The work of Stanislav Judl, a significant part of which was created during only ten years, is an important contribution to Czech art of the eighties. Although the year of his birth puts the artist in the 12.15 generation (during his studies for instance he encountered Petr Pavlík, Vladimír Novák, Václav Bláha and Michael Rittstein, all of whom had previously studied at the Paderlík Atelier; Ivan Kafka, another member of 12.15, is a year younger), apart from a short early period of grotesque figuration he has little in common those figures. On the contrary his work evinces several traits in common with the postmodern generation of the eighties, though in its gravitation toward transcendental values it goes beyond this too. Judl has traditionally been allocated an interstitial position within the context of Czech art. He is a creative loner in the mould of Václav Stratil, Margita Titlová, Josef Žáček and Petr Veselý.
At school and for a time afterwards Judl earned nothing from conventional period production. He painted pictures in the spirit of children’s illustrations of the time. More personal motifs gradually crept into this undemanding iconography, e.g. references to the mechanically manipulated person (Mechanical Man, 1979-80). A key work marking a departure from his early period is the oil-on-plywood Schizophrenia (1979). Its two parts – on the left a childishly conceived cat and paper swallows, on the right a monochrome crimson surface – are separated by a brutal chasm symbolising the watershed in his work. The period already mentioned of grotesque pictures follows, the titles of which often feature a play on words (Linguist, Waiting for the Day which Never Comes, Choke /by Soul/; Wholesale with Small Goods).
Judl was already caught up in the circle of unofficial art at this time. He participated in two important events which took place outside galleries and were broken up by the police without viewers being able to see their results: the meeting on tennis courts in the grounds of Sparta, Prague in June 1982, and the Chmelnice symposia at Mutějovice in autumn 1983. At the second event he created the installation Lacetka, named after the textile ribbon. A subtle linear cone was hung by its tip on one of the wires between the columns of a hop garden, thus creating a direct optical link with the sky as a symbol of a transcendental sphere. The same motif, combined with a silhouette of a stretched out figure, then plays a key role in the series which he entitled Grey Pictures (1983-84). Both sharp and unfocussed lines of various intensities of black on a white background “soiled” by unclear traces and frequent other nuances create a rich visual structure to these pictures.
The experience of the Mutějovice symposium meant a definitive decision for Judl that experimental procedures expanding the sphere of art beyond its traditional boundaries did not correspond to his plans and objectives. On the contrary, the central theme which he proceeded to examine both in his artwork and his thoughts was the historical transformation of the traditional hung picture, the loss of its aura, and the possibility of reclaiming this sacred dimension. If in the Grey Cycle motifs appear which assign it a place within the first archetypal layer of Czech postmodernism (boat, cultish cart, meander), he adopts a critical stance to the following series of wild painting linked with wordplay, banality and empty meaning. On the contrary, he “enters territory which had been more or less taboo for artists of the twentieth century: the question of the existence of God.” (P. Pečinková). He found the inspiration to consider the relationship of the terrestrial and the absolute in the baroque, especially in the study by Zdeněk Kalista entitled The Face of the Baroque (which was published in Munich in 1982 in the Testimony edition). He attempts to return a sacred function to the picture, a feature highlighted not only by the titles chosen (Sanctuary, Martyr, Madonna, Saint in a Hat), but also by certain formal characteristics (unconventional frames, the Ark triptych conceived of as a winged altar). Pictures based on a phantasmagorical imagination and the techniques of the old masters are conceived of as a postmodern allegory. Alongside a preoccupation with the baroque, their complex iconography reflects an interest stretching back many years in heraldry, which Judl was involved in on a virtually professional level. In his last period he examined the theme of death, which interested him as a timeless topic which art had always confronted. And death finally caught up with him: in 1989, shortly before his own solo exhibition prepared for the Railway Workers’ Central Cultural House in Prague, he committed suicide for reasons still unknown.
Though Judl was a man without faith or personal religious experience, the questioning of the absolute became the main theme of his output. Although this cut him off from the main currents of Czech postmodernism, Pavla Pečinková in a monograph on Judl says that “his symbolist visions make him far more postmodern than anyone (including himself) suspected at the time...”. He drew on the entire range of postmodern techniques, such as paraphrase, quotation and allegorical reinterpretation, though he stands in opposition “to their deliberate indifference to meanings and did not abandon the modernist concept of art as reaching out to the absolute. One of the most important aspects of our postmodernism was the rejection of the moral aspects of art, the very aspect which Judl so doggedly insisted on.”
Author of the annotation
Group exhibitions included in ARTLIST.
Hvězda/Hájenka 1981, 1981
Chmelnice v Mutějovicích, 1983