This was a one-of-a-kind painting, matched only by a few others at the time. Several years later it was revealed not to be a cul-de-sac in my then quest for a lyrical composition of the landscape but a clairvoyant “leap forward” waiting to be deciphered. It contains a number of underpaintings, being long-forgotten attempts that I disguised under a layer of white paint. The lines were then drawn using the tube itself from which I squeezed out the paint.
Landscape with Maize, 1985
This is the first work where I began to paint differently. Until that time I had been influenced by the drawings and paintings of Michal Ranný and as a consequence I was endeavouring to give my pictorial surfaces an innate lyricism. This involved a search for fine tones from a scale of ochres, greens and Naples yellows. At that time the period of extended walks along field roads was slowly coming to a close. It was while working on a painting, in the process of which I had been continuing my quest for a general pictorial and colour arrangement of the landscape of my immediate surroundings, that I recalled a detail which had often fascinated and mesmerized me – rows of sun-lit plants of beet and maize, with their rhythmic
and seemingly endless repetition, the regular rhythm interrupted only by the irregular distances between the plants; here growing in clusters; there in different sizes; elsewhere completely absent, – and in spite of the overall uniformity – they contained a plethora of shapes. I will never forget that fascination with the angled sunlight of the morning which shone through the leaves, it felt like watching an image of the vital force itself. Two elements from the painting are important to me today: the fact that it was the first time I employed the motif of young maize plants and the method by which I painted them. Not in a fine and cultivated manner, nor expressively, as was also fashionable, but primitively and with some irony thrown in for good measure aimed at my own earlier paintings already exhibited. However, this ironic primitivism perfectly matched the pure vital force that I sensed. I never met Michal Ranný in person, even though he lived in a neighbouring village and we looked at the same hill – Jahodná – and the same fields, albeit each from his own different side. After finishing my military service, I befriended his father, Emanuel Ranný, and for three years came to help him in his orchard as well as, perhaps more importantly, discussing and framing hundreds of Michal’s lyrical and extremely cultivated drawings. I was told that, Michal had once torched hundreds of his drawings in the backyard. I could identify with that. I felt he was looking for a way forward but his works obviously showed him he was just moving in a circle. Several years later, in 1987, when I exhibited the first paintings from the Wallpapers series in the University Club in Brno, I received a letter from Jiří Valoch, saying: “in your paintings you have managed very insightfully, to continue and develop the theme that Michal Ranný was exploring during the last years of his life”. This was really strange because I knew nothing of his last drawings from the end of the 1970’s – works which his father considered signs of mental illness, allegedly some kind of paranoia.
Untitled (Green Dots), 1986
Before long I realized that my search for suitable themes of paintings in nature was more and more frustrated. I made numerous attempts to capture the vigour of growth by applying a rustic and primitive mode of painting to quasi-general plant archetypes. The painting with green dots materialized when I was negotiating a bend while cycling.
I almost brushed against a shrub with green spots of leaves, blurred as a result of the speed and proximity, and this stuck in my memory. When painting I realized that I had perceived the dots in an almost ordered manner and I placed them on the canvas in rows of touches of the brush. It may well be the last work with a visual concept that I found in the open air.
It occurred to me, more and more urgently, that instead of actual motifs from nature, I am more attracted by the fact that some natural motifs and phenomena represent certain principles that fascinate me – in particular repetition and simplicity.