Culture | Visual Arts

Jonathan Karstadt reviews Trafačka: Temple of Freedom at Red Gallery, Shoreditch


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The Trafačka artistic collective have been running a countercultural art gallery in the Libeň district of Prague (once home to subversive Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal) since 2007. According to its website: Trafačka is a creative space, a place for meeting and free expression. At Trafačka it is possible to follow the emerging trends in contemporary art, and watch their further development and future direction. It is a place of open communication and discussion between the Czech artistic world and that of other countries.” This May, the group have continued this dialogue by bringing a selection of their artistic stylings to the Red Gallery in London’s Shoreditch.

On first arriving in the gallery, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, even disorientated by the seemingly random and highly eclectic work on show. In the entrance hall, varnished paintings and brightly-coloured sculptures reminiscent of 20th century Futurism vie for the visitors’ attention. This diversity doesn’t relent in the second room, containing among much else, Martin Krajc’s black and white nude Fuck Me, Martina Chwistková’s surrealist, Švankmajer-esque animation Wanderer and Jakub Roztočil’s Acrylic Orchestration, which appears on first viewing to be a computerised image, but on closer examination of the brush-marks is revealed to be a deeply organic piece.

As the visitor moves on through the gallery, there is a growing semblance of order as common themes begin to emerge, chief among them that of material regeneration and urban renewal. Trafačka is itself located in a former electricity substation and was founded amidst the rapid capitalist reshaping of the surrounding area, so it’s no surprise that some of its artists are preoccupied with the aesthetic and existential questions posed by a continuously evolving urban landscape.

This is the subject of Jakub Nepraš’s Fossil, perhaps the exhibition’s most arresting work, an audiovisual piece consisting of a video projected onto a painted wall with an ambient soundtrack. The backdrop, a collection of broad, swirling white brushstrokes, resembles a system of blood vessels into which flows a series of images of modern life: widgets on a factory production-line become people flocking through a busy city, alongside traffic lights, trains, clocks and merry-go-rounds, which shift in and out of focus before the whole scene fades into a forest, ending with the ripples of a brooding lake. It is the centrepiece of an exhibition that is thoroughly at-home in ever-changing Shoreditch, and provides visitors with exciting new perspectives on contemporary central European art.

Trafačka: Temple of Freedom is running at Red Gallery, 1-3 Rivington Street, London EC2A 3DT, until Friday 30th May. Opening times midday to 7pm, free admission.


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