Dílna Mikulov - Art symposium
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Heat Wave in Mikulov
Ivan Neumann

Some time in 1972 I came across a book named simply Mikulov that was published the year before. Its editor, who assembled a team of authors consisting of renowned art historians and historiographers was the art historian and professor of Masaryk University in Brno, then known as Jan Evangelista Purkyně Univeristy, Václav Richter. The book began with a text whose edginess was very courageous at that time that inspired me and arouse great curiosity about what the town on the foothills of the Pavlovské Hills is really like. Since then I have been to Mikulov several times. But this July, during the Mikulov Art Symposium and through the enormous heat waves, or hice [hee-tzeh], it felt best.

I cannot but quote from the opening passage of Václav Richter’s text: “If a modern pilgrim wishes to set out in his tin vehicle from the land capital of Brno to southern Moravia, road signs direct him… onto the Vienna road… soon… the Pavlovské Hills appear on the horizon. What impression does he get from this entire environment? Not even here can he escape the world of the 20th century. It is still in him, because he historically bears it in himself. What is this world like? It’s a world of modern technology for which nature is an economic enterprise, governed by man. In this world, Pálava appears as millions of tonnes of precious building material. There, the Dyje River disappears in the useful Mušov lake. Thus, the artefact “Mikulov”, adapted accordingly, can become a purposeful instrument for acquiring foreign currencies.”

In the twilight of the 1970, these sentences appeared to me to be quite powerful. A lot has certainly changed since then but I’m concerned that the utilitarian attitude to the world, nature and art has not changed that much – it might have even grown stronger. The efforts to use the world, consume it, is very strong. In the world of utility, as if everything else was entirely dispensable.

How can we face such an attitude? Education, enlightenment, rational and emotional arguments all have their weight and place, but they seem to have failed to induce a change to the situation in any significant way. But the ever-present work of art, which lasts and enters into the great imaginary museum of all creative acts of mankind to date, which is not subordinated to the everyday utility of human practice, the work of art with its permanent presence and a quiet, non-ostentatious speech, is capable of transforming the reality.

I believe that major help for such transformations in people’s minds and in the conscience of the society comes from happenings such as the Mikulov Art Symposium "dílna", which is among the best of them. It’s not just that a number of great works of art have been created here that form a permanent collection of contemporary art; it’s also thanks to the systematic approach, persistence and immense efforts devoted to the symposium by organizers and supporters.

The curator of the 22nd edition of the "dílna", the painter Oldřich Tichý and I decided that the event will focus on the ancient medium of fine art – painting, whatever the techniques behind its creation. We wanted to make sure that the participating artists come from various generations and places, and for their concepts of art as different as possible. The first artist we both agreed on was Vladimír Novák of the 1970s generation, a distinct painter, co-founding member of the Free Association 12/15, Better Late Than Never. His painting has always demonstrated great energy and strength. He at first accepted our invitation but unfortunately, family matters prevented him from attending the symposium. I hope the town’s art collection will one day acquire some of his works through his participation in the symposium. Eventually, six artists gathered in the central common room in the chateau of Mikulov linked to rooms transformed to studios for the duration of the symposium.

The above mentioned curator, painter Oldřich Tichý, came experienced from last year and well prepared with a series of work on paper recording his thinking about the painting. If the word wasn’t clichéd because of its frequent and improper use, I would call him a realist, from the Latin res, an object. His paintings always feature common and event discarded objects of this world which on the canvass become the speakers of something mysterious, concealed behind mere appearance. The invisible is in the visible, wrote a French philosopher.

Luděk Filipský did not expect the level of intensity of the site he was going to encounter and how much he will be able to concentrate due to the genius loci. He ended up ordering more canvasses despite the fact that his way of painting tends to be very slow, interrupted by quiet concentration, nearly meditation. The paintings he made at the symposium allow us to experience all four dimensions of the world, space and time and the viewer’s complete understating is carried on light that appears as colour. His paintings are a space we want to belong to and are afraid of at the same time.

On the way to the chateau, separated by two gates from other studios, was the studio of Mikoláš Axmann. There, in a certain tusculum, was where Axmann’s extraordinary book was made inspired by the most important of the local plant, vine. It was not made by the means of lithography as we could expect from Axmann, or by any unusual method, but in a very personal manner – by touching, which transported all forms onto paper. In an homage to the region and in memory of the nearby Valtice, two very larger canvasses were also made – Large Format.

Vladimír Franz, accompanied by his permanently quiet and patient multi-racial dog Milan, worked in the environment of a studio lit from both sides with natural light on a series of paintings as well as works on paper in which he as much as possible lightened the colour scale of clear tones which demonstrated the fact that colour is in fact the visible form of light. The images of vital, lush vegetation and colourful flowers seem to manifest not only prodigally abounding creative power of nature but also its sovereignty going beyond all human intention. As if their optimism was also a quiet warning.

The photographer Peter Župník, at all time positively tuned, would get lost from time to time only to reappear in his studio and then disappeared again. He would wander through Mikulov and look. He would look just like the rest of us did, but he looked so that he could see, and capture forever what he saw. He then left for a longer time and came back with a folder filled with peculiarly printed definite shots of Mikulov. None of them were in fact definite; he manipulated some of them and intervened with painting means. He’s a photographer that goes a long way after taking the shot. In his photographs, Mikulov became a town not seen like that before.

For the youngest participant of the symposium, the painter Martin Čada, being in Mikulov was an unparalleled opportunity to spend a month in a suggestive environment just painting. One could feel the emotions that accompany his world. An aggressive gesture was rising, only to be immediately corrected. The figural motifs in certain colourful and compositional whirl took over his painting at first to be replaced with expressivity of landscape motifs tamed by orderly lines of deep black paint. This landscape was also penetrated by a human figure with the features of some ancient idol. As if all Čada’s paintings in Mikulov radiated.

František Zelinka, a student at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, gave the participating artists a knowledgeable tour of the Mikulov chateau but more importantly, he served as a technical assistant of the symposium and also created several paintings reacting in a minimalistic manner to the segmentation of the chateau’s Baroque architecture.



Mikulov Art Symposium 2015

July 11th - August 8th, 2015

The list of participants is not yet available.