Alfréd Symůnek: Eroticism with a Cactus28.12.2016 15:44
Eroticism with a Cactus
From December 15th, 2016, Nová Galerie presents Alfréd Symůnek’s exhibition with the simple title: “Práce/Works 2016”. Even though Symůnek turned 39 this year, this is his first large individual exhibition and so Nová Galerie introduces this interesting artist of the middle generation to the broader public.
Alfréd Symůnek was born in 1977 in Prague. He studied painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts VUT in Brno in Martin Mainer’s studio (1998-2004). In 2004 he won the Prize of Josef Hlávka. The year 2009 meant an important landmark for this artist. On his website, he wrote about a significant painting of this era: “The ‘Self-Portrait with a Dog’s Body’ (2009, oil on canvas, 150 x 150) holds a great significance for me. It depicts a fool on the ship of destiny, a ship where the course cannot be altered yet one can go to the bow and see where the person-animal is headed.”
Symůnek’s works can be characterized by a dialogue with the legacy of modernism. In his older works a strong influence of van Gogh, Cézanne or Fauvism can be traced. Just like Fauvism, he is programmatically anti-theoretical, he aims for striking colour and shortcut, he has no time to think - he needs to paint. He is highly intuitive, sometimes even to the extent that an automatic creative process can be traced in his works. Inspiration by his FAVU VUT teacher, Martin Mainer, can be perceived in his painting style as well. Symůnek’s personal iconography is in strong contrast with his painting style – it is surprisingly traditional, he paints self-portraits, the “innermost”, cityscapes, still lifes and female nude models. In his works from the recent years, 2015/2016, which form the core of the exhibition, Symůnek particularly examines the female nude model. It truly is gender incorrect, perhaps there is an insinuation of rebellion towards political correctness which some liken to cancer in its terminal stage as it consumes our civilization. Symůnek’s women are guileful, spiteful creatures showing off their bodies endowed with strange physiognomy of their breasts – the depicted breasts resemble cucumbers or aubergines that have not passed the standards of super-, hyper- or even giga-markets. They are maliciously happy that the spectator is hypnotized by them and all that is accentuated by distinct line drawing which helps create an illusion of volume of the depicted subject. At the same time these lines are deceitful, in some cases, Symůnek declines to schematisation which is the risk that often appears when the artist struggles with the form. Symůnek’s women do not have faces; they are presented in all their corporeity as vessels filled with carnal fluids that can be drunk covetously. However, there is quite a high risk that the morning following this drink will be very blurry and painful. An important painting of this cycle presented at the exhibition is the painting entitled “The Psychoanalyst” (2015). A sickly green aggressive creature with courgettoid breasts invites you to a dialogue on a sofa in a crazy yellow-orange-red room which I believe to be covered with invisible pins of sharp and skin-piercing questions. The most masterful canvases of the whole exhibition are probably Symůnek’s still lifes with a cactus. The subject is a laconic one; the painter mostly captures cactuses on a table with simple ornamented wallpaper in the background. The cactuses resemble majestic phalli covered in teeth which can be used as weapons against feminist beasts. It is a humorously twisted paraphrase of the “vagina dentata”, the vagina with teeth, a concept used in psychoanalysis, where it is used to express men’s unconscious fear of castration. The painter’s inner feelings are fully expressed.
Symůnek’s first large exhibition is a pleasant surprise. The painter is not afraid of experimenting with the form and his artistic journey sometimes leads him through twisted paths which may be harder to pass through. Yet, that is a part of this journey and it is positive that the painter does not get discouraged and moves on. There is a reason for the saying that when an artist finds himself he is lost.