Instytut Historii Sztuki <Posen> [Editor]
Artium Quaestiones — 10.2000

Page: 139
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https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/artium_quaestiones2000/0141
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TOTALITARIANISM AND MODERNISAI: THE “THAW” AND INFORMEL PAINTING IN CENTRAL EUROPE

139

It should be noted, perhaps somewhat in advance, that the Slovak
and Czech art historians hâve reached similar conclusions as regards
modem art in their countries.22 They hâve also stressed the aestheticiza-
tion of the informel - the importance of composition, the pursuit of for-
mai perfection and harmony of color, the approach to the painting as a
fïnished whole, etc. What appears particularly interesting, most likely as
an effect of the Central European tradition, even the so-called structural,
“materialist” painting, involving thick impasto and added pièces of non-
painterly matter, has been interpreted in spiritual terms, rather than in
terms of matter and the body. The Czech artist Jiri Valenta, practicing
the art of the matter in its classic variant, placed it in the neo-Thomist
perspective of Jacques Maritain.23 Paradoxically, then, especially in con-
trast with the Western models, in Central Europe the attitude to the
matter was par excellence spiritualistic. That emphasis on the spiritual,
underlying also the most radical experiments of the art of the matter,
was definitely related to the defense of culture as a domain of sublimated
spirit, sharply contrasting with the materialist artistic rébellion in the
West, exemplified by the art of Dubuffet, the COBRA group, or a German
group SPUR. The artists of Central Europe, living under the permanent
pressure of “cultural policy” whose purpose, at times stated quite expli-
citly, was total instrumentalization of culture, i. e. its Virtual élimination
(at least insofar as we defïne it as a realm of unrestricted expression of
individuals), could not approve of the subversive strategies of their West-
ern colleagues. While for the artists in the West culture was an element
of the bourgeois System of values, in Central Europe it was primarily an
instrument of résistance against the régime. Since in the countries oc-
cupied by the Soviet troops the very concept of bourgeoisie was ambigu-
ous, an anti-bourgeois rébellion in art must hâve been ambiguous just as
well.

Consequently, the Central European preference for the painting of the
matter may hâve been characteristic of the région - it may hâve been re-
lated to a certain delay in the réception of the informel in that geographi-
cal area or, more precisely, with a fact that Central European artists be-
came familiar with that kind of art in an aestheticized, muséum stage of
its évolution when matter - a formai, rather than existential aspect -

22 M. Neslehovâ, Odvrâcenâ tvâr modernismu, (in:) Ohniska znovuzrozeni..., 174 ff.
(Neslehovâ quotes F. èmejkal who in this context wrote about a “specifïcally Czech version
of the European informel,” 192); cf. also: M. Neslehovâ, Poselstvi jiného vyrazu..., 242 ff.
K. Bajcurovâ, Pramene slobody. àtrkturâlna, lyryckâ a gestickâ abstrakcia, (in:) Sest’de-
siate roky v slovenskom vÿtvarnom umeni ... 107 ff.

23 M. Neslehovâ, Poselstvi jiného vyrazu..., 146.
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