During the war Olga Karlíková studied at the Officina Pragensis design school, after which until 1948 she attended the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague at the ateliers led by A. Strnadel and A. Kybal. As well as free work she created designer textiles for ÚBOK (the Institute of Residential and Clothing Culture), an institution for which many other artists worked. At a time when it was impossible to exhibit abstract art, this design work allowed her to work with abstraction, as can be seen in the Czech contribution to the World Exhibition EXPO 58. Karlíková lived and worked in Prague, and from the middle of the sixties worked in ateliers in Northern Bohemia.
Olga Karlíková is a member of the generation which during the sixties completed its entry into the wider international context, only to experience repressive normalisation after the August occupation in 1968. At first her work was inspired by the circle surrounding Václav Bartovský, in whose atelier she encountered artists who in the fifties formed the UB 12 group, an offshoot of the Umělecká beseda group, V. Boštík, S. Kolíbal, A. Šimotová, J. John, Věra and Vladimír Janoušek, and many others. (A critic and theoretician close to them in opinion was Jindřich Chalupecký, whom she met through Bartovský). However, Olga Karlíková was also interested by structural abstraction and art informel, which allowed her to commence an examination of her life-long themes of space, land and sea, later joined by the song of birds, whales and recordings of their movement. Her early work with the structure of colour transformed symbols of land or water and opened them up to an endless space, which became her dominant theme. However, this space had a deceptive form – in pictures of friends’ ateliers, chapels, houses in Segurette, as well as in pictures of the sea, which the artist encountered in France in the middle of the sixties. In these pictures space is multiplied by light and its reflections, creating subtle abstract constructions. Her pictures of the sea, space and light represent the search for a pictorial expression and the symbolisation thereof, similarly to Václav Boštík who linked symbols of the cosmos and its sacral foundation in his pictures.
During the sixties Olga Karlíková’s work turns to the acoustics of natural space, to details of its intangible infinity, represented in her work by the song of birds or whales, the croaking of frogs, as well as the sounds of bells or drums. She recorded these in drawings using pencil, brush and ink or pen, and her records have a scriptural character. Sometimes she captured the songs of birds and sounds of nature by means similar to seismographic recordings of the course and intensity of sound on a gradually revolving role of paper. However, she transferred these recordings into pictorial form, though these recordings retained their scriptural character in colour surfaces defining the space. The recordings of natural sounds, voices, tones or song unfold with the movement of their originators, with swifts, humming birds, rooks, larks within the space of their existence. However, space and time and the course of movement were not abstract categories for Karlíková, they interpreted the artist’s perception of their permanence and infinity while operating as a profound experience generalised into spiritual form. The polarity of intimate, searching and listening sensitivity was balanced by a knowledge of the general order and its eternality. Her perception and interpretation of the appearance of nature can be understood as being close in a certain way to Chinese poetry and Taoist meditations on natural phenomena, which she was well acquainted with. If you understand the heart of these two plants / then you can measure the surf of the sea, writes a Chinese poet.
In this way the work of Olga Karlíková can be understood as a score or notation. However, her recordings of natural sounds are not bound by the five-line stave, but spread out in the form of a mobile recording of sounds into space. In the sixties John Cage and his pupils were involved with sound recordings and notations at Black Mountain College. At the end of the fifties Edgar Varése created a score of his audio construction Poéme électronique for Corbusiér’s pavilion at Expo 58, and in the sixties Milan Grygar created his performative acoustic drawings. The work of Olga Karlíková represents, in the structural pictorial forms of earth and water, a spontaneous analogy to land art, while at the same time the transformation of natural acoustic phenomena anticipated conceptualism, a fact borne out by her participation in 1993 at the exhibition of conceptual art by M. Palla, M. Šejn and M. Maur.
After 1977, when she signed Charta 77, her work was completely removed from public space. However, it was presented during the eighties at an extensive exhibition prepared by Ludvík Hlaváček in the cloister at Doksany. Her inputs into the intimacy of natural appearance and its significance were perceived at that time as an ethical gesture.
Všeobecná encyklopedie ve čtyřech svazcích Diderot, díl II
Dějiny českého výtvarného umění VI/I, II, Academia, Praha 2007
L. Vachtová, Obrazy Olgy Karlíkové, Host do domu 8/1964
L. Vachtová, Země Olgy Karlíkové, VU 8/1969,
M. Hlaváčková, text v katalogu výstavy v Roudnici n.L. 1990
J. Valoch, O.K. text katalogu výstavy v Roudnici n.L. 1990
J. Valoch, O.K. text katalogu výstavy v Litoměřicích 1996
J. Valoch, Reflexe některých přírodních fenomenů, text kat. výstavy v Hranicích 1997
M. Nešlehová, Poselství jiného výrazu, Praha 1997
V. Cílek, Dýchat s ptáky, Dokořán, Praha 2009
M. Vojtěchovský, Olga Karlíková, svišťovi, žáby a skřivani, taxt k výstavě Galerie Školská 28 2010
J. Rous, O.K. Prostor pro světlo a řeč přírody, text katalogu k výstavě v Topičově salonu 2010