Deformation of movement or deformation in motion? This could have been an alternative title to Tomáš Tichý’s exhibition Disconnected (Rozpojení) which showed various ways in which an artist can capture and transform the human body. The installation was split into three thematic sections. The first, titled Stolen Faces portrayed top models from the 90s dissolving under a layer of the phenomenon of fame. The second section presented athletes/cephalopods through which the artist downplayed social progress and mocked the need for competition and performance. The third part gave the exhibition its title and took the form of a painting of a digital plant alluding to the reality of artificial organisms.
Exhibition: Disconnected, Tomáš Tichý
7. 4. – 8. 5. 2022
The Chemistry Gallery
Curator: Petr Vaňous
„The name came from an image of a digital plant whose vines have been severed. At first, it seemed to be a real plant but under closer observation, the audience discovered that the plant is not real but a digital fiction. The point was the disconnect between humans and nature which is usually emphasised by digital technologies, and also the foreboding possibility of a total blackout - meaning disconnecting from the virtual world,” comments Tomáš Tichý. The exhibition’s curator Petr Vaňous says about the title’s origin: „Tomáš had the idea to call the show DETACHED (ODPOJENÍ). It was meant to show a certain process, fracturing and a level of scepticism brought into society at first by digital media and social networks and later by specific societal phenomena which they became full of like the coronavirus pandemic or the war in Ukraine. I simply modified the title to DISCONNECTED (ROZPOJENÍ) because I found it more compelling and universal in terms of its meaning and a certain existential sense.“
The first section, titled Stolen Faces portrayed top models from the 90s - celebrities/idols that are part of the tradition of pop culture. Here, their faces were broken down into basic elements as if they were supposed to be unmasked from their beautiful veneer. It takes very little for something universally accepted as beautiful to suddenly become repulsive. „These deformed images referenced hidden mass reproduction processes and appropriations in terms of the “idols’ journey” through the mass media. Important was also the “touch” on the tablet which entered into the images as a specific shape of a moiré pattern” Petr Vaňous describes the first section. Tomáš Tichý also acknowledges the importance of digital techniques in this part of the exhibit: „I was interested in digital manipulation and manipulation in general. Some of the faces were combinations of multiple people. I used panting to enhance the imperfections of the digital sketch. I’m entertained and terrified by the idea that it’s possible to create a celebrity who doesn’t exist but can have millions of followers, generate profit or influence elections.”
„I like exercising and amateur sports. I have a bit of an issue with the professional sports industry since considering all the world’s issues I find financially rewarding certain kinds of sports quite absurd. But that wasn’t my topic per se. I used athletes in my paintings to represent humanity and the heralds of the movement of civilisation. I worked with digitally deformed figures. I fractured their natural integrity and explored the furthest moment in which the figures’ movement was still functional for the image.“ Tomáš Tichý explains his motivation for portraying athletes as deformed figures.
This part of the exhibition aimed to make light of societal progress and simultaneously be satirical toward the sense of competition and performance. When we are detached as a society, what is it all for then? Are we really moving forward? Progressing? Or are we stuck, resembling the tragicomic figures from Tomáš Tichý’s paintings? Sport functions as a meaningful metaphor for the state of society as a whole.
The disconnect between sensual experience and the process of discovery
Digitalisation is an important factor in everyday life that surrounds us, here the reality of artificial organisms and AI was represented by the image of a digital plant. This is also where the exhibition’s name came from. What was the main message, according to Petr Vaňous: „The dissonance between what we see and what is true. The disconnect between sensual experience and the process of discovery. The exhibition reflected the duality of our senses and perception in the digital epoch and the era of mass social networks. It aimed to draw attention to the danger hidden in the boundary between private and public, in the areas that anonymously gain unrestricted space on social media. The project also pointed out the process of the “journey” of an image through the filter of reproduction and appropriation which in the end affects the status of the image itself. Paintings were also the only media of expression present in the exhibition.“
If you missed the exhibition, don’t despair. This is certainly not the last collaboration between Tomáš Tichý and Petr Vaňous. „Currently I’m preparing for a residence in Telegraph in Ostrava where I want to start working on my new exhibition which will show in Turin in autumn. Petr Vaňous and I are thinking about another exhibition as well,“ comments the artist and Petr Vaňous corroborates: „to me, Tomáš Tichý is a leading artist of his generation, his expressive work brings forward the topics of transformation of the traditional figure in the digital epoch and the metamorphosis of perception that accompany this change. These topics are also of interest to me as a curator. The projects we are considering still don’t have a set framework, so maybe we won’t spoil them for you yet. The only thing that can be said is that they will certainly focus on topics connected to the transition of painting and paintings and their modifications. We will tie into our previous collaboration…maybe in a slightly different way,“ concludes the acclaimed curator.
Tomáš Tichý (1984) studied Applied Painting at the Secondary Professional School of Applied Art in Prague and later at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague under Karel Stretti. He spent a year studying abroad at The Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Belgium.