Jaroslav J. Alt Svitálka
Jaroslav Alt paints insights into the landscape on large canvases. In his studio we also examined small sketches in pencil, ink and watercolours. For their unique charm, I have selected them for Svitálka alongside his paintings and poems. Polish philosopher and Catholic priest Jozef Tischner wrote that there are times when we discover that someone else is also walking along our path. Jaroslav Alt tries to capture such moments between heaven and earth. With self-restraint he allows us to read in Nine Open Letters, in the waves of the Mediterranean, on a mountaintop, at home in the Trstěnice Garden, where someone else has taken up residence. Jaroslav Alt discusses it in his reflection The Green Man in my Landscape (on the Picture)
Philosopher and theologian David Bartoň from Petrkov accompanies the exhibition with a text and discovery of a previously unknown poem by Bohuslav Reynek. Art historian and art theoretician Blanka Altová writes about the nature of Jaroslav Alt´s work in her article The Ur-Landscape of my Husband. Texts of painer´s friends Seeing Things As They Return to Themselves by philosopher Ladislav Benyovsky and Bushes, Horizon, Clouds by gallerist Jiří Hůla are available for download below.
shining through the darkness:
and then, for us,
they return to themselves...
Down below the windows
with a song lifting…
We have one legend for this poem by Reynek, and an attempt at clarification taken from what seem to be random contexts:
Apparently the Petrkov poet composed it not long before his death.
Like the others, he wrote a rough draft in the kitchen by the stove. He read it again, reduced it, and finally drafted a clean copy. He folded the sheet of paper over twice and laid it up on the left corner of the sideboard. The cats didn’t venture much there, and his sons knew about the place. Some poems had been found behind the sideboard and among the drawers when the old man died, but this one had somehow escaped the search. Folded over twice, it fit neatly among the broken sheets of the studies form Stará Říše, and with them found itself in a large chest in the attic. "The soil belongs to those who work on it"; Daniel Reynek quoted in explanation of the intensified dictatorship the cats had established in the castle´s attic. Mating, birthing, dying. The chest with which the family moved to the Florian family in the village Stará Říše during the war, as evidenced by the address written on the bottom in ink pencil, this chest and the old sideboard could have burned up in the back garden during the last cleaning... but for the appearance of a creature no one had counted on. Almost in the dark, and secretly, warned that there wasn´t much time left, he found the familiar sheets from the publishing house in Stará Říše by feel among the newspapers. Only then did the fair copy of a hitherto unknown poem fall out of them.
If the handwriting were not beyond doubt Reynek´s, I would not believe that the poem was his. It looks so different to me.
I happily circulated the rediscovered poem among friends. Jaroslav Alt was among the first to reply. At the time only he knew if it was suited to what he was painting. I was only able to see his paintings later, and I interpret that affinity as best I can - that is, from the outside. I was not there for the birth of the poem, and I was not there for the birth of the paintings. Even if I were to visit the Petrkov corridor on the first floor of the castle a thousand times, where the motif of the poem probably revealed itself, or sat behind Jaroslav, I will still always be a mere spectator. A non-artist like myself can only join the artist by listening to the poem and perceiving the image when he sees the things of this world and the sky above come to life, thanks to Reynek´s and Jaroslav´s skill.
The places where Petrkov and Svitálka both lived are also connected in their memories. They are still within sight of each other. In the wet weather, before the countryside was filled with the constant noise of speeding cars, church bells could be heard on the Petrkov hill from as far away as Krásná Hora. There, at the foot of the hill, opposite the church in Krasná Hora, on the side facing the Lipnice Castle, on Svitálka, the painter Jaroslav Alt was taking in the world.
The connection of bringing reality to life presupposes that it has somehow become dead to us. Reynek was fond of the French philosopher Ernest Hello who uses an unusual expression in “The Physiognomy of the Saints” about the objectification of the heavens and the stars. "Assiduitate viluerunt" - by their permanence (to us) they have become commonplace. St. Augustine´s commentary on the Gospel of John adds a context to this by saying: "Ipse enim deus qui per universam creaturam quotidiana miracula facit, quae hominibus non facilitate sed assiduitate viluerunt". Augustine wonders, then, how this beauty, not by its ease and simplicity, but by its permanence, could have become stale, dead, indifferent, no longer poignant.
