Review: About Freedom
The beautiful simplicity of Michaela Thelenová's photos of small-town life leads to a renewed appreciation of the everyday
Tucked away down a side street near Letná park is the cozy Hunt Kastner exhibition space. Featured in the current exhibition are 15 Michaela Thelenová photographs, from About Freedom, a project she's been working on for the past year, in and around her home village of Sovolušky near Ústí nad Labem.
Her work represents all aspects of life; some particular to villages, others on a more basic human level, all beautifully and originally composed. Spilt milk, recently joined by a pair of curious flies, or the bright white head of a muzzled dog, bowed in the evening darkness, signify some of the basic elements of human experience highlighted in this series in order to tempt the viewer into a renewed appreciation of the everyday. Thelenová represents the perfect combination of country life with typical daily experiences so that the viewer can ease comfortably into a dialogue with the work.
Viewing Thelenová's small-scale prints requires an intimate engagement with each individual photograph. Most likely you'll be drawn in for a closer look by the curious shape and form of the subject matter and kept at close range by her skillful composition techniques and beautifully simplistic subject matter. Although an essay on her website attempts a rather tangled and wordy explanation of Thelenová's inspiration and intent, I think the work can simply speak for itself through its contrast of form, shape and colors, and its creative representation of the subject matter. Thelenová's keen sense of form and her ability to successfully use the medium to manipulate anything from minute details through to the most obvious elements are apparent in most of her oeuvre to date. A quick peruse of her website should illustrate this point. Look out for two series in particular: Světlo/Light and Satelit/Satellite.
Overall, this show offers a welcome respite from the appalling mire inhabited by most of today's excuses for contemporary art. That may sound harsh, but Thelenová does for photography what Hemingway does for literature - she uses simplicity to convey a great deal of meaning.
• About Freedom is at Hunt Kastner Artworks until May 2nd, 2006
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