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Michal Matzenauer What it says in the Mariana Trench

I’ve already been a painter

I do not have a simple key to Michal Matzenauer’s paintings and poems. I come to the drawings from the last two years primarily as someone who sees in them records of characters from the depths of a person who has remained inside himself for a long time.

 

The life of society is focused on ideas and events, and even the workings of today’s art primarily takes the form of an exchange of opinions and goods. Everywhere we see the same “concept,” “problem,” “project,” et cetera. The etymology of the last two overused words refers to their original meaning, which is to “throwing” something before someone ...

 

This is something different. Here nothing is being thrown.

 

In Michal’s drawings I see an experienced hand and I like to listen to his opinions, but I appreciate both more when I see these records about a world that is able to perceive what is happening beneath everything. What is occurring inside a person when he has not yet begun to think, let alone attempt something. This first step toward reality, without past and without future, only in conjunction with what is now. There is yet no judgment in it, it is never the same, it is not an intention nor is it a stimulus. It is a fundamental plane of experiencing the world, and something compels us to leap over to thought and action. This is what we are losing…

 

It may sound strangely old-fashioned when I say that in the Greek space, experiences associated with theoria and in the Latin synonym contemplatio were of the utmost importance for humanity as well as the happiness of both the individual and the community. Indeed, at that time, it was customary to spend as much time as possible on this type of perception. Even the ideas about the afterlife activity of our souls were connected precisely with this type of experience. Eternal observation was the fate of the chosen ones. Whoever does not learn it here will not pursue it there. Are they bored to death in eternity? Dante answers with an image from hell - the old money exchanger of the Medici, the pater familias of the famous rulers of Florence, was condemned for eternity by the never-ending exchange of money. He is not bored by it, he works as he did when he was alive, he has what he wanted. Today, however, the liturgy commemorates the feast of another money changer - the apostle Matthew. He traded the exchange desk for the poetic existence of a pilgrim, contemplation, and literary work - and in Dante we see him sitting on a bench of cheerful, thoughtful brothers, raising his voice and goblet at the table of the living for eternity. After all, the best of the Medici took Matthew’s very path of Matthew, that is, from selfishness and calculation to generosity and art.

 

Towards the end of his long life, the philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer pointed to the basis and beginning of all our culture as simply resting upon the fact that when we communicate, the answer is linked to the question and the question to the answer. He saw it as a conversation within us. Only thus do we understand each other, otherwise we are surrounded by a fog of ignorance and misunderstanding. Perhaps it is a life-giving fog, when understanding grows from it and things emerge, but one cannot learn any more about it.

 

As people longing for the truth about themselves, we often do not get a better answer than the one offered by Elias Canetti in his book of aphorisms The Secret Heart of the Clock - one knows no more about oneself than “what one is thinking at any time.” But the life of the soul consists rather of images and therefore of some sort of signs, rather than of thoughts of images and signs. As a spectator, I can realize myself in what I am looking at. This is how culture and its expression, which we call art, modestly begin. Culture is dependent on the artist, because only in the work of the artist—whether painter, poet or philosopher—are embodied images of how we live, and only in the encounter with a work of art do we come to express what we are.

 

A picture is a sign, but not every one is art. Even a road sign means something. Only if the creator made it on the basis of a well-thought-out synthesis and combining it with a skillful act, does it become a product

 

The work comes into being only when the creator reaches deeper and sees, that is, contemplates, what comes before thinking and doing. I see and appreciate this ability in Michal’s drawings.

 

Contemporary art offers primarily works that in turn offer experiences and ideas to the viewer as clever and sometimes well-assembled products. Fraud differs from the work of art not by the degree of its cleverness (combinatorics), but by the depth of the artist’s impersonal immersion.

