David Střeleček's solo exhibition curated by Ján Gajdušek & Tereza Havlovicová at Holešovická Šachta in Prague.
David Střeleček: AZOC
Curated by: Ján Gajdušek & Tereza Havlovicová
1 - 31 July, 2022
Holešovická Šachta, Prague
In his objects and reliefs, David Střeleček reflects society's relationship to natural structures and their interconnection with culture. He has long focused on the theme of overcoming the imaginary barrier between the different worlds of human and non-human entities and the contrasting relationship between technology and nature. In this relationship, man has an ambivalent position. Like all living things, we ourselves come from nature and are an integral part of it. However, in the short term, we devastate all its resources, regardless of the consequences of our actions. The visuality of the exhibited objects thus touches on the theme of the contemporary situation in the context of a turn back to the natural and often already "non-human" world of nature, the world after man.
The title of the exhibition AZOC or Azoth refers to an ancient medicine or elixir of life sought by alchemists. Although it is a poetic occult name for mercury, it has been used throughout history as a mythical medicine and the first principle of many alchemical substances and recipes. Alchemy is seen as a pre-scientific discipline that has abundantly developed methods of understanding natural processes, but it is also an experimental mysticism. It is based on the doctrine of the affinities and transformations of substances and focuses on the process of improving nature. David Střeleček's work with crystalline glazes can also be compared to the approach of alchemists. Like the medieval magicians, he searches for the ideal proportions of ingredients, tests how different chemicals react together and, like the alchemists, the result of his work is only partially controlled. Crucial here is the degree of unpredictability inherent in the random natural, physical and chemical processes that give the works a creative element of the non-human. The effect of the chain growth of zinc crystals in the glazes on the surface of the objects is visually very close to the growth of natural plants, reminiscent of leaves, flowers or grasses arrested in their development. In contrast to the alchemists, however, Střeleček does not perfect nature, but uses technology to return to it.
David Střeleček's work has gradually transformed from objects combining inorganic and organic shapes to the most recent concept, where he frees himself from the materials, technologies and creative solutions originally used and arrives at cleaner and in a sense more traditional forms of hanging ceramic relief. The earlier objects, woven with plastic strips of branches and natural materials absorbing the remnants of human civilization, resembled extraterrestrial amoebae in which new life was flourishing. We sense the germ of life, but it seems dangerous to our human species, full of spines, thorns, protrusions that discourage us from approaching or touching them.
As human viewers, we witness a paradoxical situation where Střeleček's objects speak to us imaginatively from the distant future as mementos of the extinction of the human species and the triumph of nature over the machinery of civilization. The ceramic reliefs and objects on display thus come from a certain timelessness, where man no longer rules, but the life forms that have managed to survive and replace him. However, man is still present in these works as a decaying fragment or ancient fossil.
The ecological turn in art is not a new direction, but a long-standing and with each passing year more urgent tendency in the work of many artists. David Střeleček, however, does not fit so clearly into this category. His works stand on the border of this interpretation as a kind of warning element looking at us from the distant future, but they are at the same time so abstract and formally appealing that we can get carried away by the beauty of the crystals in the glazes and the confusion of the natural world that grows in them.
Photos: Adéla Waldhauserová