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Petra Herotová

02.04. – 26.04.14

Works by Petra Herotová are based on a quite precisely defined program consisting of several constants. The very primary one is the confrontation of classical painting with different aspects of its reproduction. Herotová observes how reproduction technologies transform the visual appearance of models and then she goes on to use her findings in classical painting. These processes are best understood when illustrated with examples. I will thus provide two examples from the author’s latest big exhibition Něco tady nehraje (Something is Wrong Here) that was held in the House of Arts in České Budějovice.

– A couple of paintings shared the same subject; however, one of them was somehow distorted when compared with the other. This distortion corresponded to switching the 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9. Herotová referred to image distortion that occurs when the image format of TV and other screens is incorrectly set.

– In another set of paintings Herotová imitated how images disappear when they are repeatedly reproduced by a copier. She first copied a painting until the original motif disappeared, then she used the xerocopies as original patterns for her paintings. She painted the process of motif vanishing together with stains left (and later reproduced) by the copy machine.

In both cases the resulting paintings were influenced by the reproduction technique and the machine settings. If we perceived Herotová’s work as something expanding the visual possibilities of painting, we would probably have to speak about her contribution to media transcription or media conversion. These procedures prove to be one of the most efficient ones in contemporary art.

The second constant in Petra Herotová’s works is the search for symbolic transcendence of these processes. Capturing the whole range of symbolization in her works would be beyond the possibilities of this text, however, what we can say is they are closely related to the motifs. The author actually chooses them with regard to their ordinariness and generality (a mug, chair, human eye…) and thus to certain flexibility when attributing symbolic meanings to them. However, these meanings do not simply arise from using a particular motif, but as a result of their interaction with technological (seemingly mechanical) processes. For instance, on the xerocopy paintings shown at the Něco tady nehraje exhibition, a hand was embroidering a salutation, so the gradual vanishing of the image could evoke saying farewell. It should also be noted that this series of Herotová’s works belong to the sphere where the subject relates to manual creation and thus refers to the manufacture technique used or an area of perception. However, as the case is with many of Herotová’s works, their symbolic level is not so easily perceptible. Therefore, inside her rationally conceived series we come across semantic gaps the author either uses intuitively, for purely private reasons or with a clear intention to dig up a clearly arranged semantic field.

A simplistically conceived set of paintings in Entrance Gallery stems from both above described constants. It was inspired by four cartridges for ink copiers. Their colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) are the basis for authentic printing of most colour tinges. In two painting series she imitates the process of mixing the first three colours. She leaves black, which has a specific role when it comes to printing, aside as an independent painting. The given conditions and mechanicalism of this quasi-minimalist series (while the reference to minimalism is not unimportant to the author) are also here confronted with possible (suggested) symbolic transcendence. A silhouette of a key extruded into black painting is not just a visualization of the name for black colour in the CMYK colour model, primarily chosen for its purpose in printing, but rather a signal that the formal game may also be perceived in terms of its content. Sky-blue, purple and yellow form a rainbow (although a specific, printing one) and a key may be a key to realizing that this small constellation of paintings is supposed to go beyond the boundaries of the reflection of its mechanical nature and problems of media transcription. Although culturally given constraints limiting us in meaningful use and interpretation of symbols prevent us from identifying the rainbow and the key with specific meanings, Petra Herotová presents her work knowing she tries to draw our attention rather to the presence of the symbolic world, which – despite the confusion of languages and codes – dominates the pragmatic everyday life (and probably even controls it without us being aware of it).

Text by Jiří Ptáček