Jiří Kolář’s development was very complex and was played out in the vast field between poetry and fine art. He accepted the world in its infinite variety with humility and perseverance. He developed his ideas on the basis of gradually realised concepts, and the result was a series of variations on a given theme. Different semantic levels merged in order to open new possibilities of expression. The artist was interested in the link between fact and art, the way the past pervades the present. His systematic work is highly reminiscent of a kind of journal in which knowledge is classified and regrouped over time. He was attracted to urban folklore in all of its forms.
Kolář created his first collages as far back as the 1930s, though he became a member of Group 42 as poet and suspended his experiments in fine art for a time. At the end of the 1940s he arrived at the first interpretations of his own verse through painting. His earliest methods included “confrontage”, a technique which fused motifs with affiliated or opposing properties. He compares elements from entirely different epochs and environments. His technique of reportage is based on a different principle, which sees Kolář bringing together processes and events on the basis of their semantic links. However, it would be a long time before the poet abandoned the written word in order to find new creative resources in which, nevertheless, he continued to apply the principles so characteristic of his own poetry.
At the turn of the 1950s and 60s he discovered the basic principles, which he then developed, perfected and combined. An important transformation took place with the creation of typescripts, in which the letter lost its original meaning. A new language was born and symbols became less and less dependent on their original function. One of the most important techniques developed during this period of invention was ‘rollage’, which Kolář arrived at by cutting up reproductions into strips and assembling them in accordance with rules established in advance. The rhythm of composition is changed and various meanings permeate each other. Rollage is based on confrontage, in which the artist places undamaged pictures alongside one another with the aim of revealing their connections.
The technique “prollage” involved peepholes from one space into another. Another picture appeared in the cut out or torn aperture. This linked up various worlds, fact merged with art, and different spiritual principles became interconnected. In his works using “muchlage” (creasing) Kolář transformed connections by creasing and deforming the image, which disrupted the original order and emphasised the role of chance. For these works he used a series of reproductions of old prints or images from magazines.
One of his most important and interesting discoveries was “chiasmage”. He tore the structures of various types of letter, musical staffs, letters, geographical maps and charts of the stars, chessboards and photographs into pieces and then assembled and pasted them anew. The original significance of the signs was lost and a completely new composition created which lent them a new order. Another unusual method involved stratification, in which Kolář glued together several layers of coloured papers and then cut through them with a scalpel. By uncovering the lower designs he revealed and created remarkable images. Stratification became a logical part of his complex system, developed concurrently or subsequently in various directions. During various phases of his career the artist created many objects whose surface he subjected to collage in different ways.
In his studio Kolář developed other procedures and variants thereon, later collected in the Dictionary of Methods. The Blind Person’s Poems were produced by stamping a series of Braille-like points onto a white sheet of paper so that they could be perceived by sight and touch. In Ventillages the artist promotes freedom and penetration of the surrounding space, as the collaged elements are only fixed in a part of their surface and are able to move about to a certain extent. Cut-through Poems involved a sheet of paper being sliced with a scalpel, which again connected the space in front of the image and behind it. In Illiterograms Kolář returned to drawing, to writing without a knowledge of the alphabet, to children’s doodles and scribbles in which strong gestures are inscribed. In Loonygrams the entire system is shattered into pieces according to the ungraspable vibrations of thinking, irrational process which rise to the surface of deranged minds. In Scores a collage is produced on the basis of a musical score, which is covered and obscured by individual elements of the collage. The Object Poems are composed of tiny elements found in nature, fragments of everyday items. Knot Poems form a boundary between a linearly created poem and a collage or assemblage.
Jiří Kolář continued the legacy of the interwar avant-garde. In the 1950s and 60s he had an enormous impact in the field of experimental art. He was close to several currents of thought without ever fully identifying with any of them. It is remarkable to what extent he influenced directly or indirectly our environment and various spheres of activity. He impacted on the feeling of thinking of poets and fine artists, on the development of the applied arts, advertising, illustration, book and magazine designs, and even on the arrangement of shop fronts. He made a significant contribution to understanding the modern way of thinking and triggered a complex perception of reality out of different, often unexpected perspectives.
Jiří Machalický: Jiří Kolář (Sbírka Jana a Medy Mládkových, Museum Kampa), Praha 2014
Josef Hlaváček, Jan Rous, Jiří Machalický, Vladimír Karfík. Příběhy Jiřího Koláře, Nakladatelství Gallery Praha a Národní galerie v Praze, 1999
Vladimír Karfík: Jiří Kolář, Český spisovatel, Praha 1994
Jindřich Chalupecký, Jiří Padrta, Miroslav Lamač, Raoul – Jean Moulin: Jiří Kolář, Odeon, Praha 1993
Jindřich Chalupecký: Jiří Kolář, Revue K, Paříž 1987
Janus a Vladimír Burda, Jiří Kolář, Gruppo Editiorale Fabbri, Milán 1981
Michel Butor, Jindřich Chalupecký, Jiří Padrta: Jiří Kolář, Verlag für moderne Kunst, Zindorf (ve spolupráci s Galerií Johanna Ricard a Institutem pro modenrí umění v Norimberku), 1979
Angello Maria Repellino, Jiří Kolář, Collages, Editions Einaudi, Turín 1976
Miroslav Lamač: Jiří Kolář, Obelisk, Praha (zkonfikováno)
Raoul – Jean Mouli, Jiří Kolář (Préface L. Aragon), Bibliopus, editions Georges Fall, paříž 1973
Miroslav Lamač et Dietrich Mahlow: Jiří Kolář, Du Mont, Kolín nad Rýnem, 1968