Václav Zykmund is surely one of the most prominent personalities of the Czech art scene arising in the early 1930s. His work extends into several areas, ranging from visual expression to fiction to writing theoretical texts and teaching activity. It attains inner unity, even if it develops in different directions and sets out on immensely intricate paths through various intersections. In its vision, it is considerably complex and it stems from diverse sources. His expression retains inner logic, while always remaining open to new impulses. In Czech art, it has an equally important place as the work of other members of the strong generation represented by Skupina 42, Ra or Sedm v říjnu.
Václav Zykmund followed up on the first wave of surrealism, but similarly to Josef Istler or František Hudeček, he developed its stimuli in a very distinctive and independent fashion. He drew from his rich imagination, but he also had a refined sense of order. So he moved between these extreme positions that interacted and pervaded each other. Great intellectual insight, continual thinking about the relationships between different epochs or cultures emerging in different countries and emerging from a different background and traditions were significant to his work.
This exhibition consists of two cycles that lie far from each other in time but are still related to a sense of experimentation, to finding new paths, to uncovering connections between different times. A lot has been written about the photographs, leading theoreticians commented on them, most importantly Antonín Dufek. At the exhibition there are photographs from the series Řádění 1 and 2, again perfectly technically reproduced according to the originals deposited in the Moravian Gallery in Brno. These Zykmund’s images, which capture the events that precede happenings by many years, are recognized and admired all over the world and are among the best that originated in Czech photography of the last century.
However, collages and drawings from the final period of the artist’s life, that is from the late seventies and early eighties, are much less well-known although equally valuable. They testify that his invention did not lose its intensity even then. After years of dedicating himself mainly to theory, he managed to follow up on his earlier periods. At the same time, however, he sensitively perceived the present age, whose atmosphere had changed significantly over the decades. Although it was not favourable for free artistic expression, the work of Václav Zykmund remained free. It was characteristic of him that he kept track of artistic development not only in our country but also abroad.
It is also clearly visible in his fresh drawings and collages, in which again, as in earlier times, the clear order is complemented with free blending of observations, thoughts and ideas. In his work, the surrealistic ability to combine seemingly incompatible and to develop imagination completely freely still applied.
These drawings and collages from the final period of his life reflect the influence of various current streams, such as minimalism or concretism, but Václav Zykmund cannot be unambiguously assigned to any of them. If he was influenced by some, he transformed them into an original form, in which all his previous experience was imprinted, as well as his theoretical education and pedagogical work, in which he had to realize and conceive certain contexts. It also reflected his remarkable ability to discover and try new methods and means of expression. Very impressive are his experiments with burning paper or burning synthetic tapes, leaving traces of fire. This put him in place with the other artists who tried different materials and techniques based on our every-day environment. Like Eduard Ovčáček, Ladislav Novák, Jozef Jankovič, Věra Janoušková and others, he managed to cope with the situation in which it was not possible to exhibit experimental art, at least in official institutions.
Admirable are his collages and drawings from creased, soft translucent window-washing papers, whose “choppy” shapes he complemented by the finest colour tones. In some drawings he used children’s drawings of his daughter Zuzanka, by which he achieved both a special charm and tension. At other times, he was able to give the collage-like drawings a precise rhythm when using a free order of the sheets. Sometimes he combined drawing with crayons with a collage from translucent paper to achieve unexpected and special effects. He used his extraordinary sense of a balanced composition, which never lacked hidden energy.
In other collages, he returned to his surrealist origins and achieved subtle and fragile playfulness while at the same time getting closer to new figuration or pop art, when he sensitively reacted to the contemporary lifestyle that, after all, penetrated to our country from a free Western society, only in a slightly different form. Some of the collages combined with drawing are so delicate that they resemble the late drawings and paintings of Josef Šíma or the fragile pastels of Václav Boštík. Very impressive is the series of drawings-collages with threads forming free lines. Again, here mingle order with fantasy and delicate definition of space. In some collages, different times are pervading – the present with history, similarly as in the rollages or prolages of Jiří Kolář.
In fact, with his latest work, he teamed up with the younger generation of artists and brought new impulses to Czech art. This important and neglected part of his work would need to be evaluated and naturally integrated into the overall context.
If you are interested in buying original works by Václav Zykmund, please contact the gallery.
Opening hours in June: tue – thu: 3 – 6 p. m. or by request. From the 1st ofJuly,
during the summer holidays, the exhibition will be open only by appointment.