Tomáš Tichý / DISCONNECTED
In his figurative paintings, Tomáš Tichý (1984) has been observing the changes that human sensitivity has gone through under the circumstances of the post-media era (characterised by the junction of various types of media) and the digital era. His work reacts to the flood of photo images and motion pictures that become, whether on a conscious level or on a sub-conscious one, an integral part of our lives, transforming the surface of reality and sculpting a new dimension of our perception that automatically involves elements of manipulation and equalisation. Tomáš Tichý studies how the world of new media interacts with certain visual genres such as fashion, sports, politics, and consumerism, and with the trend of creating attractive, easy-to-remember visual setups (artificial paradises) and idols (celebrities). He compares and examines the relationship between the traditional painting that hangs on a wall and certain new impulses that transform the linguistic framework of painting and set it into motion.
The author seeks and finds various innovative means of expression, showing that it is possible to capture the instability and fleeting nature of consumer visuality and to expose its many subliminal messages in the space of a static, motionless painting. He points out the errors in the matrix that unmask the flip side of the retouched world. The character of Tomáš Tichý’s work is in many ways polemical. His painting process includes criticism and builds on certain ethical principles, revealing specific ambivalent features of the social status quo. His approach to painting could described as diagnostic.
The DISCONNECTED exhibition comprises three topic-based cycles that blend and unite to form a coherent, synergistic whole. In the first set of paintings, using deformed and artistically transformed photos of models from the nineties, Tichý deals with the phenomenon of appropriation and the ephemeral nature of memories connected with media fame. The very title of the series, Stolen Faces, refers to the hidden mass reproductive processes that popularise selected faces of models on a large scale, establishing, among other things, a canon of temporary, fashionable beauty (Stolen Faces: Claudia, 2021). In opposition to this affirmative movement, Tomáš Tichý uses contrasting painting deformations created mechanically by dragging pictures around in an iPad (Stolen Faces: Karen, 2021). In the process of being re-saved, the image starts to “stammer” on a visual level, wiping off the original contours of the faces and transforming the flawless media beauties into malevolent monsters (Stolen Faces: Double-faced, 2021) with anatomical anomalies (Long Neck, 2022). In these works, painting breaks through the style arrangements of the marketing world, dismantles the ideal touch-ups on the surface, and targets the flip side of the artificially created idols, pointing out the technical errors in the actual reproductive medium used.
In the second cycle, the author portrays “cephalopods” and various sportsmen, using these to relativize social movement and ironize the acceleration of all our actions, which has become something of an ultimate aim, hence the metaphor of sports (Runners [Reflection], 2020), competition, and perpetual racing (Riders on the Storm I, 2020). Through painting, Tomáš Tichý makes these absurd accelerating trends slow down and stop. The process of stopping is depicted in several movement sequences that together compress the "movement" into an unreal state of phantom deformations (Riders II [Eyes], 2022). The unity of time and space is shattered. The painter analyses the folds of the moving image, unmasking its unreal nature. The viewer’s eye sees the deformations and strives for a rational perception (Riders III [Fall], 2022). This opens up a hybrid space for the ambiguous, or "ominous", to use Sigmund Freud's phrase: a space in which static, descriptive reality loses its verifiable contours, and the image becomes a "description" of constant change, that is movement (AI Runners, 2020), sometimes portrayed through a strange neologism (Rider [Wave], 2022).
In the third cycle of paintings, the author grows a “digital” plant and calls it “Burning Bush / Blackout”. The plant is an analogy of artificial intelligence: it is an artificial organism with a form and shape that hints at the natural state, and yet what we are looking at it is only a surrogate structure, covered with camouflage and mimicry (Burning Bush II, 2021).
The topic of being DISCONNECTED metaphorically captures the relation between an image and the truth or lie that it carries within. It has been a long time since descriptive representations could be identified with an unchanging state of reality. Nowadays, such images must challenge us to reflect on the constant changes behind the fluid nature of factuality and figuration. They should invite us to diagnose the principles that form the basis for these trends.
Petr Vaňous, curator of the exhibition