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Titillating Sculpture

Nová síň gallery
2 - 14 April 2019
Curated by Pavlína Bartoňová, designed by Pavel Kolíbal, organized by the Czech Sculptors Association


Every soul fell to the earth, whence they will never take off except upon wings that can grow only with the power of Érōs.

Only through the senses can one experience beauty. Only Erós – love for a beautiful face, image or sculpture awakens a certain tickling and irritation in a person’s soul.

As if it had sprouted wings.

The soul that does not grow wings while alive will never take off after death.

Our life has no real meaning other than cultivating the wings of the soul by lying with the beauty that is present in everything.

A paraphrase (D.B.) of part of Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus, on the soul and beauty (246a–252c).

It seems that we do not need classical sculpture. It seems that one is supposed to be satisfied with a hole in the wall, a wriggling plastic bag or any sort of design. As early as the 1970s, the theorist and sculptor Zdeněk Palcr anticipated the end of the principle of sculpture. He looked at the difficulties of disseminating the concept of sculpture, which leads to diffusion and the loss of the original and fundamental meaning. For example, if we extend the elastic in boxer shorts according to the needs of the figure, it is desirable. Of course, if we extend it beyond its measurements, the boxer shorts fall. The emperor is naked!

The exhibition is organized by the Czech Sculptors Association which lays claim to the intellectual tradition of craft of sculpture and tries to elevate it. In the exhibition we wanted to show that sculpture (for now) has not lost its original meaning – at its heart, sculpture was and is formed solid matter. Over the course of two months we succeeded in selecting the work of 30 artists that was created between 1943 and 2019. Half of the sculptors are from the Association. A quarter of them are women, and a fifth of the works are by deceased artists. The selection criteria was a certain quality. Of course, we must pay heed. The philosopher Zdeněk Vašíček warns: A certain concept of art may lead to experiential problems!

In other words: Expressed in the ancient Greek tradition of antitheses: we seek out and do not abandon: the beautiful versus the exclusive; depth versus superficiality; the lofty versus the banal; memory versus shallowness; difficulty versus cheapness; ingenuity versus mockery; the genuine versus the shocking; urgency versus exposure; expressiveness versus garrulousness; concentration or “Slow down, we’re working!” (Zbyněk Sekal) versus contemporary speed = joy; an enduring legacy versus fleeting nonsense; standing in one’s lifetime versus unsettledness (Zdeněk Palcr); plasticity (Kurt Badt) versus instantaneousness; the internal reasons for genesis versus the prevalence of the external ones; vital wholeness issuing from spirituality versus the hegemony of stereometric forms, rational calculation, design or the imitation of nature; relaxation and care (Stanislav Podhrázský) versus unbridled freedom;
In short: tickling sculpture versus the torpor of the dead object.

In the atelier light of the Nová síň gallery, the public will view several sculptures displayed for the first time ever, and not only from the last few years. For example, a portrait by Jan Hendrych from 1966 depicting his wife Eda and at the same time the female principle of non-verbal expression and intuition. Both play a fundamental role during the selection of a partner, writes the relationship specialist Dr. Radkin Honzák. Exhibited for the first time is a portrait of a girl from the workshop of the first Czech professional female sculptor Karla Vobišová-Žáková. Childhood in cold marble not withstanding its essence and in the color of a white lily. From the atelier of the portraitist Stanislav Hanzík I have selected the head of the poet Emil Juliš. It is from the 1970s, a time when Juliš could publish only in samizdat, whereas Hanzík received his docentship at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts. Juliuš was a family friend of the Hanzíks, and his portrait is one of the few that was not commissioned. It is unostentatious, slightly inclined to the left as if listening.

It has been fifty years since Olbram Zoubek removed Jan Palach’s death mask. This deed and the resulting extraordinary portrait by no means belongs only to the world of sculpture. At this exhibition we are memorializing Palach and the overreach of the sculptor’s work with Václav Frydecký’s rendering of Prometheus. At the end of the 70s the big-wigs removed this sculpture just before its unveiling by the Transgas building near the museum, not far from where Jan Palach set himself on fire. At the time, even the comrades realized that a good sculpture has not only a unique form, but also a weighty subject matter. Prometheus is an example of a sculpture joined with man against the might of the Olympians — he steals fire from them and undermines the authority of the gods.

Depression by Michal Blažek and Charon by Cestmír Mudruňka from the past few years capture the genuine state of man, no construction of emotions or inspiration by ideals. Hope and tension in the burgeoning womb, buds and fruit are apparent in the reliefs of Hana Wichterlová and Věra Nováková. The cycle Via Vitae (Path of life) spans life but does not conceal fratricide. It shows the instability of man, but also the hope that despite all mishaps we have our share of a full life.

The washing of feet by Jiří Kobr refers to the period of holding the exhibition, which precedes Holy Week and the celebration of the resurrection of Christ in the flesh. Kobr is concerned with the vision and thought of those who will be viewing his art. At the same time, however, he creates broadly according to his taste. Thanks to both of them, the Biblical motifs in his rendition are striking; we can see in them something yet unfamiliar, for example kicks in the rear and emotional flattening out, which Jesus, submerged in the color of purity and innocence, had to bear.

