Mario Chromy’s twelfth exhibition is a small overview of his works and presents his own analysis of the world, based on the oblique facts that come out of the absurdity of tabloid news journalism. Some of the headlines the artist has accumulated in his collection and which his artworks are based on seem to have been – indeed were – created in a madhouse. It is the madhouse we all know as ‘mass media’.
Exhibitionist dressed as banana threatened people with gun
Young Chinese man deceives airport officials with old man mask
Hired hit man fell in love with his victim… then faked her death with tomato ketchup
Man lived 15 years with a pencil in his head
Mario, how do you feel about a world where a woman, having killed her husband and informed the police about it, goes to make herself a cup of tea to calm down?
Fine. These are such unusual cases that they only occur once in someone’s life. Similar news is a rarity, and you by no means encounter it every day.
But you have a huge list of these headlines. How do you find them?
Everyone comes across them when they read news on the Internet. When I check my email, I also look at the latest news published on my server. One day I was clicking on some interesting headlines and then I realised that they could be the source of great ideas for my work and a reason to start painting pictures. I have always been attracted not only by juicy stories in the news but also unusual points of view on things. On the Internet I don’t have special preferences on the topics in the news so I read everything that interests me, both on my mail server and on social networks. Most often of all it’s videos in Czech but sometimes it’s from English-language sources.
You work in different styles; we detect cubism, comics and something akin to street art. What do you base your choice of form on?
I just experiment. The comics came about as a result of my struggle with wasting time. When I watch television, I take a piece of paper and start to draw something. It happens subconsciously. Sometimes you’re speaking to someone on the phone and without thinking about it you automatically start drawing in a notebook. It’s my way of relaxing. It doesn’t matter to me which materials come to hand – pencils, pens or paints. Sometimes I get a series of several paintings. It all depends on the concept. It’s very important that the viewer is able to interpret the picture correctly even when there isn’t a description under it. I try to be free with style. For example, the cubist picture came about when I tried to depict a pencil in a person’s head (‘Boy, 15, lived with a pencil in his head’ – ed.). It’s a certain analytical approach to the situation. For the news about the person wearing a mask (‘Young Asian passes through passport control and boards plane in old man mask’ – ed.) I chose a different style: since the mask was really horrible and its expression so striking, the picture was, too. For each story, the form chosen was the one that would most directly call up the headline itself.
So, the headlines are full of themes for new ideas. Do you not sometimes get the feeling that the world is slowly going mad?
Yes, definitely! Everyone, as they get older, understands the world less and less. You get that feeling. But if you look deeper, everything changes in its appearance but in its essence it remains the same.
How do you differentiate reliable news from unreliable news?
Good question. Of course not all journalists are independent; some write on orders and some are subject in some way to an external influence. This is very evident in the example of the information conflict between Ukraine and Russia, where the continuation of the cold war, you could say, could be found in the informational sphere. Each side has its own strategy for sharing information. The problem with information and its selection is everywhere. By studying a piece of news, you can find its origin and draw your own conclusions. However, on the Internet there are now many sites, like Onion.com, for example, which purposely spread false information. I have even, by the way, got a picture dedicated to news from this site: Beach strewn with inflatable breasts (‘130 thousand inflatable breasts found washed up on beach’ – ed.). This 100 per cent did not happen in reality – it’s fiction – but in principle it could happen somewhere.
How do you relate to art which is not understood by many people? For example, how to understand the concept of a pillow nailed to a wall?
Installations and conceptual art have always been attacked. One artist is told that they are dense and too complex, but then the other is considered to be doing something very fresh. Some, by the way, only do fresh things. Art is always subjective.
Do your works get reactions you hadn’t expected?
If someone finds something more in my work, that’s good. The main thing is that viewers don’t walk past it, that they are interested. Today there is such a huge influx of information that any ‘like’ is good. If people come and tell me that they don’t like a painting and it’s horrible, that’s better than if they walked by it and didn’t say anything. When choosing one form of work or another, or a style for the next news item, I want to give viewers freedom to interpret it however they want. If I painted the news for another five years and had 500 paintings, every one of them would be unique. For me it’s all about form.
Some people create only to provoke…
In art, its honesty is important. That’s the philosophy of the picture. Art is based on truth. And you always detect the intention of its author. If the art is not meant to be truthful, it is kitsch.
What advice would you give someone not wanting to get lost in the labyrinth of current information?
I haven’t got any advice. But I can tell them from my experience: if something in this crazy world scares or worries you, just laugh at it!
Some headlines that have inspired Mario Chromy
Rowling has ruined my life! My name is Harry Potter
Man calls 911 over 28-year-old son’s messy bedroom
Hypnotist accidentally hypnotises himself in the mirror for five hours
Jesus appears to engaged couple on Walmart receipt
LesboLand in N Sweden attracts Chinese men
Dog brought her mistress hand grenade
Enraged wife kills husband by sitting on him
Flasher dressed as banana threatens people with a gun
Priest drowns in attempt to demonstrate walking on water to believers