‘Exploring the mind and death’: Dušan and Voitre Marek - Surrealists at Sea
“There is no finish to the end
A beginning follows the end.”
When you leave the exhibition you come back to the same painting: Equator. You are on the boat again. You can feel the ocean floor unsteady sift through the wood plank. Looking down at your feet you now notice the phrase BREAK THE MIRROR TO SEE WHO I AM under your shoe. You detach the plank from the deck and reveal the inner workings of the boat. They are as much human as they are mechanical. A woman with a cog in her womb pushes you across the equator toward Australia. Her name on the tip of your tongue. Liberty? Maybe.
“I am in the grip of an octopus, it doesn’t want to let go of me, I keep cutting off its tentacles but new ones keep growing back.”
Surrealists at Sea features a wide range of art from the brothers Dušan and Voitre Marek. Throughout the gallery they spread their tentacles; gripping paint brushes, pliers, notepads, and 35mm film cameras. Exploring themes of the subconscious, freedom, and religion, the work is thought-provocative and self-reflective of Dušan and Voitre. Quotes translated from their personal writings are included around the gallery. This is in addition to excerpts from various newspapers, which serve to chronicle their lives from the eye of the media.
“What is the sea?
The sea is an enormous windmill.
It will crush anyone who loves it.”
The pair came to Adelaide in 1948 on board the SS Charlton Sovereign. Where Perpetuum Mobile/Equator was painted onto the gaming table of the ship. Their refuge to Australia prompted by the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. Unfortunately, the brothers struggled in the conservative art scene of Adelaide, and after a few controversial exhibitions, they returned to the sea. At one point Dušan worked on a cargo ship in Papua New Guinea, and Voitre at Kangaroo Island in a lighthouse. Around the world they continued to create art and explore the surreal. As a result, Surrealists at Sea is not just an exhibition, but a travelogue too.
“[Surrealism is] … seeing not only with eye in eyeholes but opening new eyes in knees, in throat, in palms.”
Because of how the exhibition focuses on the story of the artists, the more you progress through it the more you seem to just inherently understand the strange pieces on display. Much of the work goes beyond a verbal interpretation and to a place of instinctual reaction. Beginning on the boat, you watch them from the perspective of an outsider. As they travel around, you travel with them. You experience Kangaroo Island, you experience Papua New Guinea. And before you know it, you are rubbing against their subconsciouses: exploring the mind and death.
Surrealists at Sea provides one with the story and the space to appreciate the work of this historically underappreciated duo. The moment you go to leave the exhibition, when you see Equator again, you are drawn back in through your knees, throat, and palms.
This exhibition is open free to the public until September 12 2021, at the Art Gallery of South Australia.