Ivan Komárek

Works from years 1981 - 1987


from 7th March until 8th April, 2007

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Ivan Komárek, who recently celebrated his fiftieth birthday, has occupied a unique place in the development of Czech figural art over the past twenty years. Although his generation is linked with the strong emergence of young artists during the second half of the 1980s who identified (consciously or not) with the Postmodernist transcribing and re-interpreting of ‘original’ historical sources, Komárek himself remained apart from group programmes of that time. He didn’t look for his own form of expression in the friction of direct social involvement or in the ironic negation of previous artistic models. On the contrary, in his youth he drew positive and acknowledged inspiration from his family and its cultural roots, and during his later formative years he was influenced by Jan Smetana, his professor at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, and Jan Bauch, a leading figure of Czech 20th-century figural painting. Komárek has never needed an ideological platform or the back-up structure of (real or pretended) conceptual aims. In his work he doesn’t hide behind anything that might be alien to his ideas or emotions. The nakedness of the figures he depicts seems to signal that their presence and actions are not merely a substitutive ‘game’ but a message about the true core of the human spirit – no matter how bizarre that core might be.
Tellingly entitled ‘Depositary’, this exhibition presents the early chapter of Ivan Komárek’s work during which he formulated his artistic language, tried out various possible paths and experimented in both form and technique. With the hindsight of more than twenty years it is, however, clear that the foundations of his creative vision were already laid at that time: above all we can follow how his picture, so to speak, bursts out of the desire to explore, the irrepressible need to reveal and redesign the human domain in the effort to clarify complex mutual relationships as the driving force of humanity. In Komárek’s drawings, the space of this exploration is spontaneously defined by fluent lines and collaged, non-perspectival areas, while his paintings are dominated by an almost sculpturally conceived plasticity and monumentality. The mentally charged space of all Komárek’s works is characteristically reinforced by expressive colours and the grotesque exaggeration of form.
Komárek’s work from the period focused on by this show, 1981-1987, shows how soon his original world found a crystallised and deep-rooted identity. It is a world that is (with minor exceptions) closed off to momentary social and political affairs, one that is fully rounded in its wealth of emotional (and rational) reflections and ever open to new human experiences and artistic approaches. The person that Komárek portrays in the 1980s is already an heroic-erotic being who plays out a natural story unburdened by moral commentary or existential pathos. The intimacy of Komárek’s people attracts us or repels us, though their universal quality reminds us that in them we find at least a fragment of our own reflection.

Richard Drury