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News > Czech Printmaking, Tradition and Excellence

Czech Printmaking, Tradition and Excellence

Katerina Kyselica 31 March, 2013

A rare exhibition of Czech prints this March in New York City allowed for a brief viewing of fine art prints by renowned contemporary Czech printmakers from the HOLLAR Association of Czech Graphic Artists in Prague. The opening of the exhibition entitled The Spiritual Dimension in Czech Printmaking attracted a great crowd of New Yorkers, including Czech-American supporters of fine art printmaking.


The exhibition featured over thirty etchings, lithographs, linocuts and mixed media works, showcasing the beauty of traditional Central European printmaking. Spirituality as the individual's inner path to understanding life is subjective and diverse, and so was the approach to the subject matter by the eleven Czech artists. Some of them presented biblical themes of the Old and New Testaments, others showed works whose origins dwell deep in the realm of the inner-self.


Helena Horalkova, Palac II, aquatint


Helena Horalkova, Palace II, 2004, aquatint, edition of 10. Photo by the artist, courtesy of KADS NY.


Few prints carried as strong a message about the state of modern society as Helena Horalkova’s haunting black and white aquatint etchings inhabited by masses of expressively rendered human figures, marching in rows or crawling on shifting planes of futuristic landscapes. Contrasting Horalkova’s prints were monochromatic etchings by Hana Storchova with lyrical landscapes inspired by nature as her interpretations of human existence. Hence in the print We Shall All Reach It hundreds of small lit candles aboard miniature leaves float like a river into the unknown. Similarly Pavel Sukdolak has developed a poetic language of his own, expressed through vivid multicolored aquatints with mysterious worlds of stylized natural forms.


Blind embossing defined the featured mixed media works of Alena Laufrova who layered the embossing with ink, charcoal and pastel. Seemingly uncomplicated compositions with rich, tactile background and symbolic forms breathe poetry, speaking of human relationships, feelings and memories. Nadezda Synecka’s prints also communicated through symbols. Her grand, vibrant compositions of overlapping geometric forms extend beyond the paper they inhabit, as if living in their own universe. Synecka’s continuous experiments with color driven by her ambition to capture and express light, such as in the Shine Falling In the Deep, yield mesmerizing prints.


Working with multiple plates is typical for both Marketa Kralova and Jan Kavan. Kralova etched various structures onto multiple plates to compose abstract, quiet landscapes. Jan Kavan, on the other hand, makes his graphic compositions using metal plates cut out into various shapes, including human and animal body parts, which he then re-constructs, overlapping or exaggerating some parts to the others. His Six Fragments of Fate showed an intriguing composition of six monochromatic etched imprints as symbols of fate - five abstracted mask-like faces with an arrow pointing up at the one face.


Jan Kavan, Amazons in the Trojan War Ic, 2005, etching and aquatint, edition of 40. Photo by the artist, courtesy of KADS NY.


Miroslav Posvic, printmaker and sculptor, visually translates nature into unexpected imaginative forms, structures and lines in his multicolor lithographs. Pavel Piekar’s imaginary linocut portrait of Czech poet and printmaker Bohuslav Reynek showcased a complex system of hatches and grids – a method that allows him to employ as many as fifty colors for his naturalistic landscapes and portraits.


Talent for and emphasis on drawing and illustration was present in all of the featured works, including Eva Haskova's aquatint etching Between Heaven and Earth. It is Karel Demel's work that I leave for the end though, for his etchings, such as Messenger or Unicorn, show a rare gift for capturing movement and emotion. A virtuoso draftsman, Demel has mastered engraving, etching, drypoint and aquatint, which frees him to create astonishing portraits of human existence.


Karel Demel, Unicorn, etching

Karel Demel, Unicorn, 2005, etching with aquatint, edition of 130. Photo by the artist, courtesy of KADS NY.


The exhibition offered an insight into the recent works of printmakers who represent Czech printmaking across Europe and worldwide. It is a generation of artists who lived in the communist Czechoslovakia with government dictating what art should be and do. Escaping to the inner world seemed, and in many cases was, the only way to feel freedom and independence. Spirituality, thus, is and has been for decades an integral part of their creative life.


Visit exhibition website for more information: www.kadsny.wix.com/czechprintmaking.


Katerina Kyselica is a Czech-American artist, printmaker and writer based in New York City. She writes for Czech media (MF Dnes, Grapheion, Art&Antique, Design Magazine) and the American Journal of the Print World. She collaborates as a curator with BBLA Gallery, presenting Czech and Slovak art. Contact Katerina.

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