Rudolf Sikora — From the Cycle “* => † (Touches)

Rudolf Sikora is one of the most distinctive figures of Slovak visual art not just because one cannot “overlook” or “overhear” his physical appearance, but mostly because he is one of a very few artists of his generation that have been able to make their name on the international art scene.

Inventory No.: O 2082
Artist: Rudolf Sikora
Title: 1st Part of the Cycle “* => † (Touches)”
Year: 1981/2003
Technique: mixed media
Material: canvas
Dimensions: height 152 cm; width 112 cm
Signature: none

Inventory No.: O 2130
Artist: Rudolf Sikora
Title: 2nd Part of the Cycle “* => † (Touches)”
Year: 1981/2003
Technique: mixed media
Material: canvas
Dimensions: height 145 cm; width 104 cm
Dimensions: rear side of the canvas: „Touches (* †)“ (2nd Part); 2003 Synagogue Nitra; December 11, 2003; handprints of 52 people; signature: Rudolf Sikora (hand-drawn)

Rudolf Sikora is one of the most distinctive figures of Slovak visual art not just because one cannot “overlook” or “overhear” his physical appearance, but mostly because he is one of a very few artists of his generation that have been able to make their name on the international art scene. He focuses mostly on painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, action art, object creation and monumental installations. He is interested in Russian avant-garde movements like Constructivism and Suprematism, he is fascinated by the universe and trying to merge art with science in his works. He is also curious about cosmology and futurology. He is critical to various current issues concerning the environment, ecology and the relationship of man and planet Earth. Rudolf Sikora is an engaged visual artist who uses not just his art to comment on the current social topics. As Katarína Bajcurová wrote: “Sikora’s social activism has been an inseparable part of his personality. It has found its place in his art projects which are full of ethical – and also ecological – appeals. He is one of the artists who carry the burden of civilizational and social issues of both the individual and mankind voluntarily and enthusiastically.” [1]

The two canvases of a two-part cycle titled * => † (Touches) from the Nitra Gallery collection were created on December 11, 2003 at the premises of the Synagogue in Nitra as a part of the OSUM 5 project which consisted of a series of evening gatherings dedicated to art, organized by artists and art teachers Miroslav Nicz and Jaroslav Košš in cooperation with Nitra Gallery and the Department of Creative Arts and Art Education at the Faculty of Education at Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra. [2] The white canvases feature black handprints of 52 people (attendees and hosts of the event) on whose hands Sikora painted the symbols of a star or a cross. These symbols, which have become iconic to his work, are supposed to represent birth (*), death/termination (†) and together with the symbol of life/movement (=>), they represent the so-called anthropic principle. The first canvas contains signatures of the people who left their handprints on it while the seconds canvas holds just the prints alone which have become universal signs of the circle of creation and termination of life and energy in the universe. The simple handprint gesture is a metaphorical record of the whole life of an individual human being. The whole canvas thus could be perceived as a star map of mankind that is just a small speck on the fabric of space-time in the universe, representing a higher principle or a universal meaning of life. Despite the small print we leave, we all are a part of it.

Rudolf Sikora was born on April 17, 1946 in Žilina. Between 1963 – 1969, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava under prof. Dezider Milly (1963 – 1965) and prof. Peter Matejka (1965 – 1969). At the same time, he also attended stage design classes taught by prof. Ladislav Vychodil at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (1963 – 1965). While being on a study trip in Paris in August 1968, he was offered a scholarship, but he refused it and returned back to Czechoslovakia. In 1970, he hosted a now legendary event called the 1st Open Studio at his house at Tehelná Street in Bratislava. It was attended by 19 artists who later involuntarily became a part of the unofficial art scene. As they were not allowed to exhibit publicly, they moved their activities to their studios and apartments. Sikora also organized other alternative exhibition activities and symposiums that were often accompanied by threats and pressure provided by the Secret Police. He also cooperated with unofficial ecologists and environmentalists. In 1988, he founded a group called Syzýgia together with several generationally younger artists who were still students at the time: Gabriel Hošovský, Martin Knut and Miloš Novák who were later joined by film-maker Pavel Pochylý. He was also a member of the group Gerulata (1989 – 1999) which was the first free association of artists before November 1989. In the revolutionary year of 1989, he was politically active and he was one of the initiators of the meeting at Bratislava’s Art Forum on November 19, 1989 that gave birth to the Public Against Violence movement. In 1990, he started teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava where he led his Open Studio until 2004. Between 2003-2011, he taught at the Faculty of Arts at the Technical University of Košice. He also worked as an external teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) and at the Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague. He received the title of Professor at AVU in 1992. In the 1990s, he exhibited at several important shows presenting art of Eastern European countries: Fotografie der Gegenwart, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (1990); Kunst Europa, Kunstverein Braunschweig – Linden (1991); Apelación/Challenge, Expo 92, Sevilla (1992); Europa, Europa, Kunst- und Austellungshalle der BRD, Bonn (1994); Der Riss im Raum, Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin (1995); Aspekte/Positionen. 50 Jahre Kunst aus Mitteleuropa 1949 – 1999, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (1999). His works are inmany important national and international collections, such as: Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; National Gallery, Prague. In 2012, he received the Tatra Bank Foundation Art Award and in 2016, he was awarded the 1st Class Pribina Cross. He lives and works in Bratislava and Marianka.

[1] Quoted from Katarína Bajcurová’s text for the El Lisickij & Er Sikora exhibition curated by: Willem Jan Renders (El Lissitzky), Katarína Bajcurová (Rudolf Sikora), March 17 – June 30, 2019, Danubiana Gallery, Čunovo. Available at: https://www.danubiana.sk/vystavy/el-lisickij-er-sikora (Accessed on April 17, 2020).

[2] The event title is composed of the words OSobnosti UMenia [Famous Artists] which also happens to be a phonetic equivalent to the Czech word for the number eight (osm) as the original idea was to present important people from both the Slovak and the Czech art scenes. The goal of the OSUM 5 project was to present five artists, but due to lack of time, only three events were held in 2003: November 13 – Július Koller, November 20 – Rudolf Fila, December 11 – Rudolf Sikora. In the following year of 2004, a new project called OSUM 12 was initiated at the Old Theatre in Nitra. This series presented: January 29 – Vladimír Popovič, February 26 – Milan Adamčiak, March 25 – Peter Kalmus, April 29 – Jiří Valoch (CZ), May 27 – Juraj Bartusz, September 30 – József R. Juhász, November 23 – Vladimír Kordoš, December 14 – Michal Murin. Each evening was an improvised exhibition of the invited artists followed by an informal discussion with the audience. The artists then created new authentic artworks right in front of the viewers and often with their participation. The artworks have remained in Nitra Gallery’s collection. The output of the whole project is an album similar to a bibliophile edition that was published in a limited number of approx. 30 DVDs that contain recordings of all the events. Despite the project organizers’ best efforts, they did not manage to present all twelve artists as planned which is the reason why the last DVD is dedicated to Miroslav Nicz and Jaroslav Košš.

(These informations were sourced from an email correspondence with Miroslav Nicz, April 7, 2020)

Omar Mirza
April 2020