artist: Thomas Jeppe
curator: Michal Novotný
Thomas Jeppe wrote the Abstract Journalism manifesto, a propositional text about an art making methodology. This text describes the artist, on his research journeys across cultural landscapes, chancing upon a picture, object or situation - a loaded symbol - which immediately announces itself as the “solution” to a situation. This symbol, taken as a form, is then disengaged from its original context and woven into a semantic onstellation in a process of aestheticization. This allows for a general reorganization of its potential meanings, purposes and possibilities.
The method applies the aesthetic criterion of fine arts’ questionable sincerity to the empirical research of cultural studies. It doesn’t strive to eliminate, but rather to reinforce ambiguity, inconsistency and divergence. It’s based on the allegoric, emotionally stimulating and communicative. The result is accessible and comprehensible and resonates to such a degree, that it can cross cultural contexts. Jeppe describes this process and its legitimising framework as a “rampant sophistry”, a thorough and engaged form of productive nihilism. It’s a method connecting intuition and passion with intellect; with the underlying message that “to feel” is the only way “to know”.
Formally extending this ethic, the exhibition Neo-Lad revolves around the theme of dandyism, the struggle with social rules and boredom, and a godless spirituality. More generally, the exhibition is about freedom and release, about delimitation, structure, and attitude.
In his essay Neo Lad about Australian “lads”, a subculture of inverted dandies identified by distinctive styles of branded sportswear, Thomas Jeppe speaks about the culture that is “a dance in the streets”. This dance is “a physical, delinquent pirouette; the partners authority, the built environs, history” and whose music is a “chosen inevitability”, a resignation without despair. Alongside this essay, Jeppe’s exhibition comprises several reconstructed compositions of paintings by Czech romantic-symbolist painter, Jan Preisler. The works Jeppe chose were generally Preisler’s late ones characterized by planar emphasis, simplified shapes and a marked intensity of colours. Their over-stylized carelessness stresses a kind of void of the timeless dreamy youth portrayed. However, the viewer can only see cuts of it, framed by a diagonal hexagon, a graphic motif of a period advertisement depicting the Lucerna building compound from the bird’s eye view, as featured in Václav M. Havel’s book “My Memories”. The hexagon intersects Preisler’s painting, framing it within an asymmetric dynamics. These works, as historical echoes, are presented in parallel with large posters of intimate social photographs of Australian teenagers at the turn of the millennium. These photographs radiate the feeling of carelessness, being at once specific and expressing a sense of universality. The posters, along with several painted reworks of Preisler’s sketches for advertisements, are captioned with proclamations from the text of Neo-Lad.
A series of lamp sculptures return to the logo of the Prague Lucerna, these lamps doubling as an emblem of city and night. The symbolic charge, reaching almost to the point of lyrical pathos, is embedded in craquelure and eroded motifs on panes of glass. Their supporting structures, reminiscent of podiums or gallows, present collected variations of simple wooden joints. Their formal purity and simplicity associate an almost immaterial language of signs. Yet a moment later, it falls again into amorphous elasticity of the rubber podium below it.
Jeppe makes increasingly daring digressions into areas of unexplored and forbidden aesthetics, with increasingly complicated and excellent pirouettes of his own contradictions. Neo-Lad thus forms an incarnation of Jeppe’s personal artistic attitude.
All works exhibited in the FUTURA Gallery were created during the 6 week production residency in Prague, a part of the A.I.R. FUTURA programme.