Vladimír Kokolia: Super – cycle
Source:Artintern.net Author:Lü Peng Date: 2013-09-27 Size:
Before Kokolia, Czech modern art already has a continuous long history in Abstract Expressionism, among which F. Kupka (1871—1957)became one of the most important representative.

Before Kokolia, Czech modern art already has a continuous long history in Abstract Expressionism, among which F. Kupka (1871—1957)became one of the most important representative. Even though he was not as productive as his contemporary Wassily Kandinsky (1866—1944), they both focused on exploring the musicality in painting and became the pioneering interpreters for modern art. The very different diversified styles have been compressed into “Planarity” by Greenberg, which to a certain extent result in the later generations’ misinterpretation on abstract art.


Kokolia’s art refuses to obey the principle of “Planarity”; in the meanwhile, he has been paying unremitting efforts in creating a kind of “plane” art. It is not a coincidence that in the eighties, Kokolia was recognized as a “cult drawer” for hundreds of his sarcastic drawings of the “Big Cycle”. As for the underlying influence of Eastern Orthodoxy, Czech art has a unique understanding towards graphic imaging taboo. In history, the development of this issue has gone through several ups and downs, but 787 Council of Nicaea finally announced that the abolishment of worshipping icon was a heresy, and after the announcement, the icon-worshipping and graphic imaging taboo reached a wonderful harmonious balance. Symbolic and unrealistic art visualized the mystery through lines and colors, and this means to achieve “incarnation” through the special elements of painting. This motivation is completely different from the historical vision of Greenberg, and thus exposed the gulf between Postmodernism and Modernism.


In the nineties, Kokolia imbedded the contents of meditation, physical gesture and metaphysics into his motifs—this is an exemplification that he pushes the avant-garde character of abstract painting into a new level. In Kokolia’s works, avant-garde art no longer means the opposite of kitsch art, but neither means it has saved the kitsch art in real sense. This is exactly the pursuit of the definition of avant-garde art from painter Édouard Manet (1832—1883) to critic Clement Greenberg (1909—1994): Manet liberalized the depth-of-field, lightening and color in classical art, in one word, the forms of painting successfully overwhelmed the position of motif which to Manet is only an illusion that needs to be discarded. So the Impressionism naturally made use of this creation and created a pure form—the pure painting in compare with Kandinsky puree music. Greenberg believes that it is this pure form gives the definition to the avant-garde character of painting, and being avant-garde means to explain and introspect on oneself through personal characteristics. Based on this clue, he inevitably took the planarity as the ultimate principle of this artistic activity, as if the fundamental difference between painting and other forms of art such as drama, sculpture and music lies in its planarity.


Here, Greenberg seems to fall into some sort of circular definition, we need to first of all clearly define the meaning of avant-garde rather than rule out some art that has been classified into kitsch art and then define the opposite as avant-garde. Ever since Pop Art, this belief has been challenged from all aspects, but Kokolia challenges Greenberg even further than Pop Art has ever done. The reason he is able to do this lies in the fact that his works belongs to neither the political art nor capitalism’s cultural products, both of which Greenberg goes against. In a sense, meditation is universal, and it does not belong to any partial cycle. So, if Kokolia does not belong to kitsch art and neither to its opposite (pure form), then what is Kokolia?


Undoubtedly, Kokolia’s works have deeply immersed with culture, symbol and psychology. His abstractionism can even be considered as the resolve of purity. The viewer can not shake off the heavy burden they felt when watching his works, because Kokolia’s works seem to be always referring something—just like scriptures that are chanting profound meanings. He doesn’t have the tranquil and sweet style. On the contrary, he turns art into an artistic penance. Kokolia’s artistic discourse contains double irony for both plane and spatial depth. It is anti-plane as well as anti-space, and therefore makes people feel a strong sense of dizziness.


The purpose of all this is not to lead us into any sort of avant-garde or noble art style, and quite the opposite, Kokolia wants to draw the audience into a sudden storm of dizziness when facing the plane painting. This dizziness will bring us to a place beyond the general cycle, and make us see it from a bird view so that we can access to an unprecedented panorama. His works such as “Grass” (2001, oil on canvas, 100 x 115 cm) have presented us an ambiguous psychological impression, but it is nothing like symbolic, political or any of our familiar things. Its structure is quite similar to a recite and chanted scripture which is composed of simple and precise, largely repeated but with diversified interpretations text. In a sense, this structure symbolizes God’s grammar, or God Himself, not only because it implies the existence of the mysterious logic, but also because we become one of its viewers, and in this view we feel dizziness. “Ash” (2013, oil on canvas, 162 x 146 cm) almost makes people associate it with a fractal structure, just as the fractal structure contains mathematical equations for interpreting the world, the artist paid a great effort in integrating the cultural field through the form of painting, rather than exclude them through absolute form.


In Kokolia’s small scratch drawings, we are able to reach the very depth of the artist’s psychology. In these prints, we see ubiquitous wandering figures that are facing chaos. Those figures who have been trapped in the chaos revealed an important objective of Kokolia’s works: that is to bring the audience to face the chaos itself. He takes us into a brand new abstract expressionism, completely different from the dualistic art world assumed by Greenberg. This is a time-consuming battle: Pop Art is just facing the world of consumerism, and its task is to find a way to adapt to it. The Postmodern Art has become more accustomed to the resolve of all things, it is hard to imagine that an original comprehensive understanding (which requires Zen-style complete comprehension) to become the motivation of modern art again.


The fact that Kokolia is also a mater in teaching Chen-style Taiqi is out of our expectations but makes sense. This kind of self-cultivation through eastern doctrine makes him closer to his goal: practicing to face the chaos. Just like Leonardo da Vinci once discussed the practice on how to face death, the practice on how to face chaos has become Kokolia’s cultural identity. His art also vaguely reveals a secret: this rich illusionary form of chaos seems to be inspired by the flying buttresses of the church and the shape of vault, just like the example we see in “Crowd” (2008, oil on canvas). In the painting “Vault” (2009, oil on canvas, 350 x 310 cm, Mechelen, Belgium, project of MUHKA, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen), the art works were exhibited directly under the vault, which fully demonstrated the association between the two objects and the artist’s pursuit of transcendence. These wonderful correspondences echoing between them makes us feel an unexpected sense of mysterious joy; it connects the clumsy reality in a lightsome way, even if all of the appearances in contemporary are still deeply divided.


It is very difficult to classify Vladimír Kokolia into any type of well-defined abstract expressionism, in a sense, he continues Kupka’s artistic experimentation and profoundly inherited previous Czech cultural and historical context. The works of Kokolia is intertwined with numerous elements such as profound cultural, history, and psychology, and these elements were uninterruptedly churned in the artist’s abstract form. It is pure, and in the meanwhile, it becomes the viewers’ most confusing puzzle. Kokolia shall be regarded as a brand new branch in the abstract art, for his successful integration of East and West, ancient and contemporary, old and new, motifs and form, space and plane, emptiness and universal. He shall be considered as a part of a new vision, which started from Manet and followed by Kupka, Kandinsky, Pollock (1912 —1956), as well as an integration and overcome of the art production with consumer society’s political sense which represented by Andy Warhol (1928—1987). For today’s Chinese contemporary artists, Kokolia provides an excellent manifestation imbedded with global art history.


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[Editor] 纪晓棠

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