Bolf, Josef / At night
oil, canvas; 75 × 95 cm
purchased 2018 with the support of the Czech Ministry of Culture
His dark canvases subconsciously draw on his generation’s residual memories of their bleak lives under the totalitarian regime, mixed with imprints of personal melancholy and fear. His paintings thematize the trauma of living on Prague’s largest housing estate, to which Bolf and his parents moved while the estate was still under construction. The concrete and mud scenery of this burgeoning urban jungle is depicted as a lair of demonic monsters swallowing fragile children’s souls, and these scenes became an integral part of Bolf’s more general thematization of the apocalypse. Inner traumas are sublimated and metamorphosed into half-human, half-animal beings. Bolf’s canvases are created in multiple layers; he combines paint with distinct features of drawing, collage and airbrushing. He not only lays bare the searing wounds to the human soul, but also “wounds” the painting itself by deliberately allowing paint to run, smudging it and scratching through the surface.