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Even today, we could say that Juraj Kollár is a solitary figure in Slovakia’s painting scene. His current creative range, made up of several positions to which he continuously contributes with new works, is the result of an uncompromising dwelling on his own artistic worldview, which remains unspoiled by the fashionable (and often dead-end) directions found in Slovak painting after 2000. He is a representative of a circle of painters asserting a return to classical painting, which means an almost modernist style of work with the painter’s surface. For instance, by acknowledging the process of painting in the result, he moves in the direction of hermetic works of art, which aim to be more timeless than a mere period reference. A succession from the impressionist tradition of painting taught by several significant personalities of painting in the 20th and 21st centuries (Bonnard, Richter, Twombly, and others) could be considered his principal source. These are fairly heterogeneous references, but this postmodern impermanence enables Kollár to move effectively on the border of abstraction and a specific position of landscape painting, with an occasional inclination towards the urban landscape. The Czech art critic Petr Vaňous pointed to the polarity of his sensual and rational approach, and it seems that this contrasting view fulfils his idea about the universality (or openness) of a contemporary artist. Kollár’s movement in these classical positions is fairly provocative; from among today’s dynamic artistic centers, he chose the French (retro) capital to be his satellite residency, but the sophistication of his feeling for painting also makes him a reliable arbiter on the level of this quasi-anachronistic orientation. Shortly after finishing his studies, he gained recognition with hyperrealist paintings of views through glass bricks. The theme in these clearly gave way to visual effects, and it could be claimed that the main motif was the rediscovery of the abstract meaning of an “impression”. However, light was not the means but the goal of these works, which (amongst other things), in Kollár’s work, corresponds with the permanent presence of references to Christian spirituality (let us not forget the cycle of portraits entitled Ash Wednesday from 2002, in which he put the symbolic ash of Ash Wednesday on the foreheads of several pedagogues in Bratislava). “Glass bricks” also seemed like a reference to the characteristic elements of family architecture from the communist era, and that made them attractive in the sense of realism and current references to recent history. Kollár prefers the painter’s surface to be an open, abstract landscape, in which his individualism has no limits, but also provides no fulcrum for individualism. On the other hand, a claim can be made that his urban still lives, which are more specific, tend to be (by the very nature of their processing) everyday (or even banal) places or situations, albeit no less interesting. The intensity of these paintings lies in their rather large formats, but no less important is the fact that Kollár’s style often relies on swelling paste, therefore creating fairly “monumental” works in the sense of surface and space.

Richard Gregor, Bratislava -  Fifty contemporary artist in Slovakia, (kol.autorov). Bratislava: Art Academy, Slovart, 2014

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Juraj Kollár´s Plural

Juraj Kollár (1981) is an artist of plural. Such a characterization is related above all to those countries and cities which are important to him. Slovakia provides him with what a native land can give – close relationships, the bases for a human and an artist to grow on. Prague is connected with his studies. Berlin granted Kollár his first European success, namely 3rd Prize in Celeste Prize of 2009. Nowadays, it has been Paris offering to him the possibility to rediscover himself, search for the roots, redefine himself. The first short Paris stay was offered to him at the end of his studies, and since then Kollár has stayed there for three to four months a year. According to the artist himself, it is in Paris he can live free from the relationships binding him “at home“, it is in Paris where he devotes himself to painting. Paris has become the place of his genuine “spiritual convalescence“.

Thanks to a series of landscapes also known as Constructions a young painter started to be known in milieus of artists of several European countries. With Translucent Concrete (2009, oil on canvas, 180x240cm) he succeeded at Celeste Prize in Berlin, and with The View of the Landscape (2008, oil on canvas, 180x240cm) he was awarded 2009 Igor Kalný Prize in the Czech Republic. Paintings – nowadays his domain of excellence – question our capacity to perceive reality; they are conceived and built on the unified basis which is a structured net created under the unified surface. The net divides the paintings into equal parts. 48 abstract canvases, each painted separately, offer in their unity an illusion of a realistic painting. A translucent wall which we notice at first sight afterwards decomposes into smaller autonomous square canvases. The author himself explains that such an organization of the painting enables the atmosphere of a musical story to emerge: Kollár is distinguishable by his liking for the classical music which spontaneously intermingles with his works. From such an angle, a narrative acquires the sense of rhythm and musical linearity. Due to the decomposition, the canvas is exposed to the vibration, painting is spread in its smaller elements and makes impression of the reality intelligible in its totality. Each of forty-eight paintings brings forth a small fragment of the event observed. Observation defined as a narrative quality of perception has become the very theme of painting for Kollár. The authentic perception is of high importance for the painter because human capacities do not allow us to re-capture the escaping reality. The particular character of painting consists in the combination of visual perception and the perception by other senses. A touch of pigment, a mark remaining on the canvas – these form an authentic message made with a precise gesture, a firm movement. It is thanks to this quality that painting as such is able to compete with the newly emerging media.

