Jewish Museum in Prague

Česky

MICHAL SINGER
Paintings from 1999 to 2002

Robert Guttmann Gallery, U Staré školy 3, Praha 1
7 November 2002 - 19 January 2003

Glowing Paintings
Michal Singer's paintings leave no-one feeling indifferent. They are distinct, always recognizable, expressive, personal and compelling. Basing his work on specific personal experiences, Singer tries to capture the original inspiration in an unrestrained pictorial expression. Hence, he is sometimes referred to as a realist. Such a label, however, is problematic. Experiences are transformed by his imagination and fascination, so that they resemble more of an apparition. The initial inspiration is often something inconspicuous, something we hardly perceive because of its very ordinariness. It appears unexpectedly, amazing us with its ambiguity, bringing to mind the lack of clarity and deceptive variability of our world and existence. In this way, his "real-life" stories and events create a world that appears more real than the apparent world around us. It reminds us of our own experiences and encounters, our own struggles, losses and victories.

The narrative content of his paintings has its roots in specific events which, however, have taken on a symbolic significance. They usually depict the figure of a solitary pilgrim, wandering the city streets at night or through an imaginary landscape. Singer therefore steps into his paintings as the main protagonist of his stories. He is leaving the empty streets of the Prague outskirts for exotic landscapes which are related to distant horizons in space and time. Here, this nomad of the cosmic age climbs steep mountain summits, drifts on wild waters or turns into an animal, reminiscent of the wild predators of the Fauvists and expressionists. He travels in various directions and periods, through various continents, with endless nights between the stars of the firmament, driven by a restless spirit.

Singer is "seemingly" not too concerned about the formal side of his paintings; the only thing of importance for him is the potency of the experience and the spontaneity of its expression. What is decisive here is his direct contact with the painting and colours. Singer's paintings are therefore reviving the old tradition of modernism, intensified by an uncommon energy and visionary spirit. They revive Van Gogh's glowing sun, Gauguin's distant islands, Matisse's oriental sophistication as well as the work of Czech Cubists and expressionists and the Tvrdošíjní Group. Singer's paintings are part of his life; with their help, he seeks a way to understand himself. His reflection of his own life and the surrounding world is also apparent in the titles of his paintings and in his poetry, which fill his sketch-books. They are just as expressive, urgent, ironic and sinuous as his brushwork.

Singer's glowing and chilly paintings have evolved in their own way. At first, he made use of distinct black outline drawings that were brutal and melancholic. Later, most of his paintings came to be dominated by unbound nature, rich tropical vegetation and jungle fauna. Since than, his work has become increasingly disengaged; distinct colours have been added to the black outlines, a dynamic dramatic quality to his compositions. This trend has culminated in his last paintings - thick coats of colour texture on canvas applied directly by his fingers and hands. Painting itself, however, is becoming the main drama. This follows on from the Bad Paintings and Czech Grotesquerie of the 1980s; his approach to painting as a personal experience and event, however, remains the same. Other paintings currently taking form are less dramatic; they are based more on a harmony of colours, reflecting a calmer experience and, far more, the sphere of the imagination and dreams. Narrative is almost disappearing in the painting and therefore has to be rediscovered. Of course, no-one knows where Singer's next path will take him. Personal sources of inspiration, however, will remain the basis of his future work.

A: Pařík

We live with our own echo. Our efforts resonate in the other world. My true love, my idol, so distant. Hands that want to grasp something in the void. But what are they trying to touch? That which is not there, which we sense and in which we hope. This sight is deceptive. These senses are deceptive. The role meted out to us by life, the position that we have thereby reached, essentially miss the one that is at issue. The role and need of my other self. Man is his own double, his own question mark. That "other self" is his definition. That which is continually and essentially eluding him. He gropes his way towards it, senses and blindly trails it without respite. Everything he has here and now continually turns to nothing. He acts as a fool, as an eternal malcontent. That "other self" is forever provoking him, undermining his efforts. We have an intrinsic need to catch up and unite with him. That "other self", however, has completely different desires. He likes to hide, disappear, escape. He rejoices where we weep. But don't despair, for he's rejoicing on our behalf.

M. Singer, 1999

 

One man shows
1997 Kvaše a akvarely první pomoci I
(Gouaches and watercolours I),
Knihkupectví Franze Kafky, Praha
1997 Studio Open - Sígr 96 + 97,
výstava v ateliéru (studio exhibition), Praha
1997 Kvaše a akvarely první pomoci II
(Gouaches and watercolours II),
Galerie U Jednorožce s harfou, Praha
1997 Akryly (Acrylic sgraffiti), LIBRI '97, Olomouc
1998 Rozesmát bohy (Make the Gods Laugh), Galerie Litera, Praha
1998 Dívčí akvarely (Maiden Watercolours), knihkupectví Argo, Praha
1998 Lesk existence (The Blaze of Existence),
Dielo Centrum, Bratislava, Slovensko
1998 Muž a hvězdy I (Man and the Stars I),
oil paintings from 1996-98, LIBRI '98, Olomouc
1999 Obrazy z let 1996-1999 (Paintings from 1996-1999), Státní galerie Klenová, ČR
1999 Yellow Hand, Městská galerie
Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia)
2000 Yellow Hand, Městská galerie
Ljubljana, Slovenia
2000 Muž a hvězdy II (L'homme et les étoiles II),
Show Window Gallery, Paris
2000 Akvarely a kvaše (Watercolours and Gouaches), Galerie U modrého hroznu, Litvínov
2000 Píseň jezdců písečných (The Song of the Sand Riders), Galerie Ambrosiana, Brno
2002 Plavba na aspirinu (Aspirin Voyage),
Galerie Navrátil, Praha

Group shows
1988 Krok (Step), 1988, Praha
1989 Minulost a budoucnost ve Vinohradské tržnici (The Past and Future at the Vinohrady Market-Place), Praha
1989 Československá nezávislá kultura (Czechoslovak Independent Culture), Wroclaw, Praha
1990 Česká alternativa (The Czech Alternative), Galerie ÚLUV, Praha
1990 Kunst als subversives Element,
Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
1992 Tenké nátěry (Thin Coats of Paint) I,
Galerie PKC - Ženské domovy, Praha
1993 Tenké nátěry (Thin Coats of Paint) II,
Špálova galerie, Praha
1994 Vidět to tak Hermína, one-day exhibition,
Na Václavce, Praha
1995 Z výtvarného světa Revolver Revue (From the Revolver Revue's Artistic World), Zlín, ČR
2002 Divočina, příroda, duše, jazyk
(Wilderness, Nature, Soul, Language),
Státní galerie Klenová, ČR


Michal Singer was born on 22 March 1959 in Prague. After leaving high school he worked as a labourer for a year and read philosophy at Charles University, graduating in 1984. He then spent 5 years as a stoker at the Faculty Hospital in Prague. After November 1989 he worked as a graphic artist and art editor for the political weekly Respekt.

Since 1993 he has been active as a freelance artist. His published works include a book of drawings (Co jsem viděl…), poetry and essays (for Revolver Revue and Literární noviny), drawings for the arts columns of Literární noviny and illustrations of poetry by Zbyňek Hejda. A collection of Singer's poems and lithographs (Shell) was published by Argo in 2001.


Address:
U Nikolajky 19, 150 00 Prague 5, Czech Republic
Tel.: 251 561 474, mobile: 603 310 061
E-mail: m.singer@email.cz


Robert Guttmann Gallery, U Staré školy 3, Praha 1
7 November 2002 - 19 January 2003
Curator: Arno Pařík
Installation: Firma Pavel Břach

Photographs: Lukáš Kliment

 

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