In the early 90s, photographer Robo Kočan joins the Slovak photography scene. This is the period of his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, during which he already sets up exhibitions actively, and his photographs are a part of home and abroad art exhibits of Slovak and European photographs. His earlier works are defined by the usage of light painting and multiple exposure (Dialogues), playfulness and joy from a game, and later on, by varying the family “gene pool”, staging stories from a family album (Family Crosswords, Guarded Angel), playing games with human identity, combining portraits of women of different races. Within this period, a time-lapse project emerges, by the name of ‘Self-portrait’, which still exists to the present day, with the author contributing annually. At the end of the 90s, the author arranges an open cycle – ‘Shadows of Ghosts’ (1998) which is greatly distinct from the former imaginative, mirthful cycles. His stories are more mysterious and puzzling, the emptied space is populated by ethereal beings, and in the latter cycle, ‘Stories by Night-Light’, artefacts from various historical periods are traversed. Both cycles are ground-breaking and substantial for his latter works. The following series of photographs represents a surreal confluence of various historical periods, religious symbols, authentic culture archetypes, or even manifestation of the contemporary civilization. Photo-layering, hand-coloring, revealing and masking details, multiplication and intersection of stories, and the ambiguity of titles personate a challenge to their readability and interpretation. Their meanings are disclosed to us rather by intuition than consciously, what we have is only a sense of anticipation.
The ‘Stories’ exhibition maps the author’s works since the year 2003, with no ambition to introduce the whole area of topics which have been, at the past or given time, relevant topics of the authorial program. It reflects the photographical cycles, bound by narration, without an emphasis on the moment, in which the base of the plot is formed. It comes about either in front of the camera lens, when the author deliberately searches for the right shot, point of view, which is the bearer of the plot (The Beings of Old Glamorgan), or the story is created by the subsequent manipulation by “assembly”. The exhibition collection is dominated by cycles realized during the author’s creative stays abroad (Wales, Cleveland and Poland).
The ‘Stories by Night-Light’ cycle shaped during the author’s abroad stay in 2002-2003 in Cleveland. It was perhaps the visual unattractiveness of the city and its surroundings, or the author’s general mood that caused the whole photography series to emerge in a hotel room. A night-light, minimal number of props which are available in a place where a game with shadows is played, possibly as old as the humanity itself. From objects that are at his disposal, he stages a thrilling story in which the history and the present, mythology and religion, spiritual and real world, liable to changes, are intertwined. The unevenness of a wall, and the color of a snapshot create an illusion of a magical space for the shadows of reality.
The ‘Beings of Old Glamorgan’ photography series was created during the course of Lucia Benická’s project, ‘Crossroads for Ideas’ (2004), which was realized in the area of Glamorgan, Wales. This series is mostly intertwined with the collection ‘Gardens of Eden’. In both of these creations, the author captures the genuinely existing flora. Whereas in gardens, he achieves the impression of the “paradisal” by the usage of illumination in darkness and macro photography, in ‘Beings of Old Glamorgan’ he makes do with changing the point of view. There is no staging, he does not build a stage, he only searches for appropriate surroundings and the light that is to be found directly in the nature. Most likely, majority of the titles originate during the process of picture taking, as a matter of a fact, the shots arise as members of the Old Glamorgan society.
In the ‘Stories from the Other Side’ cycle, the author formally takes the ‘Stories by Night-Light’ series as a basis. Works of a Polish woodcarver Marcin Rząs from Zakopane assume the role of props. These diminutive, wooden sculptures, resembling orantes, surrounded by products of nature, or rather silhouettes sprung up by being cast on walls, are the main characters of the inscrutable stories from the other side – the stories of astral traveling, mysterious alliances, guardians of the galaxy, vigilant spiritual beings operating beyond the boundaries of the visible world, governing harmony and order (of galaxies, parallel worlds). The graduated colorfulness, reaching from dark-brown to its radiant equivalent, yields the photographs an illusion of mystique.
‘Images of Memory’ – are a part of the ‘V4 Through My Eyes’ project, in which four photographers document four different countries. The joint exhibition provides a glimpse of the V4 countries through the eyes of a foreigner. It also depicts the relationship between the author and the country, persisting stereotypes in the perception of a different country, and the distinctive authorial processing of the topic. David Cysař (CZ) captured Slovakia via legible symbols: three peaks with a double cross, a sculpture of Jánošík in Terchová, and memorials to significant anniversaries. Magdalena Ciszewska Rząsa (PL), who photographed the Tokai region in Hungary focused herself rather on the general character of the landscape – vast vineyards, The Tizsa river, structures linked to viniculture, and Zsuzsanna Kemenesi, while mapping the Czech Republic, stuck to a proportionate ratio of anonymous and iconic shots. Photographer Robo Kočan documented Poland in his own, special way. He captured the landscape reaching from the Slovak border up to the Baltic Sea. Out of numerous shots he has taken, which were created in the form of multiple exposure, the author picks, layers, refines. The outcome debuts as a mystical story of Polish history, in various levels of readability dependent on the level of historical knowledge, religion studies, codes of the Polish past and present.
The ’From the Other Side’ photo series is an open project by two authors, photographer Robo Kočan and painter Zbyněk Prokop. Compared to other similar projects, with a co-authorship of works such as ‘Three of a Nice Pair’ (Teren, Csudaj, Diviš), or the duo of Frešo-Binder whose handwritings are apparent, in the case of the Kočan-Prokop authorship it is not so, and it is also not so relevant. By conjoining mystical photographs with metaphysical paintings, he accomplishes multilayering and story blending. With decisions made by both authors, each and every layer of memories, records of reality, sensations, or moods either emerge or become shrouded. This leads to the creation of peculiar, authentic works conveyed to different media: paper, canvas, CD – DVD, lightboxes, or in the form of multimedia projection intertwined with musical improvisation. The synthesis of paintings, photographs, music, interlaced travel stories and fragments of tales from the previous cycles is also a synthesis of the contents – the cognition of both authors.