Jiří Matějů

*1960, Štemberk


Jiří Matějů is a solitary figure on the Czech scene, workingquietly and intently on developing his own unique artistic style and presentinghimself at exhibitions mainly outside the center of activity of prominent art galleries.At the same time, his visual language is characterized by an unusual philosophicaldepth and continually improving craftsmanship (acquired through his restorationwork). For many years Matějů has been interested in psychology, Buddhism, philosophy and other sciences, the study of which he considers to be perfectlynatural for an artist. In Matějů’s recent works, which are presented at the exhibition, there has been afundamental formal transformation – the symmetrical networks of lines typical ofMatějů gradually disappear and give way to infinite space which has been implied bythem. This move to an even simpler and more abstract form has happened naturally;we can say with exaggeration that it was just a matter of time of the artist’sdevelopment. The line as such has been replaced by a crumpled canvas either overthe entire area of the painting (for example, in the triptych First Meeting Place,Second Meeting Place, Third Meeting Place), or only a part of a large canvas. Thesepaintings are always preceded by studies in the form of crumpled paper, in whichMatějů examines structures of asymmetric symmetry, such as can be observed onthe water surface, whose uniform area is a composite of many small waves. In themonumental painting To You Who Are Not the Subject Matter of My Experience thisstructure subdivides the canvas which is more than five meters long in golden ratio.Given its size, this painting had to be done in a makeshift barn at a cottage incountryside, and only during daylight, without using any artificial lighting. Thecanvas cannot be taken in at a glance; the viewer is made towalk along its lengthand stop several times.Matějů in his work directly refers to some aspects of late Modernist painting, and hislatest paintings take into account even more the principles of AbstractExpressionism, specifically one of its tendencies, Color Field Painting. Itsrepresentative Mark Rothko heralded the development of painting towards clarityand elimination of all obstacles between the painting and the idea, the idea and theviewer. However, Rothko considered geometry to be one of these obstacles. Hisformal language was color, light, hieratic layout, surfaces, abstract shapes,symmetry and size. While with Rothko the viewer has taken the position of theabandoned area of the painting, something similar is taking place in Matějů’s works.The viewer is surrounded by the uniform field of color and the monumental size ofthe painting. There is a dramatic relationship in which the surface with an obscureirritating (non-)color scheme and physical manipulation presents something whichgoes beyond the physical aspect of painting itself. This infinite abstraction isunderpinned by a consistent desire to express the feeling and meaning of a complexidea in a simple way.In addition to the above-mentioned paintings, there is a series of 99 simplewatercolor drawings. These drawings were created during evenings in the autumnand winter of last year, unlike paintings done by Matějů during daytime. They arereminiscent of the line, and their book format suggests that they are guided by thepursuit of simplicity of Zen Buddhist thought. The lines are washed out by colorstains which disrupt the need for controlled activity. The drawings seem to testify tothe fragility and temporality of human existence, like the duality of the asymmetricsymmetry in the monumental painting and the triptych. Their number, the highestdouble digit, acquires many connotations with its division and by extension theinstallation options of this series – once 99; once 33 and 66; three times 33 – with which Matějů sometimes works in the poetic titles of his works.

Jiří Matějů (born in 1960 in Šternberk) graduated from the Painting Department of Bedřich Dlouhý at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (1988–1994). From 1995 to1997 Matějů worked there as an assistant, first to Bedřich Dlouhý and subsequentlyto Miloš Šejn. In 1999 Matějů spent one year as artist-in-residence in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2004, he received a year scholarship of the prestigiousPollock-Krasner Foundation in New York.Jiří Matějů’s art has been presented at many group and solo exhibitions, includingthe Prague City Gallery (joint exhibitions: “Space for Intuition”, 2007; “Fundamentals& Sediments / The Revolt of Toys”, 2011; solo exhibition: “Between You and Me” atthe Old Town Hall, 2011 ), the House of Art in Brno (“Czech Painting by the 1990sGeneration”, 2011) and the New Zlín Salon (2005 and 2008). Jiří Matějů belongs toartists cooperating with Hauch Gallery for a long time. In 2012, this gallery,previously known as Prinz Prager Gallery, organized a solo exhibition by Jiří Matějůentitled “Lupus Constellation”. His work was also presented at the openingexhibition of Hauch Gallery – “Overture I”, which featured a segment ofcontemporary abstract and conceptual paintings.At present Jiří Matějů lives and works alternatively in Prague and near Pilsen in hisstudio outside of town.