Only secondary works provide continuity, claimed Zdeněk Vašíček, and we have not sought any. The continuity will emerge of itself, among the unique sculptures and reliefs in the mutuality of the gallery space. In the words of the philosopher Petr Rezek, whose portrait is exhibited by Jindřich Zeithamml, we seek sculpture that “is guided by the body, not the casting, but reconstructs it so that it is able to show the logic of a thing as a structure. In this sense, sculpture is a shoetree in the sense of our understanding of a shoe.”
Pavlína Bartoňová

Exhibits:
Denis Anfilov, Michal Blažek, Petr Císařovský, Barbora Chládková, Václav Frydecký, Stanislav Hanzík, Jan Hendrych, David Janouch, Josef Klimeš, Jiří Kobr, Stanislav Kolíbal, Marius Kotrba, Pavel Míka, Čestmír Mudruňka, Věra Nováková, Zdeněk Palcr, Libor Pisklák, Jiří Plieštik, Vlasta Prachatická, Tomáš Smetana, Jiří Sopko, Kateřina Strach Tichá, Jiří Středa, Marie Šeborová, Jaromír Švaříček – RASVA, Daniel Talavera, Jan Turský, Karla Vobišová-Žáková, Hana Wichterlová, Jindřich Zeithamml

 

Exhibition plan

Photogallery

Links

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Jiří Kobr

5. 8. 1974

I am a woodcarver. Woodcarving gives me pleasure. It sustains me. It is my joy.
And I am a sculptor. I am learning sculpture. Through sculpture I become aware, I try to understand something. And for me it is a unique opportunity to treat the world as it is — with real dimensions, genuine space, actual material.

I want to place my knowledge of the world (it is mine — because I am responsible for it through my experiences, just as I am responsible for my knowledge of faith) into the real world in the hope that it can hold up. So that the object that has come into being can become a part of it and have some effect upon it.

Despite this searching for harmony, I am attracted by the exploration of borders, of seeking out boundaries and transcending them. But perhaps this is precisely the point: to achieve serenity despite errors and deviations, a harmony that is not a place of the chosen ones, but rather the result of experience. What interests me is the reason, that is, the essence, that is, things that are valid in general, that is, the “ordinary”. For me it is a matter of recognizing the original, the plausible, the intimately familiar.

Most often during my endeavours I end up at Christian subjects and motifs. I explore and inquire into Christianity. For me it is not a matter of creating ecclesiastical objects or liturgical aids…

This art was a component of the environment in which I grew up. This manifestation of human life was part of my own sphere. And just as I was interested in what lives and grows, I was also interested in why and whom were depicted in the depictions of Calvary in the village, on the crosses in the fields, on the tombstones in cemeteries and church altars. And along with the other aspects of reality, I accepted these too as my own.

For me art is a means — a means, not an end. A means to elation, to repeated amazement at the world. I value the ability to be enchanted by form, by combinations of colours. I am grateful for the preoccupation, the longing to have some impact.

After all, this must be … healthy?
Jiří Kobr, Hostim 18 May 2017


Jiří Kobr was born in Dvůr Králové nad Labem in 1974. He studied woodcarving at the High school and College of Applied Arts in Prague (1988–1997). From 1997 to 2003 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (Petr Siegl, Jindřich Zeithamml; for his thesis “Cross” he received the Chancellor’s Prize). In 2001 an independent exhibition of his work took place at the Municipal Gallery of Trutnov. His work has been displayed at exhibitions in Reinraum, Düsseldorf, 2002, MECCA, Terezín, 2003; Nothing For Show…?, the Kateřinská Garden in Prague, 2004; Statue 2, Felix Jenewein Gallery in Kutná Hora, 2006; and Statue 3, Wortner House at the Aleš South Bohemian Gallery in Česká Budějovice, 2007. He taught wood carving and sculpture from 2002 to 2005 at the High school of Applied Arts in Prague. He currently lives and works in Hostim u Berouna.

 

Exhibitions

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Stanislav Kolíbal

11. 12. 1925

1925 Orlová

 

1938

After Těšínská joins Poland, the family moves to Ostrava. He studies at the Real Gymnasium in Ostrava-Přívoz.

1943

As a guest he exhibits at the member exhibition of the Moravian-Silesian Association of Fine Artists in the House of Arts in Ostrava.

1944

Sent to forced labor mines in Ostrava. Passes the exams for the School of Applied Arts in Prague. However, the school is closed this year. Creates illustrations for books by Edgar Allen Poe, František Halas and Boris Pilňak. First meeting with Václav Boštík at the Vyšehrad publishing house.

1945

Publishes his article “Response and Manifesto” in the periodical Nástup as a defense of modern art against ideological reproaches. Goes to Prague to study at the studio of applied graphics of prof. Antonín Strnadel. At the School of Applied Arts he meets students of prof. Kaplický - Jiří John, Adriena Simotová, Jiří Mrázek, Jiří Šindler. Starts working as a book graphic designer.

1948

Creates a cycle of seven wood engravings for Václav Pour’s publishing house. Makes his first filmmaking experiment in an abandoned village in the border area. His sculptures of stones originate in the river bed of Bečva near Vsetín, which prefigures his later sculptural work in a fundamental way.

1950

Graduates from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. Illustrates Mickiewicz’s Ballads and Romances for the Vyšehrad publishing house (forbidden to be published). Begins to study stage design at the Theater Faculty under prof. František Tröster.

1952

Admitted to the Czechoslovak Union of Graphic Artists. At the II. Regional Center in the loft of Umělecká beseda he meets Václav Bartovský and other future members of the UB12 Group. Works on theatre productions in Ostrava, Opava and for the National Theater in Prague.

1953

Acquired a studio on Nad Královskou oborou 23 near the studios of Boštík, John and Bartovský. Marries the sculptor Vlasta Prachatická. Completes his studies in scenography. Remains at the Theater Faculty (until 1959) as a part-time stage teacher. He begins to occupy himself with sculpture seriously and systematically. Birth of daughter Markéta.

1956

Birth of son Paul.

