Jiří Votruba - It is only what it is 5. 2. 2019 – 31. 3. 2019

Jiří Votruba - It is only what it is

Jiří Votruba (born 8. 12. 1946 in Prague) is a remarkable Czech artist. In his paintings and other pieces of art he successfully mixes the strategies of American painting after World War II, which are spiced up with his visual experiences from Japan, from comics and also from graphic design. He is also an extraordinary creator in the field of graphical design. He focuses his work especially on artistic activities. For example, as a part of his long-term collaboration with the National Theatre, he cooperates with the Children’s Opera, for which he also creates original scenography.

In the current exhibition at the Art Gallery Černá labuť, Jiří Votruba presents his recent art works, which develop his long-term esthetical strategies; at the same time in his pieces of art you can feel some obvious concern about contemporary civilisation. This concern is not emphasized explicitly; it just shapes one subtext of the artist’s paintings. After all, Jiří Votruba – with his approach to reality and also to the artistic environment – represents fundamentally an optimist. For him, the world is a beautiful place, where it is worthwhile to see all positive opportunities, which the world provides us. Vacuum waste tubes, that damn our planet, he succeeds in utilizing as a peculiar assemblage material, by which he articulates his pictorial narration. Despite his forthcoming attitude to waste, loosely flowing in the universe of colourful painted surfaces, we can feel a sigh for its ubiquity. Abstract paintings with electronic trash go hand in hand with artworks that unfold themes for the series Too Much Love. Those paintings utilize multiplications of various topics from our everyday life. Those are then transferred and simplified into advertising graphics, which fulfil the monochrome surface of the picture. Thus, they evoke everlasting and repetitive stereotypes of life that we enact and which includes also human relationships. Votruba’s with pop art soaked portraits get into space and represent an important item in Votruba’s work. Herewith, the artist cannot conceal his admiration for an icon of American painting – Alex Katz. Portraits, nowadays not too widespread in the field of painting, includes not only anonymous types from the street, but also people that the artist got personally in touch with, as well as cult figures from our political reality and also from the world of comics. The principle of comics is also one of the principles, which the artist develops. In his comics he excellently manages to express the basic constants of human existence.

The work of Jiří Votruba is characterised by his global feelings with bright colours and highlighted contours that among other things refers to the Japanese tradition of woodcarving. At the same time, we may not only feel a response to American pop art, consumer culture and the world of fashion with its brands and decked-out aesthetics, but also comics that are an important part of national visuality in countries such as Japan, the USA or France. In his original way, Votruba heals a certain gap in the creator’s reflexion of initiatives from American post-war and “consumer” art that the Czech art environmental was – with rare exceptions – trying to avoid for decades. Obvious perspective and light humour is what, among other things, reconciles Votruba’s work with the Czech tradition.

Gallery curator:

Martin Dostál