Social criticism abounding with humor, underlined with subtle irony could be a short description of the artistic expression of Slovak contemporary artist, Viktor Frešo. Looking at his body of work, we can find different media and disparate pieces that all appear to exude a similar sentiment – clever ridicule of a certain social situation or phenomenon. His work builds on concrete, yet universal examples, weaving a complex visual language that everyone can recognize – an analytical visual system that picks apart all that is ugly, bad or irritating within a man, and subsequently in society.
This is exactly where the iconic figure of Pičus comes from. A figure of a petty, unattractive man that smirks angrily at everyone and everything. His sectioned, disproportionate body reveals his corrupt nature, crowned with an exceptionally big head – a particular obsession of the artist. This big-headed personage is a sublimation of all the negative emotions a person can have, poisoned by the foul society, crooked fellow men and an abundance of inner complexes. To emphasize the power of these emotions, Frešo exaggerates the main features of the Pičus, sculpting him into a big, ridiculous baby. This odd character is an epitome of a rigid, intolerant person, self-righteous ignoramus, a pillar of every retrograde ideology. He is one among the many and one of the many, an irritated neighbor, a resentful cousin, even a rejecting, uncompromising parent. Giving in to his baseless self-importance, we feed Pičus the attention he craves, which is why Frešo chooses to mock him. He paints this little man in his true colors, pointing out that he, in fact, is a Nobody. Niemand thus becomes a good translation of the Slovak original, alluding to the generic and meaningless nature of his character.
Undressing of Pičus to his core does not conclude Viktor Frešo’s critique of society. The idea, in fact, culminates in the installation “Birth of Niemand”, where a sixteen nobodies stand together, like soldiers, frowning upon the surrounding life. Only one of the group has a different grimace, with his head tilted to the side, suggesting a very slight glimpse of individuality within the group. Layered with meaning, this small gesture allures the viewer to get involved with the sculptural installation by creating visual interest, but it also implicates that the tiniest look over the fence can begin a disassemblement of a firm degenerate collective. This “wondering” Pičus, so to say, is a source of amusement, a gentle comical relief to the common solemnity. Observing the group more carefully, the viewer cannot but conclude that a Nobody is born out of the pool of arrogant small-minded men who tend to overcompensate their poor endowment with false appearances.
“I have always been fascinated by people with big head,” says the artist, playing with the known stereotype. Since the 90s, he has portrayed this interest through a series of works, until Pičus emerged in 2013. Ever since, this farcical character has gained quite a following, as art lovers, collectors and visually sentient people around the world respond to his absurd seriousness and funny posture, easily reading the message behind.
The opportunity to scrutinize Pičus and his fellows will present itself to the visitors of the upcoming Discovery Art Fair in Cologne, where the entire “Birth of Niemand” installation will be on show, presented by ARTCAMPAiGN. Join us at XPOST from 12th to 14th April, for a fresh dose of witty, inspiring contemporary art.