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This may be the painting in which my obsession with the process of making art culminated. It was created specially for my exhibition at the Nová síň Gallery in Prague, where I had an additional wall erected for the painting to bring it closer to the viewers. Unable to step back, they were overwhelmed by the work.
Apart from this, there was, quite intentionally, no other painting nor text on display in the gallery. There was nowhere to run, nothing to distract the eyes. Nothing but time materialized through paint. The work was made on the floor using highly diluted transparent paints. Every day a single layer of red, blue and yellow waves, regularly alternated and ran alongside one another. Every day I spent ten to twelve hours laying the paint, being unable to take a lengthy break as the paint was not allowed to dry. Only the glistening wet paint made it possible, with multiple layers, to tell where the brush stroke had ended. Every day, after several hours of work, I achieved a strange state of exaltation, where I was submerged, body and soul, in and only in the painting.
In an otherwise empty space of the Nová síň Gallery, the Brno painter Petr Kvíčala (1960) exhibited a single painting.
The work, eight by four meters in size, was tailored to the exhibition space and Kvíčala, instead of hanging it on the wall, had special scaffolding erected in front of the longitudinal wall of the gallery to support the painting, thus creating a “projection screen” transforming the gallery into an auditorium yielding a magnificent view of another world. Enthralled by the large surface with intertwining undulating lines, lured into resonating with their rhythm and apparent movement, the viewers sat down on a bench without being able to take their eyes away from the tangle of colours. Here, the enthralled eye was carried away on an undulating line, there attempting to penetrate into the background it was overwhelmed by the wild blend changing into a monochrome of undefined colour. Transitions between the different perception levels could only partly be controlled by one’s own will: they happened spontaneously, as if it was at the eye’s discretion to choose its path.
The title of the painting – “60 Days of Red, Blue, and Yellow” reflects its very origin. In a rented room inside the Baroque chateau in Kuřim, Kvíčala was kneeling for the whole two months on a spread-out canvas covering it, incessantly, with a track of colours in the rhythm of a monochrome undulating line. Just as if working on frescoes Kvíčala followed a daily rhythm – but while the painters of Renaissance frescoes had to put up with the drying of the stucco backing, Kvíčala could not but draw his lines across the whole length of the canvas every time as otherwise he could not have spotted where he had stopped before: after several layers the dry acrylic paint turned into an uncontrollable jumble of three colours with no beginning and no end.
Petr Kvíčala conceived and created a painting in which, in his ingenious way, he employed and reflected on several modern approaches to visual art. His interest in the process of painting as a physical task – including the randomness of the stroke and the imperfect movement of the painting hand – is a conscious homage to the tradition of action painting, represented at its best by Jackson Pollock. Blobs of dropped paint in Kvíčala’s undulating structure are palpable proof of the “imperfection” of this human endeavour. From the neo-plasticist system of Piet Mondrian he adopted the reduction of the vocabulary to include the line, three colours and their rhythmic application. Traces of the optical-constructive art of Victor Vasarely are revealed in the strict systemic approach and the combinations of colours. And while the undulating line embodies the organic basis of symbolist secession, the transition of multi-coloured schemes into vague monochromes can be found in Raimund Girke, a successor of the German group Zero.
This multiplicity in terms of references to the history of art amalgamates with the actual multiplicity of the superimposed layers of colourful undulating lines expanding the associative potential of the painting’s impact. Orderly arrangement and randomness – or more precisely: a planned tangle – are the main factors determining the artist’s intention. Kvíčala combines three of the main approaches to modern art – the principle of reduction and randomness.
It is interesting to learn that Kvíčala did not make his discoveries through a theoretical study of the history of art, but by his intensive preoccupation with the motif of the landscape. It was there that, for the first time, he was able to see the repeating organic or topographic undulations and his palette, like that of Cézanne’s, was reduced from the standard full set of colour shades to basic colours. Kvíčala’s ornament was not created as a reception of existing ornamental signs, he was repeating the process of visual reduction to the basic schemes.
The painting – as the artist maintains – is currently the largest painted canvas on the Czech art scene. He claims to have been led by his fascination with prodigality – as a festive principle – and a “desperate yearning for immortality.” I feel certain that – as with any other record – this measure of Czech immortality will soon be surpassed.