The curatorial project Talking Hands makes a selective study of hand motifs and the narrative potential of gestures in contemporary visual art, supplemented and confronted formally and ideationally with a selection from the collection of Trnava’s Ján Koniarek Gallery.
Artists: Leontína Berková, Radek Brousil, Robert Gabris, Ján Gašparovič, Anetta Mona Chişa and Lucia Tkáčová, Nika Kupyrova, Jaroslav Kyša, Kristián Németh, Miroslav Pelák, Katarína Poliačiková, Terézia Tomková, and Ján Triaška; also of featured works from the collection of Ján Koniarek Gallery in Trnava
Curated by Michal Stolárik
July 16 — October 3, 2021
Ján Koniarek Gallery in Trnava, Slovakia
We find the motif of hands in art history from the very first: the first prehistoric human handprints discovered in the Indonesian caves of Sulawesi; the symbolics and communicative power of hand gestures developed in medieval sacral art; the Renaissance showing us masterful scientific studies; and through Baroque “living” statues achieving an ideal imitation of realism in works of modern sculpture and painting. Hands and gestures in contemporary social history communicate political creeds; they are part of the symbolism of defiance, and the vernacular language of American street gangs and those with hearing impairments, as well as an essential part of today’s rap culture and cell phone entertainment on our smartphones’ touchscreens too. Contemporary visual art thus somewhat fetishizes physical as well as symbolic artistic gesture, taking it as the initiatory energy for a work’s genesis – whether in a pencil’s sketchbook motions or an intervention portion of performative art forms.
The curatorial project Talking Hands makes a selective study of hand motifs and the narrative potential of gestures in contemporary visual art, supplemented and confronted formally and ideationally with a selection from the collection of Trnava’s Ján Koniarek Gallery. In a natural way, the exhibition’s hybrid form brings together internal material from the collection and contemporary pieces from external sources. The goal is neither to use contemporary art to intervene in permanent collections, nor on the other hand to slip in small historical extracts to illustrate the context of recent years’ works. Rather, the recontextualization of the selected pieces from the mid-18th century to the 1990s concentrates on how they can be updated and rediscovered, by putting them into a dialogue with contemporary art.
The Talking Hands projects sees the human hand as the basis of nonverbal communication, an inseparable part of culture and society, and a foundational motif and formal agent for the media of drawing, painting, and sculpture. The exhibition’s conception makes use of thematic spheres, intuitively indicated by the selection of pieces from the Gallery’s collection. There is a natural transitioning from intimate depictions and carefree moments – leisure activities, experiments, games, and entertainment related to contemporary knowledge of digital behaviour, communication, and sexuality. It observes selected gestures as inherent symbols of political narrative, conflict and rebellion, violence, and death. Work that makes a theme of the hand is a frequent motif and a significant element of the artist (intervening), of the artistic gesture, or of questions relating to self-identification. Not least of all, gestures are an important part of sacral expression, and an ideational component in exploring current issues concerning religion, faith, and churches.
Photo: Adam Šakový