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The opening speech by Arnošt Goldflam

On paintings by Tomáš Měšťánek in a layman's rather than an expert's view; and what I read in them

As I came to the gallery to have a look at the paintings that were to be exhibited, Tomáš Měšťánek was just telling Mr. Hokynek, then me as well, that if his wife remained amidst his paintings too long, she became nervous. And Mr. Hokynek said that when the car transporting the paintings arrived in Prague and Tomáš Měšťánek got out outside Nová síň, he was also nervous, so to speak, for the pictures had been behind his back all the time. I think that they were waiting for the right time to leap on their creator’s back and press him a little, bear down on him and throttle him.

Because there isn't much quiet in those paintings. You watch them - and what can you see?

People rushing and working hard, running breathlessly, perhaps looking for something or just slogging purposelessly nowhere. People struggling for their lives, for deliverance, for victory; people fighting or those who had already lost and given up and couldn’t carry on. People who had fallen in the ring with broken heads, smashed teeth and round eyes. And with wide eyes they jump for joy and rejoice in victory only to fall to the bottom the very next moment. And that’s where they are sitting, in a pub perhaps, a dirty dive, finishing their last cigarette butt and holding their desperate heads in their hands. What will happen next? Nobody knows…

Were I to try to discover what kind of people they are, I would say that they’re losers, drifters and down-and-outs. After all, who knows how even a boxer who is cheering now will end up tomorrow?

But there are moments when we can feel breath of something that comes unexpected and miraculously, as it were. Jacob is standing on a ladder that leads to heaven. The ladder is wobbly and ravens are approaching, but he is still holding on and ascending. The visitor may have gone, but there is still a sign, a quiver, a flame left; a strange light is still or already shining and blinding.

It’s possible to think of a story behind any of Měšťánek’s paintings, each of them may have predecessors or sequels, the ending can only be guessed, though. Art is not there merely to soothe, it’s also to rend and disquiet, to ask questions without heeding the answers. The answers are ours and ours alone. Some may find Mešťánek’s paintings distasteful; some may be angry and upset, some may feel stung by the repetition of unflattering yet true things again and again. And this may be the case now, but I don’t think that anyone can deny that there is passion in these paintings. Their hues are shrieks; the light in them is merciless and lets no one escape. It finds what it needs, wherever it likes. On the stage, in the ring, in the street or in a dark corner of a pub. It grabs its characters and depicts them as actors on the way to ruin, to disaster, to their doom. Or they are captured seeking their god, someone or something that will enlighten their lives and bring, at least some, meaning into it. Maybe their search is in vain and they will find nobody and nothing. Yet they are at least searching and hoping and in this case they are, perhaps, not quite hopeless. Good for them and, after all, for us too.

Arnošt Goldflam, Writer and Director

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