This photograph was published in Matthew Monteith’s monograph Czech Eden (Aperture, 2007). Visiting the Czech Republic in the 1990s, he was captivated by the details of ordinary life in this country in transition, and made repeated visits from 2001 to 2003, traveling throughout the country photographing with the hope of creating a contemporary reflection on the ideals he found in 1920s Czech photography and postcards.
Inspired by a visit to the Ceský Ráj, a national preserve in Northern Bohemia, the artist explains, “Ráj could have been translated as either ‘Czech paradise,’ ‘eden,’ or ‘heaven. I chose to translate ráj as ‘eden’ to show the ambiguity and impossibility in creating a utopian society.” Monteith’s Czech Eden series is not a literal description or documentation, but a parable in which the viewer encounters an environment that is cohesive while contradictory. His work, in the venerable tradition of Joel Sternfeld and Stephen Shore, is pervaded by an energetic optimism and humor.
This still life of a Czech kitchen is depicted with restraint, brilliant color, and thoughtful attention to the uncanny within the everyday. “It was made in the apartment of a friend,” says the artist. “She had rented the place with the posters up on the wall and figured it best to leave them there. There was something great and sad about those majestic landscapes taped to the wall with scotch tape, it struck me as something very emblematic of unfulfilled dreams.”
Matthew Monteith's work has been exhibited extensively around the world, including exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and the Noorderlicht Festival, the Netherlands. His previous books include Survey (2004),Opfikon (2003), and Home & Away (2003). His 2002 publication Tour of Duty, exploring the Australian presence in East Timor, is featured in Martin Parr’s The Photobook: A History, volume two.