Thematic cycles of photographs follow one after another: Other Women, Landscapes, The Geometry of Nudity, 46 Czechs. They are diverse and yet something always returns in them. They are diverse, though they are by the same artist. However, that which returns in them and forms their common denominator is not a name, but a gaze, which both reveals this diversity and is itself revealed within it. Because photography is always also the photography of a certain gaze, and not simply a depiction of the real world.
From the gaze we can detect wherein lies the strength of the creator of these diverse photographs. Pavel Brunclík takes portraits. However, he creates them in his own way, and by doing so he recuperates the etymological significance of the word portrait. In fact, to create a portrait does not mean simply and exclusively to represent a person, a face, an expression. A portrait is far more complex: it seeks to extract from the surface the quintessence of its subject, that which is not hidden beneath the surface but lives within this surface. In Pavel Brunclík’s photographs we can see not only the actual essence of portraiture, but the essence of photography, because both are very closely related in all of his cycles.
The term “portrait” conceals within itself the Latin preposition pro, which indicates that movement is involved, albeit movement which takes place in one place. Pro-trahere: something appears on the surface and therein makes itself visible. A photograph captures the moment in which this movement permeates the photographed object. It thus reveals what we struggle to express when we speak of character, disposition or temperament, mood or humour. But what else is photography if not precisely that: the revelation in what is seen of the seen as unobserved?
This is also why portrait photography relates to time and why the portrait is something more than the mere representation of a person or face. Pavel Brunclík exemplifies this by creating portraits of landscapes, the human body, or shots of difference in what appears to be identity. It is here, where he does not restrict himself to the human face, that the problematic of portraiture is perhaps even more apparent. The appearance of the unobserved in the seen requires, not only when capturing the human face but also in a portrait of the landscape, the depiction of a moment in which the characteristic features of a person or place are brought out by the environment or immediate surroundings, the harmony of time and space at a certain moment in this face or this place, in these specific tonalities and no others, in this and no other light, in the detail and not the whole, or, on the contrary, in the whole and not the detail. Because a unique encounter is always involved between substance and form in an unpredictable moment which does not last—except in photography.
As opposed to a painter, the photographer taking a portrait cannot circumvent the external form of his or her subject, and so must concentrate on the surface and on what is being played out therein. Photography bears witness to the fact that this moment really was present, though its reality exists only in the photograph. This applies not only to landscapes, but also to dance and the movements of dance, portraits of which form the subject of Brunclík’s cycle The Geometry of Nudity. Here too we can glimpse in the seen the unobserved: the human body at a moment which is in reality inaccessible to the eye. This moment was really present, but is only real in the photograph. If this seems like a paradox, then notice how paradoxical is the title of this cycle: The Geometry of Nudity. Geometry is not somewhere behind or beneath the surface, but within it—and is manifest in the dance movement itself, the portraits of which comprise pictures of dancers laid bare to the very surface of their bodies.
If a landscape featuring a nude provokes, if the nakedness of dancers provokes, then of course the same can be said for Other Women: eroticism in crepuscular corners, seduction through the aloofness of the pose. However, that which seems in these portraits to constitute the contradiction of mutually exclusive moments, is in reality a harmony—the harmony of various exteriors, i.e. the environment and the poses—which, however, allows a secret to shine through on the surface of the photography, a secret whose secrecy we cannot decipher. Perhaps this secret is very simple: that which is deep can only be manifest when it appears on the surface, i.e. in the photograph. And it is often more real than reality itself, though its reality is evinced by photography and photography alone.