Marek Schovánek: PROPAGANDA

30 Oct 2015 – 11 Jan 2016

“Major retrospective of the best unknown artist in the world: Marek Schovánek”

Propaganda = a form of communication aimed towards influencing the attitude of a population toward some cause or position.

It is a truism to say that a picture can tell a story. But it starts to get interesting when the same is true of an entire exhibition: in this case the individual works function as parts of an abstract vocabulary which combine to form a larger context. It is not important whether they initially seem to “fit together” in terms of form and content. On the contrary: the more diverse the character of the works included in such an exhibition may appear superficially, the broader the spectrum of messages, cross-references and associations becomes as soon as the viewer has immersed himself in this vocabulary, adding together the paintings, reliefs and modified Ready-Mades.

In the case of the Czech-Canadian artist Marek Schovánek, the result of this addition process is always more than the sum of its parts. Schovánek shows us dark landscapes and abstract stripes, letter-paintings, portraits and “images” taken from advertising; taken as a whole, they form a narrative that says a great deal about the state and possibilities of art at the beginning of the 21st century. What is an artist still capable of achieving – whether he paints, creates objects, or both – in the face of the manifold influences which confront him in the cultural and political sphere, on the personal and the social level? And to which, accordingly, he must react?

Schovánek’s reply is crystal clear: the artist must intervene, he is free to denounce or to ironically trace serious, disquieting events back to their often absurd origins. At the same time, according to Schovánek, he must take great care not to act as if he were the first to do so. Over the past decades art has developed so rapidly, trying out all conceivable styles, concepts, ideas and world views, that the artist is left with little room to do anything truly new. Unless he fits into this tradition of action painting, pop and concept art, photographic realism, minimalism, performance and video art. Only then is he able to play with it, create something of his own out of the prop-room, creating associations and spreading messages without provoking accusations of naiveté.


These kinds of interactions can be seen in all of Schovánek’s pictures, no matter how one groups them. This patchwork arrangement reflects Marek Schovánek’s patchwork biography. Born in 1965 in what was then the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia, he emigrated to Canada with his parents as a child. He studied art at the University of Alberta in Edmonton before moving to Berlin in 1993 and setting up an additional residence in the now-open city of Prague, where his family still had its roots.

This meandering between the systems, this stroll along the fracture lines of recent history is the subtext that shapes Marek Schovánek’s art. Life and art are both filled with possibilities, eventualities and decisions that ensure that the larger whole is in constant motion. The formal, the critical, the narrative, these are the components with which Schovánek writes his visual novel. He is telling us nothing less than what art can be. And what it is capable of.

Curator: Vlasta Čiháková Noshiro

Text: Ulrich Clewing