The works being shown at the exhibition Wasteland were created over the past half year, when not only ordinary life came to a standstill, but when domestic and international art production similarly experienced a significant downturn and came to a halt. Šimon Sýkora spent part of this time at a spring residence at the Egon Schiele Art Centrum in Český Krumlov, which provided him with a unique chance to focus deeply on his work. It also provided him with the special opportunity of experiencing the town (usually full of tourists and thus alienated from itself) when it was empty, seemingly frozen in time. Šimon’s experience of this sudden, paralysing and almost foreboding tranquillity can be felt in this set of figural paintings. These large-format works, the major part of which was made in Český Krumlov, are characterised by a magically unsettling and melancholic atmosphere. They seem to follow a shrouded storyline of fateful encounters, journeys and partings of ways. They also express feelings of loneliness and uprootedness in a strange place beyond time. The solitary figures reflect the artist’s meditations on society’s current crisis relating to the ideal of partner relationships. Indirectly, they reflect oppressive feelings of isolation, existential insecurity and frustration that have led Sýkora into voluntary exile. The male figure in a cowboy hat – partly the artist’s second self and also a kind of modern knight errant – already appeared in his earlier paintings. He is a tramp and a pilgrim, a silent observer, a guide and mysterious storyteller who offers dreamers and searchers a sense of understanding and quietude – if they have the time to listen.

The smaller-format paintings are witnesses and fellow travellers involved in Šimon’s nomadic life, which he currently shares between Vienna and his home in the village of Dešenice in the Bohemian Forest (Šumava region). These paintings are created in both places, responding to them and influencing one another like diary entries or visual studies – both in terms of the immediate record and the final work. They are like words from the same story associated with his larger works, but are far more strongly imbued with another fundamental (through currently less tangible) constant feature in Šimon’s work – his sense of humour, slapstick, silliness and playfulness, and his ability to have fun with grotesque details and create bizarre characters. All these elements betray his interest in specific genres of drawing such as manga, anime and illustrations for children.

Šimon Sýkora (born 1990) studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He also works in the fields of video and performance art. While his paintings reflect the more intimate side of his work, in his videos he works with public space. His performance pieces (such as his infiltration of the Czech far right) can be described as a specific form of visual and social activism.

Vanda Skálová