1957

Participates in the Exhibition of Five Artists in the Aleš Hall of Umělecká beseda (Burant, John, Kolíbal, Prachatická, Šimotová). Trip to Greece. At the National Museum in Athens he encounters ancient Greek art and is especially impressed by statues from the Cyclades Islands. Illustrations to a fairy tale collection (this book becomes important for the development of Czech book illustration). Illustrations for books by Torquato Tasso and A. P. Chekov.

1958

Co-organizer of and participant in the Art Exhibition of Young Artists of Czechoslovakia in the House of Arts in Brno. Co-founder of the Bloc of Creative Groups. Visits the world exhibition in Brussels. Discovers a monograph by Isam Noguchi and a book about Alexander Calder (becoming acquainted with the work of these two artists will change his current view of sculpture).

1959

Trip to Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

1964

Creates sculptures for the Great Moravia exhibition at Prague Castle. Designs a solution for the supporting walls of the Nusle Bridge and a relief wall for the Czech Airlines office in Sofia. Trip to Italy. Attends the Venice Biennale. Attends an exhibition of Lucio Fontana in Milan. Elected to the management of the MSGR section (painters, sculptors and graphic designers).

1965

Graphically prepares the monthly journal Fine Art until its demise in 1970 (together with Jiří Schmidt). Participates in the preparation of the Paris-Prague exhibition and installs the exhibition in Paris. His statue “Table” is selected by the Guggenheim Museum in New York for the Sculpture of Twenty Nations exhibition. Creates his first abstract sculptures.

1966

In Paris he installs an exhibition of Czech cubism in the Musée National d’Art Modeme. Moves to a studio on Rooseveltova Street in Prague 6. Creates a roof garden for the Czechoslovak Pavilion at the World Exhibition in Montreal.

1967

Installs an exhibition of Contemporary Czechoslovak Art in Turin as well as exhibits. Meets Lucio Fontana. First solo exhibition of sculptures in the New Hall in Prague. Receives an award in Bologna for illustrations to the book Crystal Sisters as well as an anniversary award from Albatros in Prague.

1968

Participates in the organization of the exhibition New Sensitivity in Brno. Creates an 18m wall for the Czechoslovak Embassy in London. Study stay in Vence (southern France) in the studio of the Karoly Foundation. Attends a symposium in Korcula (Vela Luka), where he becomes friends with Achille Perilli.

1969

Works on a sculpture for the Czechoslovak Pavilion in Osaka called Homage to Japan. Receives a six-month Ford Foundation scholarship, but the political situation does not allow him to travel.

1970

Solo exhibition at Špála Gallery in Prague. Participates in the exhibition Between Man and Matter in Tokyo (a selection of the Japanese critic Yusuke Nakahara).
With the advent of Normalization, the group UB 12 began to dissolve and was officially banned in 1970.


Based on biographical data of the members of UB12 up to 1970 in: SLAVICKÁ Milena. UB 12 - Studies, interviews, documents. Prague: Gallery in cooperation with Gema Art a o.s. OSVU, 2006, pp. 306-311

Exhibitions

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Věra Nováková

17. 1. 1928

Věra Nováková was born in Prague on 17 January 1928. During the war she studied at a classical gymnasium and in 1947 was accepted at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1949 after the Communist putsch, she was expelled from her studies in her fourth semester during political screenings. In 1950 she was accepted into the third year at the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design. Beginning in 1958, she was given official permission to support herself through her artistic work, but she was not allowed to exhibit. She never applied to the Union of Czechoslovak Artists. She did illustrations for technical publications and later for children’s books and also copied fragments at the Institute of Archeology. At the same time, she continued, and continues, to devote herself to her own, independent work.

The motifs of Věra Nováková’s paintings and statues find their origin in classical literature, the biblical canon, as well as in the polemics between the two — similar to the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Her conversion or awakening to traditional themes has, from the beginning, been accompanied by a polemic against mankind’s delusions of grandeur. Beginning with the wartime and postwar horrors of Věra’s youth, through the period of Normalization, and up to the post-Communist years, the artist has been constantly posing the question: Who is the genuine human being, the Son of Man or the Superman?
David Bartoň
 

Exhibitions

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Vlasta Prachatická

27. 11. 1929

1929 Staré Smrkovice near Hořice

 

1945

Attended the Secondary School of Stone Sculpture in Hořice, where she worked under the guidance of prof. Jaroslav Plichta (student of J. V. Myslbek). She passes the exams (at the age of 16) at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague in the studio of prof. Otakar Španiel. Her classmates are Marie Uchytilová-Kučová, Milan Knobloch, Jan Mathé, Jan Kulich. Lives in Prague with her aunt, wife of cellist prof. K. P. Sádla.

1951

Completes her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. Meets Stanislav Kolibal through whom she becomes acquainted with Jiří John, Adriena Šimotová, Jiří Mrázek, Vladimír Janoušek, Věra Havlová-Janoušková. The National Gallery in Prague purchases her sculptural portrait Mother.

1952

Begins work in the studio at Nad Královskou oborou 23 (until 1962).

1953

Marries Stanislav Kolibal. Birth of daughter Markéta.

1956

Birth of son Paul.

1957

Takes part in the Exhibition of Five Artists in the Aleš Hall of Umělecká beseda in Prague.

1967

Takes part in the Exhibition of Five Sculptors in the Václav Špála Gallery (Kmentová, Pacík, Prachatická, Vinopalová, Zoubek). Exhibits at the Sculpture Biennale in Middelheim (Belgium).

1969

Wins the competition for a portrait of Jan Masaryk for the entrance hall of the Czernin Palace of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czechoslovak Republic. However, due to the change in political conditions, the bust is never displayed. Works on a portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven for the Castle Hradec nad Moravicí.

1970

Creates a commemorative plaque for the composer J. B. Foerster for his house in Vienna.
With the advent of Normalization, the group UB 12 began to dissolve and was officially banned in 1970.


