By Katerina Kyselica | A journey may seem full of unpredicted happenstances, setbacks that call for improvisations but also moments of repose. The same can be said about existential circumstances that subject an individual to chances and factors beyond free will: where someone is born, how politics play out and which choices are at hand. A matter of coincidences. Who could have foreseen, for instance, that Robert Rauschenberg’s decision in 1960s New York to print from an imperfect matrix with an accidental crack would go on to spark creative impulses on the other side of Iron Curtain; that one factory worker’s compulsion to blur the line between painting and printmaking would influence an entire generation of artists raised under a regime that only tolerated Socialist Realist style; or that the Iron Curtain was not as sealed as initially designed, in that a number of ideas and artists could pass through. Still, many were barred on the inside, some also on the outside.
Artist Vladimir Boudnik, Czech enfant terrible who worked intensely to "make an impression of an entire factory," in his Prague studio in 1967. Photograph by Ladislav Michalek.
In our fifth edition of Celebrating Print Magazine, we invite you to travel back in time to post-war Paris with Anna Pravdova to follow Czech sculptor Jan Krizek, a young art brut personality, who happened to be abroad when the Iron Curtain solidified. Luckily, today we can venture behind the former boundary, to 1950s Czechoslovakia, via Jiri Bernard Krticka’s treatise of structural printmaking. The story begins with Vladimir Boudnik’s drive to compound a new art program as “a liberating expression of internal creative strengths of each individual.” This Czech enfant terrible worked intensely to “make an impression of an entire factory”—concurrently with Rauschenberg’s first efforts of entertaining the conceptual field of printmaking. Crossing the border into 1970s Hungary, there burgeoned a resplendent fascination with the use of photography in printmaking, a surprising occurrence for a region where drawing defines the medium’s tradition. Krisztina Uveges discusses a renaissance of industrial and screen printing that developed in the city of Mako during the serendipity of emerging photo-based art trends and shifts in socialist government policies. The possibilities allured artists across many disciplines, bringing printmaking into the spotlight.
The creators’ stances were not necessary political. In some cases, one can note a rather stubborn search for understanding the self in conjunction with greater universal matters through a systematic evaluation of human mechanisms or even connections to a place. Breda Skrjanec explores the works of Slovenian painter Janez Knez and his decades-long preoccupation with the social fabric and industrial landscape of the Central Sava Valley. In a recent project conceived as a “memory-laden paper metropolis,” Tatiana Potts examines remembrance and experience of visited locations, channeling her observations into a physical yet ephemeral visual environment.
Akin to how consequences of coincidences pivot the course of a life story, the unpredictability inherent to the printmaking process confronts artists with challenges beyond their control. While some may fret over it, many embrace the space that fortuity opens. I hope that the stories included in this issue enrich your impressions of Europe’s bygone east side and shed light on the temporal intricacies of the small nations. Enjoy your reading.
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