Jiri Thyn (CZ)
Abstraction as Reality, by Marketa Stara for Artforum, September 2011
Archetypes, Space and Abstraction is the title and subject of the latest exhibition by Czech artist Jiří Thýn. Similarly to a number of contemporary artists who in the time of crisis choose to further the fruitful era of modernity, also Thýn in his recent photographic series conceives a dialogue with the 20th century Avant-Garde. His interest is focused predominantly on the work of Czech cubist sculptor Otto Gutfreund whose works Thýn "sets into motion" through the medium of photography.
It would be wrong to understand the approach of Jiří Thýn as a mere gesture of appropriation or manipulation, which comes to mind when encountering Thýn's modified version of Katarzyna Kobros constructivist sculpture Space Composition 2 (2011) included in the show, as his strategy results in a multilayered comprehensive meaning. The use of analogue film, distinctive for Thýn's work, questions on the one hand the process of documenting an already existing art work and consequences of this process, while on the other hand it aspires to test and overcome the confines laid out by the photographic medium as such. Through a complex play with light, the artist unveils what could be perceived as a fourth dimension: it creates an illusion of movement in the otherwise static medium.
On a formal level, Thýn's photographs from the Gutfreund series numbered 1-5 and based among other on Otto Gutfreund's sculptures Seated Woman (1916), Don Quijote (1911-1912) or Cellist (1912-1913), "perform" the sculptural quality of its original and thus could be easily reduced to a sheer attempt to initiate a dialectic relationship between the present and the past. The insertion of other mostly photographic works in the show which combine or layer images from real life with abstract geometric forms achieved through experimentation in the dark room (multi-exposure, experimentations with developing liquid) and which are unobtrusively installed in-between the Gutfreund's series, however points to a different way of thinking as well as to various other conceptual insights of the works and the exhibition as a whole.
Thýn's current engagement with the Avant-Garde can be understood as a result of gradual reduction in form that has been present in his recent works and is closely associated with limits of photography and its inability to capture reality as it is. A fitting example of this tendency is Thýn's photograph of cuboid-like forms (Untitled, 2011), achieved by drawing with light. Although abstract, Thýn's experimental work with analogue film on many levels offers a more true depiction of reality. This true image of reality is not rooted in the photographic depiction of the reality but in the production process that precedes it. Moreover, Thýn's formal engagement with the Avant-Garde and abstraction achieved through his employment of obsolete photographic techniques can be understood as a unique commentary on our present day condition, where the emergence of new technologies and the dynamics of our society changes through-out the past decades have caused our detachment from reality prompting further abstraction.
Archetypes, Space, Abstraction is not an attempt to extract moments from history, appropriate the already appropriated and thus view the past through the prism of the present, but more of an attempt to discover new and effective strategies how to capture a true image of our present day reality.