Miroslav Švolík — from the series What Awaits Us, What Will Not Miss Us?

Miro Švolík is one of the most important representatives of the Slovak New Wave – a generation of photographers who...

Inventory No.: F 150

Artist: Miroslav Švolík
Title: What Awaits Us? (from the series What Awaits Us, What Will Not Miss Us?)

Year: 1994
Technique: black and white gelatine photography
Material: silver bromide photographic paper
Dimensions: height 57,5 cm; width 49 cm
Signature: rear side, centre: in pencil: „MIRO ŠVOLÍK 1994 2/15“, line below: „ČO NÁS ČAKÁ“ [“WHAT AWAITS US], line below: „1. FOTO ZO SÉRIE: ČO NÁS ČAKÁ, ČO NÁS NEMINIE?“ [“1. IMAGE FROM THE SERIES: WHAT AWAITS US, WHAT WILL NOT MISS US?”]

Inventory No.: F 149

Artist: Miroslav Švolík
Title: What Will Not Miss Us? (from the series What Awaits Us, What Will Not Miss Us?)

Year: 1994
Technique: black and white gelatine photography
Material: silver bromide photographic paper
Dimensions: height 57,5 cm; width 49 cm
Signature: rear side, centre: in pencil: „2/15“, line below: „MIRO ŠVOLÍK 1994“, line below: „ČO NÁS NEMINIE?“ [“WHAT WILL NOT MISS US?”], line below: „2. FOTO ZO SÉRIE: ČO NÁS ČAKÁ, ČO NÁS NEMINIE?“ [“2. IMAGE FROM THE SERIES: WHAT AWAITS US, WHAT WILL NOT MISS US?”]

Miro Švolík is one of the most important representatives of the Slovak New Wave – a generation of photographers (Rudo Prekop, Vasil Stanko, Tono Stano, Kamil Varga, Peter Župník) who studied at Prague’s FAMU in the 1980s. At the time, it was the only university in Central Europe that taught photography. Even though it was not a single, managed group with a unified creative program, they shared many visual principles which represented the beginning of postmodernism in our region. Their playful and imaginative creative processes stayed off the beaten track of the traditional Czech (and Slovak) photography. They focused on staged photography, highlighted the inner reality rather than the outer one, they were also no strangers to nudity, irony and even self-irony. Their work also carries traces of surrealism and Dadaism.

Miro Švolík’s work can be described as staged, arranged photography with high concentration  of theatricality. Its main characteristic features include playfulness, a play on scale, a combination of detailed and wide shots, human figures and various props in unexpected, often absurd situations. At first, he focused on everyday stories of regular people and their connection with nature, the relationship of men and women, but later he turned his attention to the female body, its fragmentation and ornamentalism. A Czech art critic Tereza Hrušková claims it is “the shamelessness and a certain level of naivety and simplicity that is borderline trivial, along with his playfulness and poking that lay the bases of Miro Švolík’s creative principles.” [1]

The photographic diptych in Nitra Gallery’s collection belongs to the part of Švolík’s work whose form has become his typical and well-known signature: bird’s eye snapshots of people on a compact background like concrete, asphalt or floor tiles that serve as a backdrop for various comical and poetic narratives. He achieves this with different figure arrangements and a play on perspective which allows him to turn the depicted surface into space and vice-versa.  In the first image of the series, titled What Awaits Us, we can see a figure “sawn” into two halves with a giant bow saw depicted in the form of a white silhouette – a photogram. The second image, titled What Will Not Miss Us?, shows a human head decapitated with a gigantic axe levitating above the head’s surprised torso. Formally, the photographies are based on the continuity of the individual image episodes that together create a single narrative and their “stillness” reminds us of (animated) movie frames. Content-wise, Švolík turns the initial fatalistic phraseology into parodical images with a pinch of black humour.

Miro Švolík was born in Zlaté Moravce on April 13, 1960. Between 1975 – 1979, he studied at the Secondary School of Applied Arts in Bratislava under the leadership of Milota Havránková. Between 1981 – 1987, he studied art photography at the Department of Photography at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) under prof. Ján Šmok. He has been a freelance photographer since 1988. In 1990, he received an award for young photographers at the International Center of Photography in New York. In the same year, the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic awarded his first book titled One Body, One Soul (1990). His monograph Into the Centre, which was published by Argo, was declared the most beautiful book in the Czech Republic in 2005. From 1991 to 1997, he was one of the founders and members of the Prague House of Photography. Between 2007 – 2010, he worked as a curator at the Gallery Bazilika and Gallery Solnice in České Budějovice. From 2009 until 2017, he led the Studio of Creative Photography at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. Since 2018, he has been the head of the Studio of Photography at the Art & Design Institute in Prague. His works can be found in various collections like The Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava, the Moravian Gallery in Brno, the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, the Art Institute of Chicago, MOMA New York or Musée de l’Elysée Lausanne. He lives and works in Prague and Bratislava.

Omar Mirza
January 2020

[1] Profile of Miro Švolík at artlist.cz, by Tereza Hrušková, published in 2017 at https://www.artlist.cz/miro-svolik-2660, accessed January 2, 2020.


This acquisition has been supported using public funds provided by the Slovak Arts Council.