Hanel about Schovánek

Marek Schovánek’s current work continues the themes developed over the past years. A radical alteration in terms of the expressive medium is not present, but this fact in no way indicates that the author has resigned himself to being satisfied with results he has achieved in the past. Schovánek is well aware of the danger that repetition can lead to, namely to a „weakening“ of the original ideas and to stagnation. An example of this is documented by his new series of paintings. While at his most recent exhibit in London, he violated his own principles of the polyptych and indulged himself with a unified pictorial script. Now he returns to the original, inspiring ideas from the period of his Thermo Dynamic series (1996). The result is a series of paintings with the same format as Kill the Book, Broken Dreams, This is the Future, or Whiteout from the series Fog of Art. The apparent monochromatic look and pictorial approach typical of Schovánek’s work is surprising nevertheless due to the nuanced grey and brown tones; these are achieved via gestural painting combined with fragments of indecipherable text messages, or via controlled flow of paint onto the image surface. Artistic snapshots of the chaos displayed in nature are the product, now in the form of strangely hazy situations that evoke melancholy, nostalgia, and the contemplative.
It would be unlike Marek Schovánek not to integrate completely new pieces produced over the last few years in a presentation of his art. Command & Conquer is the series in question. The consistent format of the work emanates form the author’s own unique calligraphy. Schovánek’s calligraphy is once again unable to be decoded, and perhaps it is the artistic rhythm of his calligraphic messages that betrays their urgency; the verbal remains unable to be communicated. His uncommon technique involving bee’s wax occurs by treating the image surface with wax, and the result is a relief or bas-relief with characteristic color properties. It must be emphasized that this involves encaustic, a presently rare technique.
Works from an additional series, entitled Speeches, also feature coloration similar to the paintings mentioned or to the previous series. However, this series is dependent upon the natural processes occurring over centuries that provide the sculptur with his traditional and noble material, namely marble. Finally, the material is present in its typical shape and color and can be processed by industry for different purposes. Schovánek works the marble into relatively small shapes reminiscent of speech balloons from comic books. His approach is similar to the paintings with fragments of text or calligraphy; in this case, the “narrative” remains verbally unexplained on industrially polished marble surfaces.
The series Crystal Distortion (Coca Cola, ink, and graphite on paper) is actually quite similar to the Speeches series, especially through the use of industrial processes for treatment of the material, which in this case is glass. Glass plates ground with an exacting industrial process and affixed to the image surface have a surprising visual effect, and this is intensified by different light sources to produce a dialog between the viewer and the work. Each of the viewer’s movements in front of the image changes his or her field of vision and in turn the visual effect. The result is a series of coincidences arranged under the attentive supervision of the author.

Finally, the series Hunter Gatherer can be introduced as a response to the “ready mades” of the classical moderns, and it obviously indicates a desire to comment on the absurdities of today’s consumer society. As is typical for Schovánek, this commentary is achieved neither with destructive criticism, nor with ironic grimacing, but rather with the aid of intelligent humour. In a manner similar to how hunters document their successes (the brutal killing of animals) by making a spectacle out of their trophies for all to admire, Schovánek doesn’t hesitate to saw up a supermarket shopping cart into individual pieces to be arranged on a board in a form that reminds us of antlers. Is such a trophy from a successful purchase in a shopping cart, an object which has lost its original function after its contents have been completely consumed, not a shocking statement about the current mental and spiritual climate of this society? Is Schováneks artistic parallel not an expression of remorseful hindsight with regard to the “triumph” of thousands of consumers? In any case, the series Hunter Gatherer clearly displays the engagement of the author and his artistic responsibility.

Olaf Hanel, 2008
Translation Matthew Schneider