Beyond the Polyhedric Mirror
Painter Tomáš Jetela /1986/ presents his new series of paintings and collages at Galerie Laboratorio under the title “Beyond the Polyhedric Mirror.”
The canvases follow Jetela’s series Library /2010/, with which he graduated from Academy of Fine Arts last year. This is the series in which he made use of collage. The subject of bibliophiles led him to the need for physical contact with the pages of old books, and so he combined painting with pages torn out of books and pasted on the canvas. He gradually discovered the endless possibilities of shades of yellow, which give his canvases not only their final structure but also tonality. The portraits of his readers were taken from old photographs.
This fascination with old photographs has continued. Jetela is most attracted by portraits from the 19th century – or rather, what is left of them. Thanks to the “post-production” of time and technical limitations, the photographs have gained various defects that captivated Jetela: their lighting, subtle scratches, faded contours.
But the photographs caught Jetela’s eye not only because of their physical properties. He was also attracted to the religious and ideological syncretism of the 19th century. Despite the Industrial Revolution, people would put their civilian identities aside after work in order to, using pseudonyms such as Eusebius or Aristodemus, attend meetings of secret societies. Those who were interested could take correspondence courses from schools specializing in magic, or they might devote themselves to spiritism.
For Jetela, the world of photography is a “world of ghosts” as well. The only thing remaining of the people whose likenesses he transfers onto the canvas is a black-and-white print. Because of their defects, the portraits are just as phantasmagoric as snapshots of astral beings captured at séances by photographers of the paranormal.
The central work of the series is a group portrait inspired by a photograph from Victorian England. Despite its bucolic appearance, the scene from the park gives an unsettling impression. The exceptionally plain woman looking provocatively at the viewer is Mrs.MacDonald, the mother of eleven children. The snobbish man at the center, surrounded by the children in the Sunday best, is the stammering Charles L. Dodgson, a brilliant mathematician, unappreciated photographer and the inventor of an early version of Scrabble who was made famous by books considered by many to be occultist riddles. Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll tested his Alice in Wonderland on the MacDonald children. An expert in the exact sciences, he and Mr.MacDonald engaged in passionate debates on the subjects of spiritism and theosophy. He treated his adolescent children as his equals. Children dominate Jetela’s paintings as well. Lost in thought, they contemplate a mysterious cupboard and explore strange polyhedrons – a reference to Carroll and his passion for geometry.
This time around, Jetela approaches his paintings “destructively,” as if he wanted to simulate the poor state of the photographs that inspired him. He not only pastes pages of text onto the paintings, but often tears them off again. He experiments with fire, covers the painting with splashes of paint, or glues aluminum shavings onto the canvas. This physical technique often causes his collages to expand into three dimensions, transforming them into expressive mixed-media works. His large-format paintings contrast sharply with small collages consisting of old printed materials and books, to which he adds only a minimum of brushstrokes.
Let us look at a girl during her first communion. She is holding a pose, all in white, with a wreath on her head and a long candle in her hand. A novice on the verge of initiation – no matter whether in a Christian church or a secret lodge. She resolutely hypnotizes the camera’s viewfinder, ready to explore what is truly hidden beyond the polyhedric mirror.