Guided tour with author and curator will take place on Tuesday 1 February at 5 p.m. Advance booking is necessery HERE
The exhibition Old Dumpling emerged from a dialogue between the photographer Michal Kalous (*1967) and the curator Štěpánka Bieleszová (*1971). This photographic project was not only an opportunity to mark Kalous’s 55th birthday, but also a modest attempt to create a retrospective of his work, which stretches back more than three decades. Kalhous first became interested in amateur photography during the mid-1980s. Initially self-taught, he later briefly attended classes given by the Olomouc-based photographer Milena Valušková (*1947) at the city’s Miloslav Stibor art school (1989–1990). It was at this time that Kalhous’s distinctively personal artistic approach to the world began to evolve. His first works featured ephemeral, easily overlooked objects, banal situations and unexpected connections. He often worked with found objects that were shocking and unaesthetic, sometimes bordering on the morbid or the tragic (dead flies or birds, animal skeletons); these served as a basis for Kalhous to create new minimalist compositions, restrained in their form yet highly provocative in their semantic indifference, which disrupts traditional concepts of still lifes or portraits. In this early phase of his career, Kalhous’s choices of topics – as well as his approach to his material – made him a quite unique figure. Fearful of being categorized, typecast and sucked into the mainstream, he was careful to maintain a certain distance. Nevertheless, his works (originating mainly in his family environment in Jarcov, at his home in Šternberk or at a farm in Moravská Huzová) manifest his powerfully individual approach to the relationship between a chosen topic and its aesthetic form.
The works presented at the exhibition Old Dumpling represent a synthesis of new photographs and older works which Kalhous has enlarged from existing negatives specially for this presentation in Ostrava. The carefully selected ensemble of photographs encompasses a mixture of meditations on intimate relationships, family, children, and (in more recent works) the artist himself. Kalhous is aware of the finite nature of his own existence; as his own children grow up, this inspires him to explore the process of growing from a child to an adult, as well as his own ageing. The exhibition’s title Old Dumpling is conceived as a synonym for the photographer’s current mental and emotional state. He views himself as someone who by now has acquired a degree of knowledge and experience, someone who is ageing, yet is perhaps still needed – thus in a sense resembling yesterday’s dried-out dumpling which has now become a left-over, to be sliced up and eaten today. His photographs are imbued with a diaristic quality; they are presented to the viewer as visual fragments of emotions and meditations on ephemerality, mutual understanding and misunderstanding, humility and gratitude for the ability to live a simple life. The photographs have been created using the “wet” method (enlarging, soaking, fixing), which nowadays is gradually becoming obsolete. This process is lengthy and complex, and thus it gives Kalhous space and time to conceive and formulate his topics, to achieve a certain distance, and to summon up the courage to reveal and present an ostensibly insignificant and meaningless object which he nevertheless considers important.