Bednář, Daniel / Prague cemetery
acrylic, canvas, 180×150 cm
With its mysterious iconography, this painting encourages dark shades of reading. The dominant feature is the vanishing-point of two high walls which create a psychological barrier, a corridor which is the scene of an anxious drama. The actors are a naked man, shackled and writhing on the ground, and an ape, confronting the man with an expressive grimace. The ape with a halo refers to deviousness, slyness, intrigue and power games, which in our society are played out under the cover of morally and ethically respected institutions – formerly the Church, and nowadays politics. The symbols of the wall and the ape – which represent captivity, anxiety and the dark sides of the human soul – resonate critically with allusions to life under totalitarian regimes (such as the Berlin Wall, or the Czech poet Vladimír Holan’s line “Fifteen years I talked to a wall”), yet we can also see traces of the painter’s own personal traumas, related to family life and the inability to exist as free beings. The fluid white figure stepping out of the background may be a symbol of hope, the light at the end of a tunnel; it is an existential force that brings balance to the painting (while also referring to the famous line by the Czech underground band Plastic People: “We live in Prague, that’s where one day the Spirit himself will appear”). The pottery fragments making up the fractured figure of an angel, glued into the surface of the canvas, represent a direct reference to the title of the painting, as they did indeed originate in a Prague cemetery.