Pavel Banka is an artist based in Prague, Czech Republic. His photographs are in the permanent collections of the International Center of Photography, NY; Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; Musee de L’Elysee, Switzerland & Museum Ludwig, Cologne. He co-founded FOTOGRAF magazine in 2002, and has been chief editor since then. FOTOGRAF is a semi-annual comprehensive 120-page magazine that publishes the work of photographers and other artists working in photography and related arts.
The work of Max de Esteban made a strong impression on me the very first time I came across it. Formally, his photographs evoked the work of Robert Heinecken, created many years earlier, while containing a much more personal message as well as a spirit of contemporary complexly fragmented perception of reality in comparison to Heinecken’s social and political – though also highly provocative – collages. Max’s collages also have a distant historical connection to collages from the heyday of Surrealism, also stimulating the viewer’s imagination. That is, however just one of the layers we can uncover from these works. What stands out is above all a sense of ambiguousness in our perception of the reality around us. The physical reality, as well as the ephemeral reality, which batters us through the media, the internet, social networks, and of which we get such an overdose that everything sometimes begin to blur into one, or morph into a completely new reality of its own. It would also appear that just as the new communication technologies have enhanced the fusion of reality and fiction, of the present and the past, and the anticipated future, the absolute power of the mass media has impacted on the major narratives of the human race, including the horrific ones such as war, exodus of whole nations, famine – and those joyous ones, too, and supremely intimate ones such as the moment of conception or birth of a new life. Thanks to the media, we can nowadays view all of these live and our physical reality constantly intertwines with the virtual.
Max has found his own distinctive solution of how to reflect on all these different realities. He has decided to serve up a peculiar concoction of all these sensory sources attacking his imagination, to create a trade-mark product. His aim is not the creation of individual images but rather a continuous game, which creates a new hybrid substance.
He builds all this in the form of collages or digital montages, providing a sketchily suggested story line, creating a world of its own, with its own laws, as well as new aesthetics. He keeps us, the viewers, in permanent suspense and gradually draws us into his inner world so skilfully, that we quite forget to miss the physical, ‘palpable’ reality and are willing to follow him into the unknown – we never cease to be curious about what we find out about him personally, for we can sense another hidden story just under the surface of each picture – collage. The story of the author himself, the story of Max de Esteban.