Sculpture and Space
Kolín City Theatre, Czech Republic 2015
A joint exhibition
10th year of the Kolín exhibition cycle – ‘A Ceramic Meeting’, this time with the subtitle ‘Sculpture and Space’. I studied ceramics at Secondary Art School in Bechyne and then for two years at the university, but it is a too clumsy, narrow-minded, time and money-consuming technology to me. That is one of the reasons why I moved on to the advantages of newer technologies and materials which supplant ceramics in many ways. One of the few advantages of ceramics are its physical properties which are used in technical industry and even in cosmonautics – the hardness, cohesiveness, and heat resistance of material burned at high temperatures. And then there is something I call “the prehistoric gene”, a tradition connected to ceramics stretching back to the Palaeolithic, thanks to which we can hardly imagine eating and drinking from anything else than ceramic wares. In other words, technics, utility, and perhaps design, are areas in which ceramics still retains its attractivity, but in art one sees it rarely. Even the art school in Bechyne erased the word “Ceramics” from its original name (it used to be called “Secondary Industrial School of Ceramics”) after boasting it for more than a hundred years, from 1884 to 2009. It used to be a prestigious school where even foreign students would study, but today the interest of the young generation in this craft is waning. It is being pushed aside by new media. It is not necessary anymore to be good at something, the school accepts anybody who applies so that it can fulfil the state-given norms, and entrance exams have become more or less a formality. This also weakens the students’ drive to get somewhere and compete with others, which lowers their overall ability level and consequently the level of ceramics as an artform. In my view, ceramics is in decline and in need of a reform. The breaking of tradition as a new beginning – a 100-year-old clay form for marble cakes, a traditional porcelain platter from Dubí called “cibulák”, a Diturvit plate (a Czech brand of porcelain) made by the legendary company Ditmar Urbach with traditional, old socialist décor, and a kind of modern insertion in this installation full of traditional shapes and patterns, which is the ceramic knife. I glued together the splinters of hundred-year-old marble cake form and remade it into a new one, completed it with clay modelling, and baked a marble cake in it. The cake had the shape of the new form imprinted in it, but also bore visible marks of the old form. I exhibited it on a similarly reformed porcelain tray, sliced it with a reformed ceramic knife, and served it on a reformed Diturvit plate. I understand the concept of reform here not merely as a transformation of traditional shapes and patterns, but also of ways of thinking in a traditional craft which ceramics depends on. Breaking a thing into little pieces and subsequently gluing it back into a new thing is, to me, a sort of metaphoric parallel to group therapy in addiction treatment. The work process is similar with a mentally ill person who is continually being destroyed by a fixation on some pathological behaviour (an addiction, apathetic stagnation, self-harm, etc.). In order for the fixation to be shifted in a more desirable way, the mind of the individual is subjected to psychoanalytical and often painful decomposition of personality into small pieces, from which a new personality is then pieced together. A personality which is able to stay on top of things and itself and can thus lead its life in a new direction freed from primary addiction. This pathological experience eventually becomes a valuable source of information for attaining self-knowledge and self-development. The seed of the success of this rebirth, however, lies in the full realization of the need for a change and in the subsequent authentic decision to act. An honest decision built upon stable ground. Even dependence on tradition is a strong one and has its pathological symptoms. In ceramics, especially.