Peter Bartoš: ZOO – a Continuous Landscape Concept

Peter Bartoš is considered to be one of the leading figures of Slovak conceptual art...


Article Inventory No.: K-788

Artist: Peter Bartoš
Title: ZOO – a Continuous Landscape Concept

Year: 2011
Technique: mixed media
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 115 x 79 cm
Signature: from behind, up on the wooden frame in the middle, in capital letters, with a marker: „ZOO – POKRAČUJÚCI KONCEPT KRAJINY“ PETER BARTOŠ 2011

Peter Bartoš is considered to be one of the leading figures of Slovak conceptual art. Although he had studied painting at the beginning of his artistic career, in 1965 he parted from painting as a medium. He organized an event called “Giving Away” (Rozdávanie), which was one of the first manifestations of action art in Slovakia. He gave the works he had created so far to his colleagues and friends and created thus “a blank platform for different creativity.” [1] His artistic interest focused on matter, its properties and behavior, how he can work with it, its physical qualities such as concentration or diffusion. By the end of the 1960s he moves to conceptual text references, drafts, and drawings. In addition to action and conceptual art he starts to be interested in land-art and zoo-art and he devotes his creative attention to several characteristic themes such as pigeons (for example the project of breeding the “Bratislava Esthetic Pigeon”, for which he won a breeder award in 1976), or an open, longtime project of topographic painting notes of particular areas of landscapes and city views (for example, in the Bratislava under-castle-area, natural forest parks, ZOO), where he critically comments on contemporary situation, suggesting new solutions and developing universal, often ideological messages. These multilayered works respond to various ecological problems in terms of meaning and form, they invite to protect natural and historical monuments, they encourage the preservation and re-cultivation of landscape, criticize developers and their insensitive interventions into the urban environment of Bratislava.

The work ZOO –a Continuous Landscape Concept (ZOO – pokračujúci koncept krajiny) belongs to the longtime topographical cycles. The theme of Bratislava Zoological Garden is familiar and close to the artist because he worked there for a number of years. The drawing presents the artist’s proposal on how to finish the landscape and architecture environment of the ZOO based on the current situation and offers a solution on how to situate animal runs, to structure building elements and use the space for free time activities. Such work, transformation and cultivation of land in terms of concepts, offers the author almost unlimited space to map his own ideas – Bartoš is thus a “cartographer of ideas and images.” [2] Bartoš offers real, specific and feasible solutions and improvements; therefore this work is not only a reflection of idealized imagination.

Lucia Gregorová-Stachová writes about Bartoš’s landscape projects: “His works from the mid 1970s build on several drawings of landscape profile sections that are more a meditation considering the spiritual aspects of a certain natural framework. This part of his work bears affinities with the art of Japanese gardens where each little thing, each plant, water stream, ascending or descending terrain, is firmly grounded in the system that is built upon the basis of certain spiritual order. This tendency finds its full manifestation in his future ecological and landscape art activity that he developed in the 1970s in a number of projects (Ecological Solutions in the Area of Podháj in Lamač, Bratislava, 1972; Ecological Solutions in the City, 1978). In the specific form his projects deal with effective ecological revitalization of several parts of Slovakia. His interest found the full accomplishment in the design of changes in the Bratislava ZOO (1978 -1987), where he had worked. His projects are significant both from the perspective of architecture and aesthetics, since they are excellent drawing renditions, although he himself denies this ascetically.” [3]

PETER BARTOŠ was born on April 29, 1938 in Prague, Czech Republic. 1955-1960 he attended the Department of Applied Graphic Design at the Secondary School of Applied Arts in Bratislava (professors J. Chovan, M. Fikari), 1960-1966 he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava (professors J. Želibský, J. Mudroch, P. Matejka), 1966 – 1969 he did his postgraduate studies (assistant professor J. Matejka). Since 1967 he has had solo or group exhibitions in Slovakia and abroad. By the end of the 1960s and 1970s he organized several activities of alternative art scene and he also participated in them. His works are represented in almost all state galleries and significant collections. He lives and works in Bratislava.

Omar Mirza

[1] Hanáková Petra: Akčné umenie, in:
[2] Čarná Daniela, Gregorová Lucia: Mapy. Umelecká kartografia v strede Európy 1960-2011 (exhibition catalog), Bratislava City Gallery and Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava 2011, ISBN 978-80-89340-27-9, unpaged.
[3] Peter Bartoš – Z tvorby (exhibition catalog), Nitra Gallery, Nitra 2001, ISBN 80-85746-17-4, pg. 5. The exhibition took place from 7. 11. to 6. 12. 2000 at the Nitra Gallery, curators: Lucia Stachová, Richard Gregor.