Thursday, November 11, 2010

Umenie v galerii mesta

[Art at the city's gallery]

A development I haven't reported before.

So, a few months ago I met with my Rotary counselor to discuss how things were going. At one point, she asked me what activities I was involved in... okay, maybe making cookies and going to church doesn't sound that impressive? So, she asked me what activities I might be interested in trying. Not sports (the only real sport for girls is volleyball), but maybe taking an art class? She said she herself was interested in that, and would look into the details for me. Great!

Well, it turned out later the class was very expensive. Rotary was discussing paying for me, which is extremely generous, but luckily another alternative was found. One of the Rotary members' daughters is an art teacher at the city's gallery, whose classes are very cheap. So I was all set!

Last Thursday I cut out of Math early so I could meet my YEO in the square in the stare mesto. From there, he took me to the first class and introduced me to the teacher. I knew the building well, since it's right at the entrance to the tunnel that leads up the hrad, but I had never known it was an art gallery.

The class is three hours long and only 1 Euro! Well, that's pretty awesome. And what a cool location to be in.

The first lesson I met my teacher, and she took me up to large exhibit upstairs. The artist's name was Karol Felix, and while he is an international icon (there was a huge poster just devoted to listing all his awards, and he's been displayed in literally hundreds of international exhibits), he's actually from Nitra. The exhibit spanned many, many rooms and halls.

So, the format of this art class is first to look at and discuss the gallery's art, and then create something based off the exhibit. The teacher and I spent a good hour and a half walking the whole place and discussing mediums and movement and meanings. Good practice for my Slovak, since she didn't speak any English, and there was a lot of new vocab to quickly absorb--of course I wasn't familiar with all that art language! Luckily enough cognates.

And I absolutely loved Karol Felix's work. It's modern, but actually takes extreme talent; it's detailed and beautiful and the colors are just breathtaking. One of my favorites is a very large green-toned design that's basically ovals made of colored squares... it radiates energy but it's also soothing. The painting (they're all many-layered oil) happens to be the exact size of the doorframe it is across from. That door is lined up with three more doors... so you can stand in the fourth room and look back, and there is a perfect succession of openings, making one continuous sort of tunnel, and at the end, perfectly framed, is the glowing green painting. Very well done.

Afterwards, the teacher gave me white paper, a thick black marker, a hard surface, and a stool to sit on; I would be copying one of the paintings. I chose one called "Center Square" (in Slovak). The design has clear African influences (apparently Karol Felix lived in Africa for a while), and it's all in warm red and brown tones. It's twelve individual pictures joined together to form a kind of frame, with one more picture in the center, all touching. The pictures which form the frame are each sort of alien horse skulls... I mean, you look at it from afar, and you instantly say, "It looks like a horse skull, of course." But examining it closely, there's really only one that might be called that, and some of the others look more insectlike or even like something from Alien. The center square for which the piece is named is the only one which lacks the skull motif. It's just a chaos of lines in many layers.

So, I set my stool down a fair distance away from the painting so I could take in the whole thing, and I copied it meticulously. It wasn't hard work, just time-consuming. For the center square, which I saved for last, I just loosely gripped the pen near the end and made a random sort of netting that looked good. Oh, I should mention there was just one other girl in this art class; she was autistic, kept to herself, and had been taking the class for longer; I'm not sure how long, but she had made dozens of copies of Felix paintings. It was just the three of us.

When I finally finished, I went with the teacher back downstairs. I folded a transparent, matte-finished paper in half and laid it at a random angle across my picture. Then I traced the picture onto the matte paper. When I was done with that, I flipped the folded matte paper over and traced the design on the matte paper onto the other folded side. So, finally, when I unfolded the paper, it formed touching reflections, like a butterfly. For the last step I colored it in using oil pastels...I didn't use the red tones of the original painting, because I only had one shade of red, but instead did different color themes for each square. And then it was just past six o'clock and the teacher had to lock up the building, so I left out the side door and walked back to the flat.

The next Thursday, yesterday, I was fifteen minutes late because missing Math was just a one-time thing the week before, and that was the earliest I could get there after school with buses and walking and everything.

I started off by walking through a different, very small exhibit downstairs which I hadn't seen the time before. It was called "I don't like" (in English). Though it was by a Slovak "artist", all of the words were in English (often misspelled or missing words...I don't think that was deliberate). All of the canvases were large and deliberately ugly. They had big blocky letters which filled the whole space, and the letters were hard to read because there were actual paintings in them, while the background they sat on was a plain color. The texts themselves were excerpts from apparently what critics had told this artist about his work. Things like, "You are better at project then classical painting" and "I don't like it" and "it doesnt talent." There's a risk involved with this sort of work--namely, that your viewers will agree with the critics. As I did. Modern art like this just really irritates me.

The only somewhat-cool thing was a dark room with a painting of a house, a car, and a field (which was nice), and then a projector which projected onto the canvas letters-- text which said "Already seen! Czech artist long ago used text with pictures like this sorry :) ". It was cool that you could only see the painting where the lit up text was. But I probably would have preferred to see the painting itself in a lit room.

Afterwards I went to work on my own thing. This time, the teacher gave me two sheets of yellow paper taped together (taped on the backside; you couldn't actually see the tape) in two different shades of yellow. The task was to copy two different paintings (again with the thick black marker) which were partners. A lot of paintings had partners that were designed to pair nicely. One of my favorite paintings, in the same room as the large green one, is called "Torso" and is very abstract, all deep blues and yellows. I don't like its fellow, which is called "Key," as much, but it's still very nice.

I worked on Key (Kluc) first because I knew it would be more time-consuming and not as fun. (I should note that the same girl from last time was there, and then another girl who seemed nice and was apparently in an architecture high school.) It took me quite a while, with lots of counting of the precise number of little squares which made up this and that part of the design. Finally I got to do Torso, and while the key turned out nice, the torso turned out wonderfully. I really thought it looked great.

Then the teacher and I went back downstairs to the art room and together made a large modern art work. It was four pieces of stiff, gray paper put together to form one canvas. Then we did Jackson Polluck-esque things: using dark blue, red, orange, and white, we made very fine, random lines like a spider web all over. Then we took a scraping tool and smudged it all. I hated to smudge when it had looked so pretty! But then came another white layer of the fine spidery lines; then more smudging. Another white layer of spidery lines, and then we scooped different shades of orange paint onto the scraping tool and only selectively smudged with some other textures, making sure we filled up each of the four papers (very thick cardstock, almost as thick as cardboard) to all the corners. Then we pulled out the individual papers, flipped them around so that they did not look like they had been one, and did some more work. The final result was very beautiful. Way better than 99% of what you might see at the world-famous Walker Art Gallery in Minneapolis.

So, this is a nice thing to get to do, and it's great access to both the art gallery and lots of art supplies I can't get otherwise. I'm looking forward to it next week.

Stuzkova is tonight--and tomorrow morning! You'll see. :)

Much love!

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