Fotograf Magazine

Václav Stratil

Face to Face with

After Václav Stratil won the Michal Ranný Award in 2014, we had the opportunity to immediately see several large exhibitions devoted to his work. The successful project Doing Nothing and Other Works moved from the Moravian Gallery to Prague’s Futura. The private Fait Gallery, after reopening in Brno’s Vaňkovka Shopping Centre, devoted two exhibitions to Stratil right away. The curator of all the exhibitions is Jiří Ptáček, who, when handling Stratil’s works, reassesses the classical form of retrospective narration from first fruits, covering “masterpieces”, and ending with those made later. Each exhibition was conceived as a whole, reflecting on a selected period in the artist’s creative career or his particular approach to specific issues. The exhibition I’m Sitting in the Fotograf Gallery can be considered the sum result of an infinite number of Stratil’s self-reincarnations presented in two series. After a number of formal and thematic experiments again, he has returned to playing with his own identity. In a continuation of the series Couples, “Děda” (as the author quite often signs his works – “Grandpa” in English,) smiles at the viewer from portraits taken together with his students and friends. At another point of the exhibition, a series of ID card portraits are more reminiscent of small monochrome images than photographic self-portraits. The artist builds on numerous earlier series of his portraits in 1.77 × 1.37“ format, and he intentionally covers his face, as the camera’s subject, with draperies of the same color as the photographed background, or even leaves the scene entirely. Any continuity between the “emptiness” and the artist’s face is perhaps confirmed by the tiny, almost undetectable details or knowledge of the artist’s earlier works. Stratil is, at first glance, lost in the picture, but we somehow still feel his gaze as it fixes on us from the apparent emptiness.

Lenore Jurkyová