Michal Jakabčic — Trees

The Nitra Gallery collection contains several paintings created by Michal Jakabčic. He has left behind a significant artistic footprint...

Inv.č.: O-1623

Artist: Michal Jakabčic
Title: Trees
Year: 1985
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 100 x 115 cm
Signature: none

The Nitra Gallery collection contains several paintings created by Michal Jakabčic. He has left behind a significant artistic footprint full of symbolism that would deserve a more serious theoretical response (even though we have the artist’s monograph and know a rather lot about his personal and professional life, his work is still an interpretational challenge).

Jakabčic’s creative style was influenced by poeticism and the language of new figuration and metaphysical painting. Later on, he would usually lean toward surrealism which has turned him into a phenomenon of Slovak imaginative painting of the 20th century. He developed his painting language in the fist half of the 1960s by studying the works of Paul Klee or André Derain and others. It gave birth to his unique paintings with intensive colour schemes and figures (puppets).

In the 1970s, he was an engaged artist that followed the ideals of socialist realism. However, despite following the period’s ideology, his work was able to preserve emotive elements full of various symbols (the moon, woman, bird, flower, umbrella, horse, cow, etc.). He composed his ideas in a similar way to his partner/wife, Viera Žilinčanová – as stage backdrops.

He was inspired by Slovak cultural history. His childhood experiences (elements) determined the character of his magical realism which served him well throughout his whole career. Thanks to his high level of craftsmanships, Jakabčic’s work can be considered a painter’s ballad of poeticised (Slovak) landscape. The final phase of his creative life (the second half of the 1980s and the 1990s) carried (sub/conscious?) elements of postmodernism.

The image titled Trees (1985) is a symbolic portrayal of twelve tress, or rather human torsos resembling tress, set in a nighttime landscape covered in the darkness of the night. The bright torsos (bodies) of the trees shine in the shadows of the night. A blue moon emerges from the darkness…

The simple theme is in contradiction with the quality of his technical and artistic craftsmanship. The symbolical portrayal of the nighttime landscape has many possible interpretations. The tree as a symbol of life. The human torso as our fragmented corporal shell. The inconspicuous moon. The simple scene (stage) awaiting how our (own) story of fright and terror develops.

In contemplation of the painting’s scene – is it supposed to portray afterlife… or the time before encountering all of life’s troubles? We do not know as the goal of Michal Jakabčic’s works is not to tell the whole story. They are supposed to stir the surface of the ocean of all the phantasy questions we all carry around.

The torso-tree symbolism can be also found throughout some of the artist’s other works: e.g. Sleeping Rooster (1983); Evening Forest (1983); Let the Birds Sing (1980), Quiet Solitude (1983), Moonshine (1981). His unique creative personality deserves our attention also thanks to hindsight.

Michal Jakabčic: (September 14, 1930 Klenovec – October 29, 2001 Bratislava) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava (1949-1955) – (prof. L. Čemický and prof. J. Mudroch). In 1995, he was awarded a so-called honorary year at AFAD. Between 1957-1961, he worked as a literary editor at the Pravda daily journal. He was a member of the Union of Slovak Fine Artists (1956-1962, membership suspended, resumed in 1963), the Life creative group (1963-1965), the Continuity group (1966-1969) and the Slovak Fine Artists Society (1995). In 1957, he moved permanently to Bratislava. He exhibited at many events both at home and abroad (e.g. the São Paulo Biennial 1969). At the 2nd and 11th annual Festival of International Painting in Cagnes sur Mer in France, he received the National Award (1971) and the Jury Award (1980), respectively. The state-operated Art Centrum used to present his work internationally (Austria, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the U.S., Japan). In 1984, he attended the 16th Biennial in Venice. Together with his wife Viera Žilinčanová, they held an exhibition tour in Japan (1991-1992) and exhibited also at the Art Gallery in Cologne(2001). He also received the Cyprián Majerník Award (1969, 1972) and a gold medal at the 1983 Autumn Salon in Paris.

Ľudmila Kasaj Poláčková
April 2020

PODUŠEL, Ľubomír: Michal Jakabčic. Bratislava : Slovart Publishing, 2001