Martin VARHOLÍK: ONE INFINITH
February/March 2018, Pálffy Palace, Zámocká 47, Bratislava
“What is a course of history, or philosophy, or poetry, no matter how well selected, or the best society, or the most admirable routine of life, compared with the discipline of looking always at what is to be seen?”
Walden. Henry David Thoreau
The exhibition ONE INFINITH by Martin Varholík, a Slovak author from the younger middle generation, represents a comprehensive and original collection of works, showing the sustainability of his stubbornly developed programme. Someone who is an architect by education, a construction manager by profession and a photographer by professional experience might give, as a freelance visual artist, the impression of being an untrustworthy man. In this case, however, the artistic experience is authentic, based on credible creative fundaments and thoroughly handled to details. Moreover, the author´s background outside visual art gives him a certain advantage of keeping a clearer perspective.
With a certain degree of simplification, we could designate the visual works of Martin Varholík as “art hors-les-normes” – not in the sense of meaningful work on the margins of society or as a naive creative expression, but rather in terms of auto-therapy and, specifically, systematic eccentricity: the disruption of normative routes, intentional circumvention of the mainstream in artistic operation, as well as a breakup with the traditional conventions of visual art, perhaps perceived by the author as restricting. His works escape the traditional in terms of the programme, procedures and the media. In other words, Martin, whose life philosophy is based primarily on the undoubted value of individual freedom, treats his visual expression very freely, whatever the general situation is. He lives art through introspection. He creates intently, being aware of the most genuine essence of human efforts – with pure joy from his creative work.
In this relaxed position (both against the current and on the margin), a certain role is also played by his worldview, shaped on the anti-establishment platform. This does not mean, however, that Martin´s works would reflect politics or social pressure (maybe just marginally, at a more personal level). Quite the contrary, the key content lines of his pictures are individuality or even spiritual intimacy. The author pursues a more detailed analysis of the “I and the world” relationships and, as a logical consequence, he descends deeper in an attempt to capture the “meaning”, to search for it and, possibly, to successfully reveal it.
It is interesting to see the changes in the visual repertoire within the continually developing works of Martin Varholík. His stable technique, based on the manipulation of pictures, its interpretation and fine-tuning with gestures, calligraphy or collages, is evidently maturing (though the author would assumingly take a reserved attitude towards such judgement). His personal poetry, represented in his pictures not only by the very first photographic impression, but also by the literary layer of the inscribed messages – the author´s “whispers and outcries”, expanded into a linguistic expression. The more or less clearly articulated words were not enough for the author, and so he turned to line compositions and more hermetical signs, superior to particular speech in terms of semantics. In them, as if he had penetrated almost into the alchemical language, uncovering the invisible and attaining the unification of the frequency of his life with the universe/being. In his attempt to interfere with it, he seeks to catch its maximums.
If we assume that Martin Varholík struggles in his work with the matter of art content just for himself, that he systematically builds individual reticence and lives the artistic experience of creation singularly, then the possible conclusion is that he does not open a dialogue with the audience through his pictures. By doing so, he liberates his resultant work from the burden of interpretational limits. He presents to the audience his specific perspective and leaves it on its free will how it would handle it. The audience might see what is to be seen.
A short marginal note to the current exhibition Varho: iPop
The legitimate existence of fine art is often a subject to academic debates in which it is given a plenty of meanings and functions. However, its quite intellectually undemanding features may be uncovered either by means of art, culturological, philosophical and esthetic analyses or the view of an undeformed, institutional frame of high art. One of them, hidden in the name itself is the sheer pleasure in creation, in creating independent works. The pure pleasure in work in its clearest way is the leading motif present and centred also in the works and the latest exhibition act of Martin Varholik, an artist in his thirties.
Martin Varholík, known as VARHO, is not an artist with academic education. His current expression, which evolved naturally through the language of photography (and in the shade of architectonic operational mode) appear to be honestly naive, in a childlike way. At the same time, they embrace all the features of a mature and well-mastered visual expression of mixmedia. The deformed, large format prints of own photographs, new or not shown before coming from the extensive archives, make up a safe field of artist´s games. They are recognisable through manipulative interventions, taking the form of repaints, gestic moves, sprays, and collages using paper scraps or calligraphic moves of ”tag” scribbles. Recently, another subcultural tool has been added, called „flow“, i.e. stream of semantic text, not similar to some poetic genres, written directly on the canvas without any forethought.
By means of rich register of fine art techniques he initiates a dialogue with the original photography – whose spiciness comes from a certain tension between the lowness (or subversity up to punk) of the given painting interventions and the exclusivity of the precise, certified press on canvas (or the costly torsos of snowboard equipment). VARHO uses street/street rascal gestures to seize his own photographic past; to overcome obstacles of this medium in the unlimited, fantasy swirl of the spreading inner messages, expressing the creative pleasure. Final works, exactingly intertwined by the rhythm of these fine art layers can therefore attract by the carelessly independent subjectivity of author’s mythology.
The title of the exhibition iPop tempts to refer to the trends in Pop-art; however, in the manipulated photographic prints, we may observe also the decisiveness of action painting of neo-expressionism or the authenticity of Art Brut. The painter himself personifies the references to the art past, mainly by the ominous character of Basquiat, multiplied even more by the naturally chosen inclination to Andy Warhol. However, their Pop-art is created absolutely differently from the pop VARHO of Martin Varholík. Motivation, incentives or the language applied might have some common contact places, yet the the abysmal time period of more than 40 years, different social situation and incomparable cultural background into which VARHO “lays his head on the block“ is made for different art consumers. It is the old world correctly embeded into new situations; world which is conceptually in line with expectations (as well as dellusions) of the generation, characterized by the “i“ prefix.
Bratislava, May 2011
For the artist VARHO, a mixed media philosophy governs his use of an array of materials and techniques including photography, text flow, painting, acrylic, spray and classic collage with magazine. Using a photograph as the foundational layer, he utilizes text and paint to enter into dialog with the original image. Aiming to let his process speak to a “subjective inner world”, each piece encompasses multiple dimensionalities of pigment, light and text. Chiefly interested in sub-urban cultures, including street and pop art, VARHO prefers to photograph at twilight, what he terms “the rift between the two worlds”. His work ultimately exist in the realm of human cognition, and his true subject matter always lies within. Using an eclectic mix of materials to render visually his emotions, echoes, visions and doubts (conscious and unconscious), each work tells a deeply personal and nuanced story.