Painting Department (Jan Zálešák)

It was the creation process that attracted me about Petr’s exhibition. He spent a lot of time converting this room with an unclear identity into an art gallery. (In fact, it is an approach similar to Marcel Broodthaers, who turned his own flat into a Museum of contemporary art – yet in this case, the gallery is converted from space that serves this purpose occasionally, but in other situations, its status is weakened or contested.) I remember how much effort Petr Dub made a couple of months ago in order to turn the (non-)gallery space of the Gallery of Youth into a sitting room. The effort was relatively absurd, since there is nothing easier than denying the perception of the Gallery of Youth as an art gallery, which could be confirmed by anyone who has some experience with it. Therefore, I do believe that what I am talking about right here is not a mere coincidence but a consistent element contained in Petr’s creative approach.

In the House of the Lords of Kunštát, Petr Dub thus attempted to turn “Trojka” into an art gallery so as to install the exhibition entitled Department of Painting. This is where I will refer again to Marcel Broodthaers, who introduced, among other things, the “Department of Eagles” in his Museum of contemporary art. This included a mixture of artefacts of different nature, such as works of art, reproductions, bottles, revenue stamps, corks, etc., i.e. anything that showcased the motive of an eagle. The presence of the eagle sign was a simple and essential guideline for selecting the artefacts in this department. Similar, yet perhaps more complex, criteria are used by the heads of art collections when determining what should and what should not be included.

Petr Dub announces that painting will be shown at this exhibition. The key element is thus the fact that everything is somehow painted. What I want to say is that “paintings”, as presented by Petr Dub, function similarly to Marcel Broodthaers’s eagles. They even function similarly to any ordinary objects used in an installation. Obviously, they lack any autonomous aesthetic value, which they gain only when becoming a part of a meaningfully (and aesthetically) coherent installation. I used similar words two weeks ago when I was giving an opening speech at the exhibition of Pavel Sterec, who works with bells and halogen lights in the Gallery of Youth. Are the artefacts that we can see here on the same “ontological” level as the above-mentioned bells and halogen lights? Aren’t they independent works of art that deserve our individualised attention?

I understand that this is a sensitive issue, yet I do prefer a positive answer to the first of these two questions. Petr produces its creations in extensive series, working at more projects at the same time. And even if he develops an isolated formal or motive figure in each individual object or individual canvas, while their ultimate meaning and value are subordinate to the umbrella framework of the final installation, in which these images become pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. (One of the reasons of the persisting sentiment for the painting as an individual artefact, which has a value on its own, is undoubtedly the setting of the art world or possibly the art market. It is hardly ever possible to purchase an exhibition as a whole, as a unique space installation. We strive for a single or several artefacts. Obviously, there have been cases when big institutions purchase installations, yet these tend to be exceptions proving the rule.)

Petr’s work fits completely in the context of rules of the contemporary art world, in which it is either possible to play the game according to the rules of the “independent” exhibition system or according to the rules of the art market. Each of them has their own criteria that need to be followed. To me, the Department of Painting is an expression of solid knowledge of the rules of the first version of the game. Thus, I do not feel miserable when I dare to say that contemplating on the qualities of individual paintings that can be seen here does not sound at all uninteresting to me. In my view, the magic of this exhibition lies in the fact that by their means, Petr managed to covert the space which we are standing in into an art gallery for a moment at least.

Department of Painting, Exhibition’s foreword (Jan Zálešák, 2009)