I headed off for the opening of Palo Macho’s The Timing of the Line exhibition in Nedbalka Gallery in a somehow routine mode. In 2012, Palo and I prepared the Attention Glass! exhibition at the Slovak National Theatre. In 2016 we shot a 26-minute TV program on his work for Channel 213. I somehow keep coming across Palo more and more often - once at his Time Match show in Trnava, then at Zoya Gallery in Elesko, in Danubiana Gallery, and last of all in Nedbalka Gallery. One could say that after ten years of silence and seclusion in his studio, Palo is now “riding the wave” of exhibitions. Whilst you would hardly meet him in the past, today you’ll bump against him at his shows, in the theatre and in the street. It is not like he was avoiding people. He was busily active with glass, so now he has something to show us.
Glass is a matter of opposites. It’s brittle and hard. It can leave a lasting trace just as well as it can break into pieces. You can cool it and you can melt it. It’s cold and hot, tangible and transparent. It is always risky to touch it as it hides both beauty and danger. The only match to glass with its contradictory properties is perhaps love. Macho is in love with glass. He is like glass. Just as reserved, at times as transparent, and mostly keeping his distance: from matter, from life, from people. And his works can only endure the lightest touch - the touch of sight. To paint glass, use photographs, drawings, sculptures or other visual media, he does not need to insert stories. For stories are always there and do not need to be explicitly uttered. The priority of his creation is light, color, symbols, painting.
Palo Macho was born on the 22nd of September 1965 in Strezenice, Slovakia. From 1989 to 1995, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava. In 1993 he also studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Saint-Etienne, France, and in 1997 at the Cité International des Arts in Paris. From 1994 to 1998 he taught at the Secondary School of Applied Arts in Lednické Rovne. Since 2011 he teaches at The Academy of Fine Art and Design in Bratislava, department of glass. Macho has exhibited at both solo and group exhibitions in about twenty countries, such as the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Italy, France, Scandinavia, Germany, Russia, Japan and the United States of America to list just a bunch of them. Glass Pictures, a film on his work was shot in 1998. He has also published two collections of poems, namely Shooting Prayers in 1995 and The Red Moon in 2006.
Macho is primarily a glass artist who “injects” color or email into glass. The final outcome of the brittle matter are huge glass objects. Besides glass images with nature motifs, Macho also creates monumental diptychs and triptychs characterised by an abstract expression, geometry, figurative signs, or an expressive reference to the timeless subjects of the universe and the existence of Man as an individual within it. Palo does not aim at solving anything in particular. What is important to him is the image, what he is interested in is the principle, what he prefers is the whole. On occasion of his 50th birthday a comprehensive monograph was published mapping his life work.
But we already know all this about Macho. Indeed, that is the Macho we already know. To Nedbalka Gallery, however, Palo has brought something else, something more fragile. The Line. Or, in other words, the line in glass, on glass, under glass, behind glass. The exhibition entitled The Timing of the Line is a tribute to drawing, which he likes so much and which he “poured” or “cursed” into glass as a visual trail of his own thought, as a print of his emotional identity, as a fossil of his own soul. What the viewer sees at first sight is a glass object, but for Macho glass is the means to raise another kind of art. It is the carrier of the topic. He has mastered the techniques to such extent that he is already beyond the phase of fascination over the matter and can now focus on presenting through glass other forms of art: graphics, photography, painting, sculpture and — in this case — drawing. He now combines them, makes them partners of glass, extensions to glass. He does not perceive the impressive features and elements of glass, like shine or color, and does not make simple, unidimensional use of them. Instead, he makes use of its transparent and matt quality by engraving, pouring, and inserting the philosophy through which he perceives the world. He “writes” down into glass short references to life and, perhaps, to himself. Although glass is often transparent, Macho’s testimony is not. Macho is not open in essence, but leaves his plots open... He does not give any answers. On the contrary, he is likely to incite questions. He appeals for a glass-like tribute to silence or a silent tribute to glass.
