Artist: Radek Brousil
Exhibition title: Standing, Holding a Waterlily
Curated by: Michal Novotný
Venue: Galerie NoD, Prague, The Czech Republic
Date: April 25 – May 19, 2019
Photography: images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Galerie NoD
The exhibition Standing, Holding a Waterlily carries on in the artist´s activist approach to major serious subjects, tackling them in ways that tend to give up the programmatic canon of standard interpretations and terminologies, for the sake of a largely emotional and personal, perhaps even somewhat simplistic operational mode. The premise of confronting art with the looming environmental and human catastrophe has over the last few years become increasingly polarized, apart from which, however, it has likewise assumed the contours of a programme, notwithstanding the fact that, as ever, any tangible output has remained at least indeterminate. The straightforward, openminded and well-intentioned position – up to a point of self-abnegation with which Brousil has invariably treated complex, often virtually intractable problems – inevitably engenders vulnerability, a condition which a good deal of art production tends to conceal behind irony, theorizing, or formal ploys. However, it is simultaneously also a commentary on the embedded typology of the male artist, on that arogant, self-centered confidence manifesting itself in an unwillingness to communicate anything in an open, explicit manner.
Standing, Holding a Waterlily projects a certain attitude encompassing respect, expectation, and uncertainty. In a sense, the exhibition is embued with a spirit of escape into fantasy, albeit intertwined with a heroic element derived from the world of fairy-tales. The notion of a stroll, a hike among woodland pools, through a forest made up of embracing figures, entering a gate in a fence, brings back feelings of closeness, familiarity, intimacy. Here Brousil´s ecological agenda assumes a personal dimension, the character of a face-to-face encounter, an emotional relationship, a dialogue. A conversation which is not far from a sense of quiet melancholy, an indefinite compassion which, however, may also come across as a functional alternative to a reason that has gone out of its joints, and a world that has lost the horizon.
Here, Brousil carries further his specific approach to photography, with extensions to the domains of object, sculpture, or textile fabric, adding new emphasis on tension between surface and volume, and between decoration and motif. The emotional, empathic element of his work is set in still greater relief by the ways in which recurrent, symbolic motifs evoking osmosis and compassion transform across the spectrum of individual media and methods of representation, invariably shifting away from their original contents. Whether what is concerned are natural or figural elements, there always prevails a sense of tension between the animate and inanimate. Beyond that, juxtapositions of different timelines, of warn out indie band t-shirts alongside attributes of Gothic or Renaissance art, artificial waterlilies, or folklore elements, brings out with even greater urgency associations with reminiscences of a world that may by now already exist only in dreams and yet happens to be all too close.