Miloš Alexander Bazovský - MODERNISM BOUND BY TRADITION

Turiec Gallery

“Modernism” should be understood as the essence of Euro-American culture developing in a revolutionary manner. It is a way how to cope with the historical dictate of style adherence and the definition of artistic doctrines and academicism. “Modernism” is a term for diversity, variability, criticism and mainly flexibility of art, conveying problems of the present time not anachronically, stylized or in allegories but in particular expressions of the current problems in society and quickly changing esthetic moods. During a short period in the first half of the 20th century, the climate of freeing artistic expression pervades even the national arts that still search for their own identities. In Slovakia, rustic themes of the country and the tradition of agrarian, religiously conservative, or possibly small-town culture significantly contribute to the creation of such climate. The element of a natural man and humanized nature in the character of Slovak village is a key factor in searching universal means for the artistic portrayal. In Bazovský's case, we can observe the trends in arts on the periphery of cultural centres in the phase of modernist transformation. Although the development in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe after the Second World War stagnated due to the ideological totalitarianism, it cannot be denied that the then art was largely authentic and inventive in conveying the traditions experienced at new levels of expressive pictures.

Miloš Alexander Bazovský
Miloš Alexander Bazovský's works of the penultimate creative stage (1942-1952, according to: VACULÍK, Karol: Miloš Alexander Bazovský. Bratislava: Tatran, 1967) can be distinguished by the principle of simplifying shape composition of objects in the earthy colour rendition. This kind of approach is typical for all his works. Beige country houses, ochre roofs, green-brown meadows and hillocks, or claret sky are synthesized into an expressive composition of a whole oscillating between naive genre and post-impressionistic manners. Elementarization, or simplification of forms in Bazovský's works, goes on until the moment where a story of a man is depicted, even if as a mere lines of cultural landscape of rural settlements. Yet, this story is in progress and directed by the artist who brings his own reviving energy and transforms it into the geometry of house walls and roofs, unevenness of courtyards, steep sides of hillocks and flight of birds in dense and stifling sky. The strength of the settlements does not lie in glamorizing a village as the place of departed customs but in the value and cultural heritage impressed on the mind of every Slovak.

The examples of persisting interest in life and work of the men living on the periphery appear across the range of artistic production in Slovakia. The proof of the importance of this existential theme can be found in the variability of the content layers encoded in the pictures of landscape and men. In addition to the humanized, i.e. enlived, nature with recognizable traces of town population, where the towns acquire anthropomorphic accent thanks to the artist's visual transformations, also figurative elaboration of the genre themes is an important aspect in this kind of art. As well as in this dynamic scene of women near the river, where the composition, drafted in greatly expressive epitome and disturbed line (see: ABELOVSKÝ, Ján – BAJCUROVÁ, Katarína: Výtvarná moderna Slovenska – maliarstvo a sochárstvo 1890 – 1949. Bratislava: Peter Popelka publishing firm, Slovart publishing company, 1997, p. 377.), documents the very element of the natural man mentioned earlier. The emphasis here is not put on the poetics of the genre of regular works at a house in the country, but to the existential need to be in nature and co-operate with it. In this work the figure is a blue contour extending to the ground, rising from it into abstracted forms restricted to the simple attributes of rural women's traditional costumes. The lives of these people are rendered as a kind of an ethnological survey, and the fact that there was a mark of a child borne in a scarf of one of the women bears witness to that. It is a very sketchy epitome, but having an overall expressive look it just proves the thesis of reflections on the social issues. Similarly, it was also in case of German Expressionists, mainly Otto Mueller.

Folk attributes in Bazovský's works
The concentration on the man in the works by Bazovský is connected with exposing typical aesthetics of folk attributes. The embroideries on clothes, particular parts of the clothes, vessel decorations and the like are concerned. At the same time the figure is considerably reduced, face and arms minimized to the basic features in an expressive gesture of the artist. The colours differ from what is expected in the expressionist tradition. The dynamic and disruptive contrasts are not achieved through the visual dissonance of colour areas as is the case of French Fauvism or Die Brücke in Dresden, but with due hindsight of three decades, and making use of mutual strain of internal structures. Contour indefiniteness, reduced facial expression, stiff gesture of holding a pitcher together with colour hatched areas of ochre, green-orange, and claret-brown shades from a worm's eye view make up a traditionally apprehended woman of Slovakia's countryside in a nontraditional picture.

Bazovský used the same means of hidden strain between structures of a picture to dynamize common everyday images of a Slovak village from the days before the turn of centuries. For these figural compositions the work genre is not chosen for the purpose of idealization, or a sort of creating a cult of the society on the town peripheries, but with the aim of a new grasp and reproduction of the visual qualities of Slovak countryside's matters, substances, forms, shapes and colours.

Rounded form of a gully

Bazovský's geometrical forms assume a particularly complex value, because they represent not only the non-figural, inanimate objects in the picture, but also considerably schematize the figure of a man and organic matter of his work. At the same time it is necessary to state that searching for artists' original style alternatives in the same subject matter is not just Cubist abstraction of reality but the typical phenomenon of Slovak Modernism. And Bazovský is finding the alternative in loose colour surfaces, not strictly limited in shapes and earthy in tone.

Rounded form of a bole

The close synergy between mankind and nature in the traditionalist understanding of Slovak countryside was so inspirational that we encounter anthropomorphic—i.e., nature animating moments—in the phenomenon of Modernism in Slovakia almost programmatically. We mean mainly the artists as Janko Alexy, Ľudovít Fulla, Mikuláš Galanda, Edmund Gwerk, Martin Benka. The humanization of the inanimate forms is most often done by taking the natural inanimate objects, such as the tree in the picture Pastier (Shepherd), and adapting them formally for the figure, who, in this case, is the walking man in the green coat. The motion, in which the shepherd is captured, is intensified with the inherent dynamics and analogy between the bending tree in the background and rhythmic rolling of the landscape and air surrounding the main compositional elements.

The tree formally resembles a walking human figure with a green coat

But there is also reversed procedure, when understanding human is so imbued with the qualities of the natural elements that a human becomes a structure similar to a plant, a mineral, or just resembling the mountainous horizon of indented landscape scenery. This method is termed “cosmomorphism”. With Bazovský this intense inspiration means the relationship between the human landscape in Slovakia and, on the other hand, the natural man as an inhabitant of the country. Therefore it is understandable that similar structuring of the man as a part of nature, i.e. resembling nature, is present in the works by Bazovský. Such processes of transcreation of the real should be understood as a natural result of “Modernist” reflections of the hottest social issues in Slovakia of the first half of the 20th century and simultaneously as the revision of cultural myths and cultural stereotypes about the rural areas and their inhabitants in remote regions.

Credits: Story

Mgr. Miroslav Haľák, PhD.

Credits: All media
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