Miroslava Hlaváčková / 2005
The cognitive process is not just a subject of philosophy and psychology; it is studied as part of other disciplines as well,
any one of which may present the ultimate evidence. The act of cognition proceeds in time so the terrain of investigation is
permanently open. It is by no means an inherent quality that would help us to correctly determine, classify and evaluate the
phenomena of the world; every individual must start from the very beginning. It is the meeting point of subjective and objective
reality, whereby the subject may be the way out and back to itself. There is no exact model in place for cognition that would
determine how to find the proper method of approaching reality although there are aids available acting as roadsigns showing
the way out of the labyrinth of chaos. The intellectual commitment to the subject is very helpful, although the method of cognition
is extremely varied and the target can be reached by various means — from scientific examination, using the logical, deductive,
inductive and empirical apparatus, through to sensory, emotional, or intuitive approaches to what may be a mystical recognition.
All the while there can be no doubt that a deep insight into the innermost being of a thing can be attained by quite simple
means, provided it is a pure view, founded on revealed truth. Different methods enable us to reach the very bottom of truth,
although it is set on a shifting surface, as in the end one can never get the taste of gratification experienced by a mountaineer
setting his foot on the top of Mount Everest knowing, with absolute certainty, that he has completely fulfilled his goal and that
nothing can be added. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry observes this situation with the eye of a poet and remarks: "We can only
see correctly with the heart, what really matters is invisible to the eye."
Cognition is painful, demanding, erroneous and misleading, as discovering what is not obvious and is hidden underneath
the veils of the unknown brings problems. In addition, many things appear only vaguely and thought often fails even where
the facts are obvious and may well falter when contemplating the inexpressible.
Art is also a kind of cognition, given that its main task is to present beauty, but it is also beauty that opens one of the gates
of knowledge. Encoded in the process of artistic creation is a complex set of admixtures, comprised of both everything that
the artist knows about the depicted object and what he is trying to express, and what he feels and imagines, what is hidden
in his subconscious and awaits awakening, often including what transcends him and comes to him as a gift. All of the preconditions
are sublimated into a uniform order in which, as in a cross-section of the earth, the different layers that make up its character
are held. The outer layer hints at them imperfectly, because the actual situation is revealed by what is concealed underneath;
completeness can be inferred from the whole. By means of feedback it affects those who are confronted with a work of art
which can assist them in uncovering what would have otherwise remained concealed.
The painter, draughtsman, graphic artist, creator of installations and objects Petr Veselý is little concerned with the way
the world appears to those who only view it with their eyes and do not let themselves be guided by their inner sight while
being indifferent to what constitutes its real form. Neither is he interested in searching for its real face in himself, being reluctant
to feel into his creation or to psychologize it. His participation consists of an inner grasp of objects. He set himself the ostensibly
easy task of only wanting to know how and what things really are. Not by their surface, but by their substance and their
primordial source. "It is only the inner relationship with things and the inner attraction to them that can reveal to us their own
substance and their spiritual content." (Dominik Pecka)
He builds upon what feels the most familiar and closest to him, what he knows really well and where he can be certain of his
judgement in order to be able to grasp the fundamental principle of what he cast under his scrutiny "as, when a man has been
observing the same wall for some twenty, thirty or fifty years, the history of the wall is eventually revealed to him, and not only
of that peculiar one, but of all the walls in the world; and when he has been observing a single tree for thirty, forty years, he
becomes the witness of the history of both that walnut tree, and all the walnut trees and fruit trees in the world; and the level of
his spiritual breath will become so stable inside him; and his pupil will be so trained and focused, narrowed and widened, and
his eye will become so adapted to eternity, that in the end he will understand it and is able to create it." (Ivan Diviš)
Veselý approaches reality as an analyst and breaks it down; approaches it as a surgeon and dissects it; approaches it as
a mystic and initiates it; approaches it as a lover and unveils it. He goes so far that he chooses glass to tell him in the reflection
the whole and the real truth about what is in front of him and what is behind him, what his other side amounts to, and what
is there at all if there is nothing that would reflect.
Veselý examines whether it is possible to maintain a record of things and their meanings to us and how they are constituted
by mental activities. He attempts to clarify the links of our consciousness to them and the way our inner experience is
exposed. How all the conceivable objects are given in the consciousness and, on the other hand, what the objects are at
their birth. He searches for the essence of a thing itself, eidos, that is reached after we have stripped off everything redundant.
This submergence, leading to uncovering the covered, is an intentional act through which one can glimpse the substance.
In his effort to come to grips with the original, natural world Veselý refers to what is apparent because it is with the help of
this that what itself must of necessity remain non-apparent is made possible. "In the greatness of being we have just
discovered the transcendence of what we see and what we hear." (Gaston Bachelard)
Veselý also wants to taste the age-old scent of the silence of the surrounding world in which everything rests and from
which it gathers strength, and where its values are being honed. The space of paintings and drawings is filled with silence
and nothing disturbs its vastness. Things emerge from it as from a cleansing bath still glistening with the dew from which
they are born. We may say with Czeslaw Milosz "I heard from a distance the springs of the earth whisper their prayers", but
he may be aiming even farther, to the ontology of the unseen and the unheard as expressed by Paul Claudel in his play The
Annunciation, where Viola's question to Mary "What do you hear?" is retorted by "How things are with me". According to
Sören Kierkegaard, "the unspeakable is precisely that which we can only hear in silence." The silence of things resounds
everywhere, it rests in the paintings and drawings, it is their inherent quality and it rejoins the silence of creation, as everything
fundamental takes place in its space. "Our period is not ideal but among the rare new qualities of man we must learn to
appreciate a growing ability: hear the sound in silence." (Wassily Kandinsky)
As Veselý concentrates on what has the patina of old age, taking into account the dimension of time, his works actually
exist outside time, they bask in the state of timelessness. He breaks them from oblivion, worships their poverty and approaches
them as Saint Francis of Assisi calling them his brothers.
The unveiling of the unveilable is made possible by the method of reduction which cannot be identified with abstraction,
although it is a similar process. The removing of the matter ends where the quintessence of a phenomenon is found; its own
being in the sense of phenomenological examination, when realization represents a return to "things themselves". Veselý, by
stripping off the insubstantial, penetrates as far as what is only felt, materializing spaces that possess no matter, which, as
he mentions, are translucent to or initiate light. Even where the motif is a figure Angel with Large Wing or Fragment of Figure,
space remains at the centre of the intention, space in which the artist works in an inverted way and which is found between
the arm and body. "I go to empty churches / In the summer countryside / Where's no time to cover the sky." (Petr Veselý)
Although studying the surroundings nearest to him which he knows intimately, he touches familiar objects as if meeting
them for the first time, as previous experience is not of much use if he intends to dig for their own being and proceed down
to their archetypic roots. He examines the existence of wood and objects made from it; observes as they exist in space and
time; weighs their independence of, and dependence on, their purpose. He gouges them out of their secondary existence
to make them separate units, so common they would not be worth any attention if the mystery of their own life, that which is
primeval, was not hidden inside them. Being elevated to the level of an as yet unresolved status they command us to think
about them in new contexts. Veselý is not only concerned with the way he sees things, he wants to know how they see
themselves, he wants to experience them with their own eyes. And so he presents the objects Floor, Base, In the Window from 1993.
Veselý's observation of the world takes place with an inner and outer polarity. Both dimensions have an originality of their
own, both what is in front of the door and what is behind the door. Inside, everything heads towards intimacy, liberation,
absorption, and submission, while outside towards inhalation and extension. Veselý proceeds from the quantity that he is
faced with on alien ground to what belongs to his sensory and intellectual equipment to make a transformation behind the
door, shedding the redundant and adopting the fundamental in order to perceive a few selected things that could replace
all the others. "It is the common things that enable us to see that form of simplicity that leads to knowing the essence of being
from which all the mysterious beauty of art springs." (Carlo Carra) He engages in a discussion with the external appearance
of what he meets and searches for, what is behind it, what is in its origin. "Almost falling to sleep, but return one door further,
where on the floor, I don't know how to get up, return by another door, hearing barefooted steps, an hour to go, wet footprints,
some doors do not close tight, something is there. Switch off the light? Who knows when she comes." (Petr Veselý)
Veselý perceives the objects around him: doors, windows, boards, tables, cups, stairs, table-cloths, beams, thresholds.
