Miroslav Tichy & Shimabuku at the Wilkinson Gallery strips the world bare and celebrates the uncomplicated and beautiful.
Another month, another First Thursday. Galleries on the surprisingly quiet Vyner st slowly entice the drifting curious inside from the setting sun. On such a beaming spring day, I flee from the overly political, anything smelling too much of Reagan-era AIDS protests or Vienniese actionism. Wilkinson gallery, despite its imposing sheer black exterior and streamlined interns, manages to provide two exhibitions of clever frivolity. We all forget sometimes, but art can be fun AND effective you know!
Downstairs is a series of photographs by deceased reclusive Czech photographer Miroslav Tichy. This man's work is everywhere now it seems, despite only coming to the public attention the year before his death in 2004. The A4 size prints appear first to be badly developed black and white blurred portraits of shapely women. And, well, this is what they are, only the effect is intentional. The artist did not use models or sets, but followed these women around his hometown of Kyjov, recording shots of their ample bosoms and behinds on homemade cameras made of string, tin, makeshift lenses and toothpaste, and printed at home. Thus, each Miroslav Tichy exhibition is the private collection of a resourceful, eccentric, Peeping Tom.
Photography is painting with light! The blurs, the spots, those are errors! But the errors are part of it, they give it poetry and turn it into painting. And for that you need as bad a camera as possible! If you want to be famous, you have to do whatever you're doing worse than anyone else in the whole world. – Miroslav Tichy
Captured in his shaky, hidden camera, these women are transformed into living room Marilyns, personal Botticelli heroines. It would be all too easy to find this all decidedly creepy; the delusional perverted outsider preying on these maidens, stealing their image for his own no doubt diabolical purposes, but that would be pretty cynical. Tichy's artistic ability is such that one is more likely to take his work as a celebration of the beauty of the females around him. His is a treatise on how beauty can be simple and inexpensive, how a woman in a natural pose, bending to get her shopping, hitching a skirt, walking down the street, can be more alluring than one that is fixed, composed and self-conscious. Yes, like contemporary Czech photographer Jan Saudek, much of this work is most probably borne out of sexual desire, but this kind of obsession does not automatically devalue that which is produced as a result.
Tichy's women are Aphrodites, Jane Russells, Monica Belluccis in street clothes with worldy concerns. With next to nothing he made them so. My only criticism is that when I saw his work in Frankfurt his makeshift cameras were also on display, bundles of flotsam and jetsam totally unrecognisable as usable instruments. These I feel are impressive works of art, equal to the photos, as they go some way to give on an insight into the personal values and ingenuity of this urban hermit. Oh well, on their own his women still delight.
Shimabuku- 'My Teacher Tortoise'
Above Tichy is Shimabuku's curious collection 'My Teacher Tortoise'. The largest piece is a pen devoted to said enormous tortoise, which unsurprisingly spends the duration of the time in a little hut shying away from enthusiastic visitors. With the eagerness of children at a petting zoo, we try to coax it out, making fools of ourselves and regressing to the status of children, stropping when the beast calmly refuses to comply.
Indeed, there is something of the classroom in Shimabuku's room, albeit an extremely sterile one: wonders for children presented in an adult form, like those muted and sophisticated 'adult' versions of the Harry Potter book covers. Legitimate play.
To one side is the science department, four open top tanks each with 'Something That Sinks, Something That Floats'. Identical pieces of fruit either float or sit on the bottom, prompting us to ask 'why teacher, why?’ Various other optical illusions and curiosities dotted about complete the experience. The presentation makes it art, minimal and balanced, but really we are simply marveling at naturally occurring vents/animals/comparisons.
Like Susan Hiller, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, or Harrison & Wood, the artist reveals the beauty and enjoyment found in the simplest of things, and displays it to us in a context uncluttered with all the distractions of real life. The effect is calming and, actually, lots of fun. For those who think it too uncool to go play in the kids area of the Science Museum (actually one of the best Sunday afternoons ever), then here it is packaged as contemporary art. Cooing and waving at a giant tortoise is artistic engagement, promise.