By Katerina Kyselica | Jiri Lindovsky’s belief in the power of creative intelligence translates into visual discoveries that may seem puzzling at first. His prints, drawings and paintings reveal mysterious entities carefully staged in infinite spaces. Like alien orbit stations, his subjects appear floating in calmness, suspended in time.
Jiri Lindovsky, Microfibers, 1984, offset, screen print, 12 5/8 x 20 1/2 inches (38 x 52 cm), edition of 12, photogaph by Ivo Precek.
Lindovsky’s artistic journey intertwines with his philosophical engagement in the complexities of the universe, despite the fact that he often draws inspiration from ordinary objects found within the four walls of his studio, such as electric outlets, broken light bulbs or bell peppers. His works exhibit a recognizable style—monochromatic compositions with an enigmatic entity that resembles a technical apparatus. Against the white paper, some of them seem glowing. They are quite difficult to photograph. The dense nets of minuscule lines gravitating towards a point in the two-dimensional space, a point of settlement, do not allow for a perfect reproducible clarity.
Seeing his prints in person is highly recommended. Only then can you discover the special quality of his line. The frayed edges carry traces of a work process—a journey of disconnection, resistance and rebirth as a result of the artist’s earlier determination to transfer, and later translate, drawing into the print. These quivering lines have the power to convert a technical apparatus into a being of its own, radiating energy and glowing with a shimmering light. Lindovsky calls such imagery a “technical mystery.”
I knew his work before I knew him. I truly enjoyed his technical approach to drawing. When I was in art school, my teacher did not react well to my usage of a straight edge in painting. Yet here we are today, discussing the exquisite drawings and prints that this artist created with the help of drafting tools. But do not be fooled; Lindovsky’s draftsmanship is superior, regardless of whether or not he uses a ruler. So is his philosophy of “working things through,” as seen by his exercise of drawing thoroughly to realize visual ideas along with his experimentation in printmaking technology.
The first time I met with Lindovsky was at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague a few years back. I was visiting the Printmaking Department, which he has headed since 1992. He awaited me with an open heart and energy to converse about everything related to printmaking, drawing, his students and their aspirations. I found him to be a curious man, a thinker, who was willing to share his experiences and knowledge, but at the same time comfortable and responsive to new impulses and ideas. A man with an open mind. It must be this open-mindedness that prompts him to explore subjects that many of us so easily overlook, dismiss or perhaps unfairly fear. His fascination with technical devices and apparatus is contagious, at least as far as I am concerned. His discoveries of comfort and quietness in microfibers and computer-based systems initially seem estranged. Yet somewhere in Lindovsky’s artistic process, these commonplace, lifeless objects lose their physical weight and technical associations and become entities of their own, afloat and glowing with energy and light.
To meet the man who “brought the aesthetics of engineering into print,” as he described himself during our conversation, smiling, I traveled to Olomouc, a city in the Czech Republic where Lindovsky lives and has a studio. I was initially baffled by his long commute to work; the train ride to Prague takes over two hours. However, when I arrived in Olomouc one morning, I realized that it exudes the charm of Prague yet is more intimate. You can truly connect to this historic city as you stroll the cobblestone streets. It is one of the Czech Republic’s best-kept secrets in my opinion. I learned about the Olomouc Archbishop’s Palace founded in 1777 and how it holds an impressive collection of almost 20,000 historic prints. But I will explore that treasure on another trip. For now, we will simply scratch the surface of Olomouc’s printmaking history by delving into the journey of this present-day artist.
Jiri Lindovsky, Peppers, 2003, screen print, 27 5/8 x 39 3/8 inches (70 x 100 cm), edition of 80, photograph by Lumir Curik.
Katerina Kyselica (KK) In your artistic practice, devices, gadgets, various pieces of technical apparatus and airplanes take center stage. However, it is not the surface but the inside of the machine that seems to interest you most.
Jiri Lindovsky (JL): I have always been interested in blueprints of planes and different objects. I saw the airplane as an organism. A fly’s wing is also sort of a construction, isn’t it? Seeing the surface of an airplane wing is a magical experience for me, whether I’m looking at it from the top or the side. Of course, I don’t really understand the blueprints; I never knew what the particular lines meant. But altogether I’ve always viewed the machine as a fascinating experience of a mysterious world.
KK: Where did you find the blueprints of planes and other devices?
JL: I grew up in the country, near an airport. Planes were constantly flying above our heads. As a young boy, my friends and I were completely obsessed with planes. We bought every issue of the magazine Letectvi [Aeronautics], which included blueprints. Later I simply made up everything.
KK: So, in your prints and drawings, you don’t depict real mechanical devices?
JL: No. My art is only supposed to resemble the blueprints. Many people think the images are actual blueprints, but upon a closer examination they realize that my pictures of motherboards and other parts are not real. They are just prints, just works of art living their own lives.
KK: Some of your works seem to me like X-ray scans that offer the viewer an insight into the internal structure of unknown things—like Hybrid (1996), for instance.
JL: When I started exploring machines as a theme, I was initially interested in their form and surface. I created still lives with TV screens that were simplified as blocks. Then I became more interested in the inside of devices, seeing them as a mystery, with spare parts as their centers. I chose to portray this vision using a pencil because of the way it leaves traces of a shimmering, mysterious gray. I then began to imagine, create and draw a “technical fog”—a “technical mystery” with spare parts floating within the conjured up environment. Once, I was going through photographs taken on Mars. I then researched what it takes for the signal sent out from Mars to be transformed into the images we see on the news. That’s an unbelievable adventure! Something is first photographed and then uploaded into a computer, which deconstructs the image into points, assigns to each point a number and later an electromagnetic attribute, then it goes back into the computer to be processed, put together, cleaned, transferred to a raster, sent over to a printer and there it is, printed. I am simplifying this sequence, of course. The machines can do this completely automatically. The internal computer-based process seems to me as mysterious as childbirth.
