Pavel Korbička


LIGHT CONDUCTORS, Jiří Valoch, Brno, 2005

Pavel Korbička is a Czech artist of the young generation, and certainly one of the less spectacular, who consistently pursues his themes rather than pressing for immediate success.  It seems quite symptomatic that his teachers at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague were Stanislav Kolíbal and Miloš Šejn.  Essentially, both are conceptual artists, yet their concept of art work differs greatly - while Kolíbal prefers the pure and impersonal language of geometry, through which meaning materializes, Šejn is far more subjective, with his themes often involving his own physical presence connected with vivid action.  In his best works, Pavel Korbička seems to combine both of these aspects.
Looking back at his work to date, we can see how significant his various ways of using light are and how frequently the process of light transformation becomes the focus of the artist’s message.  Sometimes, it is just plain sunlight and the record of the changing shadow, as it was in 1994 and 1995, when Korbička first attracted the attention of experts.  And it is characteristic that pregnant constructions were a major part of these works.  Korbička started out with subtle, discreet drawings, tracking the movement of the sun’s shadow cast by his own body at a place near his flat in Brno.  His interest in the geometry of characters then led him to apply the construction of the Renaissance majuscule O by Francesco Torniello from 1517.  He combined this construction with the round-the-clock record of the sun’s shadow, producing a series of drawings and two pieces of outdoor art; the first was made by treading in the mud at the bottom of the empty Pouzdřanský pond, the second by mowing the grass at the Space III exhibition in the Sýpka (Granary) Gallery near Vlkov.  At the same time, he was working at the Academy of Fine Arts to complete a remarkable indoor piece entitled Stairway, making the sharp outlines of shadows cast by the original structure visible upon a nearby wall.  He has developed this lapidary, but rich and repetitive form through a number of geometrical sculptures building on various forms of spatial and space-making analyses of the capital E (1992 - 1993), the codified shape of which tempted the artist to play with various component alternatives.  They were not mere constructions; they were also materialized meanings, variations of a symbol.  In terms of Korbička’s future artistic pursuits, it is worth noting that one of these constructions included blue neon, which endowed it with a different, somewhat artificial light.  Korbička has been returning to this phenomenon ever since, the lines of light still corresponding well with his quests into the third dimension.  In 1994, he confronted the bare structure of his sculpture, Unstable Cube, with distinctive neon lights - blue, red, and yellow.  In the works that followed, he even went as far as to abandon the usual linear form of neon lights, which is dictated by their function and production technology, and ordered shaped tubes that were tailor-made for the piece he had in mind.  In Delphi I - Birth, he used a red rounded four-pointed star; in Delphi IV - Blow out, an irregular blue line copied the jagged edge of an uncovered fragment of a Doric column.  Throughout the cycle, he confronted neon lights with finger drawings on the wall, so the result strongly accentuated the physical quality of the creative process.  In 1996, Dance Calligraphies integrated light and bodily action even more spontaneously; Korbička attached five lamps on the forehead, palms and insteps of a dancer and photographed the body movements she made according to his instruction.  Following several photographic works and drawings visualising movements of a human body, be it a dancer (Dance Calligraphies, Body As a Place, 1996; Caressing As a Dance, 1997 - 1998) or the artist himself (Dance Scores, 1996; Moving around the Centre, 1997), he returned to elementary geometric forms, but confronted them with a thing as close to a person as is one’s skin.  In his Allegory cycle (2001 - 2002), he juxtaposed a colour photograph of “real” human skin and simple geometric shapes made of glued-on human hairs.  These intimate realisations, paintings by form, deal with a conceptual paradox - human skin is presented wholly realistically, but the geometry of each composition is limited by the structure of the curves, visualising tersely the relationship between the organic and geometrical.  The hairs were first removed from real human skin and then rearranged in the photograph presenting similar or identical skin in compositions that apparently resulted from rational human calculation.
In recent years, Pavel Korbička has been building on his past experience in working with light and the stern language of geometry.  He began by taking the line of windows with two interruptions as seen from the street outside the House of Arts in Ostrava, which at that time exhibited his Greek Cycle, and defining it conceptually as an artefact in its own right (Os-tra-va, 2000); in so doing, he turned the interior installation into a piece of exterior art, inviting the viewer to relish the essential light transition from blue to red.  In his installation The Level (2003) at the Catacombs Gallery of the Goose on the String Theatre in Brno, he opted for a minimalist solution - in the extremely broken space with a variable, gradually descending floor level, he fixed three parallel shining blue lines that were two, three, and five metres long.  The visitors were treated to an unusual light experience, creating the impression of a single plane cutting through the whole space.  Korbička’s most recent works clearly indicate that he has discovered the optimum material for himself, which conducts, mirrors, reflects and mixes light, can be bent to form arch-like shapes and is manufactured in a relatively large format of 210x600x1 cm.  These polycarbonate sheets determine the character of Korbička’s present pursuits to such a degree that he titles his individual compositions after them - Light Conductor 1, 2 ….  Also, it is important that shining neon lights can be attached to the edge of a Lexan sheet; the artist has chosen a combination of one red and one blue light.  By bending Lexan, Korbička makes more or less minimalist compositions that are, given the character of the material, always arched.  He then uses them to newly articulate a given space.  He first employed Lexan in his Corridor (2003) installation at the Moravian Gallery in Brno.  Since then, Korbička has been exploring the communication possibilities of these sheets in various combinations and their interactions with red and blue neon light in a series of installations with a fitting title, Light Conductors.  Lexan is composed of multiple channels running parallel to the edges; when bent and exposed to changing light conditions, it transfers light absolutely unpredictably.  Walking back and forth around the individual parts of the artefacts, a viewer can be surprised while enjoying the new light and colour effects.  However paradoxical it may seem, the precision and the minimalist structure of each segment are a source of incredibly variable and quite unexpected light and colour images.  Unlike some of the classic works dealing with corridors and the entire neon-centred work of Dan Flavin, we perceive the artefacts of Pavel Korbička as open to the viewer.  Countering the minimalist explicitness, Korbička handles both lapidary forms and lapidary sources of light as a way to something quite striking.

Jiří Valoch