Tomáš Smetana Stories of Things
Canonical themes such as composition, landscape, portraits, and still lifes are gradually “crumbling” away from art. Jindřich Chalupecký was writing about this in the 1940s and accounted for it by saying that “today’s” painter is afraid of reality, afraid of the world in which he lives and tries to deny it. According to Chalupecký, if art is to regain its lost meaning, it must return to the things that are a part of ordinary, everyday life, which is part of a horrifying and glorious drama.
Less and less it seems do we allow the world in which we live to affect us directly. We abandon things and people or cities and countries too easily and exchange them for others. Clouds of photos and experiences are all that remain. An ordinary carpenter at work listens to a blaring radio station whereas centuries before he prayed. From the results of their work, it is clear which of them was more successful in fashioning a window into the world.
Tomáš Smetana is not one who flees into abstraction. He portrays his friends (see the cycle Friends) and creates still lifes and collages. We have called the cycle of still lifes Stories of Things. Things, materialized memories, don't leave us, they wait for us to leave them. This is what Smetana expresses in his drawings. Slowly and painstakingly he draws things that do not tremble, as if to say, “Slow down!” For long hours, he captures carefully assembled constellations of objects so that the whole tends toward meaning.
He draws shoes, gloves, glasses, cut flowers and toys with a pencil, occasionally colored ink or crayons. He searches for surfaces that reflect and translate reality piece by piece - mirrors, stainless steel cookware or crystal glass. Smetana occupies the white area in small sections, the chaos of the glare of the world gradually transforms into order on paper, which is how it appears to the eyes.
Selected drawings are accompanied by texts written by the artist; the older ones are simply descriptive and will reveal to you something you might miss after a mere cursory viewing of the paintings.
They compel the viewer to slow down and consider Oscar Wilde’s words in a similar vein: “The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.” According to Wilde’s statement from The Picture of Dorian Gray and Tomáš Smetana’s works, “The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible ...”