Another way how not to create paintings (GAVU)

Artworks created by Petr Dub (1976) in the past few years take a form of high reliefs with soft transitions, such that in combination with the color applied by spraying they resemble details of bodyworks of opalescent metallic paint or abstract computer rendering of the surface of a planet. However, their basis remains in a canvas and they are also hung on a wall, like paintings. Otherwise, they differ greatly from what most people imagine when hearing the word “painting”, which may include many variations (i.e. styles, contents, techniques, materials, etc.), yet the common denominator is its spatial definition, or special limitations. A sheet-like shape of regular, mostly rectangular format, until recently represented the universal basis within which the story of art history had been written in paint. Petr Dub´s artwork supports the famous thesis of the theorist of abstract expressionism Clement Greenberg (while at the same time he is in conflict with him) which states that each medium is directed toward the development of its awareness of itself and its innermost resources, which for Greenberg was the journey from illusion and literary contents to universal non-representative painting, whose content and purpose lies in the painting itself. Dub´s images/objects add to that one of the ways in which to continue the story and lies in the fact that the media at some breaking point turn against each other, begin to mutate, or interfere, and push their own boundaries. As the exhibition title illustrates, this is the theme of Dub’s work.

When we look back at what has preceded these elements in his work before, we find that he consistently addresses some issues and that the tension between the artwork and its deconstruction or disputation plays a principal role for him. Already during his studies he was intrigued by abstract image, especially by monochrome, and specifically by painting problems, such as work with gestic style. If his later works are formally very impressive and visually appealing, the former could be an example of “bad painting” in the category of abstract painting; he called them Antipaintings. It seems that the author had tested the possibilities of abstract painting while looking for a theme, which eventually and paradoxically became the testing itself.

This is also illustrated by the next cycle Unframed that has, for the first time, drawn the attention of the expert public. “Unframed” – i.e. “frameless” – in this context means not only without a traditional frame, which modern painting has gotten rid of long before, but, furthermore, without stretching frame, a kind of primordial material skeleton of a painting. Canvases of irregular shapes were sometimes hung directly on the wall, looking like patches of color, sometimes they were also crumpled, hence creating irregular amorphous structures. From there it was not a long way off to creating works that preserve the principle of a painting as a relief image object, but the irregularities and collapse were substituted by smooth stretched shape. His works are therefore on the one hand impressive aesthetic objects, yet, on the other, the result of complicated thinking about painting as a specific entity in the art-historical context, of thinking that takes place here and now. Therefore it could be said about them that although seemingly autonomous and as if standing outside the reality of our contemporary world, they are at the same time its adequate, though perhaps subconscious, expression – if only by the emphasis on smooth, design-like surface or by the focus on subtle artistic problems emerging in times when reality is so complicated that we cease to understand it. (Catalogue intro, Marcel Fišer, GAVU, 2014)