Dílna Mikulov - Art symposium
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Theoretician of the Year

A Great Year
Martin Dostál

In his concept of the Mikulov Art Symposium "dílna" this year, the designated curator, Martin Dostál adopted last year’s model of an encounter, and therefore a certain sort of confrontation as well, between the older generation of artists and the youngest one. The exhibition, with a subtle insolence entitled “A Great Year” was held in the authentic locations of the chateau studios. It summarized the outcome of nine artists’s endeavors over the period of four weeks.

Three of the authors represented the 60+ category, a number that only reflects their age rather then state of their bank accounts or perhaps the number of public collections owning their works. The seniors – in a nice sense of the word – included the sculptor Aleš Veselý (b. 1935) and two painters, Milan Kunc (1944) and Peter Angermann (1945) who came from Germany. The group of young artists, conceived this time as around the age of 30, consisted of three painters: David Hanvald (1980), Karel Štědrý (1985) and Evžen Šimera (1980).

It therefore came as no surprise that the symposium focused on the traditional medium of the painting which remains a central method of artistic work. All of these painters also approach painting with a great deal of disengagement, a conceptual forethought and a regard for its long tradition. The sculptor Aleš Veselý, a renowned member of Mikuláš Medek’s informel genera tion of the 1960s, invigorated the symposium with his spatial-visual work. Two guests were invited to participate who also matched the old/young model: the pop-painter and graphic designer Jiří Votruba (1946) and the young artist Michaela Vrbková (1987) who lives in Mikulov and attends Petr Kvíčala’s studio at Brno’s Faculty of Fine Arts. She first took part in the symposium in 2010 as a technical assistant. This year, the dual role of an artist and technical assistant was assumed by Ondřej Čech (1985), a student of the department of art history and aesthetics of the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague who is also practically engaged in the arts, besides his theoretical studies.

The Mikulov symposium "dílna" has a tradition of many years. It has become a natural part of the town’s summer life and contributes to the local intellectual- artistic atmosphere which prospers also thanks to the recent opening of the Závodný gallery. The studios, located in chateau rooms where the symposium takes place with their views of the Moravian and Austrian landscape, offer artists the proper overview, the tranquility to focus, and an opportunity to communicate which is one of the best assets of such events. Whenever there was not enough time to discuss an issue there, the debate often continued in various establishments in the town below, namely Café Büro and the wine store František Šíla, to mention just the major ones.

Looking at the participants of this year’s "dílna", Germany’s Peter Angermann is probably the least known to local audiences although he had independently exhibited before in the Czech Republic – at the Caesar Gallery in Olomouc and in the Klatovy Gallery. Along with Milan Kunc, another participant, and Jan Knap, he also took part in the Prague Biennale in Karlín in 2005 as part of the group NORMAL. Angermann met his two companions at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf where, after graduating from Gerhard Wendland’s studio at the Academy of Fine Arts Nurnberg, he continued his studies between 1968 and 1972 at the studio of Josef Beuys. In 1979, the post-modern group Normal was founded. In the context of international art, Peter Angermann represents an interesting position of the “traditional painter” who devoted his time in Mikulov to plein-air painting, a discipline sometimes referred to as “Sunday painting”. However, with his lively hand and innovative approach, Angermann showed how stimulating this strategy can be.

Milan Kunc is a graduate of Düsseldorf’s academy where he studied between 1970 and 1975 at the studios of Joseph Beuys and Gerhard Richter. He now lives in Prague where he moved in 2004 after having spent many years abroad, mainly in Germany. He is considered a Czech-German painter of (great international renown, thanks to his creation of the so-called ost-pop in the 1970s, a specific variation of pop-art. When the group NORMAL was founded in Düsseldorf in 1979, his work represented a substantial contribution to the emerging wave of post-modern painting in Germany. Kunc’ work is characterized by his loose imagination, a belief in the power of the traditional paining and his ability to absorb various influences from the history of the genre. In Mikulov, he focused, besides the Holly Hill, on self-portrait.

Aleš Veselý was the doyen of the symposium. He joined the Czech art scene in the early 1960s with his existentially and philosophically themed works with a distinctive form which immediately earned him recognition even within his generation, excessively charged with existentialism. In the following decades, he was focusing on robust sculpture projects which in their large and radical shapes react to the landscape and the humans’ place in it. In Mikulov, he created “down-toearth” drawings on four differently deformed surfaces of polished metal.

The tree painters of the younger generation created a rather comprehensive convolute of works over the period of four weeks which confirmed their positions within the upcoming generation of artists. David Hanvald’s paintings convincingly show that he naturally constructs them on the basis of certain patterns while he is just as interested in their construction as he is in work ing with paint, in the intervention of coincidence, a personal gesture and the tension between artistic spontaneity and the “scientific” approach. In Mikulov, he created the series Strokes as well as an original re-interpretation of the minimalist furniture by Donald Judd, some of Hugo Demartini’s performances from 1968 and even his own chair. Evžen Šimera continued to explore the method of painting through dripping modernist abstract canvases by Piet Mondrian to geometric shapes and the landscape. In the wine-making region of southern Moravia, he made two paintings based on profane understanding of the Christian mandorlas. In his distinctive style, he also created the portraits of the symposium’s participating artists.

Both of the guests demonstrated their own styles; Jiří Votruba from Prague carved the figure of the iconic revolutionary Che Guevara, made a comics strip and thrashed out a painting from the series Too Much Love. The home-grown Michaela Vrbková did not make a mistake with her patiently crosshatched drawings which might represent some crystalline, ideal landscape. The symposium’s assistant, Ondřej Čech, attempts to uncover the conceptual meaning of art; in Mikulov, he approached this through photography and a screened slide which he used to process the theme of water surfaces, typical for the region around Mikulov. In any case, this was “A Great Year”. Next year, the Mikulov symposium will be held for the 20th time, and that will be a different story.