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House of Art
TUES–SUN 10.00–18.00

Surůvka, Jiří / Twins

1997

digital print, synthetic canvas, 150 × 150 cm

purchased in 2020 with the financial assistance of the Czech Ministry of Culture

This work is important for a number of reasons. It is a typically provocative example of Surůvka’s art, combining a conflict-free, harmonious element with a contrasting element that represents violence. The artist plays with contrasts by integrating distinct and autonomous signs with each other; viewers are pushed out of their comfort zone and away from clear and obvious moral standpoints. Stability is eroded by the visual integration of two entirely incompatible worlds – childlike innocence on the one hand, and on the other hand Adolf Hitler, one of the worst mass murderers of all time. However, this combination does not take place as a dialogic confrontation, but rather in the form of a direct projection of some of Hitler’s typical attributes (such as his moustache and his hair) onto the physiognomy of a child’s face. The power of this work lies in Surůvka’s brave decision to impinge on the inviolable world of childhood and, within this world, to address the enormously weighty trauma of 20th-century history. Alternatively, we can also view the work as a certain deconstruction of a myth. The familiar face of the tyrant, exuding concentrated fury, is replaced by the face of an innocent child – and this hints at the possibility of a certain reconciliation, an awareness that every person is born as a pure being, and can be perverted by circumstances or by upbringing; this awareness places an enormous responsibility on us all. 

SURŮVKA JIŘÍ

(1961, Ostrava) One of the most important figures in post-1989 Czech art and a driving force on Ostrava’s art scene. Surůvka’s work does not take a stable and consistent approach to media; this is partly due to the fact that he never underwent formal art training, instead graduating in Czech language and literature from the University of Ostrava’s Faculty of Arts (where he studied from 1984 to 1992). The dominant forms in his oeuvre include performance, body art and action art, but also painting, objects, photography or digital images. Jiří Surůvka is an openly political (or in more general terms, socially engaged) artist. Since the 1980s he has appeared in his alter egos of Batman and a police officer to present performances that critically disrupt the schematic and defective aspects of contemporary society. Surůvka’s work constantly incorporates residual elements connected with war – either explicitly (in the figure of Adolf Hitler) or in more general terms (flying bombs, military aircraft, or the starving victims of concentration camps). His work combines social engagement with a strong sense of irony. His artistic performances usually incorporate a certain element of humour, though behind this there is a seriousness of intent; he is often associated with the neo-dada movement. His fondness for live artistic interventions has been reflected in his membership of a band, František Lozinsky (together with Petr Lysáček and František Kowolowski), as well as his role as a founder of the Malamut performance festival in Ostrava. Surůvka was also the founder of the independent Jáma gallery in Ostrava, and for many years he has taught at the new media studio of the University of Ostrava’s Faculty of Fine Arts and Music. In 2001 (alongside Ilona Neméth) he was selected to present his work at the Venice Biennale.
wood, metal, plastic, height 35 cm, purchased 2020 with the support of the Czech Ministry of Culture
1996

Surůvka, Jiří / Czech village

acrylic, canvas, perforated in the mouths of the figures, 80 × 100 cm, purchased in 2021 with funding from the Czech Ministry of Culture
1995

Surůvka, Jiří / Pater noster

acrylic, canvas, 69 × 49 cm, purchased in 2021 with funding from the Czech Ministry of Culture
2002

Surůvka, Jiří / Absinth Drinker

Axentowicz, Theodor / Girl in a fur

Axentowicz, Theodor / Girl in a fur

undated
Balabán, Daniel / Concrete (Below a Slag-Heap)

Balabán, Daniel / Concrete (Below a Slag-Heap)

1983
Balabán, Daniel / Old Eroticism

Balabán, Daniel / Old Eroticism

1996
Bartoš, Břetislav / Wallachian Madonna

Bartoš, Břetislav / Wallachian Madonna

1921
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