Jiří Georg Dokoupil at Prague Castle Riding School
For weeks now ads on billboards, the metro, and Prague trams have advertised one of the biggest exhibitions of this artistic season – work by the internationally-acclaimed artist Jiří Georg Dokoupil at Prague Castle’s Riding School gallery. Lasting until May, the exhibition ‘Dokoupil 100’ should absolutely not be missed.
“The very very beginning, as a child, well I loved the Impressionists. Salvador Dali when I was 12 – like everybody else, then Picasso when I was 13 or 14. When I began to study art I moved towards conceptual art. In the ‘70s everyone wanted to be a conceptual artist according to the US or German schools. Conceptual art is about minimalisation of the form and the ‘disappearance’ of the object. At 22 or 23 I was doing installations and performance art with Chris Burden and painting was the furthest thing from my mind.”
“All my teachers hated painting so much that I just had to become a painter, you know ?! Still in love with Impressionism, I became some sort of a conceptual impressionist! You see, the impressionists were always talking about a certain ‘vibration’ in painting and I hope I succeeded in this show. If you look from afar at the objects – it is sometimes difficult to call them paintings and still I’m not sure what they are! It has the quality that if you see them from afar, if you see them up close they are something else. And at a certain distance they vibrate. That is what the Impressionists were always on about. There is something like ‘movement’ and I am very interested in something like static movement.”
And there is something about the medium – convention, greater acceptance - that makes addressing the viewer all the more immediate.
“The painting itself is an incredible invention: it’s a convention. You have a wooden frame with some canvas and you put it on the wall and immediately people begin to look at it! It’s a convention that there is something like this on the wall! I think this is great – this is also some kind of a freedom. If you make an installation and you put a piece of something and you put it in a corner, then it’s more about that you’ve taken something and put it in a corner. But here what you have is a ‘space’ for certain activities, you know?”
“I’m interested in media that you cannot control – so there is always a fight for something that is impossible.”
“You realise it’s about memory. If the memory flashes back, I succeeded. And there is an analogy: these paintings are my tribute to abstract expressionism – the size. But then when you get closer it’s a study of the ‘brushstrokes’. That’s the analogy: you get to examine the quality of the ‘paint’. It’s like the blobs in Jackson Pollack or the edges and division of colours that are always sort of uneven in Barnett Newman. So that was the point and that was what I wanted.”
The choice of films is also not arbitrary - all mean something to the author, though not without humour or irony: there is Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, Buneul’s Un Chien d’Andelou, The Simpsons, the atom bomb, pornography, and the James Bond classic, Goldfinger.
“One of favourite movies, among the Top 50, is Goldfinger, definitely.”
In our interview, the artist, in his prime in his 50s, also recalled studying, working and exhibiting in New York in the mid-80s when he and colleagues were noticed and their stars were first rising. An energy that including drawing inspiration from the city and its music scene then. Jiří Georg Dokoupil again:
Dokoupil 100 continues at the Prague Castle Riding Hall until May 23 – and you won’t forgive yourself if you miss it.