Saturday, 29 March 2014

Jiri Anderle

My featured artist this month is 
Jiri Anderle

I first discovered the remarkable work of this Czech artist in Prague about fifteen years ago. I have been a fan ever since!

Many artists from what was formerly Iron Curtain countries show remarkable skills in draughtsmanship, not least because of the importance art schools there have long attached to drawing

Jiri is a perfect example of that skill - as in the classically inspired (Durer, I think) portrait above

You can see his skill in this study for an old woman. Its unfinished state adds poignancy to this sympathetic yet realistic portrayal of old age

There is also an abstract quality in his work - in both his oil paintings and his engravings, as in this exquisite engraving of a young girl above whose body merges into the background in a beautifully subtle manner

The above engraving is, in my view, equal to anything by Ingres, Degas or Picasso and yet remains unique in its apparent simplicity and selection of detail within an otherwise 'unfinished' portrait

There is also a dark side to Jiri's work - as in this 'uneasy' portrait of a young girl who is suckling an older man.

It reveals a sexual relationship that is both disturbing while at the same time being some kind of allegory on old age and youth

I find a similarly disturbing element in his 1980's series of portraits based on family photographs

In the above example you can see the actual photograph that inspired it to the left of frame

In the original photo this married couple are fully clothed. Their nakedness in the engraving renders them both vulnerable and somewhat comical. Note the medals pinned to the man's naked chest!

For me the most powerful image of this series is this couple with a baby. The smear of 'blood' is both an image of childbirth and some kind of premonition of death

This wedding couple, fully clothed in the original photo (shown bottom left) is both sexually explicit (despite the bride's strategically place bouquet) and moving in its vulnerability

In this short selection of Jiri Anderle's engravings I have only shown a fraction of his extraordinary and inspiring work

Please visit this site again soon to learn more about this major contemporary artist from the Czech republic

Mike Healey

The above illustrations are taken from Anderle 1954-1995 published by Nakladatelstvi Slovart, Prague, 1995

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