Point, Line, Surface, Object or a Brief Recconoitre of the Terrain of the Work of Palo Macho

Peter Michalovič

Everyone who reads even the shortest curriculum vitae of Palo Macho easily discovers that his training and present activities are linked to those of a glass artist whose work evolves in diverse facets. He is an artist passionately experimenting, searching for diverse stimuli, an artist involved in lively public debates and also silently writing his poems. Therefore it is difficult to conclude his work with a comprehensive interpretation. I will not attempt to do that either and instead of it I rather offer a travelogue, which would illuminate the vast space of his artistic creation to persons showing potential interest. The path I will set out on is the path chosen of free will. There is no need to seek any rigorous or obsessive motivation; if this is so, then it is only because I have chosen the most economical way that can be expressed in the mathematical formula 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10. It means that at the inception there was the point (1), the extension of the point originates in the straight line or curve (2), three points (3) can express the surface and eventually four points (4) are necessary to express the elementary description of space. Perhaps this formula sounds esoteric, but I hope that gradually, directly in due proportion with the extent of the path travelled, its sense will be specified.

In connection with the original reading of the work of Henri Bergson, in his book Bergsonism (1966), Gilles Deleuze made a statement according to which there is not an object plus something else, but an object minus something else. Under minus we understand that what we are not interested in, what is simply not related to life. It means that an object is never perceived in its rudimentary form (it can be viewed like this only by God, but his place cannot be taken by any mortals), but it is always modified by minus something.

I have to admit that this thesis came to my mind immediately after a multiple careful examination of Palo Macho’s drawings. Namely, it seemed to me as if his vision sometimes “read” Bergson and Deleuze, as if his ears heard that Bergson-Deleuze “bastard” and as if his mind was inspired by this discourse. Naturally, this is a sheer speculation but as analogy, it can be heuristic and therefore I will try to exploit it.

Well then, I allow myself a little more freedom than it is appropriate in such a case and I will simply consider the drawings to be analogies of the above-mentioned Bergson-Deleuze thesis. I will regard them as analogies, which have nothing in common with illustrations subordinated in principle to the pomposity of the word. If I was to make use of appropriate labelling then I would say that they are pictorial reports on perception.

Apart from similarity, the difference between the Bergson-Deleuze thesis and Macho’s drawings enter the game. Namely, these pictorial reports on perception are from the beginning to the end subject to the above-mentioned minus. They are not only subject to it but also exploit the minus programmatically. As far as we do not realise the minus in everyday processes of perception, in experimental conditions Palo Macho tries to systematically and resolutely degrade the minus. He attempts to “peel off” (I am sorry for this imprecise labelling, but unfortunately I could not think of a better expression) everything from objects and figures that could point to the connection with a concrete model. I suppose that the game of this “peeling off” is based on discriminating from objects and figures the most elementary geometric relationships constituting the geometry of singularity. It means that this geometry does not require to subordinate concrete objects and figures to general and strict laws of the world of abstraction and idealisation, which have an exclusive place in Descartes’s mind and enable one to deduce the single from the universal. I am convinced that Palo Macho does not attempt to subordinate the single to the universal, neither does he strive to reach the postulation of the universal variant of variants marked as the invariant by distinguishing and comparing the single.

A careful observation of these drawings will definitely draw our attention to those, which capture our interest through their subtlety. The hand carefully draws the minimal form on paper. It is so minimal that the form stands on the border between nonsense and sense. On the one hand, it is reminiscent of a trace of a spontaneous stroke of the pencil. On the other hand, however, this trace reveals that the stroke of the pencil was conducted by the mind sketching out that attempted to capture a sensation through minimal means. Once the line expands vertically, another time horizontally. The two aspects become the basis of an interesting relationship based on the fact that the lines and curves distributed in the vertical and horizontal directions create the forms mentioned above that are endowed with an indefinitely expressed semantics. They enigmatically attract the interest of the recipient who earnestly endeavours to decipher the aforementioned enigma.

