Culture

 

Wednesday centenary of birth of Jiří Kolář, unique figure equally at home in literary and visual art spheres

 
photo:  (radio.cz)
 

Wednesday marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of the most distinctive Czech cultural figures of the last century. Perhaps best-known in his native country as a poet, Jiří Kolář is also renowned both home and abroad as a creator of often playful collages – and “crumplages”, works that began with him scrunching up paper. I spoke to Richard Drury, chief curator of the Gallery of Central Bohemia, and asked him where he would place Kolář in context of Czech visual art in the 20th century.

 
 

“Jiří Kolář has his own special place. For one simple reason, which is the he was a poet who used images, so he really is on the threshold between literature and visual art.”

He is known for his collages. But I understand he also used or developed a technique known as froissage or crumplage, which essentially involved crumpling up paper?

“That’s right. He was an extremely experimental poet-artist and as well as classic collage, with the crumplage that you mentioned, he would take a picture from a magazine, wet the paper, and then press down on it, to crumple it, thereby deforming the structure of time and space

“He saw this as a kind of allegory, a symbol of how fate can press down on us, crush us, and really turn us into something else.

“His work was collage. It wasn’t simply a visual game – there was definitely a symbolic language about man’s experience and his fate in modern civilisation.”

He also took the work of other artists and images from magazines and reconfigured them, which seems very modern – was he ahead of his time?

“I would say definitely ahead of his time. Because if you think about the time he was really making the move away from the written word as a form of expression to, shall we say, poetry in images, this is a time when someone like John Cage is creating his concrete music.

“But in the Czech context, I would say Kolář is really a visionary, a messenger of a new form of visual artistic and artistic language.

“He’s breaking down boundaries – that’s what he’s doing. He’s creating his own sort of space of expression between literature and visual expression.”

He is equally well-known or perhaps even better-known in the Czech Republic for his written poetry. He co-founded the Group 42 with [poet] Ivan Blatný and others and later had his own table at the Café Slavia, where he would meet people like Václav Havel. Was he a kind of cultural catalyst?

“I’d definitely say he was. Because I think we can safely say he was equally at home and respected in the literary community, including as you said Václav Havel, the young Havel, but also among visual artists. So he had this very, you could say unique, position.

“His table at the Slavia café was known as Kolář’s table. It was his little sort of court that you were extremely privileged to be able to sit and debate the cultural and intellectual issues of the day.”

In connection with Jiří Kolář’s centenary there are two exhibitions of his work running in Prague. One is at the Museum Kampa until January 18, while the other is at Galerie Smečky until November 22.

 
Author: Český rozhlas Radio Praha
 
Added: 24.09.2014
 
 
 

Related articles

 
Culture
 
 

Legendary Tatra 77 car showcased at...

A new exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London brings together fifteen diverse cars to...

 
 
Culture
 
 

Robert Guttmann: painter...

The early 20th century naïve painter and sketch artist Robert Guttmann, in whose honour the exhibition...

 
 
Culture
 
 

Milan Kundera’s Czech citizenship...

The celebrated Czech-born writer Milan Kundera received Czech citizenship forty years after it was...

 
 
Culture
 
 

“It’s still revolutionary”: Věra...

The 1966 film Daisies by Věra Chytilová has come sixth in an extensive new BBC poll of the 100 greatest...

 
Most favourite

History of Czech fine art

What happened in the realm of fine art at the very beginning of the Czech…

Climate

The Czech Republic is a landlocked country located in moderate geographical…

The most significant current discoveries

During the last decade, Czech science has made many revolutionary discoveries…

Czech language

The Czech language belongs to the group of West Slavic languages. From another…

Traditional Czech products

Czech industrial production has a long tradition, and many products are known…

Traditional Czech products

Czech industrial production has a long tradition, and many products are known…