The exhibition is purely monochrome. It makes do with just white and black. Its collection of transparent and matt glass objects reminds of a frozen landscape. The installation gives a compact impression (no wonder, knowing Macho). Nevertheless, it deliberately violates the principles of installation using asymmetry, deviating from the axis, perhaps in an attempt to add some irritating tension to the space, to display some tidy disorder. In the end, though, the spectator has the impression that everything is exactly where it is supposed to be.
The curator of the exhibition, Silvia Petrova (Prague), divides both the exhibition and the catalogue — which by the way is exceptional both conceptually and artistically, just as the graphic minimalism and visual purity of the exhibition — into several chapters, in which she carefully analyses each aspect of Macho’s work within the glass-drawing opposition. Petrova addresses drawing as a third dimension, as time and progression, as “scribbles”, as automatism and subconsciousness. Likewise, a line is a workbook as well as an essay on drawing. She also focuses on drawing in combination with glass and metal, on the line as a trail and on drawing on the glass surface. She deals with space, fiction, drawing in glass and relief drawing. She does not forget about glass drawing either and even includes monotype, glass print, and — last but not least — drawing with hollow glass and space. All these forms of artwork in connection with glass are presented separately in the exhibition according to their own specifics, characteristic technological procedures or insinuated topic, which Macho never really closes but leaves open for the viewer. At the same time the exhibition evokes a soothing poem whose rhythm only just alters.
Palo Macho is also literally active, as already mentioned, and thus the line on paper, drawn or written, has its own pace, rhythm, aesthetics, integrity and interruption... Macho’s line is like a poem in glass; like and automatic, and involuntary, signature of an idea or feeling; like fragile poetry that only lasts until it breaks down. On the one hand, Macho “dulls” or buries thoughts into glass, into imaginary transparent “coffins”, as if put to rest in eternal peace or as a relic, whose ephemerality, on the other hand, is multiplied by the unspeakable vulnerable matter in which it can disappear, forever as well, in case it should break. And this tension, defined in the drawing and supported by the glass, reflects the profound trembling mystery and the merciful dignity of the object.
At the exhibition, the visitor will find earlier glass pictures hanging next to some rather chamber glass panes leaning dangerously against the wall, and a series of horizontal and vertical monotypes. However, the highlight of the exhibition are tables. Somewhere on the edge and mostly asymmetrically, circular glass sheets have been fitted into them. They have a characteristic incision in the center, where the author disrupts the cycle of harmony and leaves the real light penetrate or cut into the glass. The boards are transparent, white, in rare cases black. The circle as a symbol of infinity, of cycle, of the positive levels of emotion typical for the artist. His latest work is indeed unique. Into the horizontality of the table he slides in a glass surface which supports another one gently bending up as a leaf in a book. The table as a phenomenon is paramount for the author - he works, reads, draws at a table. In fact, all significant events happen at his desk.
As an art historian, I would like to say that Palo Macho’s The Timing of the Line exhibition in Nedbalka Gallery is a representative collection of glass objects presenting his recent creative period with an overlap into the past, up to his latest works characterised by an evident variability of drawing and shaping of the matter. Thereby, the artist uses technique only as a means of achieving testimony. Although the glass might first appear to be dominant, stress is laid on what is “hidden” or revealed in it, and that is Drawing.
As an emotional spectator, I feel like screaming — or perhaps whispering — that the show is beautiful; pure, elegant, monochrome, cathartic. At moments like this you do not miss colour as in its hidden manifestation all shades of colour form part or hide in white (and for me in black as well). Somehow, the exhibition is inconspicuously glorious and gloriously inconspicuous. It is not just decorative. It is philosophical, reflective, psychological, wise, humble and, in its transparent airiness, also lofty, silent and, therefore, meaningful.
Since the show is silent, I also leave quietly. No farewell and no toast with the artist. Not because I lack manners, but because in my soul I have already had a toast with Palo Macho’s glass. For finally, after a long time the work of an artist I am familiar with has managed to surprise me again. That is exactly what I always look forward to in spite of in my experience and profession. Thank you, Palo, for making your silence talk.
See the Book PALO MACHO: TIMING THE LINE / CASOVANIE CIARY>
See the Agenda exposition Palo Macho, Casovaná ciara / Timing the Line>