The confrontation of the vertical and the horizontal is a limited and at the same time open articulation of semantic elements of Macho’s geometry. Thus his geometry becomes the geometry of elementary forms, more precisely schemes, which keep sensations together – the pictures of objects and figures – and which are the smallest meaningful configurations of form. It means that its principles and rules change in every application. Each drawing is not merely an acknowledgement of this geometry, at the same time it is its change inconspicuous at first sight. This geometry originates and vanishes, being confirmed and disturbed in every drawing.

After indicating the tactics, I will attempt to proceed to the strategy, hence to what is the sense and objective of Macho’s experimentation. It is hard to find an answer because a number of mutually competing answers could be offered. However, a decision has to be made and therefore I offer the one, which I find most convincing.

Perhaps the sense of this experimenting lies in the desire to reach the point in which cultural meanings are intersected with natural spontaneity. To the point in which the rationality of arrangement reacts with the stimulus of the incidental. To the point in which, said in accordance with Roland Barthes, the conformist border created by traditional rules of drawing clashes with the subversive border of the eternal desire to challenge these rules. All this causes the structure of Macho’s drawings to be formed by iconic signs with an indefinitely expressed semantics.

However, the game does not come to an end, on the contrary, it merely starts with drawings. Namely, drawing becomes the basis for characteristic glass pictures. Not only the function but also the medium of drawing is changed. I shall begin with those, which look strange from distance; let us call them glass graphic works.

These glass graphic works display ascetic economy, which simplifies the referential level of the picture to the minimum possible scale. What is the sense of “erasing” the forms of objects and figures? Why does the artist do it? Why does he strive not to capture the object or figure in their richness and complexity? It is difficult to answer on behalf of the artist, however, aware of the risk of a possible misinterpretation of his visual records, I take liberty to suggest that in this case I see his endeavour to oscillate between the border of the intentional and the unintentional, between the border of form and the formless. All this is done to indicate that there must be a phase between one or the other form when the form is dissolved in the solution of the formless in order to later crystallise into a different form. Strictly taken, these glass prints are in fact another phase of artistic exploration, which began with drawings on paper.

Until now we merely considered the glass prints in which lines expanded on the surface, surfaces were created by condensing and diluting the concentration of curves and lines, filling the plane bordered with the dimensions of the graphic work. From this type, we can proceed to the type in which merely one not unimportant property of the used medium is exploited – its transparency. When the black contour lines on the front are complemented with colour surfaces on the reverse, not only the background originates, strengthening the importance of the foreground, but also depth is created, enabling to demonstrate one plane against the other. A possibility arises once to pose against each other, another time to concur what Friedrich Nietzsche articulated as giving the existence its colour, i. e. an attempt to record a whole register of passions. Yes, it always concerns the fact that we do not merely show something in its rudimentary form, not to simplify it to a sort of impersonal structure, but try to depict the emotional relationship of that something to us. These prints have already indicated that their essential part will be what comes from the outside, yet, it significantly contributes to the constitution of their sense. By this we have in mind the light, which becomes a co-author, naturally without its own author’s signature of Macho’s artefacts. The light falls on the surface of the medium, while part of it runs through the medium, part of it is absorbed and part of it is reflected. Macho understands light as his artistic double, shifting it intentionally to two positions. Once he forces it to behave like the light originating from a lamp emitting rays of light, which though invisible, they enable objects and figures to become visible. In this case metaphorically, the light actually decides about the existence and non-existence of objects and figures. Another time he coaxes the light that objects and figures have their own luminosity, which is only captured by the surface of the picture. In fact the light acts as an intermediary between objects and figures on the one hand, and a sort of mirror on the other. Thus he shifted light from the position of a sovereign master to the position of a modest servant.

