Participating artists: Ivan Csudai, Rudolf Fila, L'udovít Fulla, Jana Hojstricová, Jozef Jankovic, Palo Macho, Svätopluk Mikyta, Laco Teren
Macho is the only glass artist in Slovakia painting on glass… or shall I say painting in glass? Maybe glass painting? What is sure is that his painting is primarily that: painting. Glass is just the carrier for his artistic gesture. It replaces the canvas or any other traditional base. But glass as a material has specific properties that open up further possibilities for painting. And Macho does make the most of them. Indeed, no other material can give you what the natural properties of glass can, namely transparency, the possibility to look at it from both sides, to not only absorb but also to expel light, to apply layers of paint in space in addition to giving a haptic or embossed quality to its surface… All of which has been made available to Svätopluk Mikyta for his drawings.
Building upon graphic art, Mikyta – a remarkable draftsman – gives the leading role to the line. Knowing no restrictions of time and place, drawing has been Mikyta’s main means of expression for many years. In fact, several other artists also use drawing in their work, but not as obsessively and confidently as Svätopluk Mikyta, for whom a drawing is not a sketch, but rather the final product. Mikyta’s drawings group around two main areas: retouching existing works, mostly old reproductions or photographs, and diary drawings – everyday records and reflections on letter paper.
Rudolf Fila with his retouching, repainting and overpainting he has vigorously sprinkled all the images he has managed to get his hands on, whether they be reproductions of works by outstanding masters, book illustrations, or exhibition catalogues. So, when one day he got hold of the catalogue to the exhibition Contemporary Slovak Glass, he did not hesitate to aim a stream of coloured drops onto the images of the glass objects. Thus came into being Sprinkled Contemporary Slovak Glass – as he himself revised the original title. As a result, the contours of the exhibited glass objects that in the photographs were clearly cut off the background so that they could stand out in their particular forms, became blurred. Only their silhouette remained. This time sprinkler Fila has turned out to be an intruder that breaks into an entire universe of images as if it were his own garden.
The body constitutes the intersection where Jana Hojstricová and Palo Macho bond photography and glass into inspiring wholes that articulate an artistic constant. Many of them are figures in unusual poses. Most of them, however, are just parts, torsos, or fragments. Nevertheless, the body also emerges from images in which - in spite of sticking to realistic conventions - no figure can be identified. Indeed, it does come out to the surface and remains trapped in the folds, warps and pores of absolutely ordinary pieces of clothing that fulfil everyday banal functions: guarding its intimacy, presenting it to the outside world, and protecting it from injury. For each one of these elements, however, the body constitutes the common denominator that not only determines their manufacturing form, but also uses and wears them into shapes, giving them their unique look, smell and final appearance. Ordinary shirts, t-shirts, or gloves thus become unrepeatable evidence of a body whose pictures have been preserved into glass panes.
Jankovic and Macho have locked up one of their characters into a blue disc. Like a window into a washing machine. Glass, again, lends meaning to the indefinable instant of the last compulsion. The resulting illuminating section projects into the depth of time the lot of a helpless man, as if whirling in one of the “washing programs” of history, of the regime, of life. For Man is helpless mainly against himself. And out of his own docility.
Cooperation between two creative personalities can produce results of different persuasive power. One of them yielding to the other would most probably enfeeble the individual accomplishments of both artists. On the contrary, too much mutual respect could result in a rather average outcome (for instance in rock, Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix’s duet attempt). In an ideal case, though, it will lead to fusion and synthesis. This is precisely what happens in the common production of two distinguished visual masters: “glass” artist Palo Macho and large-format painter Laco Teren.
Four discs of approximately one meter in diameter constitute a very interesting and original collection of artifacts that delivers a riveting convergence of abstraction, figurativeness, a remarkable sense for material, composition, light and – not least, – expressiveness and impressiveness.
The Irony of Imagination
Even ancient philosophers knew that vision cannot be taken as given. In an attempt to explain it, they argued that it takes an environment, a medium or an element to make it possible. This element is called translucency. It is the medium that mediates vision without being visible. It is, therefore, absently present whenever anything is perceived by sight.
Yet even translucency may become visible. When this happens, and this is precisely what happens with Palo Macho and Ivan Csudai’s artefacts, then a strange, ambiguous and somehow ironic game takes place: we do not quite see a figure against a background, but instead an image that appears to be embedded in the translucency from which it emerges before our eyes and, so, is visible to us. Just that also translucency itself is visible because it has become partly opaque. The one is contained in the other, the one exists through the other, depends on the other. But what is the figure and what the background?
Glass is a material, a substance with its strictness. At the same time it is also an element. And that is the irony: it is penetrable to the eye, which can still get caught in it. The issue here is Csudai’s Teddy Bear, not Macho’s glass. Or vice versa? It is Macho’s glass, not Csudai’s Teddy Bear. Indeed, prepositions that otherwise so reliably indicate spatial relationships collapse in this weightless transparency - “under”, “above”, “to”, “in” - It is not possible to choose from among them for there is nothing to lean on.
What is this supposed to mean? Nothing more and nothing less than this: when talking about the space of imagination, we need to realise that its topology is imaginary. That is precisely why it is the space of imagination. The impossible is easily possible here. The paradox of seeing the invisible annuls itself here. And it just takes glass and a teddy bear. And, of course, a silent comet above them. This is where we take the knowledge that in the space of imagination new and new shortcuts that label the universe are born again and again. And they are both shooting stars in our world.
The strategy partly fits Macho’s “dialogue” with the work of one of Slovakia’s most representative artists from the 20th century, ?udovit Fulla (1902 - 1980). The idea originated around 2003, but had to wait until the “Fulla Fragments” exhibition at ?udovit Fulla Gallery in Ruzomberok in 2015 to come true. And it fits this concept just partially because, for obvious reasons, no real cooperation was possible. The strategy used in this case is becoming more and more popular in contemporary art. It consists in sophisticatedly borrowing, possessing oneself of or appropriating the work of another artist in order to recycle a whole piece of work, or just one of its fragments, ideas or concepts putting it into a new context and giving it new connections.
To appropriate and remake the work by one of Slovakia’s major art icons such as Fulla takes a lot of courage. Macho, however, acquitted himself easily. On the one hand he did it with due respect and responsibility, but at the same time approaching the challenge confidently, without an exaggerated reverent attitude.