May 6, 2019 - Czech and Slovak Republic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale - Stanislav Kolíbal: Former Uncertain Indicated
May 6, 2019

Czech and Slovak Republic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Stanislav Kolíbal, Drawing in Space, 2019. © Martin Polak

Stanislav Kolíbal
Former Uncertain Indicated
Czech and Slovak Republic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
May 11–November 24, 2019

Opening: May 8, 3pm

Czech and Slovak Republic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
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Curator: Dieter Bogner
Commissioner: Adam Budak, National Gallery Prague

National Gallery Prague is proud to present Stanislav Kolíbal (born 1925, Orlová, former Czechoslovakia), whose groundbreaking oeuvre, spanning seven decades and resisting belonging to any dominant movements and tendencies, foregrounds the artist’s own vocabulary of an unstable form. Kolíbal’s semi-retrospective exhibition in the Czech and Slovak Pavilion appropriates its title from the artist’s 1976 work Former Uncertain Indicated which serves as a form of navigation, guiding a viewer along a trajectory of a contradictory time-space plot, and introducing a dictionary of acts and forms, tilted and falling; drifting and disappearing, flowing and collapsing, breaking and shattering; modes of proximity and separation, rupture and connection, variability and support, imperceptibility and plurality, sedimentation and erosion, accord and lack thereof, lostness and the path of the stone, step by step, in the white field. Former Uncertain Indicated depicts three stages of formal Gestalt—a phantom-like drawing outline of a rectangular form (former), its shadow-like double born within (uncertain), and a solid shape carved-in (indicated). Elemental geometric form, like a miniature column, supported by a set of threads and as if elevated, is marked by intervals-distances of its own repeated shape. An optical sensation suggests the progression of forms as surfaces partly overlap in this elaborated construction of time and space. Thus Kolíbal manifests his desire to “reveal that which was previously hidden and closed in itself. And, to unveil it as a visible image of order.” This is his moment of epiphany, both heroic and unheroic, monumental and anti-monumental, solid in its incompleteness and ambiguity. 

Stage I, a nebulous form, on the edge of disappearance. An uncanny imprint of history, or a cast of the past, experienced and remembered; remembered vaguely, remembered well. The blurred beginning of time to come and return, an announcement of sorts, and a warning. “Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were behind you, like the winter that has just gone by,” writes Rilke. The trace of the past is an exercise in memory, a rehearsal of life and its course; the past not only anticipated but also foreseen and endured. The past touched upon, lived through, weakness over strength over weakness in its obvious deficiency. Kolíbal’s is a Benjaminian notion of history, the definition of “former” as a progress-driven act; Kolíbal’s is the past as an imprint of innocence, its evidence and chance; a portrait of the past’s vulnerability and preciousness: an homage. The poet continues: “Be—and yet know the great void where all things begin, the infinite source of your own most intense vibration, so that, this once, you may give it your perfect assent.” The artist’s representation of the past is gestural but emancipatory too; a mature image. Far from a myth, it is a factual experience; far from nostalgia, it is an active practice of critical recollection; a promise of a heterotopic mirror surface, touched, reflected, archived.

Stage II, in-between, an echo, a move within, a progression? An intermezzo. On the horizon of a shape, an outline sets itself firmly though unclear and vague; a liberated form, yearning for maturity and voice. Between perfection and distraction, one thing supports another; the uncertainty thereof. Line, ligne de fuite, a nomadic agent of multiplicities, or a solitary protagonist in a vast theatre space, performing its role and versatile skills. Uncertain: an incomplete form, a life, contained within the past, simultaneously enclosed and open, unfinished, interrupted. Line as an undecided writer, guiding inward a progression of a series, a possibility and an anxiety, a reticent stance. Uncertain: a form in a passage, suspended, awaiting the permission to access, hesitating too, challenging the ambiguity and approximation; “somewhere between surface and space,” a space without depth, “a body without a surface,” a cloud (simultaneously a rapture and a miraculous apparition). The outline instructs the drive of departure. In the poet’s words: “And then still to go away, hand from hand, and as if you ripped a newly healed wound, and to go away: where? Into uncertainty far into some unrelated warm land that behind all action like a backdrop will be indifferent: garden or wall.” Cracked and stained walls; “emptiness which the wall encompasses. For that is for me just as important as the form, which restrains this emptiness.” Uncertain: locus of Kolíbal's paradox and polarity. Also, the limits of knowledge; a hidden shape, locked in itself, insecure. Eclipse, collapse, a failure of accord. The unbearable lightness of ambiguity as a distorted knowledge, often considered an excuse, contained in the plausibility of multiple interpretations. Uncertain: a departure, the torment of a possible beginning. Apparently, this is so: an embrace of potentiality, known as lability, a faithful companion, constantly undergoing a change or likely to undergo a change; Kolíbal's vehicle of time and transience. Like Malte, Kolíbal's is an art of metamorphosis, Uncertain as a journal of the Other Self, an allegory of permanent transformation, up towards the space of Indicated, life itself. 

Stage III, from the shade towards the light of the representable, a pronunciation. Elevation of nebulae in pariete, a raised surface of the air, off-opacity, the substance regained, its geometry defined. Thus unfolds Kolíbal's trajectory of Former through Uncertain to Indicated, towards an emancipated form, inscribed and autonomous, foregrounded, versatile and labile, über-proxy in a simplified rhizome of representation which always proceeds by variation, expansion, conquest, capture and stitching. Indicated in its excess and exposure declares itself as poetry: “Truth, as the clearing and concealing of that which is, happens through being poeticized. All art, as the letting happen of the advent of the truth of beings, is, in essence, poetry,” after Heidegger. Indicated is the truth itself, the silent expression of wisdom, imprinted on the canvas’ veil. Generosity and self. Yourself: “Don’t you know yet? Fling the emptiness out of your arms into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying"; these very words Kolíbal intended to engrave on his Rainer Maria Rilke’s monument. Two surfaces, touching each other, echoing “simplicity, harmony, and tranquility” the artist/poet had striven for, indicating an endless space like poetry off the beaten track: “(…) and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god had suddenly left forever, the Void felt for the first time that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.” 


Organized by National Gallery Prague and Stanislav Kolíbal Foundation.

With the support of Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic and the Slovak National Gallery. 

Czech and Slovak Republic Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
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Former Uncertain Indicated
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