There is a direct path leading from Palo Macho’s prints to his glass pictures. To the pictures that not only integrate colour, thus expanding the register of endowing the existence with colour, but even exploit the possibility of overlapping the individual layers, to create bulges or depressions. When speaking about Macho’s glass pictures, we have to bear in mind a very important fact. In this type of work, Palo Macho, the author working under the signature, is doubled by another author without a signature – the heat of the oven. Their relationship is not merely unusual; the curiosity lies in the fact that it is reminiscent of the relationship between a husband and wife or between long-standing partners. Sometimes it illuminates their relationship with tenderness, another time they silently tolerate each other, then they can gently tease or even quarrel and mutually harm each other. Applying this to the creative coexistence of Palo Macho and his double, we can say that the heat of the oven allows what the artist intended to excel or it gently changes what the author meant or there can be instances when it radically disturbs the artist’s intentions. Undoubtedly, in the long years of artistic coexistence, the artist Palo Macho allows for the licence of his double. Let us say it openly, even though we know that there is a chance, we do not know how it will manifest itself because if we knew, then it would not be a chance, but an inevitability in which a concrete cause evokes a concrete consequence. Therefore we cannot be surprised if heat, the direct descendant of the essential element of fire, entirely changes the author’s original intention. Then it is sufficient to integrate this unintentionality into the creative intention and a work of art originates in which intention and incident create an inseparable unity. The oscillation of artistic creation between intentionality and unintentionality is virtually a creative dialogue between the author and his double. As Hans-Georg Gadamer, the classic philosopher put it, the true dialogue is the one, which is not conducted by the participants, but which conducts the participants. It means that everybody loses something, but this loss eventually equals the profit.

Let us stay with Macho’s glass pictures. Not infrequently, the artist places them on the wall surface but also extends them into space, while he often connects the surfaces of pictures in such a way that he creates a space from them, thus exploiting the third dimension. Nevertheless, the construction of space in the case of Palo Macho takes place in different ways. In the first one, the surface is so deformed by heat, more precisely transformed or reformed, that an object originates by bending. This is how utility objects such as glass bowls are created.

The second manner exploits the fact that heat causes bulges or depressions, which though they expand from the surface, they are its organic part. This leads to the creation of Macho’s glass objects representing the phase between surface and object. We could again say that form is not so important a formation, more precisely transformation enabling the development of rich registers of Macho’s glass alchemy. The third way of space creation represents the final phase; it can be labelled the phase of definite liberation when the pure spatial formation originates. Nevertheless, I do not have in mind now the space inside the picture, the fictitious space of the picture, which resembles the section of reality, but a three-dimensional space in the most classic understanding, whose impressive representatives are Macho’s glass objects. Here, the third dimension enters the game; it is also possible to notice another shift. Its sense can be expressed by the fact that the objects implicitly thematise the border between utility and the artistic object. But they thematise this border in order to question it. The object is a space situated in another space, while it often draws its sense from the space in which it is placed. It is closed within itself and at the same time it intensively communicates with the surroundings. It is a self in itself and at the same time it changes in dependence on the environment, on the Umwelt in which it is temporarily found. It is not separated from its environment by a concrete or fictitious frame of a classic picture, which closes within itself that is inside the frame, separating at the same time the possible world inside the pictorial frame from its environment.

It has been said that the glass objects of Palo Macho are a space inside a space, they are in fact a text drawing its sense largely from his et nunc, i. e. from the canonised context, and in this case the play of sense is quite markedly restricted. I have in mind that part of artistic creation that could be labelled interior work. It means that in this case we encounter an inversion process. The work of art does not stand at the beginning, the artistic text proceeding through individual contexts, which change its meaning, but there is a fixed context into which the work of art should be inserted, ergo a text. In other words, we have a fragment and its missing part should be completed in such a way that it appears to be organic in order that the recipient would have the feeling that the original fragment and its missing part were created at the same time so that the recipient could not distinguish the fragment from what it was part of. Someone might object to whether we could still speak about the work of art when the artist’s work is limited in advance by some requirements. This objection can be refuted by the fact that the artist becomes an artist by being able to recreate the restrictions so that they may be completely diluted in the idiom of his authorship. For instance in that that is signed by Palo Macho.