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Juraj Florek: Panel & burina

Juraj Florek: Panel & burina
2.1Juraj Florek: Concrete & Weeds
2.11. – 2.12. 2017
Official opening: 2.11.2017 at 06:00 p.m.
Curated by: Ivana Moncoľová and Miroslava Urbanová
Dot. Contemporary Art Gallery, Lazaretská 13, Bratislava, http://www.dotgallery.sk
Free entry

The exhibition is dedicated entirely to Juraj Florek, a graduate of Academy of Arts in Banská Bystrica and laureate of the 2014 VÚB Foundation Award for Painting, shows. Juraj Florek thinks of himself as a painter’s painter, a plein-air artist gravitating to urban themes. His reality is one of a nomad, his paintings capture the reality of urban space or decrepit industrial buildings and modern warehouses. Although he was born in Dolný Kubín and spent most of his days hanging around the neighbourhood with a view of the surrounding mountains and nature, he is drawn to urban reality. His work is the work of a nomad, an explorer who searches for and enters abandoned industrial halls and yards, sneaks in equipped with a palette, easel and canvas. He paints right then and there, fascinated by concrete panel clusters eaten away by its host, the nature (or could it, perhaps, be the other way around?). He captures a slice of reality – though unattractive, his brush strokes make it more pleasing for the viewer. The exhibition Concrete & Weeds shows a painting of the service area of a hospital, a boiler room, a loading ramp of a large retail chain or a farm yard – all of them abandoned and vacant industrial areas of large structures. His paintings somehow make them more civil, less run-down and more appealing to the eye of the viewer who is not exactly interested in admiring concrete masses. Because he needs to be mobile when chasing inspiration, the author chooses small and medium format canvases. The size of the paintings is something that makes the scenes somewhat more bearable for the spectator, it dials down its urgency but also causes the spectator to notice a new segment of reality. His brushstrokes are affected by the changing time; he applies colours in thick layers, infusing an otherwise tranquil and vacant place with a sort of ‘Van Goghesque’ shakiness or restlessness.
Despite the time pressure (time and weather changes enter his creative process), he uses the rather time-consuming technique of oil on canvas. Often, rain drops, industrial dust and environmental factors suddenly become the secret ingredient of his paintings. Although the secret components of an oil painting may not always be apparent, they are always authentic – thanks to the environment that the artist is so fascinated by.

The canvases exhibited were created in sets, shaped by the painter’s move to and the stay at the place where he paints. Florek does not conceal them; he reveals them in the painting names, declaring “I have explored this place and city”, “these are the places that shaped my mind and burned my retina”: Žilina with its highway constructions and roundabouts, the large abandoned international cultural centre by Niemeyer in Avilés. The places Florek chooses are not anonymous to him, by exploring them he establishes a relation to them, defining it within social and local contexts. For him, it is of little importance whether he paints a town or an industrial structure, be it in operation, preserved or fading. As the author says: “the unique morphology of form of industrial architecture makes it the perfect object for unique urban landscape painting”.

Florek himself has likened urban plein-air painting to his “post-graffiti” era, building on the legacy of graffiti community where he came from – hence his habit of painting outside and under ever changing conditions. His own philosophy of plein-air painting unfolds in three layers: POETICS (the overlooked beauty of urban environment), ACTION (stepping outside one’s own comfort zone, confronting the reality, adventure in urban exteriors), and DOCUMENT (topography of the place). As he himself claims, he prefers ACTION.
In addition to urban exteriors, among his paintings you can find an indoor series depicting home gardening, still lives of corridors of the quintessential concrete blocks of flats in the early spring: potted herbs, seedlings, propagation endeavours happening in the corridors and on balconies of the concrete blocks, with their power sockets, old newspaper linings, interwoven by the customs and culture of their inhabitants, which has not strayed far from mother nature and gardening.
Florek also maps industrial and urban structures and monuments. As an aficionado of urbex, or urban exploration of the city, he photographs and records the things he sees and so wishes to add to collective memory (his book Traffickers is currently in the works).

The exhibition is funded by the Slovak Arts Council.