Czech artist Vojtěch Kovařík receives his debut UK solo exhibition Lovers and Fighters at PUBLIC Gallery in East London. The show unveils a new series of paintings in which figures from Greek mythology, classical literature and modern culture come together to blur the boundaries between these two archetypes.
In this new series Kovařík departs from depictions of Hulk-like muscle men locked in combat, instead inviting the viewer to engage with these figures as ‘lovers’ as well as ‘fighters’, thereby questioning traditional notions of masculinity. The phrase ‘I’m a lover not a fighter’ is also challenged, as Kovařík refutes the association of love and ‘softness’, encouraging us to consider the bravery and fearlessness involved in such romantic endeavours.
The paintings continue Kovařík’s trademark monumentality, bulging bodies seemingly strain against the edges of the composition and exert their physical presence within the space. Hanging on chains from the ceiling is a depiction of the Greek God Prometheus, known as the true-lover of mankind, stoically enduring his torment by Zeus’s eagle; opposite a haunting yet peaceful portrait of Romeo perched upon a balcony, recalling the famous scene in which Juliet unknowingly reveals her love to him.
Each painting is characterised by mottled skin tones and textures achieved using Kovařík’s technique of spray paint and acrylic. For him, the body and great slabs of flesh and muscle offer infinite artistic interest, whereas the face, limbs and all other features of his figures are rendered in a brusque stylised shorthand. The contrast between these styles creates a brutal naivety, and an unlikely charm and sense of playfulness.
Vojtěch Kovařík (b. 1993) studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and received his BA and MA at the Faculty of Arts of the Ostrava University, Czech Republic. Among other awards he was the winner the Critics’ Prize for Young Painting (Prague, 2019). Solo exhibitions include ‘Landscapes of Muscle’, Galerie Dukla, Ostrava (2019), ‘Heaven Hell Paradise’, Galerie města Třince, Třinec (2019), ‘Temple of Doom’, Berlínskej Model, Prague (2019) and ARMAGEDON, Galerie OFF/FORMAT, Brno (2018).