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Jan Vaněk: And the spirit hovered over me

  • Where: Montmartre Gallery
  • When: January 14, 2014, 19:00 – February 9, 2014, 12:00

Opening of an exhibition of abstract paintings by Jan Vaněk from the turn of the 1980s and the 1990s.

Jan Vaněk (born 1957, Tábor) was a member of the group Pilky (Radek Brož, Roman Dvořák, Roman Trabura) that were active on the Czech visual art scene in the 1980s. The graduate of a secondary industrial school in České Budějovice, he is a self-taught artist. Alongside Pilky group shows, his work has been displayed in, for instance, the legendary exhibition Popis jednoho zápasu. Česká výtvarná avantgarda 80. let (Description of a Struggle: The Czech Art Avant-Garde of the 1980s ) put on by the Ševčíks, a married couple. He currently works as a construction technician.

This exhibition of Jan Vaněk’s paintings from the turn of the 1980s and the 1990s is more than a mere look back at the past. His large abstract canvasses have nothing in common with either abstraction in the sense of mental abstraction or abstraction that experiments with colour and underlay as a medium.

In his art, Jan Vaněk works with purely Christian symbols and Christian symbolic colours. It could be said that each of his paintings represents the artist’s creed, a declaration of faith, expressed in modern language intersecting with vertical and horizontal lines and overlapping fields of colour. Though he has chosen to employ the abstract language of geometric shapes to express himself, the imperfection of the human world is also present via the author’s brushwork, which contradicts machine precision. The presence of the human element is highlighted by nicks and scars and unintended interventions in the surface of the paintings arising through time; these give the canvases an added level of meaning.

In the central painting Blood and Water, encroachment onto a black square (the centre of Latin cross with blue and red borders) enhances the symbolism of the futility and death of man. It also refers to the crucified body of Christ, from whose pierced side flow water and blood, notionally coursing from several sources on the surface of the canvas. The subject of human immortality, which the cross symbolises, is also present in other pieces. In the painting Resurrection an expanding cone of light, yellow in colour, rises to the sky from a dark horizon, symbolising union with God.

Jan Vaněk has not painted for several years. His work as an artist is recalled by the Marian painting on the façade of his house in Horní Hrachovice, where Bohemia meets Vysočina and where he lives quietly with his family, far removed from the world of art. His late 1980s and early 1990s paintings attest to the artist’s sober and honestly formulated attitude not only to his faith but to the world itself.

Marianna Placáková


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