The Monstrous Mystery Behind the Reason of Being
The topic of monstrosity was an impetus for Vladimír Kopecký to reinvent his orthodox abstract painting and push his own boundaries towards a more figurative expression. The Monster series is a unique memento based on a memory of a child that continues to linger in the imagination of a respected doyen of modern art.
Text by Adéla Janíčková
The series Caravans of Monsters March Through the Silent Marsh (2018) by Vladimír Kopecký is a contribution to the collection of glass art objects commissioned by the creative glass company Lasvit, who granted a platform for artists to reflect on the phenomenon of “monstrosity”. The subject of monsters, anti-heroes and outcasts was an impetus for Vladimír Kopecký, the icon of glass art and Czech art of the twentieth century, to reinvent his orthodox abstract painting and push his boundaries towards a more figurative expression. The series of original works of art presents two pieces with simplified shapes of skulls, eyes and teeth, which demonstrate a new painterly course for the artist based on an unusually illustrative technique. At the age of 86, the artist manifests that his innovative artistic approach gives him the capacity to perpetually reinvigorate his imagination, interpretation and original conception. As the latest addition to Kopecký’s prolific oeuvre, the Monster series is produced by a deeply concentrated and simultaneously poetic mind.
“Monsters today? Since the beginning of times the entire world has been shrouded in the monstrous mystery behind the reason of being, which we won’t ever discover. Existence is mere fumes emitted into the staggering nothingness that stuns. To me, a monster is something immense and frightful, looming over us and horrifying us, always from above.” Kopecký draws inspiration from his sense for the sublime, being moved by the absolute as well as the poignant fragility of life. This emotion originates from his own perception of the world around, yet also lies in the artist’s love for literature, such as his favorite Russian classic Anna Karenina, and equally in the philosophical question about the universe and its fate.
Vladimír Kopecký creating his Monster series
Through the lens of Kopecký’s artmaking, we gain the insight into a complex and chaotic experience, and even one of sensibility. Using the innovative technique of layering glass sheets, which the artist originally applied as early as 1969, the complete object displays an intricate and fragmented view into what is happening inside the three-dimensional painting. Despite the elaborate composition of the Monster pieces, the painter works without preliminary sketches and his process is nonetheless very spontaneous, free and swift. The ingeniously executed artwork reveals how the artist’s intuition and vision are the main navigators thanks to which he achieves the intended significance of his creation.
Each artwork is an original conception of what monstrosity means to Kopecký. The triangular piece with bright drippings entitled Runaway Monster seems to offer a glimpse of the universe, which terrifies by its chaos and endless depth. The Monster Has a Fever also renders an abstract response in which the contrasting colors manifest the intense dichotomy of destruction and creativity. The two abstract square glass blocks The Monster in the Windstorm and Monstrous Situation similarly produce juxtaposition between the drippings and the color sections that overlap and collide across the layers, constructing an impenetrable space under pressure. It is interesting how the more figurative works follow up. The menacing faces in Yellow Eyes and Obdurate Monster are symptomatically gestural and geometric. They show the artist’s inherent painterly principles, which are determined by two opposing directions of orderly linear geometry and unbridled action painting. Since Kopecký’s career presents many such contrary artistic techniques that escape every attempt of categorization, the shift from abstraction to representational is in line with his life-long capacity for reinvention and development.
Yellow Eyes, part of the series The Caravans of Monsters March Through the Silent Marsh
The figurative representations of skull heads with transfixing eyes and sharp teeth may stand for a more broadly shared idea of monsters and beasts. For the artist, they are an intimate recollection of a childhood memory of his grandfather telling stories to him and his twin brother as children. Kopecký still remembers the story about “the guard dogs, of which the first one, the smallest, had eyes the size of blackthorns, the second dog’s eyes were large as plums, the other one’s as pies, the following had eyes like plates, and the last dog, the largest one standing by the gates of Hell, had eyes as big as watermill wheels.” Amid the intellectual contemplation on the notion of monstrosity, the excavated memory of the beast with the watchful eyes and bare teeth remains as the most overwhelming idea that steered the artist’s visual language towards narrative figuration. Thanks to such reference, Kopecký’s Monster series is a unique mental memento that comes from a deep impression of a child and continues to linger in the imagination of a respected doyen of modern art.
Monster in the Windstorm, part of the series The Caravans of Monsters March Through the Silent Marsh
Monster has a Fever, part of the series The Caravans of Monsters March Through the Silent Marsh
Obdurate Monster, part of the series The Caravans of Monsters March Through the Silent Marsh
Monstrous Situation, part of the series The Caravans of Monsters March Through the Silent Marsh