Kafka’s Metamorphosis on canvas at Dea Orh
The gallery is already participating in prestigious art fairs such as Art Dubai and Art Amsterdam and is currently exhibiting works by the highly esteemed Montenegrin and Croatian artist Dimitrije Popović.
Set in a location that combines the elegance of a luxury salon with the chic sleekness of a contemporary exhibition space, Dea Orh offers a warm atmosphere that is atypical of most contemporary art galleries.
The gallery opened in March 2009 and underwent a major reconstruction over the summer in preparation for its first major exhibition—photographs by rock muse Pattie Boyd taken during her time with former husbands Eric Clapton and George Harrison. While Boyd’s work may seem out of place in the gallery’s repertoire of exhibits that has included famed Czech painter Jakub Špaňhel and the current works of the legend Popović, it was no mistake. Though gallery director Marko Brdarski said light-heartedly that they are spontaneous at Dea Orh, it is clear that their strategy is anything but impulsive. “That was a good move because the media attention was phenomenal,” Brdarski told CBW regarding the Boyd exhibition.
Following this initial boost, the gallery began to make its careful selections on who to represent and exhibitors have included both well-known names as well as emerging talents. The exhibition Five, which opened in December last year presented five young Czech and Slovak artists—Juraj Kollár, Pavla Sceranková, Jakub Špaňhel, Pavel Tichoň and Štefan Tóth, followed by another exhibit of exclusive new works by Tichoň and Tóth. “We tend to focus on Czech artists in terms of promoting and building up their careers,” Brdarski said, explaining that their main goal is to really manage a group of artists through developing their careers, which of course also entails developing the gallery name.
The current exhibiting artist, Popović, is a gem for the gallery’s mounting prestige. The series Kafka is inspired by the artist’s impressions of literary icon Franz Kafka’s work, in particular “The Metamorphosis.” Characteristic of Popović’s art, which has been displayed around the world and alongside the works of Salvador Dalí, the series is stunningly wrought with symbolism. Popović explained that he takes a great deal of time to premeditate his works, and elements both overt and hidden are always intentional and significant. “It is not intended to shock,” Popović told CBW.
Painting the reality of a literary icon
Popović, an artist as well as a philosopher, was inspired by Kafka’s work even as a student in high school, when he created his first work based on his initial impression of reading Kafka. Drawn in 1967 when he was just 16, “Kafka” is a depiction of the insect that was the final result of Gregor Samsa’s metamorphosis and displayed along with the recent series, the image is an inspiring insight into the artist’s innate talent even at a young age. The series Kafka includes the recurring theme of the insect as well as mysterious and entirely captivating portraits of Kafka in largely black, white and gray—shades the artist noted as possibly symbolic of Kafka’s literary world. His image is melancholic and often very vulnerable, with biological elements exposed including his ribs or jaw.
“Kafka’s style of writing in very precise, clear … on the other hand, this same style of writing is grasping the reader and taking them into another realm, revealing an inner world, this complicated, complex nature of human being—nature which is determined by insecurity, fear, sickness, alienation,” Popović said.
He explained that he applied this visually through the medium of painting details with a strong foundation in reality, for example ribs—a symbolic reminder of Kafka’s personal reality. “Kafka had lung problems; he had tuberculosis. So his illness, his condition, had a tremendous influence on his being, his view of the world and himself as a person. And also his universal view of mankind. Man often feels alienated and alone, and very often a man is a mystery to himself,” Popović said.
The philosophy of the art
One of the intriguing points in his series is his choice to depict Kafka as the figure undergoing the metamorphosis rather than Samsa, a figure that Popović described as a metaphor. The reality, he explained, was the insect. “When Gregor Samsa wakes up as an insect he is not shocked by the fact that he became an insect. He is trying to turn over, to stand up, his first worry is how he can get to work and not be late. … This is a very bizarre poetic image that describes this human alienation. … His family is disowning him, rejecting him. … It’s a tragic figure that speaks in a poetic language about modern nature,” Popović said. Metamorphosis is something of a collective theme, for all of us, Popović said, explaining that in a way, life is one long metamorphosis toward death. “The metamorphosis that is happening is happening to [Kafka], to us. We wake up every morning with certain problems—this complex problem of existence is something that each of us bears in their own way,” he said.
KAFKADea Orh Art Gallery
Kozí 3, Prague 1
To May 18
www.deaorh.comThe profound depth to his approach is evidenced in his moving, sometimes dark works. The metaphor that he described is represented in some of the pieces as a black, ominous silhouette as the backdrop to a beautifully detailed drawing of a beetle. The featureless human silhouette is often depicted with a mouth opened as if silently screaming in angst, in one piece even set within another more detailed profile with a much calmer expression, furthering this concept of the universal and wholly human experience of undergoing sometimes painful metamorphosis while maintaining one’s presentation in modern society.
Popović described himself as more of a realist in his thinking and this series as surrealist-psychological portraits. In his enthralling examination of reality and mortality he has immortalized an element of Kafka’s being that is intrinsic in every human being, perhaps playing its role in the timeless allure of the literary icon’s work. “The youthful official in the Kafka portrait I use as my source is metamorphosed, through the power of my imagination, into the literary legend and tortured artist whose works are devoured across the world. And it is a metamorphosis I myself immortalize in these works on display; in the same way Kafka himself is immortalized in the greatest work of surrealist fiction,” Popović said in a gallery release.
True to his highly charged choice of subject matter from Marilyn Monroe to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, The distinguished artist is currently working on a series inspired by the dark opera “Salome.”