Let us observe, at this point, a strict rectangular frame of Kollár´s works: it helps define the sense of the canvas resulting from the artist´s research of the way enabling the authentic recording of the seen. Each canvas is strictly delimited by rectangles, as if Juraj Kollár felt the need to grant the space where the painting is inserted a certain value. The author is especially aware that every picture is a kind of gate, a window with a particular view, an opening into the firmly delimited space. The author abandons a classical approach to the painting as the look aimed “inside“. On the contrary, he creates a series of works which make us look “outside“. The abovementioned decomposition intensifies the sense of the look turned towards the exterior. Eventually, however, a viewer realizes his/her own closure in an unknown space. The viewer´s capacities to follow even “what is going on outside“ are quite limited. Such a symbolic area culminates with the work entitled Gate (2009, oil on canvas, 180x240cm). Here, a translucent wall does not provide anything additional to perceive. Lines drawn in pencil are traced from the intelligible circle to the interior boundaries of the canvas. The viewer´s look is aimed to the centre of the circle, to the centre of the picture. Trickles of white colour are of the same direction. And it is at that very place, in the four sections of the picture´s centre, that is, in the physical centre of the composition, that the painter seems to be leaving us. He offers his viewer an opportunity to find him/herself face to face with his work of art on his/her own. Gate, Translucent Concrete and The View of the Landscape  are in fact a revised usage of Kollár´s student works entitled Spring, Virgin, Figures from 2001-2002. This was that very period of personal research which led to Kollár´s discovery of the given form of canvas decomposition into smaller pictures. Later on, he let the form incubate, he forgot about it voluntarily (focusing on the series of abstract landscapes) just to choose it again, quite recently, as a renewed object of his plastic research. Nowadays, the artist masters the form much better and he understands the way and possibilities to treat it deeper. Afterwards, he paints other pictures based on the same functioning without respecting it rigidly (like Plate, 2010 and Shirt, 2011). The author longs for developing his abstract painting in accordance with the abovementioned Constructions, and, simultaneously, his aspirations include the evaluation and accentuation of vision of the real through complex and deconstructed structures.

Juraj Kollár´s attitude to plastic art can also be called plural. He alternates two modes of representations: abstraction (eg.: Shield, 2010; 0118, 2011; 0121, 2011) and figuration (eg.: Jardin du Luxembourg, 2012; Cooks, 2011; Gate Paris, 2011; Hotel Kyjev, 2011). He proceeds on the basis of an analytical point of view. According to his own words, it could be related to his character, too. The way he treats the form up to the point in which it stops resisting might become a unifying axiom of his works as a whole. Kollár feels the creative process as the flow of the spirit. Animation, reanimation. The more the perspective is ample in the theme as well as the form, the more the author feels exposed to his self-criticism and necessary doubts – so much for the one who wants to gain the firm position and keep on the way.

Another particular characteristic of Kollár´s creation is the work with a strictly delimited structure, a grid used in various ways: from the mentioned unification of smaller square canvases into one whole, or its direct painting onto the canvas (Wall, 2011; House of Art, 2012) to a new authorial process – painting through the real coordinate net. At times, he takes it away just to let its trace be clearly visible, like in the work entitled Piglet Little Mouse Fawn  (2012). On other occasions it remains there as an ingredient of the painting: Stockroom I and Stockroom II (2011) or Gate Paris (2011). Looking back upon the way Mondrian used to work, namely mutual crossing of long coloured stripes, we can suppose that in this observed case the artist´s work is comparable (literally and metaphorically, too) to the process of weaving. Here, the art consists in binding and untangling, spinning, lacing, layering, ingenious dismembering, parceling the area out so that its infinite number of mutually neighbouring elements compose the unified matter. Similarly to a Cubist picture definitely forgetting the play with a figure, or to Pollock´s pictures (however, in our case in a more coherent, geometric and organized way), our author´s work reflects thousand and one form of changeable visual diversity. What is then the grid, if not a construction, a frame helping the artist interconnect the work´s content and the principle of order? In Juraj Kollár´s works, this special structure functions as a rectangular cobweb taking the form of once purely technical means, and once determinative appearance of the picture.

