Shadowing Roman Ondák
Cover Story, May 2018
This month we revisit Roman Ondák’s exhibition ‘Some Thing’ at The Common Guild, Glasgow, in 2013, during which Latitudes was invited to give a talk. Roman’s show comprised a series of composite works in display cases. Early still-life paintings and pencil drawings from his student days in Slovakia in the 1980s were coupled with the actual objects depicted – a chair, a length of rope, a helmet, a vase (a detail of Shadow, 1981/2013 is the work above), and so on, which were placed in a deadpan way on top of them.
Both these unremarkable everyday objects and youthful Roman’s callow, even obsolete, attempts to embellish them into tasteful high art together became new exhibits. Reframed within something more like a museological overview, the new hybrid works were a very plausible form of parody. A wry riddle about reality and its representation. An apparent self-depreciating satire around the frivolity, narcissism and persistence of the still-life genre, reprising the Romantic mythology of the expressive realist artist. And on the other hand, a caricature of Conceptual art’s bad reputation for dryness, humourlessness and highfalutin philosophical laboriousness!
Roman’s exhibition had some very thoughtful fun by redoubling a realisation that art is no longer merely a fixed quality of objects or representations, but a distinctly changeable and very volatile effect that can be produced – and withdrawn.