5/15/2019 – 6/3/2019
Curator: Jan Dotřel
Jan Poupě’s work interacts with a large number of fields, artistic disciplines and inspirational channels making it relatively difficult to stably localize and place it under one unifying concept. However, in diving into his work let us proceed genealogically and look for his artistic origin. Every artist comes to a point in their life when they begin to become aware of their desire to express a cognizance of the reality surrounding them. In Poupě’s case this could have been the movement of an abandoned landscape on the border of the city and nature, a fascination with physical phenomena, or, perhaps most likely, a realization of his own awareness and the process of perceiving reality.
The connection and mutual correlation of art and science is, unfortunately, a greatly overlooked area in the Czech art scene. The basis for Poupě’s work is not only gestic, abstract expressions or optical games with geometry but also long-term observations of the physical rules of our reality. The beginning of this journey may have been classical landscape painting, which Poupě nevertheless transformed in a geomorphological way by attempting to study the shape of the Earth’s surfaces (be they natural or industrial landscapes). Thus we see landscapes abstracted, rebuilt, ripped up and reassembled, from the glacier landscape of the planet Solaris to the surface mines and their beautiful layered structure. Poupě does not understand landscapes as merely picturesque representations. His interest lies in the processes that are in constant motion within them. Similarly, the artist’s attempt to understand the principles of aerodynamics and meteorology has given birth to his love of aviation and long-term fascination with physical flow. This interest provides us with a point of departure for Poupě’s tendency to leave the landscape aspect behind in favour of a more laboratory-like method of presentation, placing his visions into an isolated, monochrome space.
The artist’s approach to architecture is certainly noticeable. It is not, however, reflective, but rather constructive – urban and holistic. Poupě builds urban space from Euclidean geometrical shapes. He constructs architectonic visions in such gigantic measures that they become utopian, even digitally decaying the space in order to put it back together again, transformed. The model, plan and idea has been elevated here to the level of a completed artwork. The series Library, a key element of the exhibition at the Kvalitář Gallery, can be considered, along with the series a Set of Views, as the mental peak towards which Poupě has long been striving for. The work is concerned with “architectonic” constructs in front of which the subject is fascinated and uncertain. Is this something physically possible or a purely imaginary space? Nevertheless, the geometry with which the viewer is faced is no optical illusion; its elasticity is the result of obeying the rules of perspective. These are utilized sophistically by Poupě who attempts to bend them to the very brink of their possibility. But this is not op art, such an interpretation would be incorrect. The structural nature of the painting does not so much reference an optical game as it directly attacks the self-reflexive aspect of a human perception of reality and its physical limits.
The most essential element which creates the foundation of Poupě’s work is a concentration on the historical concept of seeing known as perspective (the illusion of depth on a flat surface). The first realizations of this painting technique have been localized to art in the New Kingdom of Egypt. The image in question was a drawing of two figures standing in a row depicted using front elevation. Perpendicular and oblique projections defined the imaging system used from antiquity to the Renaissance. In the second half of the 15th century the architect Brunelleschi created the first drawing of a linear perspective based on a vanishing point system. For the first time in history, someone had created such a realistic image that the viewer, when looking at it from a certain point, had the feeling they were seeing real scenery. Another enormous breakthrough came with the discovery of the optical apparatus camera obscura based on the direct light projection of reality. This mechanism, whose invention dates back to 1839, is not only the most important pillar of photography, it is also the foundation for realism, naturalism, and the Flemish paintings of the 17th century. We can therefore conclude that a substantial part of the history of imaging is based on the development of a particular technology, the gradual accustoming of the viewer’s eye to this principle and the subsequent cultural adoption of this kind of representation.
Jan Poupě reacts directly to the culturally historical development of our seeing and transforms it. He does this not only with the help of two-dimensional representation, but also through a simultaneous fusion of a number of ways of “natural” seeing, doubting the very laws of optics, or a simulation of unreal gravitation. In the beginning we had to learn how to use our vision, believing the illusion of perspective. But after a long time we evolved onto an unbelievable path of drawing with light (photography). Now we must continue to learn in order to understand new ways of representation. These can be based on digital 3D technologies, expressed purely mathematically or using radio waves. The possibilities are (at least it seems) endless…