Jakub Matuška aka Masker (*1981)
An Energy Figure Created in Photoshop
curated by Michal Nanoru
Galerie Dukan, Leipzig
14th January - 25th February 2017
Vernissage : 14th January 2017 - Winter Galleries Tour
The Galerie Dukan is proud to present Jakub Matuška aka Masker new exhibition «an energy Figure Created in Photoshop», curated by Michal Nanoru in our leip- ziger space.
Jakub Matuška aka Masker (*1981) is one of the leading Czech artists of the youn- ger generation who started out with graffiti and street art and today primarily fo- cuses on paintings and drawings, with occasional overlap into to sculpture, video, installations and public interventions. During his studies at the studio of Vladimír Skrepl and Jiří Kovanda at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, he completed re- sidencies at the Cooper Union in New York and Middlesex University in London. In 2010, Matuška was among the finalists of the most prestigious Czech prize for young artists, the Jindřich Chalupecký Award. A year later he won the National Gallery in Prague’s 333 Award. Since 2013 he’s been combining his boyish, comic, ironic and poetic reflections of urban life with the investigation of his experience of urgent spiritual crisis, while still very much aware of the recent radical shifts in the Western societies. “Like Eulenspiegel, a joker and trickster educated by the street and equipped with an owl, a mirror, and the pea jingling in the spray can, Masker mostly turns situations, sentences, and states against them,” wrote Mladá Fronta Dnes, the Czech national daily newspaper in 2008. Matuška works and lives in Prague and is represented by galleries in Prague, Paris, and London.
"The ideal would be to be able to draw how everything gets created in this uni- versal sphere... To be able to paint how the energy flows and how different things can be seen from different angles. In physics they say that the microparticles are revealed, or gain their weight, position and charge, only the moment you start to observe them. In the microcosm the present, or the future, defines the past" says Jakub Matuška aka Masker relating his latest series of paintings to such particles. The works in An Energy Figure Created in Photoshop, all of which were completed in 2016, explore the connection of the almost universal visual symbolism of the world’s spiritualties with the dialogue between the latest technology and the more traditional painting methods. In an attempt at painting „the world of fine matter“ the exhibition makes use of a variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and psychoanalysis to interpret freely various religious ico- nographies and the ritual, symbolic and philosophical roots of art. Matuška draws heavily from the history of imagemaking, from modest and utilitarian devotional images and diagrams that help illuminate and spread spiritual leaders’ ideas to Ver- rocchio’s and Leonardo’s The Baptism of Christ to De Chirico’s metaphysical art to various street and animation artists. But as his cartoonish figures absorb the visua- lizations of the tantric flows of the life force, the saints’ golden disks of halo and the physical bodies made of three or four non-physical bodies, with aim to resolve the contradictory conditions of lived reality and the modern spirituality, Matuška treats the acutely observed subject matter with his usual wit, visual and verbal puns and general lightness in the many senses of the word. The painting that most of all resembles a ghostlike figure of Death raising its hands against you is titled “Nordic Walking”.
"When meditating, Buddhists imagine a ball, which contains colors of the rainbow and a letter. A spiritually realized being, Padmasambhava, the second Buddha, sits in the rainbow ball, called Thigle, with the Tibetan letter ‘A’ inside. It’s a white light that had initially split into a color spectrum and from that originated the world. ‘A’, the first letter of the Tibetan alphabet, stands for more or less the same as the phrase ‘in the beginning was the Word’ in Christianity. Each such being represents the fact that in the beginning was the idea or word, it created a light that broke, creating the colors, then some energies and then the elements and everything up to the particles and molecules. Such a system is in most of the teachings entirely and unmistakably defined and if you look at Christian art, you will see similar aesthetic principles. But I was interested in doing it a little naively, or to combine it with a reach into today’s ordinary living where there’s an old lady carrying a bag on a cros- sing. When you look out onto the street, these things can seem removed from our lives in the western technologically advanced secular cities, and I’m interested in somehow connecting these without it having to be too obvious" explains Matuška.
For the artist this represents a more subdued and relaxed period after a life-altering spiritual experience, followed by a frantic work on highly ambitious, complex pro- jects that combined various media with idiosyncratic systems of thought (Let Me Tell You Why My Head Is Swelling, 2013; The Red Gentleman Leaves on the Water and the Devil Wears Paddles, 2015). In the case of An Energy Figure Created in Pho- toshop it led to a formal clearing and a more restrained expression on a simpler scale, sometimes up to the point of abstraction, a certain new in Matuška’s career. While in the last couple of years the search focused on the artist’s interior struggle and questions of the human condition, this time, even with the goal of depicting the divine unity still in mind, the problems become more of a formal question of a painter, realized in fragmented, isolated moments. As such, the exhibition is also an examination of the tense relationship between the languages of the digital and ana- log worlds. The use of software as an environment in which to look for new colors, compositions or expressions radically extends the artist’s visual possibilities while setting its limits on the artist as well. The challenge becomes translating the digital sketches, often recreated sections of previous works, into compelling paintings (into hours and hours of laying material on canvas, as opposed to the looking at a screen or printing flat, colored points), especially in terms of light, contrast or structure, using more or less traditional techniques of brush or nozzle (spray can, airbrush). Text written by Michal Nanoru, October 2016
Michal Nanoru is a writer, editor and curator. He co-authored books Here Be Dogs (2010), on visual culture of Czech indie scene, and We Saw Up A Cutting Board, a photographic history of Czech skateboarding before the 1989 Velvet Revolution (2013). His exhibition projects include a comprehensive survey of snapshot stra- tegies’ influence on artists working with photography Only The Good Ones: The Snapshot Aesthetic Revisited (Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague, 2014) and most recently Taryn Simon: A Soldier Is Taught To Bayonet The Enemy And Not Some Undefined Abstraction (Galerie Rudolfinum, Prague; Albertinum, Dresden, both 2016), the ar- tist’s largest showing to date. Nanoru has been closely collaborating on exhibitions and publications with Jakub Matuška aka Masker since 2006.