 

Let us remember that before we begin to think, before the reflection of thoughts and feelings takes place within us and between us, there is here something even more original and substantial. The beginning of everything, the principle, the arche - the beginning and the ruling power of both thought and feeling is in silence and depth. This is how the book of creation describes the origin of the world, as a masterpiece and the Apocalypse, the end arriving after the breaking of the seventh seal. The depth from which thought and feeling are born is reminiscent of places like the Mariana Trench, where life is both born and ends in darkness and under a pressure a thousand times greater than on the surface. The deepest place at the bottom of the seas is the deepest available space in the shell of the body of the world we inhabit. What kind of ditch do we find in the human being?

 

In these drawings, Michal Matzenauer follows and paints the events in the Mariana Trench as a poet (not only in his collection Mariana Trench, Pulchra 2019 collection). The record mixes with the sounds of events wafting into the ditch from the world. Depth in silence and darkness is no doghouse. A sensitive soul does not take refuge there when it feels like a beaten dog.

 

Michal’s drawings and poems are beautiful at first sight. Therefore, many people might confuse them with decoration. What is nice, ornamental, playful and caressing in them will surely please you. Those who are already sick of all the manifestations of nausea, “sincerity” and simple banalities in art will be happy to enjoy something that is nice for even a moment. There is little that is pleasing in today’s art. But remaining there would be like admitting that the beautiful is, after all, opium and a lie for weak people who do not dare look into the ugly face of reality. But the drawings and poems that are beautiful and emerge from the depths are a testimony that there exists an amazing space at the bottom of the bottom of the world and of being. Something else exists beneath the banality ... how to get there?

 

Our culture, the culture of every person in conversation manifests itself by the fact that he does not babble the first thing that comes into his mind, but the question in his speech is tied to the answer, etc.

 

The culture of the individual, however, begins earlier, and the subsequent bonding of one to another can succeed only if a sufficient depth of silence is established. If the beginning is shallow, inexperienced – there will be no Mariana Trench, but rather Bibione and Bikini beaches, then further questions and answers – no matter how well they are tied together, they are mere combinatorics, sitcoms, ping-pong. Human life trapped in the shallows among the rubbish will not be revealed via unbelievable combinatorial abilities of artificial intelligence. But it can be seen in people who best came close to artificial intelligence by skillfully and brilliantly, but without depth, combining various media and technology. This creates an impression of diversity, creation, beauty, but it is, in Roger Scruton's words, “the culture of swindle" (The Great Swindle, Aeon, 2021).

 

Just as a Berber woman’s rug is colorful because it’s a record of her life, so a rug woven according to an aesthetic commission from a marketing department survey is something quite different. The viewer has to be demanding and not just stay - I like it. Neither the curator nor the artist may say the obligatory “let each find what he wants there.” Here is Rhodes, jump here!

 

The quality of thinking, the depth of emotion, the level of dialogue, all this begins precisely with how deep, full, fine and self-conscious I begin to perceive what is happening around us. Here the old adage applies - blessed are the pure of heart for they will see ... even God. The center of perception is figuratively the heart. An eye free of intent and a clear heart clear without regard – this is how a view of the world and oneself is born.

 

Today nothing is further from all human activity than working with perception. Everyone immediately keeps running further ... is this a curse of some inherited sin? or perhaps a defect in education? They immediately throw themselves into the thoughts of reflection and action. They do not take the time to work with time and perception and, since they are distant from life, pay for that leap by creating nonsense and thinking stupidly.

 

The claim that the times are hectic is no excuse. There are no times, there are only our vices and our barbarism - the first and worst is precisely this “shortened” and slipshod perception, and the result is blindness of the spirit, torpidity of the heart and redundancy of thought, which can be seen in the idols of today’s “cultural workings,” “thinkers” of the Milan Kundera type.

 

Culture is not an Olympic swimming pool for fast and cunning swimmers, divers, water polo players and synchronized swimmers. And the worst thing is not that everyone pisses and blows their nose into it during the contest. This is human and irrelevant, as are the performances of the competitors and the impressions of the public. Culture is quality, depth, vivacity of vision even before thought, before feeling. Culture is purified by a critical “aversion to every biased” view (Robinson Jeffers).

