Dílna Mikulov - Art symposium
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When you say Mikulov, most of us recall a bottle of wine, wine cellars and hillsides with vineyards. Some of us will also imagine southern sun, beautiful landscape, a town full of sights and a border crossing point to Austria. Others will recall the Věstonice venus, which was found about ten kilometres to the north in Pálava, and still others will remember probably the biggest wine butt in our country, which has been stored in the chateau (it is said to be filled up to the top only twice for the period of its existence). In the last decade, one more remarkable achievement was added to the pride of the town: the Mikulov Art Symposium "Workshop". It is presented not only by the annual exhibitions of what has been produced in that Symposium but also by the permanent exposition of works of the Symposia, which is installed in the chateau. It is a unique exhibition of this kind: it is not common in the Czech and Moravian countries to dedicate space to the collections gathering works that are produced nowadays (e.g. there is not a single exposition of this kind in Prague). Therefore, the chateau exposition called The Harvest 1994–2000 represents a significant achievement not only for the life of the town, though it does not claim to provide a complex survey (it is not possible in any case as it reflects the programme of the Symposia). Not everybody knows today that Mikulov was the biggest town of South Moravia till the 19th century and one of its most important economic centres. From the 13th century, then Niclaspurg belonged to the Liechtenstein family. It was located on a significant business path between Brno and Vienna. It guarded the south of the country and also faced the approaching Turkish threat in the 16th century. The town experienced a new boom especially from the 17th century under the administration of the Ditrichstein family. At that time, Mikulov became the seat of the biggest Jewish settlement in Moravia. Remarkable development of the town was only interrupted by the fatal decision in the 19th century: the railway Brno–Vienna was eventually built via Břeclav. It might be the coincidence of historical, geographic and natural circumstances that gave a very special impression to the town streets and surroundings. The very first contact with the town generates an intensive feeling that we can immediately forget all obligations, burdens and pressures coming upon us from all sides and that we do not need to hurry back to where we have come from. Even if we should spend there only one day, we will not help creating an emotional relationship with this place. We will be impressed by what is not seen at the first sight but what is nearly omnipresent: a kind of "inner" richness of the town (undoubtedly given by the impressive history). However, there is one more fascinating experience here (which might be specifically interesting to the artists): that southern atmosphere, which was widely dreamt about and sought for whenever and wherever possible by people from Central Europe, who were surrounded by low grey sky and inexpressive, grimy colours. Hardly anybody ever remembered that the stray piece of the south with hot sun, aggressive bright light and dazzling white limestone rocks resembling Dalmatia or the Apennines was within our reach. Therefore, it is by another coincidence that the tradition of regular art meetings found its refuge in this place. This Mikulov Art Symposium was the ninth event. Within nearly ten years, approximately sixty artists worked here. The origin was quite inconspicuous. The idea occurred "in a mild evening in the head of the sculptor Nikos Artmutidis, when drinking a glass of wine" (as its foundation is nearly legendary described). The original intention to organize symposia for sculptors in Mikulov was welcomed mainly by sculptors from the Tvrdohlaví group. This group had a significant impact on the history of the Czech art even before (under the totalitarian regime). The circle of participants soon expanded not only outside the Tvrdohlaví group but also abroad. The originally friendly initiative was transformed in a solid organizational structure, which, in co-operation with the Regional Museum, had a curator heading each annual event, a professional organizer and a keen support of the town. This year, six artists came to Mikulov: Ivana Lomová (1959, artists, CR) was chosen to be the curator. Other participants included Erika Bornová (1964, sculptor, CR), Viktor Pivovarov (1937, artist, Russia), Ulric Roldanus (1964, sculptor, Holland), Daniela Sneppová (1963, graphic artist, photographer, Canada) and Jiří Pikous (1978, artist, CR) as a technical assistant. Within several weeks of their stay (from the date of the ceremonial opening on 20. 7. till the private view of the „Harvest“ on 17. 8.), they worked in their studios on the hillsides near the entry to the Mikulov Chateau with a view of the charming Holy Hill, town roofs and green and white hills in the surroundings. Each of them responded to their reflections in Mikulov in a different way: the place meant the finding of an immediate inspirational thematic source for some while for others the environment became an oasis where they could focus on the examination of personal worlds hiding various forgotten things for years.
The first group includes Erika Bornová. She was inspired by the historical person of Perchta of Rožemberk, who had lived in the middle of the 15th century in Mikulov where had she unhappily married a man of the Liechtenstein family. According to the legend, she has been appearing in Mikulov as a White Lady till today. The ethereal white sculpture of Perchta with magic light pink smile was installed on the chateau wall: the White Lady walks though the wall and leaves the castle chapel (where, as the legend says, she prayed for the deliverance from her hated fate). The Moscow native Viktor Pivovarov, living in Prague since 1981, painted canvases in Mikulov, which represented probes into the previous painting cycles. With his typical conceptual approach, Pivovarov touched very personal feelings in some works, which were related to the art-political situation in his original country. There is also a completely new painting called The Figure at window, which is clear and colourful and is solved in the Constructivist style. It is a follow-up of the Leonardo-Schlemmer tradition of presenting a person as a puppet in the metaphysically imagined space. In her psychoanalytic landscapes and portraits, Ivana Lomová also brings us to the supra-realistic world of her imaginations, though her paintings of landscapes and people always had a very specific and very realistic way-out. Illusions of places and people, always linked with a personal experience, are stored in memories and feelings, which are evoked on some occasions and are transferred on the canvas, as it happened in Mikulov.
The Holland sculptor Ulric Roldanus was the Western participant. He works in the area of installations, which is much favoured these days. He has created many objects of bizarre forms and ironizing content (counterpart of our František Skála in some way). In the sense of his work of this kind, he prepared the installation for the Symposium, which was called Rebirth of Venus or Snow White and too many dwarf-men. Daniela Sneppová was born in Marianské Lázně but she lives in Canada where she also teaches Art and Theory of Culture at the University. Her performance characterizes another current tendency: popularity of photograph as a medium, which can be combined with other art and non-art means. In our case, it was voice.
Jiří Pikous, who held the position of a technical assistant in the Symposium, is still a student (Faculty of Arts in Brno). However, he has already managed a number of activities, mainly in his native Liberec but also elsewhere. His paintings with slightly ironizing content mix free expressively fantasy paintings with pop-art sense for detail (which is also sometimes reflected in his choice of the topic). In 1994, when the first annual event of the Mikulov meeting took place, hardly anybody would have thought that the symposium would continue successfully for many years. However, it has not only survived but also become a new tradition of the town. In this sense, the Mikulov "Workshops" are still at the beginning and they seem to have a very rich future.

Ivona Raimanová, PhD.