East Contemporary

National Gallery Prague: „Jindrich Chalupecky Award 2022: All that is solid melds in the air“

Prague, September 23, 2022 – January 9, 2023, https://www.ngprague.cz

The Jindrich Chalupecky Award is the most established Czech art prize for emerging artists (up to 35 y.o.). It exists since 1990. In recent years, the mode of operation has changed. In the past, a winner was chosen among five finalists. In the last three years the selection of the single winner was omitted and instead the five nominees are declared as “winners”. It shows the paradox of holding a competition and staying politically correct at the same time. How could the organizers ensure all nominees are all treated equally, if only one would win? By letting everyone win, it seems.

The exhibit was mounted on the mezzanine floor of the NG Prague Trade Fair Palace. This is an “O” shaped space with walls on the outside and empty space in the middle that opens up to a central atrium. This meant the space formed a long predefined corridor, through which one had to walk. This made navigation quite easy and straightforward. It was a bit like a three dimensional slideshow.

I went in with little knowledge and let the works talk to me by themselves. Here a few impressions.

David Prilucik

The projection right next to the entrance was the one and only artwork by this artist. The most memorable thing about it was its loud and very annoying soundtrack. This made me depart before I could understand what it was about. There was a warning about love between humans and dogs and dog blood on the wall.

Ezra Simek

This artist has numerous artworks installed throughout the exhibition. Videos displayed on different screen formats and installations consisting of dried plants and colorful plastic sheets. The content was a feminist critique of the male-dominated “western” (movie) world and the stereotypical role models. Numerous movies showed a lone cowgirl walking across landscapes, with a voiceover discussing her thoughts about the topic. Both the movies and installations were made with great attention to detail. The message was obvious, but it also provided enough layers to keep the visitor engaged and allowing him to dig deeper if s/he wanted.

Martina Drozd Smutna

The only painter in the show. The paintings were mostly figurative but in a simplified style, colorful and slightly surrealist. Despite the colors, the atmosphere was a bit gloomy, as they were somehow illustrating the pitifulness of human existence. From another angle, one could also sense a black humor. The paintings were hung in one section of the exhibition, creating a forest of “situations”. And the viewer has to engage his body to navigate around them which was very fitting as most of them referred to the body in one way or another.

Olga Krykun

The artworks of this artists consisted of child-like naïve paintings of sunflower-like flowers with human faces in yellow, blue and black. These were supplemented by crude life-size dolls dressed in old clothes and accompanied by broken suitcases, all probably salvaged from a donation box. A TV screen was showing a “curated” selection of TikTok videos. There was a story to it: The artist was Ukrainian, expressing her confusion and anguish about the war. Poor girl. And poor I, having to watch this “art”.

Vojtech Radakulan

The “media art” part of the show unfortunately conformed to the nightmares of every media art show: A bunch of tech gadgets, all out of order. The artists also did not seem to be completely sure about his own name. While the exhibition text identified him as “Vojtech Rada” the labels credited him as “Vojtech Radakulan”.

Kokakrit Arunanondchai

As a bonus on top of the five winners, a sixth guest was invited. The black box showed a movie that I did not watch but glimpsed. Looked like a younger version of Apichatpong Weerasethakul infused with the today necessary references to technology and back to the future nostalgia. Another projection was off.

Overall, for me the winner was Martina Drozd Smutna. Ezra Simek was the runner up. The paintings of M.D. Smutna were the most intriguing for me, wanting me to come back and look again. E. Simek did a great job on production and installation, but in terms of content the message was too obvious for me and not that unique. Nevertheless, I am sure both of these artists will find their way and market.

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