Festive opening of the exhibition: Quid Pro Quo


On Wednesday, April 17, 2024, the Prague House organised the opening ceremony of the Quid Pro Quo exhibition in cooperation with the Chemistry Gallery. Curator Petr Hájek chose five of his most popular figurative painters from the recent graduates of the Czech art schools (Tomáš Jetela, Jiří Marek, Tadeáš Kotrba, Jan Vytiska and Patrik Adamec). The exhibition thus offers an interesting view of the current level of painting of the youngest generation of authors in the Czech Republic. At the same time, all the selected authors are also starting to collect valuable spurs abroad.

After the purely female exhibition project No Drama, which Prague's The Chemistry Gallery prepared for the Prague House in Brussels in 2021, where it presented the work of ten contemporary Czech female painters and sculptors, this gallery led by Petr Hájk comes with a show of five knights of contemporary Czech painting called Quid Pro Quo (ie an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth or just something for something).

After the phase of manic intuitive painting, Tomáš Jetela has been concentrating on exploring the possibilities of figurative painting for the past few years, thanks to the stabilization of his health, which he is developing in many new directions in his unique way. The basis of his painting continues to be a certain drawing line, which is characteristic of many graduates of Jiří Lindovský's drawing studio from Prague's AVU. The basis of his animal painting, however, comes from the famous studio of Michael Rittstein, which equipped a number of its graduates with the ability of color-intensive and dramatic figurative expression. Jetela is characterized by a Baconian style of painting, often supplemented with collage, focusing on the psychology of the face and hand gestures. Drama gives his paintings a new addition to the landscape and a sense of eye-catching image composition. The Chemistry Gallery presented the work of Tomáš Jetela in December 2021 at the Scope art fair in Miami. In addition to the Czech Republic, he has recently exhibited in France, the USA and England, for example.

Jiří Marek's painting is characterized by a solid picturesque structure with slightly bizarre or absurd scenes, which, however, often have a basis in ancient mythology. It was his painting Quid Pro Quo that gave the title to the entire exhibition. This graduate of Prague's AVU from another legendary studio, Jiří Petrbok, has developed a characteristic painting style that is based on traditional figures, but which he uses symbolically and often in a fragmented way. The quality of his artistic expression has already been appreciated by the Romanian curator Luana Hildebrandt, who in 2021 included his works in the Travel Guide exhibition in Bucharest, Romania, alongside Romanian painters who are valued so much worldwide. The Chemistry Gallery presented his works at Berlin's Positions fair last year. It is characteristic of Jiří Marek that he builds the theme of the painting continuously during the painting process, and the resulting image of the painting thus largely depends on the author's current inspiration and intuition. His painting is not calculated, rather mystical and strongly symbolic.

Tadeáš Kotrba, another graduate of the Prague AVU, like Tomáš Jetela, first went through Jiří Lindovský's drawing studio and later Michael Rittstein's studio. It is therefore interesting to compare the approach to painting especially by these two authors. Kotrba is also characterized by a strong emphasis on the drawing line. He achieves this by layering paint on the paintings, and his drawing line thus emerges from the canvas into a light painterly relief. His favorite topics are overcoming various obstacles. Considering his personal life stage, the obstacles in the paintings are often overcome by children. However, these are obstacles that are often a challenge even for adults. In his paintings it is possible to see a kind of double aesthetic and at the same time one could tell a double story. Above the figures overcoming the obstacles, other figures hover, as if some ghosts, acting as attributes of the real characters. The aesthetics of these supernatural beings is taken from the work of father Tadeáš Kotrba, who, by including them in his paintings, artistically copes with the tragic loss of his father, the painter and sculptor Marius Kotrba. In this way, there is a strong intermingling of the work of the father and his son in his paintings.

The work of the unmistakable Jan Vytiska is characterized by exaggeration, wit and dark humor, all dressed in folk costumes and framed by the specific atmosphere of the Moravian countryside. This graduate of the Jiří Surůvka Faculty of Arts in Ostrava continues with his work the tradition of Czech drawing represented by the works of Josef Lady and Jiří Trnka and moves it into a contemporary, surrealist plane. It is often impossible not to laugh at the subjects of his paintings, which supports, similarly to Jiří Marko, the number of small details that make the experience of perceiving their paintings even richer. Although a number of disasters or supernatural phenomena occur in his paintings, the overall tone of his paintings is nevertheless relaxing and entertaining. Considering the popular motif of droopy eyes in his paintings, the exhibition titled eye for an eye would not be complete without his works. Jan Vytiska has already won the place of a classic of his genre on the Czech scene of visual art, his style is clearly recognizable and unmistakable. Last year's large solo exhibition The Ritual of Cursed Hearts at the DOX Contemporary Art Center in Prague under the curatorship of Otto M. Urban proved this. The Chemistry Gallery presented his work at the Scope art fair in New York in 2019. From this exhibition, a painting from the series Men on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown is presented at the Quid Pro Quo exhibition at the Prague House in Brussels.

The youngest of the exhibited authors is Patrik Adamec, who graduated last year from Lukáš Rittstein's sculpture studio at the Prague AVU. He caught the attention of the general art-loving public last year with his surprising victory in the painting competition Critic's Award for Young Painting. However, the surprise was only apparent, because he submitted his innovative "sculptural paintings" to the competition in the form of reliefs, created more or less by painting techniques, which he first started creating during his internship in the painting studio of Vladimír Skrepel. It was not so surprising that it was these works of his with an overlap that the jury awarded first place. However, he does not resign himself to classical sculptural work, where he likes to work on the theme of lability. He depicts this in the form of deconstructed figures made up of various parts of the human body, which he leaves hanging loosely or just precariously placed on top of each other in accordance with the name he gave to this sculptural position. With his innovative approaches to sculpture and painting, Patrik Adamec creates an engaging artistic morphology, the development of which will certainly be interesting to watch in the near future.

All authors at the Quid Pro Quo exhibition already have a well-developed style of their own, which is recognizable at first glance. It is interesting to observe the subtle connections between the exhibited authors, which arise from their painting background. The quality of their work has world parameters, and therefore I hope and believe that we will see their work abroad more and more often. The Chemistry Gallery will definitely continue to try.

curator: Petr Hájek

Prague House 18.4. - 11.6. 2024

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