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Zbyněk Benýšek: The Waiting room Triptych & new paintings

  • Where: Vaclav Havel Library, Řetězová 7, Prague
  • When: May 6, 2014, 19:00 – June 1, 2014, 18:00

Opening of exhibition of works by Zbyněk Benýšek. Introduction by Vratislav Brabenec.

Zbyněk Benýšek (born 1949, Olomouc) is a painter, graphic artist, poet, lyricist and musician, a Renaissance man in fact, a member of the artistic generation that entered the scene in the 1960s, influenced by the Western impulses of beat poetry, rock’n’roll and hippy culture. From 1964 to 1968, he studied at the Secondary School of Applied Arts in Brno. In 1970, when he succeeded in getting an exemption from military service, he attended lectures at Palacký University in Olomouc. He later relocated to Prague, where he moved in underground and folk circles. In 1977 he signed Charter 77 and was later employed as a stoker, janitor and night watchman. In 1982 he went into exile in Vienna, where he set up and ran for a decade the tamizdat arts review Paternoster. In 1992 he moved back to Prague. In the last 20 years he has written several screenplays for Czech Television and brought out seven books of poetry and prose, a collection of song lyrics and the substantial novel, Loutky boží (Puppets of God).

The exhibition The Waiting Room Triptych & New Paintings presents a selection from the artist’s current work and features three triptychs and several accompanying paintings. Benýšek’s oil paintings are traditionally described as hyper-realistic or photorealistic. This classification mainly stems from the aesthetic of smooth and precise painting seen in his 1970s and 1980s pictures. Later, however, Benýšek began approaching his work in an extremely free manner and, by contrast with his photorealistic works, employed free composition. By contrast with the emptiness and absurdity of his photorealistic works, Benýšek’s pictures were distinguished by a surreal and hidden significance, which has remained with him to this day.

The artist’s main inspiration comes from the visual world that surrounds him. The exhibition features paintings capturing scenes in late-night bars, a kind of bar landscape full of glaring fluorescent lights, shiny surfaces and neon bar signs. The organic and curved subjects and figures captured in various ways through convex lenses are placed in elusive collapsing spaces. Reflections and paintings within paintings are a repeated motif and reflect the theme of grasping reality and relating to it (in which Benýšek’s interest in astrophysics is a determining factor). At the same time, some of the works, influenced by micro-photographic pictures, verge on abstract forms that can capture the complicated structures of both the microcosm and the macrocosm.

Benýšek’s paintings also include a world of people, a world of morbid clowns in horror masks trapped in a depersonalised and the cold realm of technical apparatuses. However, they have to learn to accept their lot in life. Just like Ahasver, the eternal pilgrim, who is the central motif of two paintings. Similarly, the Waiting Room triptych (2013) introduces us to a bar environment the first part of which captures wasteful revelries and pleasure seeking. In the second the figures are trapped in a snare of tense waiting. In the final scene they don’t need to wait; for those present it has already arrived.

Marianna Placáková


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