MICHAL CIHLÁŘ / Still-Life with Thrown Gauntlet

16/02/2022 to 28/08/2022
exhibition hall Masné krámy
Michal Cihlář
Petra Kočová

The graphic artist Michal Cihlář (1960) is considered a pioneer of Czech modern linocut. By a curious coincidence, he began to use this graphic technique in 1980 and soon realised that linocut, despite the fact it is rather a primitive technology, is a true bonanza of unlimited creative possibilities.

By the end of the 1980s, Cihlář had already brilliantly developed his own processes for multi-coloured register from the gradually carved-out linocut matrix. Some of the prints are of more than 20 colours, but the exhibition also includes a register of 42 colours. To this day, Cihlář prints exclusively by hand, without a printing press, usually only in editions of around seven copies. In the mid-1990s, he began to switch from colour registers to coloured linocuts and carefully coloured his black and white linocuts with commonly available anilines. This allowed him to move beyond his early Pop-Art period to the edge of photorealism. A frequent changing of topics is also typical of him, often necessitated by his wide involvement in applied printmaking, where especially his book and newspaper illustrations are unmistakable in their topics and execution. At the turn of the millennium, he also created an original corporate image of the Prague Zoo with his linocuts. For his contribution to the field of free and applied graphics, he received the prestigious Vladimír Boudník Award exactly twenty years ago.

Cihlář’s free work does not deny his relationship to classical art, when portraiture still resembled the sitter and still life exuded a sense of deep calm. Yet his still lifes, assembled from various mundane objects or souvenirs brought back from his travels, have something extra about them. They offer an insight, a sense of bizarre detail and surreal narrative, a bit of irony, and above all the artist’s compulsive preoccupation with detail. The motif of his still lifes, which has permeated Cihlář’s graphic work for the past forty years, has been revisited over and over; however, they also include photographs and collages and, in the last decade, linocut studies of the decadent beauty of erotic toys.

In the artist’s own words, this exhibition is about silence, about neglected realism, about a return to traditional representation. For illustrative purposes, alongside the exhibited key graphic sheets, their linocut matrices are also on display. Many of the linocut still lifes are also accompanied by their models – true still lifes assembled from carefully preserved depicted objects. Visitors to the gallery thus get an unobtrusive glimpse not only into the working processes, but also into the artist’s background.

This monothematic exhibition presents many forms of Cihlář’s still lifes in a completely unique way. Not only does it present them in certain contexts, but also looks at the whole subject as a timeless phenomenon. After all, still lifes, as the exhibition shows, are all around us; what one only has to do is to pick up the thrown gauntlet.


Collaboration: Marcel Fišer