THE MAGIC OF SINCERITY BY JITKA SVOBODOVÁ
01. September 2021
“As soon as you back down to something one time, you'll be backing down again and again,” argues Czech artist Jitka Svobodová. In a new episode of the documentary series Art in Isolation, she revisits the excess pressure she experienced as an illustrator during the hard normalization era of Czechoslovakia.
In her black and white drawings, she repeatedly revisits the basic events in nature and in her personal life. There’s a simultaneous timelessness, austerity, and subtlety about her work. Svobodová doesn’t offer complex metaphors, but rather a truth about shapes and the simplicity of a direct, non-associative perspective. “Drawing is more of an idea than a technique. Painting is based on it, yet at the same time materializes it. Drawing therefore seemed more primary to me, expressing exactly what I wanted. Simple and grey,” recalls an artist who, according to her own words, studied painting at a time when a name like Picasso could hardly be uttered in public.
Why Art in Isolation?
The artistic activity took a strong hit. Exhibitions began to get canceled, various regulations affected direct interaction with colleagues, spectators, and the world stage. Questions about the meaning of art, an artist's mission, and boundaries of freedom emerged yet again. The testimonies of the artists who were creating their art during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia are an important memento of a time gone by and an inspiration for the search for meaningful answers in the present. With or without the crisis.
The stories of artists in the time of totality carry on. You can watch each episode on social media and web platforms of the two associated institutions, Kunsthalle Praha & Post Bellum–Memory of Nations.
Jitka Svobodová (*1941) has long devoted herself to the drawing medium. Although she studied painting and the beginning of her artistic journey belonged to painting, drawing became the main domain of her work from the mid-1970s. In her drawing, Jitka Svobodová repeatedly revisits the basic events in nature and in her personal life. Timelessness, minimalism, austerity, and subtlety all simultaneously prevail in her drawings. The artist doesn’t offer complex metaphors, but rather a truth about shapes, their proportions, and the simplicity of a direct, non-associative perspective. There's a kind of meditative philosophical dimension in her drawings; the viewer is drawn to them as if they're entering an alternate reality that's somehow so familiar. Svobodová never followed the trends of the time, always staying in her own lane and defending her place on the Czech art scene. After 1989, she became the head of the drawing studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague where she worked for more than twenty years.