Visual artist and poet, Ladislav Novak, born on August 4, 1925 in Turnov and grew up in Třebič,
where he attended Gymnasium. During this time he was a member of a
student surrealist group and established contact with Vitezslav Nezval. Graduating in 1944,
he then studied Czech and History at Prague's Charles University from 1945-1950, writing his
thesis on "Rhyme and Assonance in the Work of Vítězslav Nezval."
Over the next few years he would meet the leading Czech surrealists,
which was to have a lasting impact on his work. In 1954 he
moved back to Třebič to take up a post teaching
Czech language at the Gymnasium. He was to remain there until
his death in 1999.
Though his work can more properly be placed within the vein of
surrealism, both orthodox and unorthodox, he was also close to
the artists of the New Sensibility of the 1960s, and drawing on Dada he was instrumental in advancing sound poetry, recordings of which he made in the 1950s,
and concrete poetry. With Jiří Kolář and Josef Hiršal he formed
the first Czech Group of Experimental Poetry. In the visual arts,
he developed the techniques of alchemage (chemically treating
reproductions of pictures) and froissage (interpreting the creased
lines made at random by crumpling paper), which brought him the
most recognition. Both methods gave free reign to chance.
From 1979 he was prohibited by Czechoslovakia's former communist
regime from exhibiting and publishing at home. Throughout Europe,
however, he had a number of exhibitions and a general retrospective
in the U.S. Though he did not die "unknown and forgotten," his
relative seclusion in Třebič certainly had an effect on the attention his work received, especially in Prague.
On the other hand, living detached from Prague's artistic circles
gave him the mental space and time to remain true to his own program and to concentrate on systematically
developing his own ideas.
As Novak stated: "And tomorrow I return to my exile in
Trebic. But where am I at home, really? In Prague? In Venice?
Anywhere where I have a table to work on, maybe only a piece of
foam for a bed and a blanket, good light, a hot shower, peace
and quiet for work, and someone to have an intelligent conversation
with once and a while ... I'm afraid I'm asking for too much."
published by TSP:
of Mr. Hadlíz