Jan Jedlička: 200 m Heliogravures Pigments
Jan Jedlička has already in the past drawn sharp photographic portraits of landscapes with his camera – especially in the area of Maremma in Tuscany. This concept culminates logically in his experiments with the technique of heliogravure. Thanks to its specific properties, such as depicting contrasts clearly but softly, he made his theme that which has always interested him most: the intensive presentation of the land and its materials in a work of art.
Jan Jedlička has transferred the Maremma photographs from the cycle entitled Il Cerchio (The Circle) to large-scale heliogravures. In this cycle he recorded his beloved landscape in various seasons of the year with a camera using a fixed, wide-angle, corrected lens, thus enabling the horizon always to be placed in the centre of the picture. The line of the horizon on the flat landscape of Maremma thus passes through all the photographs in exactly the same place, in a single unending line. The towering sky is balanced by the ultra-sharply defined details of the land, transforming with the seasons of the year, the alternation of which Jan Jedlička has perceived with great sensitivity, for his returns to Maremma always meant only a time-limited visit, in the course of which his senses remained perceptive to the changes that had taken place in the landscape that he had left behind a few months before.
The detailed drawing of the photographs, thanks first and foremost to which the almost palpable presence of the landscape was achieved, with the foreground seeming to extend straight from the tips of the observer’s shoes, acquired a completely new quality in the heliogravures, which at the same time, however, confirms the hidden continuity throughout Jan Jedlička’s work.
There is a totally exceptional understanding of the material, through which he expresses his emotion. To him it is not merely a means or form. He sees it as an essence, a basic substance, which renders the expression of the material visible and brings back the sensual dimension to contact with the place. Shortly after his departure into exile in the seventies he found chalks of many colours in old iron mines and began to prepare them as pigments. Geological deduction led him to veins of iron ore in the area of southern Tuscany. Maremma also became a source of raw materials – stones and mud, which extended the collection comprising over two hundred types of Maremma pigments.
Maremma is a landscape of marshes, in which two elements mingle together, earth and water, the initiators of natural emergence, extinction and disintegration. Their omnipresence underlines the permeability of time levels: presently burgeoning life is filled by the future with its inevitable ending. The intermingling of the future with the present and the past without the existence of a single linear direction, this is a phenomenon closely linked to the entire life and creative work of Jan Jedlička, not just to the moments spent in Maremma in Tuscany. Even as his childhood and youth, spent in Czechoslovakia, enter his realisation in exile, so also the strong impulses from Italy or, for instance, Ireland intensify the experience of returning to places linked with the past in Prague and its environs. Jan Jedlička has cultivated a special relationship with the material of the land in the course of his years of emigration. He was not an exile who took a handful of his native earth with him into exile, but one who discovered, on the contrary, in the course of the years outside his homeland, the emotional strength of the raw basics of the land.
The great themes that Jan Jedlička found in new lands and in new places nevertheless emerged in some ways from his past in Czechoslovakia.
Exile necessarily brings with it a break from one’s preceding life and work. Jan Jedlička is an artist with exceptional feeling for the anchoring of his work in the place in which he presently finds himself. This made the break caused by change of environment even more pronounced. He did not try by force to continue from where he had stopped at home, he understood that the thread had been broken. He patiently acquainted himself with a different mentality, a different tradition, art and theory. He gave his work time to grow naturally from the new ground. The large-format heliogravures of the Maremma landscape are further proof of this.
Kurt Zein, the printmaker from Vienna, improved the heliogravure technique further. Compared to the original method of coating the plate with powder, exposing it and then etching it, Zein uses polymer plates with a sensitive surface on which he copies modified films. Then he develops the plates in warm water. With a roller he squeezes out the excess water and dries the plates with a blow-dryer. The plate hardens from the heat and is ready to print.