Palo Macho and Jana Hojstričová

Sabina Jankovičová

Palo Macho is the only artist within the Slovak glass art scene to have chosen painting on glass. This somehow ambiguous position makes him kind of an outsider. Despite being essentially a painter, you will not find him listed in the catalogs of contemporary painting. Instead, he will be included among the glass artists. His rather unique expression, however, rebels against such simplistic classification. From the very beginning, Macho´s work is based on experimenting – on discovering and exploring new possibilities of the selected material. Palo Macho´s latest initiatives head at combining two different elements – artists, media and approaches – into one work of art, into a whole. Thus, he has addressed several artists in different areas – sculpture, photography, graphics, or drawing – and offered them cooperation. The first common outcome is the series of works called Scanning. Photographer Jana Hojstričová and Palo Macho have combined the essence of their personal creation, opinions, authorial program and strategy into their common work. This has resulted into materially and thematically multi-layered works. Palo Macho´s decision for painting on glass allows him to materialize the hidden implications of this medium. Indeed, he makes use of the transparency of glass to highlight the color layers and the brush strokes, integrating them with the very properties of the material, such as its structure or shine. At first, Macho moves with a kind of structural abstraction, whose foreground is precisely the brush work – his input – in the form of resolute strokes or milder lines. Even more obvious are the rough structures on the glass surface, as well as the sumptuous layers of different colors. The plots derive from reality: portrayals or insinuations of body shapes or landscapes. The picture sometimes requests destroying the material itself, a hollow space in the glass sheet, a shapeless hole. Since 2005 Macho´s color palette has been growing more subtle, his pictures getting almost monochromic. Simultaneously, geometric abstraction has been emerging to the foreground, resulting in a peculiar situation that brings tension between the geometrical and the structural. For Macho does not give up the highlighted footprint of the brush or the structure of the glass surface. Only color fields are imprisoned into geometrical forms that, again, intersect and overlap each other. The brush strokes mitigate the contrasts between these fields, modifying the dominant color and setting them in motion, into vibration. The artist himself admits this ambiguity, doubting, wiping off borders, adding a question mark after the name Geometry. The painting essence of Macho´s work is completely obvious. Color and its possibilities constitute the building element of the picture. Despite the soberly arranged composition derived from rational geometry, an emotive load is constantly present thanks to the expressive action of color. This is precisely its reason-to-be on the glass. The brush strokes may have become milder than in Macho´s previous period of structural painting, they may somehow also subordinate to the strictness of geometry. However, they still carry enough energy to interfere, to remain dominant in spite of the fact that geometry keeps on pushing itself to the foreground through straight lines. Its hegemony is just apparent, though. Geometrical divisions only help organize the fields, giving them rhythm. Structurally, however, it is actually the main tool that gives the picture a final effect of animate motion. Besides a strict geometrical composition there is a vessel motif represented by a perfect ellipsis or by irregular oval shapes. This short description of Macho´s painting work unveils its substance, which is clearly manifest in his and Hojstričova´s common project titled Scanning.

Photographer Jana Hojstričová has a straightforward, absolute, even crude expression. The human body and corporeity are a frequent topic in her work. The human body is an ever present motif in today´s media world although deformed by embellishment and retouching. Media images present fake beauty that most consumers mistake for reality. From the very beginning, art photographers have also focused on the human body. Although they avoid any direct interference with the theme renouncing to the blatant lies of embellished stylized commercial photographs, artistic photography still too often tries to emulate the natural beauty of the human body looking for harmonious shapes and curves. A naturalistic depiction of the body is not new either. However, Hojstričová´s work carries a strong personal load. The artist focuses on the human body without any judgment, without taking a stand, but remaining a mere observer of reality as captured by the objective. Although such an approach by itself is already biased, her strongest expression is precisely the absolute lack of any obvious opinions. Jana Hojstričová looks at the body with natural respect. She does not try to evaluate it or impose it her point of view. Instead, she grants it absolute freedom of expression, limiting herself to giving it the opportunity to reveal its message in her photographs. Therefore, the captured bodies speak directly, without any beautification. The body, the human physiognomy, the details tell the story of a real and particular person. Nothing in the human body is random. In fact, every detail speaks of our character and our lives. Although being very interesting, the language of the body can only be read by just a few people. And this is exactly what Jana Hojstričová offers us.

Scanning includes photographs of Palo Macho and photographer Jana Hojstričová´s own bodies. In Palo Macho´s case they capture details, mostly hidden and intimate ones, relentlessly documenting fresh scars on the naked body. The photographs may appear drastic. However, this is only due to our rather distorted view of reality. For we try to avoid scars, the traces life leaves on our own body, or – at least – we do not show them publicly, but rather hide them, showing just a cover of visible perfection. However, it is our scars that tell our story the most emotionally, speaking of our weak points in which our emotions have come to rest. All these are invisible secrets nobody wants to see any better. For one should not mention any intimate details in our lives. The details of Jana Hojstričová´s body appear unattractive. They expose no scandalous views, but rather destroy today´s idea of how to depict the female body. They do just the opposite; they are mundane, clear, and honest.

In Scanning both artists appear at two levels – in their authorial intervention as well as in the (self)portraits of their own bodies. This gives origin to another additional layer – not only a painting and a photographic intrusion into the glass matter, but also a semantic one. Each artist enters the final works not only through the glass and paintings of Macho´s pictures or through Hojstričova´s photographs, i.e. not only through their active involvement as authors, but also through the passive depiction of their bodies in Hojstričova´s pictures. These works are, in fact, double portraits.

Although Macho uses his selected technique constantly, layering images on glass, his painting input is not dominant. The sufficiently strong load of Hojstričova´s photographs grants her a solid position. Moreover, the medium of photography itself stands in clear contrast to the language of painting. The objectivity of the captured reality perfectly balances the subjectivity of the painted gestures. The Scanning works represent a dialogue of two equally strong, equivalent media, opinions and artists. They are the outcome of mutually enriching cooperation that gives a new dimension to the photos as well as an additional layer to Macho´s glass object-images.