Josef Duchan (1970) is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (graphics, restoration). From figurative work he came to structural abstraction, which gradually changes forms and forms. From the classic painting on canvas, the author moved to painting and drawing on the various materials found and to ever freer expression. It is not limited by anything and transcends generally defined boundaries - whether spatial or physical. He draws in endless cycles with both hands, his traces of color metamorphose into objects, installations. His "head - hands - heart" style is incomprehensible, captivating, liberating.

(e) Motion

Exhibition title: (E) MOTION
Opening of the exhibition: December 20, 2023 at 6 p.m.
Duration: 20 December 2023 – 9 February 2024
Exhibition curators: Terezie Zemánková, Jaroslaw Sebastian Pastuszak
Address: Lázeňská 287/4, Prague 1 – Malá Strana
Exhibiting author: Josef Duchan

The Josef Duchan exhibition in the newly opened JSP Art Gallery will be a presentation of the last large-format paintings of the important Prague artist.

jsp art gallery josef duchan en

Reflection on “(E) MOTION” Exhibit

If one can without exaggeration speak of someone as a distinctive solitary figure of contemporary art who resists fashion trends and follows his own unique line, then it is without a doubt Josef Duchan. He is unmissable on the Czech and especially Prague art scene – not only thanks to his original work, but also to the very process of its creation, which enriches it with a peculiar performative component. Duchan is often seen at openings, concerts or clubs, with a strap around his neck and a board with paper attached to it, which serves as a mobile work table for the artist. He seems oblivious to his surroundings because he is completely engrossed in drawing. He draws in rapid movements with both hands at the same time, making it appear as if he is performing a mysterious ritual. He seems to draw all the time, everywhere and under all circumstances. He draws while riding a bike, in the subway, in the car, while walking in the city and in the countryside. They say he draws even in the dark. He draws on miniature cards, on scratch cards, on quarters and on the reverse side of printed banners, on translucent foils, on sheets of metal, on broken cover glasses of mobile phones and on car windshields.

He draws everything he sees around him. Visual sensations flow through it in a continuous stream straight to the paper. Like a tomographer, he captures the surrounding world and its changes over time in thin sections: a pulsating street with the approaching panorama of Hradčany in the background, passing trams and cars, flashing traffic lights… Other times, the objects of his interest are passing gallery visitors, actors on stage, musicians on stage, or the landscape passing by the train window. Each layer of the drawing represents one temporal plane of reality, which is immediately covered by another, and then another, more up-to-date one. It is as if the artist moved through the space with a camera, pressing the shutter button with each step, and then superimposed the resulting photographs printed on transparent film. This recording of reality in motion in space and time takes place on the surface of a single piece of paper. The layered plans create a dense web of vibrating lines in which the original scene is barely decipherable. Other times, the draftsman stops at two or three layers, in which specific motifs still remain legible.

He also draws everything that “rustles” around him. He captures the consonance of disparate sounds on the street or in nature, in some places he notes fragments of overheard conversations or the spoken word from the radio in the drawing. Listening to music helps him maintain a state of permanent “connection”. The melody sometimes takes him so much that its rhythm the painter begins to control the movements of the hands, which themselves dance on the paper, and the painting thus becomes a gestural musical record. The range of Duchan’s musical interests is wide: he listens to deep house, acid jazz, but he also loves church music, Bach’s fugues or perhaps Bedřich Smetana’s symphonic poems. It was under the influence of Smetana that the set was created, which was exhibited in the City Gallery in Litomyšl in the summer of 2023. The curator of Duchan’s Pentimenti exhibition, Lenka Lindaurová, succinctly described the principle of his musical recordings, which can be applied to the entire artist’s work: While musical notes are layered, more and more new ones make you forget the previous ones (but they were carefully recorded and are thus repeatedly available), drawings thicken, intertwine and some disappear from the world. Their mystery, undeclared durability and endless pulsation bring an unrepeatable experience for which we do not regret what cannot be seen.

It seems that Josef Duchan works in a permanent “flow”, that by drawing he generates energy that drives him to continue drawing, because he has to draw – just like he has to drink, eat and sleep (if he sleeps, of course). For him, drawing is not just an obsession – it has become a necessity. It seems as if he is afraid of missed moments, as if nothing should escape him, as if the existence of things, people and himself is confirmed by drawing.

Even though the intuitive character of artistic creation and above all its obsessive nature often refer to the sphere of art brut, spontaneous amateur artistic expression, Josef Duchan cannot be classified in it. He was shaped by his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in the graphic studio of Vladimír Kokolia, whose individual approach to students certainly provided Duchan with a supportive background for the development of his distinctive style. During the last twenty years, it has gone through radical transformations: from finely modeled drawing portraits, through painted psychedelic abstract compositions reminiscent of carpet patterns, or ritual paintings of the Australian Aborigines, to expressive abstraction, but also figurative painting, which are two main positions that still represent parallel line to his drawing work.

Josef Duchan travels daily from the Southern Town to the northern edge of the metropolis, where he has set up a generous studio in the area of the former Avia Letňany aircraft factory. Here he puts down his drawing tools and the pile of papers he managed to draw while riding the subway, and turns an imaginary faucet to disconnect himself from the flow of sensations and emotions and concentrate on painting. Moments from processual drawings appear in his paintings – mainly fragments of figures and their out-of-phase movements in the indicated environment. However, they are not created so impulsively, but are channeled by the painter into well-thought-out colors and compositions. They concentrate his pulsating energy concentrated in the act of painting, which is not limited by format, as is the case with drawings. The monumental sails of advertising banners sometimes lead the artist to a literally “physical” painting, which exudes the spontaneous joy of a free gesture. Dominant colored surfaces are surrounded by a flourishing fine-drawn structure and resemble urban landscapes of industrial zones and mining areas or maps of extraterrestrial megacities. They are mental cobwebs spun from threads of fears and desires, fear of emptiness, endlessly intertwining meanings and connections, which draw not only the author himself into their web, but also threaten to engulf the receptive viewer who is not afraid of adventure.

Terezie Zemánková

Jaroslaw Sebastian Pastuszak
+420 774 818 153

Sebastian Pastuszak
+420 730 169 997