Based on biographical data of the members of UB12 up to 1970 in: SLAVICKÁ Milena. UB 12 - Studies, interviews, documents. Prague: Gallery in cooperation with Gema Art a o.s. OSVU, 2006, pp. 306-311

Exhibitions

Selected artworks






















Tomáš Smetana

23. 12. 1960

He was born on the day before Christmas Eve, 1960 in Prague. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in the studio of Arnošt Paderlík. After the completion of his studies in 1985, he earned a living as a cemetery headstone engraver and a night watchman at the National Gallery in the Anežský Monastery (together with Václav Stratil). In 1990 he left for a residency in Paris. After returning he taught for many years—first as an evening drawing class instructor, at the Žižkov Elementary Arts School, in the department of architecture at the Institute of Drawing and Modeling in Brno and finally at the Gallery of the Central Bohemian Region in Kutná Hora. He lives and works in Prague. Representation in Collections: City Gallery of Prague and Museum Montanelli. 


Drawings 
Create your own tradition; Acceptance and project

“The fact that the tradition I have decided to accept exists for me is caused by me alone,” writes Merleau-Ponty in the introduction to his magnum opus The Phenomenology of Perception.

According to the French philosopher tradition is not a given. On the contrary, we create it ourselves when we decided to accept and collect from our past something we wish to take with us into the future. Because “that which is have adopted is only genuinely adopted if we transfer it into a new movement”. We decide to take part of our own history further. Merleau-Ponty says that “the living present is torn between the past that it adopts and the future that it plans”. Tradition therefore exists where a certain plan or project (Fr. projet) arises from acceptance (Fr. reprise) of the past and where acceptance enters into the future project.

The most important function of tradition is not to be recollection but to provide me with the basis for a new project, or, in the words of Merleau-Ponty, a plan of the future. Only when I accept tradition, when I take it upon myself, give an undertaking that it will genuinely exist for me, that it will become me. And perhaps it is the case that I must appropriate my tradition in order to perceive myself clearly in my own context.

Customs, forgetting and new life

Merleau-Ponty explains tradition by quoting Edmund Husserl. It is “the ability to forget sources and ensure for the past not survival, which is the cowardly form of forgetting, but a new life, which is a heightened form of memory”. Customs play a crucial role in our lives. They are characterised by the fact that they have forgotten their sources, they are the past that operates in the present without our being aware of this. A custom becomes a custom only when it finds its place. As sediments customs represent the necessary basis of our existence and perhaps above all our corporeal existence. However, Merleau-Ponty asks: “If custom is not knowledge nor is it automatic, then what is it?” And he replies: “It is knowledge that sits in the hand. It is activated during physical effort and cannot be translated into objective concepts.” The custom Merleau-Ponty is speaking of is a “pure form of memory”, it is the motor ability seated in the body, a type of intimacy acquired through practice. It is not for nothing that we say that practice makes the master. This is not only true of tradespeople and musicians. It is a generally valid law for everyone who has a body of some kind. The aim of repetitive practice is to shift ability from knowledge to fingers, to liberate it from conscious control and at the same time not to reduce it to the purely automatic.

Tradition is both forgetting and remembering. It takes us forward along with what we, the bearers of tradition, bring to it. It is a process of coming into existence: plan, practice, settlement, forgetting, acceptance, adoption, a new plan. Coming into existence is an existential condition that, according to the phenomenologists, stands behind the two great constructions of western philosophy: pure knowledge and inanimate matter. However, this is not only about existence in the philosophical sense of the word. It is a concrete, everyday praxis in which the body, not as pure knowledge nor as inanimate matter, operates.

Certain forms of artistic practice clarify tradition as a constant process of coming into existence, which it genuinely is.

Tomáš Smetana

One could say that when drawing Tomáš Smetana creates tradition. The result is an ongoing adoption of a story that lives. The fact that someone feels a stronger need than others to perceive themselves in relations, continuity and tradition is no doubt for personal reasons. This personal tradition provides the artist with continuity thanks to which his work is unique and at the same time recognisable. However, in this case tradition assumes a technical skill based on many years of practice and established customs, i.e. from motor functions that allow the artist to create thanks to that special blend of concentration and absence of spirit that characterise customs. “The work flows from itself. I don’t need to concentrate, I can leave myself and move in space. It is important to remain a while, to give yourself time. A drawing can’t be finished in a single day. I don’t draw in order to create a picture. I draw in order to feel how time is passing. The main thing is to fill the day with an activity and not to bother my family.”

Duration for Smetana is important when selecting technique and motif:

Technique

The method by which Smetana draws is very slow. “It is a certain kind of very slow method of reconciling myself to my own thoughts. It is not about drawing, but contemplation, a way of being present. It is about the experience of spending hour after hour in the same place. This is reflected in the drawing. The slowness, the process of maturation and the process of thinking is important.” Smetana emphasises that his work is manual. “It is nothing other than manual graphic work. Manual work that I taught myself thanks to the hundreds of drawings I have crosshatched.”

In all truth we can say that drawing for Smetana is now a custom, that he has it in his fingers. He has been “crosshatching”, as he puts it, since the start of the 1990s. He no longer needs to be fully consciously present in order for his hand to work and find the solutions he needs. Even the largest format he crosshatches patiently using minute lines. Although his crosshatching tends to be sparse or more dense, recently he has been thickening many surfaces so long that they acquire a dark, almost silken depth using the micro-pencil and the thinnest pencils he can find. He is convinced that the energy he invests in the work process accumulates in the energy of the picture. “I deliberately restrict myself to pencil and fill the entire surface. I thicken the drawing with energy.” But he also does this in order that these small, rhythmical movements of his hand that crosshatching the paper require and that represent part of his motor function acquire time and can transform him into a state of meditation in which the hand works while the spirit travels. At such moments he feels most creative.

