Tomáš Vaněk belongs to the generation that entered the Czech art scene in the mid 1990s. We could characterise his work as an examination of the space “between” – between reality and fiction, between the artist and viewer, between the creative and routine approach, between the private and the public, between seeing and knowing – and also between the object and its shadow.
After graduating from AVU Vaněk initiated with the group Headless Horseman (1999) a project for a display case on the street Komunard in Prague-Holešovice (as part of the exhibition Artworks in Public Spaces), which was to confront the art processes with the street's everyday life. The group PAS (2000) then continued in this activity, expanding it to other European cities as a form of confrontation with another cultural environment.
The openness which characterized this is also typical for Vaněk’s “Particip” projects. As the title itself suggests, Vaněk wants to activate the viewers’ perceptions and participation in interpreting the work. He mainly uses the technique of spray-painting over templates – on gallery walls and in public spaces he spray paints objects that appear real, which creates a certain tension between reality and fiction. Although spray-painting over templates is a method typical for street art, Vaněk depicts objects that typically belong to a given environment (e.g. doorbells - Particip no. 8, hydrant, electrical lighting, hammered nail, etc.) or theoretically could be on this place (inappropriately looking wooden cottage door in a gallery space – e.g. Veletržní Palace, Futura), creating shifts in our perception and expectation. We could borrow the definition of human action as “tactics” from de Certeau (The Practice of Everyday Life) for Vaněk’s spray-painting approach: in contrast to a "strategy” which demands its own place, autonomous language and sovereign position, a tactic does without its own place, appears in isolated actions, uses "occasions", depends on them and is thus inevitably mobile. Vaněk’s particips work similarly, depend on circumstances, and via the individual actions enter a real space and demonstrate that the "space is a practiced place" (de Certeau).
In another case, in the My Škoda Car project (Particip no. 18), Vaněk used parts of his own disassembled car as a template for creating a picture on the wall in which the spray-painted outlines of the individual parts created compositions of a somewhat abstract nature, the functional aspect changing into a purely aesthetical one, while again preserving a certain tension of the sphere “between” – between two ways of interpretation.
Examples of "participation art" are certainly Particip no. 67, in which Vaněk invites viewers to take over the creation of a comic strip, Particip no. 39, a collection of sorts of descriptions of everyday situations, feelings and paradoxes of thought which are seemingly faintly familiar to all of us, or Particip no. 15 in which a visitor of the Municipal Library can sign out a notebook with Vaněk spray-painted templates. In this last case the artwork entered a different system and became a direct part of the system of normal operation (once again in the "between" area). In the notebooks that could be borrowed at the library, Vaněk also focused on the possibilities of perception (transformations of a sign when quickly leafing through). This is a principle also used in Particip no. 14 (peripheral animation of a dart spray-painted on the pillars of a tram bridge), and later in examining the limits of the field of vision.
In recent years Vaněk's interest has returned to references to avant-garde art – for instance, transferring the visual poetry of V. Burdy to a real, three-dimensional form (Openings), or creating audio-situations by using binaural microphones (e.g. Particip no. 93 House of Art in České Budějovice). At first the visual-musical performance, Live Score, Vaněk’s Particip no. 52 (joint project with Tomáš Dvořák aka Floex) appears to be a distant echo of abstract painting. During the live concert of different performers a web camera films simple geometric shapes that Vaněk spray-paints on the canvas; the computer saves them in the form of samples so that in the second part of the performance Vaněk can re-use these fragments/samples, combine and modify them in various ways and, together with the musicians' improvisation, create a new, live mixed music - links to the project can be found here:
Tomáš Vaněk won the Jindřich Chalupecký Award for 2001.
Tomáš Vaněk, Particip č. 57, Cover Art! 2007, přední strana časopisu Flash Art, česko-slovenská verze
č. 3-4, prosinec 2006 – únor 2007
Tomáš Vaněk, Reality TV, Mathieu Copeland, Flash Art, česko-slovenská verze
č. 3-4, prosinec 2006 – únor 2007
Barvy Laky Participy Zamalovávání Vzorník použitých sprejů , katalog, Praha 2002
Particip č.18, plakát jako přloha časopisu Umělec č. 1/2002
Havránek, Vít, Situace, okolnosti a participy, Umělec 1/02, str. 60-65
Vzdálené podobnosti Něco víc než kosmetika, katalog, Praha 2000
BJ (text Havránek Vít), Divus, katalog, Praha 1999
Havránek, Vít, Barvy, laky, Umělec 3/98, str.23
Váňa, Radek, T. Vaněk, Barvy laky, Detail 3/III, 1998, str. 2
Lindaurová, Lenka, BJ, nové tváře, Umělec 2/98, str.16-17
Vít Havránek: Particips of Tomáš Vaněk - www.particip.tv