Jiri Lindovsky, Outlet, 1987, screen print, 33 x 23 1/4 inches image size (84 x 59 cm), 53 x 25 5/8 inches paper size (89 x 65), edition of 13, photograph by Jiri Freit.
KK: You try to bring aesthetics to something that is usually perceived as cold: the machine. You seem to warm it up though; you give it life. A spare part becomes a world of its own—timeless and without spatial borders.
JL: I explore nature and technology and, as such, man. I’m interested in the philosophy behind these relationships. Devices have always appeared to me like mysterious objects, and their existence perplexes me. Of course, any machine is product of the human brain’s creativity. It actually bothers me when I hear of technology destroying lives. Man can destroy another man’s life; technology in itself has nothing to do with destruction. Man has been gifted with creative intelligence. If we only had intelligence, we could understand everything but then we couldn’t create. Our intelligence, however, is creative. Man always creates, no matter what.
KK: Do you often have to stand up for your artwork, or argue against this pessimistic view towards technology?
JL: In the Czech Republic, those of us in the arts find ourselves in the world of “art-making.” Technology as a theme doesn’t often surface in the arts. If technology appears as a subject matter, it carries a negative or nostalgic connotation, which then may be considered as artistic and, therefore, acceptable. You can say that I brought the aesthetics of engineering into print.
KK: A propos printmaking—you wanted to learn this technique as early as high school.
JL: At first, I wanted to be a painter, but there was no high school with such a program. Then I saw a printmaker on TV who was working in the intaglio method. He was creating a beautiful landscape in drypoint. I couldn’t find words to describe what I saw—that’s how much I liked it. I knew right away that I wanted to do printmaking. I was accepted into a high school in Brno with a printmaking program but due to some regulations, I had to study exhibition design instead. In the end, it wasn’t such a bad deal because I gained a great amount of experience working with new materials.
It happened later at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague that I realized that I was a draftsman and printmaker. I began with painting, and like most of my peers in the 1970s, I created expressive, gestural works. However, I quickly discovered that I wanted to explore other motifs, like airplanes. At the time, such a choice didn’t fall within the approved academic norms. But I couldn’t use the tools of expressionism to paint machines! The form simply didn’t correspond with the theme; at least I didn’t find the way. So, I stopped everything. I told myself: point, line, plane—not knowing that I was expressing the basic elements of printmaking! I started to work with this concept of point, line and plane. My shift away from lyrical, emotion-filled paintings first took me to Pop Art. A completely new world opened up for me. I began working on raster-based, color still lives. Everything was possible using this approach, for instance, a woman as a still life, a head as still life, or even an airplane—a landscape with an airplane. I determined I was destined to be a printmaker during this period, by having the mindset of a printmaker. I don’t think like a painter.
KK: What does printmaking do for you?
JL: The technology has its own means of expression that other media do not offer. I can draw in many ways; I can paint. Although there is something missing in printmaking, what it provides, when you submit to it, cannot be found in another art media. I think that any artist who prefers line, point and plane naturally possesses the mindset of a printmaker rather than a painter.
KK: You also paint.
JL: My paintings often look painterly but they are mostly drawings.
KK: I frequently run into a discussion with people, including printmakers, who don’t consider works falling outside the traditional perception of printmaking as “physical matrix—hand press—image printed on paper” as prints. You consider printmaking to be an art medium that is defined by a way of thinking. Is that how we should view printmaking as an art medium?
JL: Printmaking, based on how it evolved, is an intimate art that provokes a personal contact. It includes a specific way of thinking and as such it has its own specific language. Over this past century, a tradition of continuous revolution has developed in the arts. This contemporary mindset tends to contradict past traditions, as it fails to realize that everything new continuously transforms into the traditional approaches, often disappearing without traces. Because printmaking involves both the traditional approaches as well as the effort to cancel out all tested and proved, we are able to see an equal amount of quality and not-so-good works. And I don’t know any other criterion besides the quality of results.
[This article appears in full in the print and digital editions of Celebrating Print, Vol.2, No.1.]
A full version of the article Jiri Lindovsky on the Technical Mystery and Creative Intelligence by Katerina Kyselica appears in the print edition of Celebrating Print, Vol.2 No. 1, published in April 2016.
JIRI LINDOVSKY (b. 1948, Czech Republic) is a draftsman, printmaker, painter and designer. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (1975). Lindovsky’s works have been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions in the Czech Republic and abroad. His art is represented in private and public collections, including the National Gallery in Prague, Fundacio Joan Miro in Barcelona, the National Museum in Warsaw and Museo del Arte Contemporaneo in Buenos Aires, among others. Lindovsky received the prestigious Vladimir Boudnik Award (2011) for his lifelong contribution to Czech printmaking. He is a professor at the Printmaking Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Jiri Lindovsky lives in Olomouc.
KATERINA KYSELICA is a visual artist, designer, curator and lecturer. She received a BFA from VCU School of the Arts in Virginia and a Master’s Degree from Charles University in Prague. Her prints and works on paper, represented in private collections, have been exhibited in solo and group shows in New York, Paris and the Czech Republic. She organized and curated the Celebrating Print Exhibition (2013–2015), a survey of contemporary prints from Central and Eastern Europe. Kyselica’s articles on art, printmaking and design have appeared in Czechdesign.cz, Design Magazin, MF DNES, Celebrating Print and the Journal of the Print World.