Shortly after 2000 he began to use coloured pencils, though these have a different function. “When I draw using coloured pencil, I draw harshly, I unwind.” The paper then almost glows and is intensively satiated. Other times he colours part of a pencil-drawing in Indian ink: “This is about emphasis. Indian ink is transparent and the content continues to be visible, as in old photos.” While impermeable surfaces result from coloured pencil, Indian ink creates a transparent space.

Architectural sections are characterised by lines. However, he creates his drawings using these lines, one alongside another, tens of thousands of them. Smetana’s drawings are sometimes unbelievably detailed, but never exaggeratedly punctilious, perhaps because his spirit transports his hand. Hand and spirit hold each other in check. He monitors his work with that distracted attention described by Merleau-Ponty. He does not own the image in advance but has only an unclear idea that his hand gradually clarifies. “I don’t decide about the future. I proceed in such a way that I reach decisions one after another.” “Sometimes you feel that a drawing will be interesting.” “I never make any rash step. I draw something and then it occurs to me that I have to draw something else, and this continues until I have the whole drawing.” Of course Smetana draws his drawings. But he experiences the process in such a way that the drawing reveals itself. Thanks to these pencil lines that cover the paper the drawing appears.

Motifs

The drawings are clearly figurative, even though not directly naturalistic. They represent people or objects or both together. “To begin with my work was stylised. Now it is closer to realism.” Perhaps it is a kind of “fantastic or magical realism”. The people he draws are friends and acquaintances or members of his family. The items in his drawings are usually commonplace: furniture, games, shoes, wallpaper, carpet ... a special place is occupied by the smooth, often translucent surface of glass, plastic film, mirrors, pots and pans. “Still life represents a reflection of the past.” Reflections are not simply a repetition of what is mirrored. Smetana collects them and clarifies the life we lead and which we can decide to ignore or adopt. His work is a constant process of collection in which he takes everyday items, investigates them, and accepts them into or rejects them from the personal tradition that he is creating through art.

“I take a suitcase and put things inside it in a completely random way. For instance, my father’s ashtray or my mother’s shoes. But I don’t take it completely seriously. Maybe they aren’t my mum’s shoes. A kind of legend appears, I create my own personal mythology.” The high heeled shoes that perhaps belonged to his mother and perhaps not and in which she danced, according to Smetana, already feature in his early drawings. He took them over and incorporated them into his “personal mythology”. Even if they were fictive, they are nevertheless real, because they have the ability to make the dead present in Smetana’s tradition.

This relates not only to his mother but to the entire world of the past. “Certain items reappear again and again in my drawings: a First Republic rug, a cubist writing table belonging to Aunt Vlasta, a nest of coffee tables, a chair, a chest of drawers – things I have a certain relationship with. I remember a time when there existed hallways, salons and bedrooms, a period with certain aesthetic and human values that had their elegance. Manual work was also accorded value at that time.” Items from the past played a different role under communism than they do these days. Smetana believes they have lost their function. We find them in coffee bars and restaurants as decorations that mean nothing. But back then they were rare and full of significance. The few items remaining to grandma were not fragments of a reflective world that the communists destroyed, they were not items from a world that Smetana never knew, but represented possibilities in his own life. When he visited his grandma as a boy, she would tell him stories about his father who had been a GP to a Bulgarian Tsar, and about her own husband, Smetana’s grandfather, who had been an evangelical bishop in Czechoslovakia. These sounds and colours were different to those Smetana saw around him in the housing estate where he grew up. They were colours and sounds he could either incorporate into his personal tradition or exclude.

Smetana does not draw his aunt’s writing table out of nostalgia. He does not need the property that the communists confiscated. All he needs is a single shoe, which in reality does not even have to have belonged to his mother. Nevertheless, it brings her close to him. Tradition is not a museum. Just as Merleau-Ponty says that tradition is not about ensuring the past survives but giving it new life, so the tradition that Smetana has decided to accept is not the past but an expansion of the presence and an opening on the future. “Sometimes an object has a certain past and can tell a story. I collect the stories that cling to my drawings.” The insignificant acquires new significance when Smetana includes it in his drawings, especially when he uses it again and again and insists that these objects represent links within the framework of his personal tradition.

It would not be correct to say that Smetana is in thrall to the circumstances in which he creates or the people he misses. At the moment he includes them in his work he himself readopts them and gives them new life by taking them into his own life.

In his description of the creation of an artwork Merleau-Ponty criticises the approaches taken by art history, i.e. both the biographical method, which perceives the artwork as a reflection of the external life of the artist, and the psychoanalytical method, which imagines the work to be a reflection of the artist’s interior world. Both perspectives are reductionist to the extent that their deterministic explanations overlook the creative recreation of the circumstances of an artist’s life, which is what characterises the artist as artist. “If we assume a position inside the painter in order to participate in that decisive moment at which a ‘motif’ crystallises as his physical fate, personal adventure and historical circumstance, then we ignore the fact that his work is never the consequence of his answering these given circumstances and that the body, life, landscape, schools, lovers, sponsors, police, revaluations that could destroy the painting are also the bread from which the painting lives. Living in a painting means breathing this world, above all for the person who sees in the world something that can be painted, which is to a certain extent everyone.”

Smetana speaks of a “mental process consisting of the fact that we learn to see significance and aesthetic value in every individual objects.” When he incorporates objects and people in his drawings, this is more than simply repeating and discovering people and objects in his surroundings. It is a special form of re-cognition. “The pleasure from re-cognition arises from the fact that we recognise more than simply something we know. That which we know appears during re-cognition as a kind of enlightenment from all randomness and variability of the circumstances upon which it is conditional, and is understood in its being. It is re-cognised as something. (…) The ‘known’ comes into its own being and is shown to be something that is only by virtue of its re-cognition.”

