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Lukáš Kalivoda: Painting by Water - exhibition text

Lukáš Kalivoda, Painting By Water
Kostka Gallery, MeetFactory, 22. 9. – 4. 11. 2018

Text by Kamil Nábělek    

Lukáš Kalivoda is active in various fields of art. He works with glass, creates objects and installations, develops distinctive printing and painting techniques. He always attempts to approach his projects innovatively and independently of previous solutions, all this while finding his own approaches both to the materials and the techniques or technologies he makes use of. In a sense, his activities go “across” the traditional divisions of disciplines and forms of artistic expression. Concurrently, however, he systematises and repetitively varies his methods and compositional strategies. This creates the elementary context for his works, determined by the volatile relationship of newness to unexpectedness, as well as an implicit order.

We also see that in his latest project, Painting By Water, in which technologically innovative methods meet thought-through compositional strategies and random processes. Kalivoda had to invent what is virtually a new painterly “diapositive”, i.e. a compendium of practices, strategies, and technical conditions and apparatuses which now, in his hands, restructure the existing methods and techniques of traditional painting. He can thus look in an unorthodox way at its very conditions and possibilities, thus far hidden under the usual techniques and concepts. Painting is connected to a new painting instrument, invented by the artist, thanks to which he can reach as yet unexplored areas of the discipline.

From a general perspective – which also determines all the other areas of his work – it is vital that Lukáš Kalivoda can look into the depth of things – not only metaphorically, but literally; almost palpably. The starting point for him is always the material itself. Not its external forms, but rather its inherent qualities and preconditions – hidden if possible – which show themselves to us only once we use the correct tools and creative processes. When processing the material, then, we cannot merely wait and see what shows itself, but we must bring the hidden forms, shapes, or images to light. We have to reveal them ourselves. For this to take place, Lukáš Kalivoda has first to create the appropriate instruments, and concurrently, he has to find his own technologies, discover the material conditionals and possibilities, the whole while resolving all the problems created during the process of the work’s creation.

If Kalivoda, in a sense, wants to open the space up to the things themselves, let them act under special conditions which he has created, then we can say that his conception of authorship is twofold in a particular sense: on the one hand, his works display a high level of intention – these are the moments in which he thinks through the instruments and technological processes of the creative process. On the other hand, his work is open to the individual moment and the uniqueness of the situation in which the work of art is created – that is the moment in which he observes what will take place within the limits he has set, and when he leaves the creative process to its own devices. As well as organisation, his works realise uncertainty and chance. The level of control and structural formation of the process that is taking place is also variable. This structural formation is generally quite simple, usually concerning segmentation using simple sequences, “on” vs “off”, as it were. This alteration is repeated in similar measures, it is marked by no particular dynamic or development, rather staying in one key in which it displays more or less regular pulsation. This creates a motif typical of Kalivoda, “line spacing”, a symmetrical and reversible movement which does not aim for a culmination, as if the series being created were only an element of some infinite continuum of images.

Painting By Water is based on such a balanced relationship between the conditional and the unconditional. Lukáš Kalivoda proceeds by “collecting” the image from a surface of water. In a sense, it is reminiscent of the work of bookmakers of the past, who would prepare their own decorative paper: first, they would mix the paint on gelatine, create more or less abstract motifs, and then slide this film off with the surface of the paper. It was thus transferred onto a durable medium onto which it could then be fixed. Kalivoda proceeds more innovatively, systematically, and generously. He prepares a large tub, attaches plastic film onto its circumference (which will later hold the image), and fills the tub with water. Onto the surface of the water, he pours colours mixed in turpentine and begins draining the contents of the tub.

It might sound simple, but there are many technological secrets behind it (which colours, which paint thinner) and a peculiar painterly craft (how to mix the colours, how quickly to drain the water, how to further work with the water using resonances and so on). Here, technology is used creatively. Kalivoda has a conception of the final painting and considers the methods he might use to achieve this. Various paints, or rather their various surface tensions, the concentration and type of paint thinner, the movement of the surface – all this allows him to create disparate compositions. If the paint is denser it will tend to rip more, so when draining the surface, the lines will be more distinct, and the colour will group into more clearly delineated forms whose segmentation can become regular in quite a strange manner. On the “recording” surface of the film, lines of abstract characters begin appearing, almost like when we see a record of some broken down code, of which only traces remain; an illegible glitch. Alternatively, on the contrary, if the colour dissolves and creates shades, the resultant image will be reminiscent of a Chinese ink painting, a sequence of clouds or slightly bleeding trees on the rippling background of a surface of water.

Overall, we can say that this series creates large panoramic abstract paintings of almost monumental size and effect, which still retain a strange lyricism. As if we were looking into vast, open spaces, into views that are entirely consumed by our sight. Spacious landscapes, waving oceanic or sweet water surfaces, ice fields – all this inadvertently offers itself to us. Whether we realise it or not, this analogy is apt. These are paintings that are similar to their process of creation, paintings that genuinely floated on the surface, paintings which were really painted on water and by water…