Summer of 2015 in the Nitra Gallery (Slovakia), an exhibition of Jakub Janovsky with an enigmatic name Playground V51 is being held in the part of the Gallery called Bunker (because, long time ago, it used to serve as an underground army shelter).
The exhibition is unusual for various reasons – all the works presented (mural paintings and drawings, installations, objects and simple gif animations) have been created directly on the spot in the course of short four days; and will be destroyed at the end of the exhibition.
Jakub Janovsky, a young Czech painter, who is currently living and working in Prague, secluded himself in the “Bunker space” and used it as his own personal playground to create intense, haunting and often provocative visual imagery that forces the viewers to question its meaning, but also their view of everyday life.
The name of the exhibition Playground V51 may suggest the subject matter will be childhood, innocence and play, but the space of underground army shelter and Janovsky’s exclusively black and white palette leaves no doubt that the underlying topic of this exhibition is war and conflict – whether it is the inner conflict of deep subconscious urges within men, or outside conflict of the human ego fighting to usurp its space in the surrounding world.
Jakub Janovksy studied drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, where he was nominated and scored the second prize in the 2009 NG 333 “Young Painter’s Award” organized by the National Gallery of Prague.
The Czech art theorist Petr Vanous said about Jakub’s artwork: “Janovsky’s choice of medium is not arbitrary, it is related to his way of thinking. It is the tendency towards “free-” and often even anarchistic treatment of artistic expression that corresponds to the “independence” of Janovsky’s views declared through his works. Most commonly they have a form of sarcastic provocations, aggressive assaults and cruel ironies. They engage unpleasant subject matters of human mortality, pride, narcissism, egotism, naivety, ruthlessness or cruelty. Man in his weakness and vulnerability is shown in many forms and metaphors as an embodiment of quirk of fate – either dragged through or trying to detach from it in various ways – often at the expense of others.”
Jakub often makes his murals and drawings in abandoned buildings and spaces creating thus what he calls a “morality playbook.”
Jakub Janovsky: “Street Art is very modern nowadays, for instance in the abandoned buildings, as well as the mural painting as such – and they are often being mixed up. I rather have it as a private sketchbook. Unlike from a sketchbook that you carry with you, on the wall, you react to the genius loci of the place, and above all the drawing is not limited by the dimensions. This means the drawing does not have to be just 2D, it can travel around the corners, expand into space and so be very pressing upon the viewers. Sometimes it can even be unpleasant, go under your skin. That is why I feel it becomes a moralizing drawing.”
What is the difference between creating your mural drawings in an abandoned space and a gallery?
Jakub Janovsky: “That is a good question, because I try not to do exhibitions composed of exclusively mural drawings in traditional galleries. Because if a space is sterile and clean, all of the memory of this place has been suppressed. So then it just comes to some effect and aesthetics – I will put something over there, so that the viewers will like it… I took this exhibition in the Bunker exactly because the bunker has some kind of memory, it served some purpose, and the space is so raw and natural, and really has strong genius loci.”
I feel in your art a strong sense of fatality, inevitability of mortality…
Jakub Janovsky: “There is definitely some memento mori – remember (that you have) to die – that concerns really all of us, no one can avoid it, and I really try to deal with it in those drawings, but with a certain amount of irony and sarcasm, so that the piece does not become pathetic. With the aid of the irony, I try to slightly lighten up the subject matter, which is indeed as you described it.”
Repeating signs, symbolism, recurring figures, leitmotif – is that important for your art?
Jakub Janovsky: “Definitely, the leitmotif is in the symbols of the consumer society that I keep repeating in certain different contexts, whether it is cross, star, geometric elements – that can be taken as symbols as well – circle, square, triangle. It is very important when it comes to figures, because although I try to slightly modify them, they become mostly a figure that is some universal standardised man – neither adult nor a child, neither man nor a woman – meaning it is an androgynous person on the verge between childhood and adulthood – and again the conflicts there – but the figure is standardized, it is never someone specific, and definitely there is a projection of something like an alter-ego into that figure.“
The exhibition of Jakub Janovsky V51 will be displayed in the Bunker space of Nitra gallery until the end of August, and as his works also symbolically stress the fleetingness of existence, as it will be destroyed afterwards in order to bring the gallery space into its original state.
However if you are interested in Jakub’s work and do not have a chance to travel to Nitra, Slovakia this summer do not despair! Jakub will present part of his diverse portfolio – smaller scale collage paintings in New York City in October at the Exhibition of Contemporary Czech Painting in the Czech Institute.
If you would like to see more of Jakub Janovsky’s work visit: