Ondřej Kopal - Space shuttles in my blood - Projectroom
Ondřej Kopal’s pictures are the expression of a hyperactive age that is the first in human history with the ability to swiftly pan across our entire visual reality. The globalised environment of man brings him innumerable means of cognition, an endless multitude of perceptions, though also a feeling of disjointedness from time and space. It also brings with it a sense of alienation – the human mind can be virtually present in anywhere in the world, which, however, also means that it ceases to be rooted in the place where a person is physically situated. Authentic experiences are being replaced by illusory ones in a process of relentless diffusion of our consciousness and its ‘dissolving’ in a network of technologically mediated imagery. If, in the second half of the 19th century, the painter had to face the revolutionary challenge of photography, nowadays the painter is forced to come to terms with a relentless stream of ubiquitous internet images that often (and deliberately) lack a specific origin or justification. How can one draw on the energy of a world of ‘disposable visuality’ and, at the same time, maintain or cultivate an inwardly focused mental space without which the artist has no claim to be an artist?
Ondřej Kopal grapples with this dilemma ‘his own way’. He embarks on long trips to distant lands where he fully experiences and absorbs their ‘otherness’; from the position of a paradoxical ‘extrovert introvert’, he composes sensitively dysfunctional pictures formed both with the uncompromising energy of rock culture and a fragile child-like sensibility. Each of Kopal’s pictures represents a tense interplay between seemingly incongruous elements creating a collaged, layered-up arena of fragmentary situations and hinted-at stories. Subtly painted details are juxtaposed with boldly spontaneous brushwork, while fully recognisable objects are contrasted with things whose identity we can only guess at. The dialogue between verbal and visual expression in the pictorial area points to the mental complexity of Kopal’s approach. He applies the lesson of Postmodernism’s deconstruction of the picture’s integrity of action and symbolism, taking on the role of a tireless compiler of carefully considered formal motifs and states of human existence. In his questioning scenes, irony and poetry intermingle tangibly (though not polemically) with each other. It’s difficult in this sense to avoid the feeling that Kopal reconciles the opposite poles of Henri Matisse’s colourist refinement and the abrasive scepticism so intrinsic to punk anti-aesthetics.
Ondřej Kopal’s exhibition at GASK is loosely based on two thematic areas. The first is a collection of works devoted to animal motifs, including lyrical images of small birds in Venezuela, cosmic creatures recalling playful sci-fi cartoons of the 1960s and signs of the Chinese and Western zodiacs. The second takes the form of homages to iconic figures of music, above all those who prematurely ‘sacrificed’ themselves in the self-destructive captivity of fame, alcohol and drugs. Kopal’s picture Guignol of 2012 is a highly poignant summary of his notion of man as an imaginary puppet, a small and tragicomic figure eternally moving across the ‘great space’ of fate.