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What is Vladimír Skrepl doing these daysUmělec magazine 2002/4
Václav Hájek | artist | en cs
From November to December of last year an exhibition of new work by Vladimír Skrepl took place in Brno gallery Na Bidýlku.
What’s Skrepl working on these days? On making a specific space homey… In reference to his work, I feel ashamed to write using Times size 12. It would probably be better to go for size 30 in a widening, in certain places condensed and layered, scrawl. Writing like a spider web, crossing the page like a spontaneous event of the thought process.
How does an event transpire? An event must grow out of itself. You have to let it flow, until it emerges. An event is formed within itself (chaos), until a new context arises, a new constellation of elements. In an event, nothing is a given beforehand. The process of becoming an event begins and ends spontaneously, but then it is possible to note that something in fact took place, that something has arisen. Out of the chaos a shape has emerged. We can also observe this process in Skrepl’s paintings, his installations and actions. In fact, all of his activities to a certain extent we can label as actions - the emergence of an event (a shape). In the series of photographs from the exhibition catalogue Überlebenskunst (Berlín, 2000) the artist wrestles (in his case it’s “playfully”) with a young woman. Their bodies and faces create in the space a certain constellation, a suspension. The gestures are shapely, and from the chaos of movements arise a well-balanced, necessary composition.
Skrepl is compelled to work quickly. He’s made to catch hold of the moving flow of what’s happening. He cannot place the projection surface across this flow and try to immobilize a certain phase of the flow (to create an image, or rather a reflection). The flow continuously brings new elements that overlap and contradict each other. It is the flow of the subconscious, without a rational plan. Of course, the subconscious produces personal conventions and obsessions, symbols (cat, dog …). But the gesture means that the work is not made according to a plan, or rather it’s not made systematically, methodically. Even a plan can arise like a gesture. Skrepl creates projects of his installations, but they are plans that show a certain movement from within. With Skrepl we don’t witness the kind of construction that is a system of interchangeable, replaceable elements. The hierarchy between the value of the whole and the bare functionality of elements doesn’t exist here. The elements are individualized: they don’t put themselves into the points of structure; on the contrary — they create space (relations) around themselves later. Shapes here do not behave like constructions or like concepts. Unless you perceive them directly (stepping within their relationships), it is impossible to convey their meaning, explain. We cannot narrate them as if they were anecdotes with a punch line (neo-conceptualism). They are an event of the gesture, arising from spatial reality. One thing is placed next to another: a gesture and personal or collective symbol. The whole is also a gesture (spontaneous, arising through associations). A person feels like joining in; just as we are seduced into reacting to the clutter of information events that cover the walls of public bathrooms. In these places, however, we come across the ugly, dark side of human communication.
Whatever is too ordinary, coarse, is unattractive (bone, dog, old pants…). This how realism would be characterized. Vladimír Skrepl uses deformations to the point of being caricatures (figures with irregular extremities, monkey asses). Old clothes hanging around is ordinary; deformed figures are unpleasant visions from dreams. Plastic cups stuck to the ceiling of the gallery represent messages about problems in civilization. Goblin figures with animal faces.
A seeming idyll of brightened colors? The occasional tranquility among grotesque, crooked phenomenon. The banal and the grotesque. This is the impact of the exposure of the recesses of individual intimacy. Skrepl, as opposed to many other Czech artists, doesn’t thematize the idyll. He’s not the descendant of Josef Lada, but rather Ladislav Klíma. He discovers new possibilities of deformation. By creating these new deformations, he is working with ugliness and corrupting the construction. The construction is beautiful in its classic harmony, functionality. Skrepl opens up the disharmony as a possible opening of one’s self to a spontaneously occurring event. Let’s say that it is one of the possibilities, but an effective possibility of how to reliably eat away at convention — personal and collective. Meaning: to breach the conventions of the visual world — here with the help of formalized ugliness. Scary-looking figures are not scary, they are other. When someone eats away traditional, commonly held notions, the person becomes socially unacceptable. But Skrepl never compromises in his efforts.
Skrepl always works uncompromisingly. He gives birth to new types of shape and relationships and it’s in this novelty that lies the absence of compromise to standard expectations. The novelty is shocking, ugly, because it is unknown and potentially dangerous.
The novelty represents a natural outcome of letting go of the free flowing sphere of activity of a borne out event. Skrepl never lets up on providing the freedom of self-creating events; he only sets up limits in the form of certain space. He sets up for the event a space for living, its own place (gallery, canvas…). By partially limiting it in this way, he in fact doesn’t limit it, something happens. But it is necessary to localize this something in the final phase, which happens with the help of the signature.
The signature draws the self-creating event back to the individual. These events are labeled as moments from intimate life. Obviously the individual approach itself is the signature. In an installation Skrepl invites us into his home. Labeling a space with one’s signature is a process typical of members of the graffiti movement. Skrepl also uses spray and rough calligraphy, but with less aesthetic focus than graffiti expressions.
This acts as a kind of pre-aesthetic roughness, unacceptable even to the various alternative groups. Roughness and shock in the gallery space can clearly be taken as purifying.
The work of Vladimír Skrepl is, more than anything, a life inspiration. Let’s let the events in our lives arise, the events we can sign as part of our individual history.