Common World of Image and Word

In 1992 Petr Řehoř had an exhibition in Gallery Artina in Helsinki. There I was most captivated by the installation „Europe – Fin de Siecle” where the main role was played by a table set for twelve people. The table and chairs were in the blue EU color, the silver dial painted on the back of the chairs made it clear that there was not much time left.

The installation „Europe – Fin de Siecle” evoked many questions. Is it an invitation – for EU members – there were then only twelve of them – to the Last Supper? The name of the installation ,.Europe – Fin de Siècle” may refer to the period of one hundred years ago and to the idea of the fatigue of the West European culture and its degeneration. Or was it an invitation to a festive dinner – the East European Bloc having just fallen apart? This work was also topical in Finland, where heated debates were going about whether Finland should join or whether it should stay apart. The work is topical even today, as we are debating about whether we should set the table at the EU conference for the president and the prime minister or only for the prime minister,

,,Europe – Fin de Siecle” uncovers many ways of how Řehoř approaches work of art. Řehoř reacts to the current events around the world and he also uses the material from the field of culture and history of fine arts. Both require a profound knowledge of the European tradition. Řehoř – also attentively follows the events happening in the Finnish society and creates openings to new and fresh views.

Only two years prior in 1990 Řehoř reacted to the changes in his native country Czechoslovakia with the exhibition ”Kind-Hearted Revolution’`, referring to its so-called Velvet Revolution. Václav Havel and T.G. Masaryk, whose names were banned from history after 1948, became heroes.

This exhibition also became topical, as it pointed to a different manner, in which Řehoř creates his works. He creates collages into which he paints texts, compiling them from newspaper clippings and other publications: titles, phrases, advertising slogans.

He puts together documentary pictures and texts from generally known news, separating them from the given meanings and places them in a chaotic sequence into pictures. The result is often an equivocal news that apparently lacks the meaning. Exactly in this way we confront the flow of TV news.

In his case it does not involve only the flow of news, because the text has also another meaning. After becoming a Finnish citizen and losing Czech citizenship, it was almost impossible for him to speak to anyone in his mother tongue. The letters for him became something that he could hold onto, with the help of which he would preserve his own identity in the foreign environment.

Moreover, the texts and letter are also connected with the tradition of fine arts. The Modernists tried to erase any sign of the textual aspect and anything from the fine arts that could point outside the image. According to their view, the work of fine arts should be purely visual. All that the image contains is contained within the image itself, outside of it. In spite of that the viewing of an image, an attempt to understand it and explain it carries with it language and text. We cannot simply loosen ourselves from the language and text,

AIso Řehoř admits this fact in his work. Hence he is building an interesting visual and textual game using texts, elements of abstract art and intelligible items. He depicts the real world using texts and images, but at the same time he is creating new worlds. The viewer places himself/herself-somewhere in the middle of those worlds when scrutinizing Řehoř’s works.

Using letters, it is possible to communicate only by the use of an a priori agreed-up code. Individual and haphazardly grouped letters do not convey any meaning or the meaning remains unclear,  too complicated. Letters turn into signs and abstract forms, the visual material of the work. Also in this case Řehoř is moving on the interesting borderline between the image and word, assuming that this borderline really does exist.

Řehoř also creates three-dimensional objects. The installation ”Cemetery of Letters” is one of the funniest. The artist created using advertisement letters of a bank gone bankrupt. The work in be viewed as a funny game with letters, but for those who are acquainted with the bank, the tragic story of its customers becomes the monument of Finnish bank crisis.

Next to collage, figure has been a part of the work of Petr Řehoř throughout his entire artistic career. His figurative paintings and drawings have their character, their technique being superb. In 2005 Petr Řehoř had an exhibition in the Helsinki Museum Amos Anderson, where he introduced drawings and watercolors inspired by the erotic poems of Czech poet and fine artist Jirí Kolár. The world of the erotic is also its own world.

Seppo Heiskanen, 2006