Disconnect, intersperse

Glowing Alabaster (2012), The Black Open Wide (2012), Dauhas (2011–2012) and now (2014) The Trickling Expanse. Going back four years, it will be a little simpler: Melancholy. Simpler? The names of the cycles, just as with the individual paintings by Vladimír Houdek, are driven by an almost indiscernible discord,
contradiction, dislocation and duplication, which open up and form a space. Visible and imagined at the same time. A space filled with how it establishes itself by an almost spontaneous breaking up of the unity that we have always craved for and which is – we think – at the very beginning. Naturally, this unity in the
strong sense of the word does not exist. Let us call it, for example, an illusion or something similar to parallel lines meeting in infinity: we can prove it mathematically; we can maybe even imagine it, but we always start (and end up) with an image of at least two independent straight lines separated by another line.

Melancholy contemplates the unity of the world as thinkable, but unrealizable (or unrealized). “Glowing alabaster” has something from yin and yang, “the black open wide” is hope when we become lost in the dark, “the trickling expanse” is when we breathe slowly and feel that the space is changing with every drawn and expelled breath, and it is workable, malleable and indescribable, yet firm, delimiting and explicit. In the neologism “dauhas“ we hear an echo of the name of a movement, a school of art, which aimed to give modern life a new shape, unity in variety and creative freedom propped up by carefully considered construction principles. Vladimír Houdek thinks all of the above by painting, an image, without perpetuating the idea that he is the first and the last, or another chosen one.

Supporting himself by the laws of the painting trade and fascinated by the history of art as an original cultural discipline, he finds his own, unique way which returns urgency and substance to abstraction, changes shapes into signs and emblems. Scrutiny, usually attracted by the central composition, suddenly dissolves in the body of the painting, which blurs the clarity of the division into background and foreground, colour changes, space plans… Playing with an illusion of views opening onto the space inside the painting and beyond the painting while simultaneously clearly sticking to the idea that a painted picture is a thing and through painting the surface in Houdek’s works reconciles the Baroque tradition with that of the classic avant-garde. A view through to the dome of a Baroque church
contaminated with Malevich’s black square.

Vladimír Houdek evaluates in new contexts the turning point in Czech art in the 1980s when signs started to move and painting as a self-supporting medium began to be suspected of ideologizing elementary experiences. While his paintings preserve the awareness of the disjoin between meaning and rendering, they nevertheless attempt, with critical awareness, at their re-connection. Painting as a process and shape as an idea begin to intersperse, although they can also transfer into a different image mode, producing motion, text and film.

The Trickling Expanse project shows paintings by Vladimír Houdek in a broader scope. Twenty-five new canvases consistently elaborating on the artist’s basic motifs, the literary text – libretto of the Trickling Expanse and a film of the same name form a whole that the viewer can enter – being the person whose presence makes the meaning of the work complete.

Marek Pokorný

Vladimír Houdek *1984

– even before graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (the studio of Vladimír Skrepl) the artist was in the radar of critics and gallery institutions. In 2010 he received the Critics Award for Young Painters and in 2012 the jury led by Christian Rattenmayer, the curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York awarded him the Jindřich Chalupecký Prize. He had solo exhibitions in important non-profit galleries, such as A.M. 180 and the Galerie Jelení (Prague), as well as in the exhibition rooms of large art museums (the Moravian Gallery in Brno in 2011 and the National Gallery in Prague in 2013). He works closely with the Galerie Polansky in Prague and the Galerie Schleicher/ Lange in Berlin. His paintings can be found in private collections in the Czech Republic and Germany.