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EXHIBITION

Review: Bibiana exhibit plays to kids

The Bibiana art gallery invites art enthusiasts and children alike to come for a peek into the world of Vladimír Kompánek, a Slovak visual artist specialising in the genre of never growing-up. Entitled Návšteva v ateliéri u pána Kompánka (A visit to the studio of Mr. Kompanka), the show is the first in a series of exhibitions at Bibiana which aims to bring the world of Slovak art closer to children.
The presentation is organised as an intimate tour through Kompánek's studio. Footprints lead patrons from the hallway to the first stop: a self-portrait comprised of colourful wooden eyes, nose and ears tacked against a black background. Next to it sits a sign asking the patron "What does Mr. Kompánek look like?" For those familiar with the toy, the answer is, coming with a chuckle, like nothing so much as Mr. Potato head.


The Bibiana exhibition of Kompánek's work is one in a series of exhibitions aimed at exposing children to the world of art.
photo: Courtesy of Bibiana

Bibiana Exhibition

Title: Návšteva v ateliéri u pána Kompánka (A visit to the studio of Mr. Kompánek)
Where: Bibiana medzinárodný dom umenia pre deti (the international house of art for children), Panská 41
When: Tue-Sun, 10:00-6:00, exhibition runts till June 4
Admission: 5 crowns
English program: no
Rating: 7 out of 10

The Bibiana art gallery invites art enthusiasts and children alike to come for a peek into the world of Vladimír Kompánek, a Slovak visual artist specialising in the genre of never growing-up. Entitled Návšteva v ateliéri u pána Kompánka (A visit to the studio of Mr. Kompanka), the show is the first in a series of exhibitions at Bibiana which aims to bring the world of Slovak art closer to children.

The presentation is organised as an intimate tour through Kompánek's studio. Footprints lead patrons from the hallway to the first stop: a self-portrait comprised of colourful wooden eyes, nose and ears tacked against a black background. Next to it sits a sign asking the patron "What does Mr. Kompánek look like?" For those familiar with the toy, the answer is, coming with a chuckle, like nothing so much as Mr. Potato head.

Following the footsteps to an adjacent wall, one finds basic information about the artist. Born in Rajec in northern Slovakia, Kompánek apparently likes snow, small houses and buttered bread, and he often forgets to close his tubes of paint. On the other side of the room snapshots coupled with quotes further the insight into the man. Adjacent a picture of his early childhood, Kompánek writes: "After a couple of years, a person is a metre taller and already he can't see."

If innocence is indeed so fleeting, visiting the reconstructed studio of Kompánek may at least afford full-grown humans a few nostalgic moments of feeling young in the artist's delightfully strange and bizarre world. Kompánek's art is like the harmless nightmare of a nursery schooler coupled with his daydreaming, a cross between Tim Burton and Sesame Street.

Whether it be painting, papier-maché, sketches, or wooden statues and statuettes, animals are the main objects of Kompánek's fancy, especially horses, which are distorted in colour and shape into cabbalistic fairy-tale beasts.

Other features of his work include imposing the organic on the inorganic and the geometric on the living. A large papier-m#ché orange and yellow smiley-face hangs from the ceiling with waving hands; an elf has a series of chins that roll out of its face like stairs from an attic.

Although making a distinct impression, Návsteva v ateliéri pána Kompánka is thin on the actual art of Mr. Kompanek. With only two rooms, there are but a handful of his works. Directors of the exhibit point out, however, that the exhibit is not about displaying Kompánek's art than about making the process of art accessible to children. Sitting at his work table with his tools and rough sketches, there is indeed the feeling that Kompánek may at any time walk into the room, pick up a brush or saw and start working.

Although not available at Bibiana, books of Kompánek's work, including a collaboration with poet Milan Rúfus entitled Zvieratníček (Animals), can be found in bookstores throughout Slovakia.

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