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Artist Oskár Čepan

Exhibition title:  Artist Oskár Čepan
Venue: Kopplova vila GJK, Zelený kríček 3, Trnava
Curators: Barbara Bodorová, Jiří Valoch
Opening: Thursday December 8th, 2005, 6.30 pm
Duration: 9.12.2005 – 29.1.2006

Galéria Jána Koniarka organises a conference The Story Behind Oskár Čepan on December 8, 2005, from 9 am to 5 pm, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of Oskár Čepan‘s birth at the Permanent Exhibition of Sculptural Works of Ján Koniarek, Zelený kríček 3, Trnava.


Oskár Čepan, 1963

A significant historian and literary theorist Oskár Čepan (1925 Cífer – 1992 Bratislava) was one of the crucial personalities of the generation, which helped to change the cultural life and art scene in Slovakia. In the 1960’s his name was linked to Bratislava’s visual arts movement Konfrontácie (Confrontations), known for its links to French structural abstraction. He is also known as a man, who helped to introduce the ideas of some important personalities of the Russian Avant-garde, such as Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Tatlinin, Vassily Kandinsky and Sergei Charchoun. He also prepared biographies of these artists (for instance the anthology of texts entitled Tatlinova iniciatíva (Tatlin’s Initiative), or Literárne Bagately (Literary Belittlements)) which didn’t get published, however, because of the political normalisation that took over in the early 1970’s.
Nowadays, this name is used, especially when mentioning the Price of Oskár Čepan (similarly to Czech Price of Jindřich Chalupecký) which is held every year to award young gifted visual artists in Slovakia.
However, it was only as late as in 1999 when his own drawings were first published in a book of reflections named Znepokojené múzy – sedem pristavení pri štúdiách Oskára Čepana (Restless Muses – Seven Reflections on Studies of Visual Art by Oskár Čepan), written by Juraj Mojžiš and when Jiří Valoch, who tends to look for forgotten or yet unknown Czech or Slovak abstract artists, especially the ones committed to geometric abstraction, noticed them. The aim of the exhibition curated by Barbara Bodorová (collages of Oskár Čepan) and Jiří Valoch (abstract geometry) therefore is to introduce the yet unknown side of this man, unfamiliar to the Slovak art scene – as a creator of collages, drawings, and paintings whose original art language proves inspiring for young artists even today.
Between 1944 – 1946 Čepan concerned himself with creating surrealistic collages, that show unity in style and monochrome colours, and render the contemporary feeling of the threat of war. Ever since he was a student, Čepan was deeply interested in contemporary intellectual tendencies, especially in Slovak surrealism, which was a natural source of inspiration for this future literary theorist.
In the early 1950’s Oskár Čepan was trying to find new possibilities of creative discourse in the language of geometry. However, his first preserved example of this style dates back to 1941. This is all the more important, because, in regard to political situation of that time, there was no artist, who would dare to present this tendency in visual art in public.
In 1960 Oskár Čepan began to develop geometric art in series of drawings in diaries and sketch books. He later redesigned these drawings in watercolour, and later in paintings on canvas. Unfortunately, he destroyed most of them and resigned from public presentation of his works. „From today’s point of view we understand that with the autonomous quality of the time, Čepan’s work corresponds with the most up-to-date tendencies of the 1960’s, …, I think that he justly deserves to be recognized as an artist for his commitment (since early 1940’s to late 1960’s) to visual art, his works being both original and up-to-date. In addition to this, he was an artist who enriched the Czechoslovak geometric art...“ (Jiří Valoch – text published in catalogue Artist Oskár Čepan, GJK 2005).
Collage became the most consistently ellaborated technique among Oskár Čepan’s work. Later, in 1980’s, this resulted in series of images with literary themes, that correspond to his work of a historian of literature (collages from 1940’s are inspired by Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Don Quijote or Casanova – and those from 1980‘s show Slovak national heroes, themes based on Slovak cultural motifs or are inspired by outstanding Slovak authors of that time). His works also render the theme of history of literature – which are actually group portraits of the representants of various literary styles (Enlightement classicists – Bernolák’s circle; Symbolists – Slovak literary modernism; Surrealists; Štúr’s circle in Romanticism and so on.). „However, unlike the history of literature (which is a mere list of names), these collages show faces – which means that we have to find out the hidden message in them and who is who, which is Čepan’s metaphor to the Slovak literature“ (Peter Zajac – text published in the catalogue Artist Oskár Čepan, GJK 2005).

Text: Barbara Bodorová

To introduce the creative personality of Oskár Čepan – as a critic of literature and of the visual arts, a pedagogue, a scenographer, an amateur archaeologist as well as an artist –a conference on the day of opening of the exhibition will take place. There will be Nadežda Čepanová, friends and disciples of Oskár Čepan – among them Ladislav Čavojský, Rudolf Fila, Anna Fischerová, Milan Hamada, Jozef Mihalkovič, Marcela Mikulová, Juraj Mojžiš, Mahulena Nešlehová, Ľubica Somolayová, Jiří Valoch, Karel Valoch, Peter Zajac; but also young art theorists, such as Barbara Bodorová, Silvia Čúzyová, Daniel Grúň, Sabina Jankovičová - these all will meet at the art gallery to pay tribute to this outstanding personality and to revive his intellectual message.
On the occassion of the exhibition Artist Oskár Čepan, the Galéria Jána Koniarka (with financial support by the Ministery of Culture of the Slovak Republic and the Town Trnava) publishes catalogue Artist Oskár Čepan with articles by Viera Jančeková Levitt (foreword), Barbara Bodorová (Man and the Universe. Collages of Oskár Čepan from the 1940’s), Jiří Valoch (The Secrets of Oskár Čepan) and Peter Zajac (Literary Collages of Oskár Čepan).


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