Juraj Kollár´s abstract creation is firmly anchored in the plastic research taking place in ex-Czechoslovakia. Such an approach involved reconsidering the origins of abstract painting, namely the relation of a painter to reality represented. Its roots can be found in the research of František Kupka (1871-1957) with his vision of a painter called up to create the way the Nature does. Kollár´s painting is inspired by the laws of nature leaving only little space to doubts, too. It is in this point that his works remind of those by Zdeněk Sýkora (1920). Our young artist refreshes geometric abstraction which was exceptionally developed in Czechoslovakia of the 1960s, which can be observed for instance in the strict basis of his Constructions.

To conclude, the abovementioned facts describe what makes Juraj Kollár´s presence in the field of European painting strongly original. The artist´s realizations of his ideas which he wants to share are precise. Up to this moment, he has resisted the temptation to give in to a viewer-consumer and to the dictatorship of “all of it“ “right now“.  This young author does not make effort to shock or attack our senses violently just in order to attract a viewer´s attention for its sake. There is more he has to offer. For viewers, his works are a sort of genuine hiatus in time so that they can find themselves on their own face to face with his painting. Actually, not totally alone: they are accompanied by questions about what one is able to see or to distinguish.

Silvia Van Espen, 2012

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Juraj Kollár is a strong individual of the contemporary art scene. His approach is an antithesis to the method of artists employing the visual language of pop culture, sarcasm and quotation of kitsch as the source of contextual coding of paintings. Kollár does not create pictures out of individual parts as puzzles of motifs, but as views of spaces, which function as meta-images connecting all his paintings. Thus, he directly thematizes the painterly space, his aspect of composition, in its endlessness and cycles. Kollár works with his own photographic motive; in the final composition and the understanding of the surface of canvas one can feel his consistent learning from the history of painting and of oil-painting styles. Author creates simultaneously in three parallel cycles.
Natural and urban landscapes, which Kollár made a mark with in the mid-decade and continues painting today, confront the viewers with his internal perception of landscapes and the experience of looking on (and into) them as well as with the experience of” seeing” per se. The visual delight in watching a generously treated painting puts at issue the viewer´s realization of the artist´s strong presence, which adds to the intimate tuning of the scene onto the viewer´s physical perception. The author´s view is the focal point of the image moved beyond the surface of the canvas. It establishes the ideological depth of the “painted” and is at the same time the point of the missing figure in privately “symbolic” landscapes or urban sceneries, sometimes painted at the border of abstraction (Sunrise,2005;Landscape,2007).
Views through concrete glass (Spring, 2001; Winter Landscape, Darkness, both 2009), natural apertures of trees, fences, rows of cars etc (Hviezdoslav´s Square, 2003) and gates or yards represent two sides of a problem, which Kollár deals with on thematic  level  -  shifts, transpositions, passages. The views speak most distinctly about his artistic dilemma between the capturing reality in painting and its escaping, entering one´s own world. That also means the dilemma between depicting the reality and depicting the impossibility of it being captured (Flowers, 2007). This is conveyed in a precisely constructed view through a barrier of thick glass consisting of squares, which limits the artist´s (and the viewer´s) perception of the space „behind“ it. He offers a different image instead – an image deformed into wonderful images – like the glass in a kaleidoscope.(Gate,2009).
In Kollár´s abstract paintings, the viewer encounters the painting per se, with a desubstantiated image condensate, occurring on the visual level in fragile, but dramatic compositions. Blots of colours, touches and strokes of the brush, pastes and drippings of colour substance reveal the artist´s Twombly-esque concentration on painting, such as in the soft dialogues of unbroken shades of pink, blue and yellow, giving due to the cleanliness of white of the canvas, like in 0082 (2008). On the other hand, the dense, carefully executed large-scale abstractions openly accept with their shades of colour the artist´s physical connection to the creative process, his absolute submission to painting, which is theme and medium at the same time. Kollár´s painting proves that it is possible to embark on the uncertain paths of trial and error of the sincere personal painterly statement and yet to conceptually rationalize it in one´s painting.

Lucia Stachová Gregorová

Painting after painting. SNG : Bratislava, 2010

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Searching for a uniting platform / Ideal unity somewhere in the interspace

Juraj Kollar (1981) ranks among the significant young painters of both the Slovak and the Czech provenience. In his work he moves between two polarities – sensual and rational approach to the picture. If at the beginning he had entered the sphere of painting more or less intuitively, now he is more and more confident that he needs to master above all the means of expression and through them open the way to the secret that contains inside the term “portrayal”.

