Aleš Roleček about Traces, Edges exhibition
The introductory speech by Aleš Roleček at the Stopy, okraje [Traces, Edges] exhibition, NoD Gallery, 03.07.2006
At the end of the Middle Ages, at a time which will be called the Autumn of the era, many changes in this period are also reflected in remarkable developments in painting. Up to now, the main subject, previously so clearly placed in the centre of the painting, and always dominant by its size, has shrunk little by little, shifting to the side and complemented by many details, which often obscure the main subject in a confusing clutter. And one detail in particular, in fact which previously only happened on marginal, usually only ornamental borders, is worth noting: nature, in other words plants; stones; creatures. What was formerly simply decoration, is now a completely independent reality, standing alone as though requiring nothing and no-one else. And this phenomenon is finally highlighted more by unusual plinths and thresholds of architectural detail in neutral gray hues, which are undoubtedly incorporated behind these objects, in order for their details to stand out against the background.
When I look at Ondrej’s photos, I am confronted with these issues and comparisons, and with the notion that his depiction and choice of reality is born of the very same. It is a world to itself; the edge of the world of the main subject, as it was in the aforementioned era. But it’s certainly not repetition or reproduction. The symbolic value of late-mediaeval images may not always be clearly legible, despite which we do not doubt it, but I am often confused here by these images. Although I do not expect any iconological reference, I can practically never resist posing the question, why? Is it possible that someone is speaking to me in a language I do not understand at all? This pictorial language is not in my vocabulary; I do not possess the key or formula to reveal it. Of course it can be challenged by the argument that it is impossible to provoke modern art in this way. In an era when nothing is connected to itself, it can really only be written that there, nothing is possible. Yet one can try to grasp the hidden and expressed sense, especially for those who believe in nothing.
Ondřej’s photographs capture a double experience with those edges of the world and they have their own harmony—if we understand this expression to possess its original meaning, as a way of arranging things in mutual harmony—the corpse of a hare in lily-white snow is even aesthetically harmonious, and crumpled plastic in the grass with its randomly formed facial features has a symbolic sense, and it certainly cannot be said to convey nothing. And so it would certainly be possible to move from photograph to photograph, and to read and decipher many meanings, and look for an aesthetic which probably seeks to avoid being one; at least not in the precise, former meaning of the term. Why are the topics of such disintegration sought, while the waste water is shifted to the pivotal focal point? An enhanced arrangement of garbage is presented in the way that gems of beauty were previously.
Why is that which should disappear calling for my attention here, and that which I would rather not have seen; would have deliberately ignored from my view, cannot die or be lost? But there is one more form of aesthetic and harmony present here: the lily-whiteness of the purity of emptiness, which evokes ink painting or the Bruegel picture usually known as, The Return of Hunters in the Snow. The shafts of several frozen arrows in the foreground of the composition appear so close to dry straw with magical snow on several photographs, and are so similar to the dots, smudges and hairbreadth strokes of the Chinese brush. Is it also possible to write here the sentence which characterizes pictures from the East: empty is more important than full? Yet so unlike the half-rotted ribs in the snowdrift and the terribly dead pathological bone. The ruin, blooming with purity, is ultimately as disturbing and confusing as everything that went before. We name things uncertainly, because we dare not give them lasting names, and shifting meanings force us to interpret them somewhere on the edge. Perhaps it is out of these truths that Ondrej’s photographs are born.