LOLA | Tomáš Pavlíček


During his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague Martin Kuriš profiled himself as a figural painter, an artist who acknowledges what he has been taught by Bedřich Dlouhý, František Hodonský and Antonín Střížek.

His very first large oil works depicted a strange world bordering on reality, dreams and mythology. This world was emphasised by the manner in which it was portrayed. By shifting the local colour scheme and achieving a certain stylisation in his figures and landscape backdrop through a clear discrepancy between the first and second plane he has managed to create a distinctive fictional world. Incidentally, his peculiar treatment of juxtaposition was mentioned by Vlastimil Tetiva in the catalogue for his first major solo exhibition1. However, this author also points out that Martin Kuriš’s approach is not exclusively postmodern. A look into the world of Martin Kuriš is a view of childlike wonder and fantasy, although reflected by an adult intellect. Characteristic features of his work are therefore present in his paintings from the very early days thanks to this specific conception of the world.

Martin Kuriš is primarily a storyteller. His series of pictures, which have always been exhibited under certain names (Profesor Frankenstein (Professor Frankenstein), Petr a Lucie (Peter and Lucy) and the later Navarana, Don Giovanni, Magda and Baryk), each tell a story which in a certain way has its own inner logical structure. His narrative approach to the subject leads him to treat each theme in a special way. He does not tell it chronologically. He seeks individual pictures which he then adds as windows into an imaginary film strip, and it is not really important what kind of stories he is telling. The painterliness of these large sets is fanciful, in terms of both their theme and their painting style. The first two of these series are characterised by their stylisation and abbreviation, and some paintings seem like fairy-tale illustrations (the set Petr a Lucie (Peter and Lucy)). Perhaps subconsciously the author anticipates his future direction, as in the series that followed, which were created from around 2008, his painting merges with another artistic discipline, puppetry. It was in the puppet theatre that Martin Kuriš started to seek a way to combine painting, spatial work and action. Wood was the logical choice of material and in the puppet theatre he found the ideal medium for pursuing his fairy-tale imaginative visions. This was when the series Navarana, Don Giovanni, Magda and Baryk were created. His effort to forge the strongest possible link is particularly evident in his Navarana and Baryk sets of paintings, which formed the basis not only for puppet shows, but also for separate publications. We can see a hint of this development in his first sets, as Martin Kuriš accompanied his paintings with text, either little notes to complement the series “Profesor Frankenstein (Professor Frankenstein)” or short poems with the series “Petr a Lucie (Peter and Lucy)”.

The Lola series on display took almost three years to complete. It differs slightly from previous sets. Lola is neither an entirely fictitious story nor an entirely made-up story. It is a peculiar mix, in which he blends his own experiences, various stories he has overheard, and also information shared in the virtual media world as an echo of events that come into the idyllic world of his village. To emphasise his painterly tale, he has added the written word or, to be more precise, short texts that supplement and clarify the visual information. Some of them are almost poetic. For Martin, everything that has been painted needs a further literary context. The same is true of Catholic Baroque spirituality, which was saturated by several of the arts.

It seems to me that Kuriš’s last series of pictures is more realistic than his previous work, although I realise how problematic the term “realistic” can be. I particularly mean the way he treats the overall composition of the picture. He is more sparing in his use of materials and the particular poetic and imaginative details of his previous series have disappeared or are considerably reduced. Greater emphasis is placed on relations between colours, greater colour expression based on pure tones. Another major role in his picture composition is played by light, whose importance to the picture has started to become of increasing interest to Martin Kuriš. So, all in all, “Lola” is almost a civil story. Postmodern juxtaposition is lost, particularly as regards the link between the landscape background and the figural first plane. The landscape motifs of this set are very realistic. I have mentioned Baroque spirituality as a way of thinking about a painting. In connection with this last set by Martin Kuriš another parallel from art history comes to mind, i.e. the legendary mediaeval or early Renaissance cycles. The main figure is still readable thanks to its specific colouring. It is always or almost always present in painting and is the centrepiece of the rest of the events and composition. In his last set, Martin Kuriš draws on his own style to follow, either knowingly or unwittingly, the European painting tradition, although he reflects it entirely in his own way. Besides the aforementioned parallels with legendary cycles, a certain fairy-tale subtext can be found in the creative world of Martin Kuriš. This is understandable, given his links to the puppet theatre. However, Martin Kuriš does not focus on children in his artistic series. In his extensive essay “On Fairy Stories” J. R.R. Tolkien writes: “Fairy stories also offer – to a particular extent or in a particular way – the following: Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, Consolation, i.e. things that children generally need less than adults2. Martin Kuriš offers us all the chance to experience these in his world.

Tomáš Pavlíček

1 Tetiva V.. Martin Kuriš. Katalog výstavy, nedatováno

2 Tolkien J. R.R.. O pohádkách. Pohádky. Praha. Winston Smith, 1992, s. 154