November 17, 2003

Anima Animus Animation

Having recently discovered a liking for the art of Jan Švankmajer (as mentioned in a previous entry), I ordered a DVD compilation of some of his short films, which is still, I think, on its way, and a book: Anima Animus Animation which was published in Prague in 1998 to catalogue an exhibition of his and of his wife Eva’s art, whilst also serving as general survey of the couple’s lives and works. A few images scanned from this book follow below…

Isolation of the hour-glass, 1964, object.

The book emphasizes the central importance of the Švankmajers#8217; forty-and-more year union (they were married in 1960), and, on its title page, their names are conjoined as EVAŠVANKMAJERJAN. Even so, one can easily see two distinct artistic personæ at play, between which I must admit a definite preference for the husband’s work over the wife’s.

The Natural History Cabinet VI, 1973, Object.

I was intrigued to read more about the ‘natural history’ images featured in my previous entry:

At the beginning of the 1970s, I started a wild project - I wanted to create an encyclopædia of a kind of alternative world, Švank-meyer’s Bilderlexicon. I started mapping its fictitious fauna and flora, I thought up an equivalent technology and architecture, history and cartography […] After two years of work the project was left as a torso, because I came to realise it would take me all my life. It also occurred to me that if a mystificatory encyclopædia is to be realised, it needs to be published, something which in the 1970s seemed utterly impossible…—JŠ.

I wonder if the abortive Bilderlexicon was any influence on Luigi Serafini?

Kašpárek, 1994, marionette.

Not only was publication problematic for Švankmajer in the 1970s, but, for much of the same decade he was prevented from making films, too, after editing some unauthorised documentary footage into his 1972 short Leonardo’s Diary.

The Alchemical Wedding, 1994, object.


Homunculus, 1994, obect.

Whilst surrealism has been the most pervasive influence on Švankmajer’s work (he joined the Czech Surrealist group in 1970, and has been a member ever since), the mannerist art of Rudolfine Prague, and in particular the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, has also left its mark, never more obviously than in the following piece:

Shell-head, 1996, object.

Clicking on any of the images above will open a larger version of the same.

Posted by misteraitch at November 17, 2003 02:00 PM | TrackBack