Jozef Srna Sr. — At a Bridge & Dawn & Summer

Jozef Srna Sr. is one of the artists of the 20th century we are very familiar with, but in a certain sense, he is still unknown within the concept of the national art history...

Inventory No.: O-16
Artist: Jozef Srna Sr.
Title: At a Bridge
Year: 1961
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 33 x 46 cm
Signature: bottom right: Srna 61 in brush

Inventory No.: O-300
Artist: Jozef Srna Sr.
Title: Dawn
Year: 1965
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 33 x 45 cm
Signature: none

Inventory No.: O-301
Artist: Jozef Srna Sr.
Title: Summer
Year: 11965
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 33 x 46 cm
Signature: none

 

Jozef Srna Sr. is one of the artists of the 20th century we are very familiar with, but in a certain sense, he is still unknown within the concept of the national art history. His iconic artistic expressions are in contradiction with our “domestic art history’s” lack of interest in reflecting upon his work in a more professional and detailed manner.

The artist has left behind a very rich and diverse inheritance that seems to just add to the inability of our art critics to deal with, reflect upon or catch up with the complexity of his work.

The fact that our art theorists have ignored Jozef Srna Sr. for so long now as well as his legitimate recognition as an important figure in the history of Slovak painting of the 20th century is also caused by his uncategorisability.

When his work is put on display at theme exhibitions, he is presented as a photorealistic/hyperrealistic painter. However, this direction was just one of the ways he had decided to take in order to master the panting medium. One of Jozef Srna Sr.’s most distinctive features is the diversity of his expression. He tried to improve upon various artistic styles, including impressionism, abstract and experimental approaches and the disarming civilism of hyperrealism.

The Nitra Gallery collection includes the artist’s three small-scale paintings. All of them were created in the first half of the 1960s when he focused his work on vistas and landscapes – concentrating on light and the (mo)mental mood. The actual titles of the paintings: At a Bridge (O-16), Dawn (O-300), Summer (O-301) reflect simple, yet important moments in man’s/painter’s life.

At a Bridge (O-16) is a moving image depicting human figures in a landscape crop. The focus point is a trailer with drying laundry swinging in the air while the edges feature dominant trees that protect an area set up for relaxation (two folding lawn chairs) while on the other side of the trees, there are two subtle (perhaps children’s, girls’) figures. Formally, it reminds us of the late 1800s while the content is clearly inspired by the 1960s. The image’s simplicity is even enhanced with its colour scheme based on earthy brown and orange tones that go all the way through blue to yellow and white ones.

Dawn (O-300) also portrays a landscape created with heavy brush strokes that let us feel the dew and humidity of a green summer morning. Among the wet greens we can see statue-like shapes that are most likely supposed to be stacks of cut grass.

Summer (O-301) offers a view of a cropped urban landscape where the predominant feature is a church and houses that stretch along a road.

Jozef Srna Sr.’s diverse painting style matches his very complex structure, whether as a painter or man. He was a loner who had designed a very specific painting program in isolation from other (different) approaches that were popular at the time. His passion for trivial motives was not easy to grasp which was the reason why the innovative sensitivity and intimacy of his style turned him into a loner at the time.

Jozef Srna Sr.: (1930 – 1992 Bratislava) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava (prof. Želibský, Matejka, Čemický). His work has many levels, but he is mostly perceived as a representative of new realism (hyperrealism, photorealism). In the 1970s and 1980s, the predominant topics were civil themes, portraits, urban landscapes. His approach to photorealism is also known for incorporating metaphysical and surreal properties. In 1988, he won the Grand prix Triennial in Liptovský Mikuláš. His works are a part of numerous Slovak galleries and private collections.

Ľudmila Kasaj Poláčková
April 2020

Bibliography:
ZABEL, Vladislav: Jozef Srna Sr. (Známy) neznámy [(Known) Unknown]: http://www.kysuckagaleria.sk/aktualne-vystavy/291-jozef-srna-st-znamy-neznamy odkaz nájdený 6.4.2020
www.webumenia.sk
Malý slovník slovenských výtvarných umelcov [Small Dictionary of Slovak Visual Artists], SFVU, Bratislava 1981