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Twisted Spoon Press

PO Box 21 - Preslova 12, 150 21 Prague 5, Czech Republic

Ladislav Novak


  ladislav novák

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:
The Transformations
of Mr. Hadlíz

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