Vertical Artwork Selection (Markéta Žáčková)

The exhibition title might feel like a joke, but it has its merit. Despite the fact that it contains some irony, it explains the media identity of Petr Dub’s work. The author has been examining for a long time the (physical) limits of the suspension picture: he is creating a factual and mental tension between the surface and the inner structure, addressing the questions of its sensory and paradigmatic perception.

Petr Dub considers the picture in context, which is defined both by the architecture of a specific space in which it is installed, and by the institutional, cultural and social framework. He himself often states that the picture is “the most sincere” in the studio. (Petr Dub represents the type of a “studio” artist whose artistic activity is not exclusively conditioned by exhibition opportunities.) Transports of a picture create another interpretation frame – the critic and the theoretician formulate their interpretations solely in the mode set by gallery operation, constituted on the basis of professional field consensus. The irony in the title of this exhibition is therefore related to Petr’s long-time playing with visual art genres: such as image and object, or surface and spatial artwork, traditional categories, which are usually put into contrast. Repeated transfers between these levels then justify the use of (seemingly) inane title “vertical artwork” without denying its humorous undertone.

The author tests the potential of a picture, as he emphasizes, by eliminating the established cliché that there must be something happening in the image field, so that there would be “something to look at”. On the contrary, he works with the peripheral vision of the viewer, deals with the gallery space in a comprehensive way, and concentrates on the otherwise invisible apparatus of the whole institution, such as the technical and personnel aspects of its operation. Expansion of attention beyond the notion of the picture’s central position, is also reflected by architectural interventions in the gallery exposition. It is not about adapting it to the adequate expression of his own artwork, but to use it to demonstrate meticulously chosen and thoroughly addressed socio-political issues. Even at this site-specific level, however, the author retains his abstracting rhetoric, accompanied by perspective and generalization. Recently, he has brought this approach to the extreme at his exhibition A Colony of Freedom – Possibilities of the New National Style in the Kvalitář Gallery, where the installation simulated the treatment of the facades and commented on the nature of the visual culture and manifestations of the Czech mentality at the time of establishing a new political system (first in 1918, then after 1989). Through painting of the entire interior, he mediated the concentrated typology of the transformation representation. He thus materialized typical Czech thinking about the function of architecture and material culture in the design of political identity. “Our, national art” is distinctively dressed in the corresponding colours oscilating on the axis of red – blue – white, which has leaned in the nineties to orange, lilac and green.

He worked with a fusion of public, private and semi-public categories also at his latest exhibition titled Into the Dichotomy of an Image. At the Jelení Gallery, he also took over the entire exhibition space, but from an opposite perspective: he focused on the representation of the private sphere. Installed as a “home”, he composed the space to be an apartment representing an isolated island of freedom. But the absence of politics is a mere illusion, as evidenced by the relics of colonial thinking embodied by shelves filled with souvenirs from travels that would make Edward Said frown.

For the present exhibition, the author works with the ready-made principle, the material from hobby markets or scraps from the joinery workshop, with a “pre-set” situation. This stock material is transported to the “art world” by painting intervention: not just by simple surface polychromy, but by various techniques, such as tensioning the classic canvas over the material, in order to underline the anatomy of the hidden construction and the contrast between minimalism and expressive gesture painting, or even ornamentation. For the author, the technical solution is fundamental, when he selects and combines artistic and industrial materials and technologies with almost pedantic care. The exhibited objects are covered by a layer reminiscent of oil paper from the old books’ front endpapers and inside cover pages, which stands in opposition to the unified golden surface, to which it is connected with a machine-like precision – the seam between the two entities. In a well-conceived configuration, a new quality of space is created, as well as a collection of painting techniques and approaches, which represents the author’s own version of “synthesizing art history”.

Unexpectedly, there is a didactic dimension behind the compelling design – each viewer wants to appropriate and explain an image/object/artwork, and in general any artifact, through comparison to their set of experience. Petr Dub works on the principle of “inverse”, or let’s say “osmotic” abstraction. Rather than depicting a real phenomenon, a subject matter in an abstract way, he bases his process on the abstraction that he “makes real”.

The important and interpretatively neglected quality of Peter Dub’s art is its political dimension, which claims audience’s critical thinking. Although he does not use a comprehensible index of symbols and references and does not offer a classic narrative, he steadily attacks the established ways of perception and understanding of art and social reality. If we realize this dimension of the author’s approach, we will understand the connection between his “studio works” in the position of artifacts or commodities, and his activist projects with a real impact; the connection between his political involvement, associaition engagemnt, and the postminimalist language.