Zdeněk Sýkora - The Geometric Studies 1961-1962

Held by White Gallery

Curator: Lenka Sykorova

White Gallery, Osík u Litomyšle, June 12 - August 31, 2011

open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For Zdeněk Sýkora (b. 1920) the beginning of the 1960s were years important for his future work. They marked an end of the landscape painting period completed with the cycle named Gardens (1958-1960). Then his paintings begin to lose dependence on the depicted reality and become independent abstract compositions (1960-1962) whose topic is "only" the search for relationship between shape and colour. The initial circle-shaped forms of these compositions as remnants of organic shapes derived from the nature become gradually more geometric; squares, triangles and polygons begin appearing in the paintings. Thick layers of paint are formed by repeated adjustments and precisions of colour relationships using a paint scraper. Within a short time he progressed from paste-covered paintings with distinctive brush strokes to smooth paintings. At the same time the colour scheme changes from fauvist tones to brown lines and then to neutral colours: black, white and grey complemented with pure colours (such as red or blue). All these parallel processes originated, as the author himself says, "in the ever growing effort to rule out the subjective misinterpretation. The colourful geometric surfaces without any character enabling to reveal in a more unbiased way the possibilities of expression using the existing painting means." The author calls these paintings large-area geometry. The geometric studies (1961-1962) originated in this context. Most of them are studies for geometric compositions in oil, the format is mostly 135 x 120cm. In the studies on small sheets of paper (the maximum size is A4) using tempera and Chinese ink or collage the author tries to define geometric shapes and looks for their colour relations. The final figures are usually the result of points situated along the format's circumference connected by networks of vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. (Zdeněk Sýkora used the same method in designing the black and white décor of the iron curtain in Fučík Theatre in Louny in 1962.) 

Some studies were never put into paintings; others have been preserved as the only documents of no longer existing paintings. For some geometric compositions there are several studies, yet the resulting painting is never identical with any of them. The actual realization of these compositions was always a continuation of the searching process, even though there had been studies. Zdeněk Sýkora was aware of the importance of geometric compositions, as well as the studies as their predecessors. In an interview with Vítek Čapek made in the mid-1980s he described his journey to structures (1962-1974) which became the subject of his research for a decade: "I arrived at structural works by a gradual ‘objectivization' and reduction of expression means to colour surfaces of geometric shapes balanced in all positions. This character or element which I reduced to white, grey and black on the colour scheme in order to rule out any associations, literally asked for ranking, turning and grouping. Klee's definition of structure as a separable, dividual system was a departure point for further work."

The geometric compositions have been exhibited many times. For the first time in February 1963 at the collective exhibition MS 63 in Prague, at the time when Zdeněk Sýkora was already finishing the Grey Structure in his studio in Louny. At all Sýkora's retrospective exhibitions these paintings were introduced as a continuation of the Gardens cycle and, at the same time, as the point of departure to structures. 

Geometric studies, on the other hand, have been exhibited only twice and only in a small number. In White Gallery they are the focal point of an exhibition for the first time.

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