Reynek, in one of his last poems, no longer writes what he feels about his anxiety as in an earlier poem of the same name. He writes as if he were no longer there at all, he has become a vision, a hidden, veiled face, to manifest purely and simply, to reveal the vividness of the events of the world which, to our greatest detriment, we usually do not apprehend.
Today´s art worthy of the word does not work with idyllic but real visions. That is why in Bohuslav Reynek´s poems people appear as gods of folly, not unlike real, unremarkable human beings - Mary, Veronica, Joseph, Isaiah, Jesus, who seem to live with him in the courtyard, in the kitchen and the garden. It is a prophecy about us, about today´s successful hybrid people, heroes of applicability in the bustle of our time.
In addition, the beauty of unique corners and views remains to be discovered – here it is also close to Daniel Reynek´s photographs. Jaroslav Alt has this in common with Reynek’s. We do not encounter entire landscapes, nothing large to which we don’t measure up. Sensitivity becomes fragmented when we relate it to quantity; it becomes less deep. So we look at
unusual, unique phenomena to begin the transformation of sight. According to Egon Bondy´s prophecy, the judgment of the world will come soon. He does not say when or how, nor who will carry it out, but I suspect that he is not far from the truth when he exclaims that technical progress and all production will be found wanting, the costliness of the demands of life will be a burden, and the yields of our superconsumption will be shown to be meagre.
In the end, they say, the only thing that will balance out and be found valuable will be art. Not all that is consumed and traded, but only that which turns out to be alive.
But that is already true now. A prophet is not a prognosticator, but a person capable of a deeper and stronger analysis of what is already happening, even if few can see it. He who sharpens the eyes of others helps to bring to light the only consensus that is always worth having, namely, consensus in discernment.
The masses agree in their illusions and together they fall for them. Individuals seek consensus on the meanings hidden behind signs and symbols.
The world´s oldest language, which has already animated consciousness and dreams in cave paintings, speaks differently today. Once all attention was focused on creatures and actions, on hunting, on game and breeding, on human beings and creatures, on the Great Mother and deities in general. Today, there is still an abundance of work concentrated on the subject, which the cavemen depicted as their hand, as its imprint, or negatively. Man depicts himself as fondly as he discusses himself with gusto in speech. The world thus becomes to him the backdrop and background of his supposed greatness. Meanwhile, the originally, as it were, unimportant background has become a subject. Not only did the background, that is, the landscape beneath the scenes, clearly show a human imprint, the imprint of his handiwork, but his face also eerily reflects off the landscape. Long ago, in the Mediterranean, man had burned and cleared most of the forests and eventually the groves, exterminating lions and leopards, wolves and bears, then most of the tamer game, and in the semi-desert he became a herdsman and farmer. Now the human face is legible from a landscape beautiful but inhospitable. Unnumbered pilgrims and sheep wander the arid wastes in Arcadia as in Sicily, and the traces of men, outside their settlements, disappear. The whole thing is an apocalypse, that is, the uncovering of the veil that covered the face of Mother Earth, hiding the geological landscape. To uncover the nakedness of Noah´s father is seen as shameful in Genesis, what to judge of this uncovering of the mother? What does one expect when looking into the face of such naked beauty of color without the veil of life?
It is just such a retreat that captivates me in Jaroslav Alt´s Mediterranean watercolours and pencil and ink drawings of home, where beauty and appearance meet a terrifying desolation.
Translation by Craig Cravens
- Jiří Hůla Keře, obzor, oblaka (Úvodní slovo k výstavě, Kutná Hora, 14. 11. 2015)
- Jiří Hůla Bushes, Horizon, Clouds (Introducory word to the exhibition, Kutná Hora, 14. 11. 2015)
- Ladislav Benyovszky Vidět věci v jejich návratu k sobě (Úvodní slovo k výstavě, Kutná Hora, duben 2020)
- Ladislav Benyovszky Seeing Things As They Return to Themselves (Introducotry word to the exhibition, Kutná Hora, April 2020)