The term re-cognition as used by the hermeneutist Hans-Georg Gadamer is related to what Merleau-Ponty means by the term acceptance.

Composition

In re-cognition and acceptance that which first arrives as chaos is then organised in a certain way. Organisation is skill, and during acceptance lived experience acquires a form and is incorporated into a certain composition. “I rearrange things until I find the ideal composition. Aesthetic calm is important, I have to like it. I try to create order in the composition and in the distribution of individual planes. I work from the whole to details, from the general to the particular, and then back again to the whole. I create unbelievable spaces, abstract compositions. I try out various formats. But I’m still only at the start. I concentrate on making the surface clean, as clean as silk. Certain moments are complicated, certain surfaces boring. Boredom has to be alternated with concentration. The entire body is involved, the tension grows until the decisive moment.”

The body and our view of the world

We all have a body and it is our body that designates the angle from which we view the world. Without the body and this angle of view we would not see anything of the world. On the other hand, the world that we see is always deformed by our angle of view. Nobody can see an “objective” world. This deformation creates our world out of the world and allows us to perceive it as meaningful, as a living world. However, our experience of this meaning depends on an important assumption. “Meaning arises when we subject the givenness of the world to ‘coherent deformation’.” Deformation is a necessary consequence of embodiment, though its coherence depends on our creative abilities and will. To see meaning means above all the meaning of creating.

The body influences not only our view of things but also our creative abilities. “Our handwriting can be recognised independently of whether we write letters using three fingers on a piece of paper or using chalk on a blackboard with our entire hand.” However, Merleau-Ponty adds an important corollary: “Our form of handwriting is not bound automatically to certain muscles in our body that had the task of performing given, materially determined movements, but is a general motor ability to formulate and carry out transpositions that create an integrated style.”

Style

We all have a body, but if our eyes and hands deform our perceptions, they can also form our conduct in a coherent way or certain style. This is the special task of the artist and his style is nothing more than coherent deformation that is underlaid by the world that he paints. “In the case of each painter style is a system of equivalences that he makes for himself which manifests the world he sees; it is a universal sign of “coherent deformation” that takes place when the artist concentrates the meaning that was present in his perception only vaguely and gives it an explicit form.” Coherence means connection, and we understand that it is decisive not only for the painter’s style but for the painter to find meaning in that which he sees around him and to manage to express this meaning meaningfully in that which he paints. Basically, coherence is simply another world for tradition that the artist permits to exist for himself and for others when he decides to accept it.

Smetana is a master of drawing objects, which he selects as his motif. He depicts them clearly and distinctly, even though they are complicated and include many details, such as wallpaper with Japanese ornamentation. He is proud of what is called the academicism of his work, i.e. a scholastically precise presentation of a well organised composition or life model. Here too we find something special in his drawings that does not belong to academicism and which he is even more proud of. It is not only a kind of awkwardness to the method of drawing, a certain ubiquitous stylisation. It is also his perspective. As in the case of Cézanne, and especially M. C. Escher, certain objects are seen from one point, while others from a different point. Often this point is so high that the vanishing point lies beyond the surface of the picture.

Classical central perspective is based on geometrical laws. Up till now central perspective has been an attempt to reconcile the subjective gaze with the objective presentation of reality. But Smetana is obviously not interested in the objective presentation of reality. In order to be objective he would have to exclude artistic freedom, and as soon as the artist imprints his style, he ceases to be objective but becomes artistic. However, Smetana is not interested in objective reality even in itself, since such reality has no meaning. Perhaps it has certain properties, but one can only speak of meaning within a concrete situation. Smetana creates a certain kind of unreality and his particular perspectives make it clear that he is not attempting to achieve objective validity, but to find an artificial space, i.e. the space of art. That space finds itself and we find art in it. The objects that Smetana uses to fill up the space are not interesting by virtue of their objective properties. They only become interesting in that light, that perspective, in which he decides to see them by subjecting them to the coherent deformation that creates his style. This is what takes place when he rescues objects and people from the past and allows them to exist in the present, when he loads them with meaning and makes them part of the tradition he creates.

Tradition begins with our angle of view. “It is this that I have in mind when I say that I perceive my body or my senses, my body and my senses being precisely this habitual knowledge of the world, this implicit or sedimented science,” writes Merleau-Ponty. This is not simply about our sensory perceptions and motor skills that we appropriate through practices and settle in the body. It is also about intimacy with the world, which we appropriate by virtue that we manipulate it. But tradition also presupposes a choice. Merleau-Ponty says that we have to decide to accept this settled knowledge in order that tradition exists for us. Tradition is not fate, it is a choice, and a choice we must confirm again and again. And each time we choose ourselves.

In other words tradition brings with it certain rules of the game that we have to respect if we want to carry tradition. Without rules there is no coherence. Without coherent deformation there is no style. Smetana sometimes creates large drawings, sometimes small. Some are coloured, many are black-and-white, some are both coloured and black-and-white. Some are still lifes, others portraits. Even so, his style is unmistakable and abides by strict rules. This relates to the technique that he learned, developed and adopted. It guides his hand while his spirit roams free. The spirit can be absent only because he has the rules of the game in his body: a clearly expressed volume, a completely flat surface, no shadows or only hinted at, and a depth that is almost always bounded by some shadow in the background. Items without organic relations but often with surfaces that reflect each other in complex harmony. Static arrangements that are in balance, completely motionless, without a hint of movement even where they continue beyond the boundaries of the drawing. An even crosshatching, freer or denser or completely compact, often such that ornament or contour appears as a white field that was missed and is surrounded by darker surfaces.

