Mikuláš Medek (November 3, 1926, Prague - August 23, 1974, Prague) was a Czech painter, whose originality of expression, depth and spirituality of his remarkable works, stand as the most prominent examples of Czech post-war art. His artistic independence and spiritual dimensions were finely expressed, even during the Communist regime in this country, at a time of implacable hostility towards modern art and free thinking.
|The Head sleeping an imperialistic dream|
Medek's artistic heritage can be divided into three basic periods. He was initially influenced by the tradition of Surrealism. This phase represents the time of searching for his own specific artistic view on the world and authentic expression.
The second phase began in 1952 during a time of heavy and brutal political repression, causing a general paralysis in all aspects of society. During this time, he started to pay closer attention to intentionally simplified realistic figure, while not completely leaving behind his surrealistic language. In those works, obvious portrayals exert their range around the existential crisis of man. Figures in a space of a simulated optimistic world-view , the schizophrenic nature of humanity which hides its authentic face with fear, pretends loyalty to the system and - loosing inner strength - gives up to the power and the comfort of self-lobotomy. Some of his work displays playful, yet sinister illustrative character, like comics about the tragedy of human decay. Showing to us the totalitarian environment, which advently restricted and manipulated individuality as yet another object to be discarded. That period of Medek's work is timeless statement, the apprehension of materialistic descent of human society, which also speaks to the contemporary consumer world with its false illusion of free choice.
|Too much alcohol|
In the turn of the 50s and 60s, the most important period of Medek's creative work truly takes form. He turned the human mind inside-out, focusing on abstract painting. Structural dialogues between the macroscopic and microscopic world in metaphorical meaning, vividly depict fundamental questions of human life, supported by impasionedness or mysetrious darkness of colours, formally by utilizing special materials and innovative techniques with emulsion painting. The result is the so-called "preparad images" of colored materials, arranged in the form of printed symbols. We can admire mystic athmosphere of the whole, deep submergion into undiscovered dimension of spiritual world as well as immense and overwhelming torment of mind, but also pay attention to details, representing particular, small painful dramas inside highly articulate structures, reminding of ruptured vessels, violent intervention in tissue, various local "cell" incidents and symbols of mechanisms of physiological or patophysiological functions, as some silent screams of physical suffering. Medek's works are metaphysical transformation of pain, passionate and calm together, the experienced confrontational dialogue between inner and transdimensional space.
|The altar at Jedovnice|
Medek's work has become - thanks to underhanded exhibitins - a role of model for younger radical artists. After 1960, Medek gained some public exposure, with his most recognized work standing as an altarpiece in the church Jedovnice (1963), as well as composition made for the interior offices of Czechoslovakian Airlines in Damascus, Košice (1963), Paris (1964), Prague-Ruzyně (1969) and New York (1970). The first exhibiton of his paintings was installed in the late eighties in a local gallery in Roudnice near Prague, without any media recognition. The first full exhibition was realised only in the beginning of 21st century in Prague gallery Rudolphinum. Medek's works are largely owned by either renowned galleries (eg. Sydney, New York, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hamburg, Bochum, Bratislava, Skopje, etc.) or are in private collections.
|The game of play on flute|
Medek created original symbolism of sign systems with special shapes and colour language as metaphors for human existence in its tragic, pitoresque and painful reality, but intensely thirsting for transubstantial, meaningful dimensions and deeply compelling about the catharsis in the sense of faith´s mystery. Intense emmotional mystical expression, internal consistence and authenticity of the message, the magic power and spiritual energy radiating from his paintings, represent one of the most important and most original personalities of not only Czech, but also 20th Century painters.
From 1962, Medek suffered by severe form of diabetes, which was the cause of his subsequent osteoporosis and general body weakness. His state of health escalated very quickly also thanks to continuous heavy psychical problems. He died relatively young at the age of 47 in Prague in August 1974 from complications associated with diabetes.
© Vladimír Hirsch (2004)
|Big Thirsty Angel|