Bratislava City Gallery: Sculptures 1975 – 1986

Sculptures 1975 – 1986
Author: Rudolf Uher

Pálffy Palace
26. 6. 2013 – 8. 9. 2013
Curator: Eva Trojanová

Torso Earth III., 1984-85

19 July 1913, Lubina – 27 August 1987, Bratislava

In 1935 he completed his studies at the Teachers´ College in Modra. By 1950 he worked as a math and descriptive geometry teacher. Between 1941 and 1944 he studied at the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava (Department of drawing and painting) under Prof. J. Kostka, and made his first drawings and sculptures. His stay in Paris in 1946 confirmed his determination to get involved in fine art. In 1946 he held his first one-man show. Having participated in the symposium at St. Margarethen, where he established a friendship with sculptor K. Prentl, Uher founded a sculpture symposium in Vyšné Ružbachy in 1964. In his works, he connected non-commissioned sculpture with open landscape in an innovative manner.

Instead of depicting the external world, Rudolf Uher was searching for the idea of birth in his sculptors: the birth of both the world and the life. He worked with wood, stone, and welded iron. In a simple form of a sculpture he managed to reveal the interconnection of the material and of the spirit. He discovered crystallised form of the archetype for Slovak sculpture, opening the door to modern art. He defined the inner monumentality of the shape irrespective of the size. Later he abandoned the figurative basis, newly formulating his concept of the archetype. His idiosyncratic system of signs, a non-figural language, was based on geometrising structure. He balanced a rational root with a deep sensory perception of the world. Searching for an abstract form, he moved within the undiscovered field, however, his intuition and unusual inner conviction guided him in the right direction. He brought Slovak sculpture to the European context.

In the early 1970s the further development of artist´s work and his personal life were affected by ideological obstructions, namely the ban on public exhibitions and demolition of his exterior sculptures (1972). This brutal step had a negative impact on the artist´s fortunes: as a result of a serious illness he could have only used his left hand. Yet, the injustice only encouraged him to continue in his creative work. The sculpture as a “hideout of ideas” was his life. Due to his strong will and the support of his family he returned to work in 1975.

Uher was never a modeller, yet in new conditions, work with clay became the only possibility of returning to art production. He worked with clay in such a way that the result corresponded with the principle of sculpture. As the artist put it, “In clay I am searching for the same as I have searched for in stone, in wood, and in iron.” Even in difficult conditions Uher remained faithful to the essence of his work. What originally seemed to be the “piss aller” finally became the culmination of his artistic programme, even though the artist made all the sculptures – burnt clays with his left hand. He layered clay in blocks and volumes, antiqued the sculptures and supervised the glaze.

The exhibition focuses on the last period of Uher´s work during which he created dozens of burnt clays. They give evidence of overcoming the obstacles and arousing inner strength allowing a man to defeat himself.

Rudolf UHER – CLAY

I cast my mind back to childhood. The earth is slowly turned over by a plough drawn by cows… Clay, its dark shine, its pleasant bitterish smell has settled in me invisibly, and stayed there forever… 

Today I know that for me, the earth behind the plough, which is brown, greasy, shiny, rich, and desirable has not remained a mere ploughed land. It is the beginning. It is the morning of setting up the vertical.

I returned to clay for the second time. It seems to me that this time it is forever. Actually, it had accompanied me during my entire life, but it is only now that it has taken over a central role. I have directed my entire thinking at its expression, its essence of a shaping material. In clay I am searching for the same as I have searched for in stone, in wood, and in iron. For me, searching for a form in clay is a feasible programme. I continue in making sculptures due to the oldest, yet always new material, which is clay.

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