” he said. “I want it to be more than visual objects, but still classic painting; but I don’t go into nature and paint what I see, but prefer an abstract point of view coming from the inside.”

Prase v lese is part of his “white” series which was done with the wooden swords used in Aikido. Pešat says he worked fast and aggressively on these pieces which resulted in action.

‘P-55-03’ by Austrian artist Martin C. Herbst

“When I worked with the swords it was completely intuitional. First I colored the canvas black, then white,” he explained. “It’s important that it’s the same color as the wall it is hanging on, so it’s camouflaged. I want to express myself, but remain hidden and used this effect in the painting.” It’s true – you see the layers, smudges, smears and again it’s like there’s something identifiable in there, but what is it?

Moving to the back room and the more figurative side of the exhibition you find all the portraits in a way are a bit disturbing. Gábor Szenteleki’s Tired girl activits shows a young girl holding two limp ferrets in a barren landscape. She is gazing forlornly at a spot just off the canvas so we can only image what brings that hopeless look into her eyes. Compare that though with the two-paneled portrait by Martin C. Herbst, P-55-03. The woman here is appealing with you to make eye contact. Perhaps the artists on display have the same feeling about their work as Pešat.

“I paint visual things I like, but sometimes all you need is a fragment and it completes the picture,” he said “I show something small and the rest is covered. I like to play this game with the viewers.”

Skull by Slovak Matěj Fabian © Dvorak Dec Contemporary

Opened in 2008, Dvorak Sec Contemporary works mainly with international artists, introducing them and their work to the local art market. Semenov says they are contemporary and modern “a new flavor for the Czech scene.”

All over the world, young artists struggle to get started, and in the Czech Republic, Pešat says money more than anything else is what holds them back.

“Young artists have more time for thinking, to go deep, but it’s nice to have money if you want to do a big project,” he said. “Many young artists when they finish school find it difficult to stay in art; I teach classical drawing at a school.”

’Okrajove temy’ by Slovak artist Pavol Megyesi

Galleries like Dvorak Sec do fill a gap in the market, and Ms. Semenov says they use their exhibitions not only to showcase work to the public but also it might turn into new work opportunities for them as well. Artists for sure appreciate the concept.

“I like this gallery, there are not many spaces like this and this project is how it is in France, Germany, but in the Czech Republic it’s very special and very well-done,” Pešat said. “It’s an excellent space for artists, not only to sell but also a place to create relationships between artists and investors.”

No Borders. Appeal to Heaven
Through December 22, 2011
Dvorak Sec Contemporary
Dlouhá 5, Prague 1

Jacy Meyer is a Prague-based freelance journalist 

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