 

Writing usually serves ideas, it even captures information. Since time immemorial, people capable of thinking well, of perceiving the genuine present and speaking from within have feared the power of the word – for it does not lead to the wisdom of the heart, but to forgetting and sophistry Perception is ruined or merely skipped over and heads to directly to the combinatorics of the courts – this is how culture declines, even through reading without proper perception, this is how people become educated and cultured while remaining barbarians.

 

This introduction was necessary before coming to the art of the artist M.M., who waged everything on pure perception, which renders everything through drawings and paintings of special, connected characters.

 

Based on the attunement of the heart, without disturbance, he perceives, dreams and sees at daybreak forms, which convey meaning. Then he sketches the strokes and finally accentuates them with colors. What is there to read here?

 

A transcript like a seismograph of internal events in man. The hand only transmits this transcript, the body is tuned, internal tension develops along the lines, the thicknesses emphasize the strokes like blades of grass and the paths of celestial bodies. The microcosm is in motion, no drawing is the same just as no moment is the same in the same person.

 

During a heart exam, Michal was given a choice—a soccer game on television or an endoscope into his heart. He chose the heart.

 

Culture is worthless if it cut off from reality.

 

Man is a cripple if he has not learned to perceive.

 

Art is connected with the “problems of humanity.” It is nothing without proper contemplation.

David Bartoň
(Written for the exhibition of Michal Matzenauer on the website artforgood.cz and in the theatre in Horní Počernice (October 2021).

 

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Michal Matzenauer

20. 11. 1947

Michal Matzenauer was born on November 20, 1947 in Prague, at the Na Františku Hospital, where he was immediately baptized just in case. He spent his youth in Vsetín in Valaška and graduated from secondary chemical engineering in Zlín. From childhood he devoted himself to drawing and began painting at the age of 14. He had begun to devote himself to literature as well. In Zlín, he and his friends published the student literary magazine Plocha, intended for Zlín secondary schools, and which folded upon his departure from Zlín in 1967. In the years 1968-69 he held a number of jobs and roamed Europe with a group of American and European hippies. In 1969, he arranged to study art history at Oxford University in England, but the closure of the border in August 69 did not allow him to travel, and his passport was confiscated. Over the following years, he once again held a number of jobs. In 1972, he landed for a time in a printing house, where he worked as an auxiliary worker and later as a chemist. He was in charge of etching baths for gravure printing and wastewater. He made art prints on printing presses, but this was, of course, outside of working hours. Officially, like many others, he was prevented from exhibiting, publishing, and programs that had already been recorded were banned on the radio. From 1975 to 1990 he worked on drilling and pumping rigs as a worker. In 1977 he signed CHARTER 77 and in 1979 he became a member of VONS. He participated in work in samizdat as an author, as well as in the editing of some periodicals and catalogs, or at the end of normalization, as the editor of the magazine VOKNO. After 1989, he published several collections of poetry and realized a number of independent exhibitions and participated in a number of group exhibitions at home and abroad.

The work of Michal Matzenauer is multi-layered. But there is always an emphasis on the poetic atmosphere in his paintings and drawings. In various periods of his work, writing also appears to him either as part of paintings or directly as a subject. This writing is sometimes legible, even though it is also cryptic, but other times it is not a matter of readability at all, but only of a symbol or a sign - a hint. In these paintings, Matzenauer completely deviates from lettrism or well-known European methods of using writing as pictorial expression. It approaches the meditative practices of depiction that are common in some Eastern cultures, or that are used by some Arab masters. Nevertheless, his effort is to remain compositionally and artistically within European thought and emotion.

O.S.


 

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I get letters from the Marianas Trench/ mostly long and very nice/ they have almost everything in them/ but nobody signs them


I do not have a simple key to Michal Matzenauer’s paintings and poems. I come to the drawings from the last two years primarily as someone who sees in them records of characters from the depths of a person who has remained inside himself for a long time. The life … more

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