The early paintings by Juraj Kollar, full of student’s keenness, demonstrate author’s passion for perfect form. The painter’s illusion serves only as a means of magic to imprint the depicted topic, namely portraits and still life. While the workmanshift deepens the exact drawing detail, there is a collision in another level. How to interconnect the master’s illusive description of the selected object or figure with the surrounding? How to interconnect the figure with its framework? How to create a perfect whole and not only a perfect fragment? The way in this direction, i.e. to the interconnection of the object and the background, is indicated by various stages of “entries into illusion” in portrayals. A key work of this period is a small painting called Chlapec (A Boy, 2001). There the author starts from the background to the first plan. Figures step out of the background area and separate from it subsequently. Two possible procedures of depiction were applied there – modelling the figure in the colour of the background or in a contract local colour. The first procedure points to free interpretation, the other one to a more realistic description.

In the next stage, Kollar leaves the figure and the related drawing detail. He is fully engaged in a research of his own “scope” of the picture. He learns the status quo – amorphousness of a space that cannot be successfully reconstructed in a painting. The author strives for a purely artistic definition of what we could call a space. The landscape has always been a perfect study material for its understanding and painter’s deconstruction. Kollar creates impressivev studies and investigates the principles of relationships between the light and colour intensity both in a landscape composition as well as in a detailed cut. In the landscape model he starts from its basic segmentation – horizons that attract observer’s orientation. The relationship of the horizon with the illusion of space is further subjected to an optic analysis in transparent colouring as well as in modelling by colour pastes. He is interested in calm settings of horizontal landscape structure as well as in expressive dynamized settings full of vital vegetation. The relationship between the calm and restlessness is expressed by visual means and through this abstracting, Kollar finds the atmosphere of what is depicted. Kollar arrives to the abstract expression through intensive visual perception.

In connection with impressive analyses of concrete frameworks, kollar discovers his own abstract stains that release painting plans for human eye. The drawing is created by contact surface (edging), colours flowing together or a raster. The drawing detail is not built alone but created as a harmony of larger pieces. What is authoritative is the various intensity of colour and neutral surfaces, similarly as their size, shape or density of the applied colour (transparency, materialization, colour substance). The white surface works as a temporary unifying platform that provides space for calm meeting of stains or restless running of gestic strokes. In his free search for expression, Kollar expands his repertoire of means of modelling. He puts strings, cut parts of linen and wires into the context of the painting. He again perpetualizes the abstracted landscapes by assembly elements and puts them back into the world of material objects.

A significant set of his works is Konstrukce (Constructions). Kollar works here with the conceptual theme of a loophole. He chooses a regular rectangular outline as the pre-selected rational construct that defines and segments the scope of the picture. He creates a certain curtain that filters “something from the landscape”. This “something” is captivated by human eye and evaluated as painter’s composition where each box of the rectangular network works at the same time as an independent window of the painting. It gives rise to a structure and a variable. The chain of compositions creates a whole and thus a raster picture. The work Tovarna (Factory, 2006) uses various intensity and permeability of individual boxes of the large segmented window. The situation enables changing various modelling and painting strategies, namely putting various depicting and abstracted figures beside each other. The tension between the depiction and the abstraction is actually given by the filter of visual experience where an important role is played by the curtains and length axes situated in relation to the observer. There is a difference between the immediate recording and long exposition. The painting Květy (Blossoms, 2007) represents a “loophole” realized through an embossed panel window. We are inside and we are looking out. Not entirely, only “according to the possibilities”. In this specific case, Collar’s loopholes through glass blocks are significant. “A look-out according to the possibilities” is the author’s original symbolic platform that can be theoretically described. The painting is divided into structural rasters in look- out and fill-out (framework) parts. Their density influences the perception of the depicted theme. It leads to explanations of principles of seeing, perception and realization of visual impulses for human mind.

What follows is so far the latest set of works of art where the author returned to the picture as a single, independent and peculiar window. To one of the loopholes and his newly acquired and proven possibilities. Thanks to the previous experience, Kollar acquired a greater sensitivity towards light situations and colour nuances. He can see more clearly. He is interested in colourfulness and variability of light situations whose real number somehow depends on the possibility of analogical projection of the infinity. For instance, we can see music connotations related to the free self-realization of a human spirit. This is the bridge that connects the depiction and abstraction, theme and range of the message, a figure and a place. If we focus on the phenomenal fact in detail, we find out that in this concentrated view, it escapes again to the sphere of abstraction. Human mind synthesises facts and identifies with what is seen somewhere on the way between those two polarities. In the interspace of ideal unity.

Petr Vaňous, Prague – Kosire 24th February 2009