"I am aware of the stairs all the time. Something that needs to be carried. Until up the wooden stairs. Unregarding. Ten minutes
in between." (Petr Veselý) "The threshold is a sacred thing", states Porphyrios, as if to suggest that it is a division in front of
which one must stop and clean oneself, because behind it is the sovereign territory of the other whose circles may not be
broken. The threshold is the limit of the open and closed reality and, from the beginning of time, leads to the first people who
began to separate inner and outer space. Behind it is a door, not merely a place through which one can pass from the outside
to the domestic space they provide access to, "....a door, one whole cosmos open ajar" (Gaston Bachelard).
The relationship between the apparent and the hidden is present in all phases of Veselý's work, although there are many shifts
and variants in depiction. It is most palpable in the object Still-life with Glasses and Water from 1993. The cube is almost
hermetically sealed and an opening gives a view inside, where the principal content of the work is hidden, which can be used
as evidence of the polarity of the mutual relationship, as the rest is only a case, just as in a reliquary, where the hardly visible
content, valueless in terms of matter, is the real treasure and the precious material encasing it is merely a cheap cover in terms
of its value. Here is the place for promoting common things to the level of rarity; they are even thrust to the forefront, because
they become what the rest is derived from, so that they are not to be overshadowed by something unoriginal and secondary.
The beams are loaded with double content, as Veselý often ponders on the multiplicity of the meaning of concepts and
forms. Firstly, they represent a supported building element, secondly, the beam of crucifixion. Ambivalence is present in
other cases as well, goblet — grail — sacramental chalice, water droplets — cross, hands — reaching, Stalker — way, in a field
— orant, suspended ship — infinity. "And yesterday a cloud / Shaped as the lamb / High over the axis of the street / Straight
from an Easter pastry cutter." (Petr Veselý)
Veselý suffers from the same anguish of inadequacy in perception as Marcel Pagnol: "Words remain on the surface,
unable to see the depths." The metamorphosis of the inexpressible presence into a painting progresses in a most reluctant
way. Minimal messages are transmitted onto the white ground by almost invisible touches, as if their content, although being
concrete reality, was so untouchable that it would be an audacity to try and capture them. Shape does not come from the
outside, it emerges from within, from the depths of consciousness, to which it is joined as it returns to the archetypal stage,
to provide the only possible piece of information about itself that will clarify it in terms of its appearance.
The cleansing of the insubstantial from the substantial takes place gradually, it is no sudden radical emptying, as it is really filling.
Devout observation is where the reality appears first in the visual state and only after it has been verified is it transformed. If
finding the original inspiration was relatively easy — Man Carrying Branches (1987), Figure (1985), Hands / Reaching (1989),
Leaning (1987), it had to be realized later that it was only the initial, preparatory state followed by denial of even the faintest
clarity, although an element of the concrete will be preserved.
This is the method of bringing to life the paintings of indeterminate nebulae in which the silhouettes of objects are formed
or, vice versa, phenomena are revealed in their immature garment as shadows very likely bound to disappear over time,
because if they have an outline of the human figure, circles or rectangles, they will lose it in the process of cleansing and will
return to where they have come from and where they exist in their pure form. Their primeval model lives in Plato's world of
ideas, from where it can be taken over, but a painting cannot emulate its original perfection. The cycle of paintings also includes
Stalker / The Way (1987—88), Gap / Window (1983—89), Felling (1987).
The 1980's and 1990's saw the emergence of cycles of drawings with cups, tablecloths, stairs, signs based on seen reality
but radically reduced. Devoid of mass and gravitation everything floats in a state of weightlessness. Hardly anything remained from
the original appearance, a mere hint or reflection of what had served as its model. This changed the significance of the subject,
which only remotely refers to the model; signs may have acquired a broader meaning, although remaining signs — mysterious, with 36
multiple connotations. Veselý drew side views of tables, with missing parts, tables cut out along their templates, as he did
with the thresholds. Ambivalence reappears and a hollow tree simultaneously is associated with outreached arms.
