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In the Shop Display: Martin Bu

18. July 2021 — 19. September 2021
Esterházyho palác, Bratislava
Curator: Viera Kleinová

Several works by the designer and ceramicist Martin Bu (1976 - 2021) could be used as a concise spatial illustration for a dystopian novel. The world inside it went through a cataclysm. Some of the buildings have melted away, scattered with "corpses" of military machinery, others becoming habitat of sea predators. Nevertheless, Martin Bu does not concern himself with mere sarcastic commentary on various escapades of the genus Homo technicus from the position of critical or experimental design.

Factories, a pair of sculptures/vases that are part of the Slovak National Gallery's Collection of Applied Art and Design, specifically relate to the domestic history of ceramics. They are a peculiar memorial to the Slovak ceramic industry: cooled-down chimney stacks, its matter, energy and vitality dramatically disappearing and only sporadically being revived.

Martin Bu did not perceive ceramics and design within either separate or hierarchical relationships. He avoided the dualities of free and applied art. For him, the function was essential within its symbolic layer; so that the intimacy and universality of the box filled with emptiness and meaning served as a primary reference point for the vessel. He enjoyed a somewhat subversive and anti-pragmatic approach to design that František Burian instilled into his students in the Art Design Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava (AFAD). Martin Bu found his "game plan" here, first as a student and later as a teacher - a plan into which he introduced the ceramic principle without hesitation. He worked with clay since he was a high school student - after ceramics school in Modra, he continued his studies under the guidance of pedagogue Ivica Vidrová-Langerová in the Ceramics Studio at the AFAD Bratislava.

Martin Bu believed in the object's ability to "infect" us emotionally. Therefore, in his work, he liked to argue, cause disconcertion; other times, he composed his works as sketches full of black humour and sarcasm. In an intensive experiment, he looked through this filter at both the glorified and marginalized history of domestic ceramics production.

This experiment led to a two-track concept straddled between recycling and citation. Bu took dusty porcelain figurines "Made in Czechoslovakia" out of the cupboards and quietly, with the help of a CNC milling machine, lathed a fresh set of ceramic traps. Those well-known and tame stories suddenly grew some sharp teeth. The pastoral became pastiche*, a caricature or even blasphemy** - a sculpture called Land-Surveyors is an openly sensual study of men's embrace. Poly Fenek, an adorable-eared desert fox, offers us a human foot like a trophy (hand is also available). Crowds of porcelain figurines wandering through the moving sands of good taste and kitsch, heroes and heroines of the once robust and thriving Czechoslovak ceramic industry under Martin Bu, underwent a digital, coarse-grained and rough transformation. They are a sad-humorous reminder of faded glory, sinister and sharp commentaries on the "culture" of unconscious accumulation and playful abundance. Here and there, their bright-white twinkle is touched by the blue cobalt glaze; sometimes, they are "dressed" à la unforgettable Czech pink porcelain.

Factories have their home affiliation in a series of hybrid architectures, which, like figural sculptures, were created almost ten years ago as part of his doctoral project at the Art Design Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. As a personification of security and stability, the house, an entity that we value in both profane and sacral sense, in Martin Bu's interpretation, becomes the target of various attacks - inconspicuous and gradual (Factories) or straightforward and extreme (NY Under Water, Church). As if the suffocating feeling of constant fear he experienced during his academic residence in Israel persisted in his mental setting. Concerns such as these, as Bu noted, significantly changed his own values. After all, even his latest and last works use brutal poetics of shark-filled buildings, their tails and fins protruding from their "walls", like germs of the warriors of the ancient Greek god of war, Ares.

Martin Bu abruptly left us on 19 June 2021 while working on his latest collection, which he did not have time to finish. However, the exhibition was created. If you like to see more of Martin Bu's works, in addition to the Slovak National Gallery, visit Nova Gallery until 5 September 2021.

The new exhibition cycle of the Slovak National Gallery, In the Shop Display, enters the public space through the window of Café Berlinka on the ground floor of the Esterházy Palace, presenting works of visual art responding to the issues of contemporary life. In this exhibition format, we have revived collaboration between Peter Bartoš and Július Koller, who exhibited their works in a storefront of a stocking repair shop in Klobučnícka Street in Bratislava under the title Interpretation (Anti-gallery).

* an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work or artist

** an insult that shows contempt, disrespect or lack of reverence

You can read more about the exhibition and works at www.sng.sk and find digital reproductions of other works by Martin Bu from the collections of the SNG at www.webumenia.sk/en.

 
 
 

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