Vojtěch Kovařík → Hidden Garden

February 28th - March 28th, 2020

Galerie Derouillon, Haut Marais

Galerie Derouillon is proud to present Vojtěch Kovařík's first solo exhibition in Paris.

We all have experienced dreaming of wandering through a blurred landscape, surrounded by elements both familiar and strange. Vojtěch Kovařík's Hidden Garden is one of those environments that we seem to know, while always slipping from our grasp. The contours of its serpentine branches or wild herbs disappear around the massive figures that overlook us and then become the setting for their introspection.

The gods and heroes borrowed from Greek mythology that populate his paintings — Hercules, Artemis, Apollo — seem to have fallen from their pedestal. They have lost their legendary self-confidence and let their emotions show. What, or who are they thinking about? What feelings are tormenting them?

For his first solo exhibition in France, Vojtěch Kovařík continues his work on large-scale formats in this new series of paintings. The composition of the canvases is physical: he does not seek to establish rules or a harmony of lines but rather to defy the constraints of the canvas — as if he was trying to fit these giant bodies into intangible frames. An artificial frame is often even integrated into the canvas, traced and ornamented by the artist as an integral part of the composition. This rigidity is contrasted with his intuitive technique that creates the nuances of dreamlike backgrounds and models the bodies with subtle light effects. He works like a sculptor to make the figure emerge from a block and to model a body creating an impression of “still movement”. Vojtěch Kovařík thus exposes the constraints of his practice by giving life to figures struggling with their frames.

Born in 1993 in Czech Republic, Vojtěch Kovařík carries the multiple legacies of a generation born after the fall of the USSR with independence and openness to a globalized Western culture. The heroes of Greek mythology meet in his imagination Soviet brutalist sculptures as well as ultra-virile pop culture figures, from 1950s American peplum films to Hollywood blockbusters. The measured and harmonious classical antique canons evolve towards brutalist simplicity and deprivation. He thus gives substance to an Apollo sharing the harshness of the soldier at the Magnitogorsk Inner Front monument.

The encounter between contemporary references and founding narratives shape Kovařík’s hybrid heroes. The delicate Spinario gains Hulk-like muscles, Hercules recalls the prowess of Steve Reeves displaying his protruding muscles on movie posters — but now wearing a mullet, the burn-out character of Death Roses is the victim of a toxic relationship. In a previous series of paintings, we could already encounter some of these new heroes who have replaced mythical ones in contemporary culture. Vojtěch Kovařík paints Samuel Peter and Mike Tyson as Goliath, offering his own version of tales so many times told.

Vojtěch Kovařík’s bodies recount stories that diverge from the exploits found in Greek or Soviet myths. The figures’ vulnerability read through their bodily attitude: Spinario is folded onto himself, his gaze directed towards the ground, Moonlight's gigantic hand holds an apple in front of his face in a Hamletian gesture of sorts. Their androgyny also reinforces these dynamics of deconstruction: Artemis and her brother Apollo’s likeness is disturbing, the Hesperides — daughters of the Evening personified — take on masculine features, the giants of Hidden Garden seem to be one. Borrowing from Zweig's "eternal need to build heroes", Vojtěch Kovařík elaborates new narratives by updating ancestral heroes who still pervade our imaginaries, giving them a newfound humanity.

Marion Coindeau

© Grégory Copitet