The rules of the game operate as a kind of frame around the drawing and at the same time open up a space for the game, a space that Smetana masterfully uses when drawing. Each new sheet represents a square on a chess board, on which he moves objects belonging to his tradition as a player moves the pieces. The game has a repetitive character and yet is always new: acceptance and project as in the case of every tradition. For this reason Smetana’s drawing is also based on the pleasure of the game, while the rules of the game are an ongoing challenge to his inventiveness. Sometimes he wins, other times he loses. But with every new drawing it is more and more clear. Tradition is important if a person wants to be clear to themselves, and Smetana is clear for others too.
Mikkel B. Tin
(Translated from Norwegian by Marie Novotná)

 

Exhibitions

Selected artworks






















Autoři sochy/Authors of Sculptures

“Beauty is a symbol of truth. He who does not search for truth and pursues lesser things will not create art.” Andrei TarkovskyI kept this criterion in mind, which is so old that even Plato considered it ancient, during the selection of the works for display. Two things were important here:
1. the displayed object must contain a substantive message for the viewer, and 2. in its form it is, in the original sense, a thing created out of solid matter by an intelligent mind and a skillful artist.

What is titillating about a sculpture?
In the middle of Plato’s dialogue on the soul and beauty, Phaedrus writes:
Every soul fell to the earth, whence they will never take off except upon wings that can grow only with the power of Érōs.
Only through the senses can one experience beauty. Only Erós – love for a beautiful face, image or sculpture awakens a certain tickling and irritation in a person’s soul.
As if it had sprouted wings.
The soul that does not grow wings while alive will never take off after death.
Our life has no real meaning other than cultivating the wings of the soul by lying with the beauty that is present in everything.

A paraphrase (D.B.) of part of Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus, on the soul and beauty (246a–252c).

In other words, titillation is supposed to connect the beauty in the portrait with the beauty in the soul of the viewer. The divine soul resembles the human soul, and Erós mediates between the two. The poet Vladimír Holan speaks of Erós as the heavenly vault. Erós is the might of growing wings. It is in the work when someone who recalls beauty glimpses this beauty on a beautiful face or thing – a sculpture, a picture. At the instant when buds burgeon on his soul and from the buds begin to emerge wings, the viewer senses a certain itching, titillation and pain all at the same time. The sculpture is titillating because it causes this titillation. It causes the most important thing that can take place in the fate of a soul because either the soul dies in the body as in a mussel or it grows wings and prepares to take off. This life has no other purpose than the care of the soul, and beauty is the only thing visibly to the senses (wisdom or the good, for example, cannot be seen). Only beauty via the senses can cause the soul to grow. This exhibition is supposed to be full of titillation, which causes this transformation to take place in the viewer.

Selection Criteria
Over the course of two months we selected the work of 30 artists created between the years 1943 and 2019. Half of the artists are from the Association of Sculptors of the Czech Republic, a quarter of them are women, and one fifth of them are the works of deceased artists. Below you will find a list of exhibitors arranged by year of birth. I have added the place of birth and training, including the names of the heads of the respective ateliers. Ideally the student learns the fundamentals from his teacher and then adds something uniquely his own. Several artists (primarily those who studied during the period of Normalization) rarely acknowledge their professors at the Academy (Petr Císařovský and Tomáš Smetana), or they cannot acknowledge them because they saw them only a few times during their studies (Michal Blažek). The comrades did now allow Věra Nováková to finish her studies, not for reasons of a lack of talent. In this exhibition we wanted to provide evidence for the thesis that in art consumer biases concerning freshness, the development from worse to better, more modern and current do not apply. We did not follow a developmental line in (Czech) sculpture — isms did not interest us. As far as we were able, we based our selections on quality and beauty.
Pavlína Bartoňová

Karla Vobišová-Žáková
★1887 Kunžak ✚1961 Prague
1913–1921 School of Applied Arts in Prague with Stanislav Sucharda, Štěpán Zálešák, Josef Drahoňovský and Bohumil Kafka, 1921–1924 in Paris with Emil Antoin Bourdell

Hana Wichterlová
★1903 Prostějov ✚1990 Prague
1903–1990 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Šturs

Stanislav Kolíbal
★ 1925 Orlová
1945–1950 Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague with Antonín Strnadel
1951–1954 Academy of Performing Arts in Prague with František Tröster

Zdeněk Palcr
★1927 Svitávka u Brna ✚1996 Prague
1945–1950 Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague with Josef Wagner

Josef Klimeš
★ 1928 Měřín in Moravia ✚2018 in Prague
1949–1954 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Lauda

Věra Nováková
★ 1928 in Prague
1947 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, after the putsch in 1949 at the beginning of the fourth semester she was expelled during the political screenings

Vlasta Prachatická
★1929 Staré Smrkovice
1946–1951 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Otakar Španiel

Václav Frydecký
★ 1931 Olomouc + 2011 Prague
1950–1955 Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague with Bedřich Stefan and Jan Lauda. Assistant to Jan Lauda, Vincenc Makovský, Karel Hladík and Václav Bradáč.

