Jiří Beránek - Intervening Period
The sculptor Jiří Beránek (born 1945) belongs to the generation of artists who, as fresh graduates of art colleges, had to define themselves in their work during the repressive period of hard-line ideology and resulting ‘moral unease’ in Czechoslovakia during the 1970s. The existential basis of Beránek’s work reflects this adverse situation, though it also represented an effort to maintain a continuity of development from the dynamic art of the 1960s that the regime of the 1970s tried, on the contrary, to sever completely.
Beránek’s sculptures are created in an inwardly focused way – through axe cuts and the sculptor’s thoughts, an object materialises that searches for a correlation with its surroundings and with the past. The sculpture thus becomes a permeable vessel, a complex record and a ritual means of communication at the same time. Its location is determined above all by imaginary ‘nodal points’ of historical human activity or events and processes of nature in the landscape. The site in question is often an intersection between the forces of nature and human fate. Jiří Beránek’s work undoubtedly expresses the course of his own life, but – perhaps even more importantly – it also reveals what transcends an individual person’s mortal life.
Beránek’s project conceived specially for the Jesuit College, GASK’s home, reflects the opposite poles of its historical identity: a building originally created as a place of spiritual education was, after the Jesuits left Kutná Hora in the 1770s, soon transferred to the management of the army and served for more than two centuries as a military base. The College’s profoundly split fate continues to manifest itself in the sharp contrast between the noble architectural interiors and the preserved Stalinist murals dating from the early 1950s. Beránek brings these seemingly irreconcilable realities together in a notion that is common both to religious and military thinking: that we face the end of the world. The looming threat of humanity’s extinction is, especially in the current world climate, a powerful incentive to realise the values of our fragile existence.