In Touching (1991) Veselý created, for the first time, a work sightless, but even as early as the mid-1980's he produced
small-format, formally related drawings that he unofficially called records. The drawings are outward manifestations of the
artist's minimalism as the surface is almost empty with, mostly, only a single form emerging which seems to be overwhelmed
by the surrounding white space. It draws light from the space, although itself dimmed and self-contained, as is everything
else that appears on the surface — Sunset, Nest, Inside (all 1990).
The second half of the 1990's is characterized by strange features that again exude originality. While the principle of the
relationship to existence did not change, the choice of means and themes grew wider. Paintings of mostly monumental
dimensions show an obvious new deflection from mere suggestion and an inclination towards the figure with torsos of the
bodies of angels, Madonna with a child, or a pilgrim. The end of this period gave rise to the synthetic monumental work Trinity (1998),
a concentration of several forms that had been elaborated on throughout the years.
Veselý's works became imbued with a clearer awareness of holiness, although not in the sense of traditional iconography
— he concentrated exclusively on symbolic forms. Shape is fragmented and a part represents a whole. Only a fraction of the
selected subject is displayed — a wing, hem of a robe, only the mandorla retaining a complete, closed shape, initials changed
into a loose, indefinite mass — and are circular or conical in appearance not referring to any concrete letter — orants transformed
into a column, although somewhere in their original form there was a concrete figure standing in the landscape; beams and
cabers are pushed aside to the edges to minimize their weight. Sacral symbolism is underlined by metal parts bringing to mind
mediaeval procedures using noble metals. The profane world of objects is represented by Bench (1998) and Shelf (1998).
Decomposition disrupts established convention. The colour range has been extended to include red, which can be
described as "playing a solo" in a composition with white and ochre. Red has not been excluded even today and can be
seen in the paintings Annie (2002—03), Overcoat (2001), and Door (2004—05).
A recent innovation is mirroring whereby one form is mirrored on the other side as a shadow of a shadow, never being a
fully-fledged object, only a part of it. Time is not at the centre of Veselý's concerns but now it enters in the form of sequence
and sameness. What exists is shifted by the passing of time in an identical form; time plays no part in changing things, only in
changing place. Two Veils (2003), Two Shirts (2004), Madonna (1998). The painting Two Shards (2003) holds a special position.
It was based, as are many other paintings, on a real experience. Once, a stem with a piece of cut glass was all that was left
from a broken glass — the remains of a thing that had lost its original character and adopted another identity. In the painting
it metamorphosed into a hypostasis-like multiplied fragment which continues in its mysteriousness and is capable of invoking
various associations. It turned into thanksgiving — the shift into the position of the extraordinary was brought about by a touch of red.
Creation usually exists in mutual unity, regardless of whether a specific theme recurs or has been expressed in the first
phase. Veselý addresses problems that obsessively return to him over lengthy periods of time realizing only in retrospect
that they had been under his scrutiny before. One of those is a desire to express himself using monochrome, hoping perhaps
that it is the proper method to achieve the utter simplicity at which he is aiming. The exclusion of colour seems almost complete
and is led between relations of white and grey, occasionally in the direction towards the tones of natural wood and graphite.
"On the threshold of summer I put a table next to the wall opposing the window. When I sat down, I had a view of a beautiful
green garden behind my back. And I had a whitewashed wall in front of me." (Petr Veselý)
At the beginning of the 1990's he went through a period when, as if unintentionally, he created white paintings devoid of
any other content. Analytical painting went through different stages, from a situation when gauze or the structured, originally
reverse, side of a painting emerged on the surface of the work, to large canvasses, where the mass of the painting vibrated
with inner energy.