Stanislav Hanzík
★ 1931 Most
1951–1956 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Lauda
Assistant to Vincenc Makovský and Karel Lidický

Čestmír Mudruňka
★ 1935 Uhersko
1958–1964 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Lauda, Karel Pokorný and Karel Hladík

Jan Hendrych
★ 1936 Prague
1955–1961 Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague with Josef Wagner and Jan Kavan

Jiří Sopko
★1942 Dubové na Podkarpatské Rusi
1960–1966 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Antonín Pelc

Jindřich Zeithamml
★1949 Teplice
1976–1982 Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf with Norbert Kricke

Petr Císařovský
★1950 Prague
1969–1975 Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague with Jan Nušl, Josef Malejovský, Jiří Soukup and Bedřich Hanák

Pavel Míka
★ 1952 Prague
1977–1983 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jiří Bradáček

Jan Turský
★1955 Prague
1974–1980 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jiří Bradáček

Michal Blažek
★1955 Prague
1977–1983 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jiří Bradáček. Professionally assisted Jan Hendrych. Based on the wishes and testimony of Mr. Blažek I will add that he was thrown out of the Academy of Fine Arts after two years (1995) after he signed a petition protesting the fact that Knížák finished his studies in two months and received his diploma from his subordinate Aleš Veselý.

Jiří Plieštik
★1956 Nové Město in Moravia
1981–1987 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Miloš Axman and Stanislava Hanzíka. Assistant to Hana Wichterlová and Karel Nepraš

Jiří Středa
★1956 Náchod
1976–1982 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Karl Kolumk and Jiří Bradáček

Marius Kotrba
★ 1959 Čeladná ✚ 2011 Rožnov pod Radhoštěm
1981–1987 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Stanislav Hanzík and Miloš Axman

Tomáš Smetana
★1960 Praha
1980–1985 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Arnošt Padrlík

Libor Pisklák
★1962 Kladno
1985–1991 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Hendrych. Assistant to Jan Hendrych

Šeborová Marie
★1966 Prague
1990–1993 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jitka Svobodová
1993–1996 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Hendrych

DenisAnfilov
★ 1967 Prague
1983–1987 the Václav Hollar Art Academy in Prague

David Janouch
★ 1967 Prague
1986–1992 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Hendrych, 2014 – 2016 with Petr Siegl

Jaromír Švaříček-RASVA
★1967 Třebíč
1990–1996 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Hendrych

Daniel Talavera
★1969 Městec Králové
Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Petr Siegl

Jiří Kobr
★ 1974 Dvůr Králové nad Labem
1997–2003 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Petr Siegl and Jindřich Zeithamml
Chládková Barbora
★ 1979
2001–2007 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Jan Hendrych

Kateřina Strach Tichá
★1987 Čáslav
2007–2013 Academy of Fine Arts in Prague with Milan Knížák, stáž u Jana Hendrycha
2011–2012 Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague with Eva Eisler

 

 

Exhibitions






















Growing wings of the soul by lying with beauty

Galerie Nová síň

April 2, 2019 - April 14, 2019

Denis Anfilov, Michal Blažek, Petr Císařovský, Barbora Chládková, Václav Frydecký, Stanislav Hanzík, Jan Hendrych, David Janouch, Josef Klimeš, Jiří Kobr, Stanislav Kolíbal, Marius Kotrba, Pavel Míka, Čestmír Mudruňka, Věra Nováková, Zdeněk Palcr, Libor Pisklák, Jiří Plieštik, Vlasta Prachatická, Tomáš Smetana, Jiří Sopko, Kateřina Strach Tichá, Jiří Středa, Marie Šeborová, Jaromír Švaříček – ... more

Panorama 1 Visit
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Karla Vobišová Žáková
Little Girl, 1943

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Hana Wichterlová
Relief, 60s

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Stanislav Hanzík
Emil Juliš, 70s

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Zdeněk Palcr
The Head, 1957

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Jan Hendrych
Eda, 1964

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Jan Turský
Hemingway, 1980

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Jiří Středa
Conversation, 2016

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Kateřina Strach Tichá
Chronos, 2016

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Vlasta Prachatická
Josef Šíma, 1988

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Josef Klimeš
Pasternak, 80s

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Josef Klimeš
Pasternak, 80s

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Jiří Sopko
Heads and limbs, 1995

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Daniel Talavera
Self-portrait, 2000

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Pavel Míka
Portrait of the poet IMJ, 2008–2018

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Pavel Míka
Portrait of the poet IMJ, 2008–2018

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Michal Blažek
Anxiety, 1997–2019

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Čestmír Mudruňka
Charon, 2012

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David Janouch
T.R.I., 1993

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Jaromír Švaříček - RASVA
Ecstasy, 1995

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Marie Šeborová
Red Torso, 2006

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Libor Pisklák
The Lure, 2018

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Denis Anfilov
Lantern of Sedlec, 2014

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Jiří Plieštik
Trumpet man, 1986

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Václav Frydecký
Prometheus, 1972

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Marius Kotrba
The Three Graces, 1995

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Věra Nováková
1+1=1 from the cycle Via Vitae, 2003–2014

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Věra Nováková
Pathétique from the cycle Via Vitae, 2003–2014

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Věra Nováková
1+1=3 from the cycle Via Vitae, 2003–2014

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Věra Nováková
With Child from the cycle Via Vitae, 2003–2014

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Věra Nováková
Loner from the cycle Via Vitae, 2003–2014

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Věra Nováková
Brothers from the cycle Via Vitae, 2003–2014

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Věra Nováková
The Earth Opened Its Mouth from the cycle Via Vitae, 2003–2014

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Tomáš Smetana
Figurines, 1986–1992

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Tomáš Smetana
Figurines, 1986-1992

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Stanislav Kolíbal
The Inclined III, 1959

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Jindřich Zeithamml
Untitled, No date

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Barbora Chládková
The Sitting, 2000

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Barbora Chládková
The Sitting, 2000

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Barbora Chládková
The Sitting, 2000

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Petr Císařovský
Masks, 2009

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Jiří Kobr
Feet Washing, 2016

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Jiří Kobr
Feet Washing, 2016

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Jiří Kobr
Feet Washing, 2016

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