Fotograf Magazine

Šimon Štrba

Four Dimensions

15. 1. 2016 — 30. 1. 2016


In the latter part of Jananuary 2016, Fotograf Gallery hosted an unusual exhibition, presenting the work of Šimon Štrba, student of the Department of Photography at the Faculty of Arts and Design at the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, who died prematurely at the age of twenty-tree.              

The exhibition thus attained a poignancy which set it apart from the gallery’s regular exhibition program, departing from the aesthetic that has come to define the gallery over the years. Untraditionally for the gallery, each room contained a separate photographic series.

Curoator Jiří Ptáček presented each series seemingly out of context, as if hesitant to draw any connections. As he in fact states in the catalogue, curating the exhibition felt much like walking about someone´s empty house – the empty house of someone who is never going to answer questions regarding why he would often superimpose things on top of one another, why roll up a blanket to look like a shell. And yet, although the works presented here are a mere fragment, as work from his personal files that he had never published is essentially absent, still the exhibition succeeds in commemorating his oeuvre as a whole, especially for those who had been acquainted with the young photographer. For those who had not seen Šimon’s work before, the exhibition evokes a subtle and sensitive photographer, whose series display both sombre and playful undertones – the embodiment of a very human longing for friendship, the dream that we are not alone in space and time.       

Ptáček’s cautious reverence – his reticent effort to guess rather than draw conclusions, to feel one´s way around, his at times almost sacramental endeavour to conserve and enshrine the otherwordly aspect of a young man´s death – nevertheless at times means, in my opinion, that the the exhibition does not open new perspectives, does not open questions and polemic, incite curiosity about what other aspects might be present in Šimon’s work. The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition offers more in this respect. It serves the exhibition well in presenting a summary of Šimon’s oeuvre, both a materialised memory and timeless artefact. The catalogue becomes the image of Šimon that we keep in our memory. One day when we gain a detachment from the bonds that bound us to Šimon, his work will be presented once more, this time on a scale similar to the catalogue, it will be seen as a whole, and with more respect for the work itself, rather than just for its author.

Barbora Belzová