Monochrome is kept in place even today when it is applied to large landscape paintings which have their direct prototype
in Study for an Icon from 2001, where the mass is worked by regular strokes of the brush so that it conjures up an image
of a continuous flow of movement. Lookout and Landscape (2004) are the result of a virtually physical experience of space,
its vastness and unbounded limits. Lookout has no starting boundary delimited, it is pure space ending on the horizon at
the upper edge beyond which nothing exists. The paintings feature grey, a whole sea of grey, applied systematically in a
slow rhythm, evoking nothing. It only disperses and ushers in immensity. Grey has a special meaning for Veselý, although
its beginning is fairly prosaic, Veselý approaches it in an almost fated manner. In his concept it is the colour of colours, as
is red. Both are for him the essence of painting. He clearly realized this at one particular moment and is not going to go
back on this. Red revealed to him as the glory of a painting that enchanted him through the panel paintings by Theodoricus
of Prague that he chanced to hold in his hands at a restorer's workshop, or the Master of the Třeboň Altar. He became
attached to both these colours and through them he celebrates the beauty of simple presence. In his mind, grey intertwined
with non-colour reproductions of paintings in books and catalogues and, above all, with the work of Bohumil Kubišta before
he had an opportunity to glimpse the originals, when he was startled as he saw that the painting Kitchen Still-life with
Sugarloaf is painted in this tone. Grey is the "focal point of the all, potentially comprising in itself all colours, all tones, all
lines." Painted grey is "the crucial moment between what is happening and what is coming to an end. What is painted as
grey is grey because it is neither white nor black, or because it is at the same time white and black …Grey is what has no
dimension, what is painted beyond dimensions, at the cross-roads. Grey has the features of »the original centre-of-all«,
from which the order of this world is born radiating in all directions." (Paul Klee) "Red incorporates a roar and a glowing,
contained more within than acting outwards; the male power. A light, warm red has an air of determinedness — a triumphant
fanfare; cinnabar is an evenly glowing passion." "Madder lake has great depth, hence its heat, as if preparing for a wild
jump, resounding as the passionate medium and low tones of the violoncello. If lightened, it is youthful, joyous, sounding
as the clear, singing tones of the violin or small bells." (Wassily Kandinsky) Red is also amazement and the basic beat of
life. From the polarity between grey and red emerge Veselý's stories, each having their own significance and, as in mediaeval
art, they carry a symbolic meaning.
Another step forward implies a more insistent, even dangerous, admission that, for Veselý, painting means emptying,
although not in the sense of nihilization, rather in the sense of true fulfilment, as it has been its aim from the very beginning.
If he does want to reach the beginning itself, he has to deny The Madonna of Svojšín or The Madonna of Most (see Rear Side,
after Madonna of Svojšín and Rear Side, after Madonna of Most, both 1994), despite their beauty and admit to the rear "empty"
side because it is from this very act that one can experience the sacred stream they embody, although what they depict is
substantial as it is what they relate to. For Veselý, the sacred exists before it has been spoken, afterwards he cannot be sure
of its true form. Veselý consciously links these works with the paintings of icons, where the image is a spiritual reality. "An
icon resembles a wax seal bearing an impression of the matrix — the original painting. Icons were painted on wooden panels
with a depression in the central part for the picture. The depression acted as a case for an image of the saint (...), one which
was initially even overlain (!) by a »cover«. Before the attributes of the individual figures (actions..) developed, the icons
included inscriptions of their names (letters, monograms, christograms). The words or their fragments constituted a »gateway«
giving access to the painting.
If the scriptures say that a word was made into a body, here it is as if things (bodies) might be returned into a word, as if
a word itself could be a thing. The icon itself is consequently »painted letters«. It was not worshipped for itself but for what it
represented." (Petr Veselý)
Veselý's explorations of the past lead to uncovering the contentual archetype which in a way remains unchanged and from
where one may depart to achieve individualization. The way back to its origins also means liberating, as the apparent is being
taken away as much as possible, although not in the sense of eliminating the content, but rather in acquiring a new meaning.
His return to the works of his predecessors represents a continuation of the concept conceived at the beginning of the
1990's, when Veselý started to make frottages of paintings of his own and other artists' which had been made around 1975.
He logically proceeded as far as the grey monochrome of There, which reappeared as a drawing in 2004, this time in red.
The method of quotations branches off in many directions, another being the "formats" when Veselý's "purism" is so hesitating
and, in addition, so full of respect that it generated works that precisely copied the size of other artists' works and were only
planned rather than realized. Several works from 2004 present, in accurate dimensions, the works of Antonín Slavíček, Jan
Zrzavý and an unknown artist from the possessions of the gallery in Roudnice. They are updated by the method of working the
paint itself, kneading it, in accordance with the origin of the painting, the creative gesture, but they make a stop there, the task
being only to open up a possibility and bow down in front of the work of the other. In Salzman's work The Good Samaritan II
from the same source, he tried treating the monochrome mass so that it matches the colour arrangement of the scene.
Identification with works by other artists takes place at the primary level. Veselý identifies with them prior to starting the
work and absorbs the energy they put into their works. It is blended with reflection on what is inherent to them before the
work starts. He considers it so important that he is compelled to materialize it as, in his opinion, it is the creative impulse that
is essential and the rest can be discarded as redundant. In this sense he amalgamates with them in an absolute accord and
compares the situation before and after.
Veselý's interpretation goes against the grain of today's efforts where "completed" works are used directly, mostly at the
level of a persiflage, and a new work is created from them by a transcription and a transposition of the content. Veselý
approaches the problem in a different manner. He wants to resonate with the other artist's spirit of creation, with their initial
impulse and their artistic method, his touch consisting in the effort to be inside their work of art. Coexistence may be found
in the polarity between repeatability and non-repeatability.
The returns, or rather admissions, of Veselý concern works by Old Italian Masters Fra Angelico and Masaccio and the French
impressionist Pissarro, although he is also inspired by the photographs by Jindřich Štreit. In the latter case Veselý modified
his approach. He respects the model, but handles it with freedom. The process takes place in stages and is retrograded
from respecting the model to gradually freeing it. It is most apparent in the painting Kitchen / Divine Heart (2004—05). Today,
Picture in Picture comprises a large body of work for which he chooses models from various places, creating Bedroom with the
Madonna, according to J. Š. (2004—05), Church, according to T. V. (2004—05).
Cleansing also happens to be the purpose of the cycle Windows from the 1990's. In a range of alternatives the white surface
of the paper displays sections covered with drawings of geometrical forms invoking the presence of frames. Mass is denied
and a white surface that accepts its delimitation is moved to the forefront. The pure space completes Veselý's trend towards
clarifying the space and eliminating everything redundant and is present in paintings and drawings. He has adopted the
position of a suprematist who, by using white space, has shifted the pyramid of perspective into infinity.
Interspersed with Windows was between 2002—04 a cycle of drawings Landscapes. If the previous years meant disengagement
from mass, here he seemed to have discovered horror vacui, as short lines sequenced one after another from top to bottom
appear throughout the whole area of the paper. Point becomes the centre-of-all. He arranges the lines in different rhythms,
sometimes observing regularity, or they are condensed and pressed together to conjure up a rippling effect. The paintings
depend on the momentary situation of the artist, he imbues it with an inner energy that guides his artistic feeling towards a primary
expression, which shows organization, concentration, moments of rest, automation, kinetic force, methodicality and an effort to
uniformly fill the void. As Veselý is not adverse to paraphrases, as was the case of his icon, formats, picture in picture, so he
approaches them in different ways. One can here find a parallel with photographs by Josef Sudek Window of my Studio, where
the window pane is thickly hatched with raindrops, or Simple Still-life with a steamed up glass of water.
The intentional act of seeing the essence will clarify how all the thinkable objects are given in consciousness. In order to
understand the original, natural world, Veselý uses the apparent to communicate the non-apparent. He identifies with things by way
of emptying and denial. King Lear at the end of his journey becomes a symbol "...the man is there naked — bereft of everything,
titles, power, garments, safeguards and time — it is a timeless man, unbound to any period — feudal or other —, bereft of everything,
wretched, except one thing: his tragic greatness, that nobody can take from him." (Ivan Slavík) Neither can anybody deny the
greatness of Veselý's works. In this they are similar to the stories of Adriena Šimotová, following the same road of taking away
in order to capture what is left from the transience of human bodies after they have been removed of everything.
Miroslava Hlaváčková / 2005