Vladimír Boudník is a key figure within the context of modern Czech graphic design of the post-war period. This unconventional artist dedicated his life to the realisation of a humanistic vision of “saving the world through art”. He gambled everything on the absolutisation of visual association, by which he appealed to people’s ideas. He believed that revealing the creative abilities in every individual would result in a more positive approach to life and the necessary strength being acquired to transform the world fundamentally. He formulated these ideas at the turn of the forties and fifties in “explosionism”, a movement which he founded himself and of which he was the only real protagonist.
The beginnings of explosionism, the principles of which were set forth in 1949 in the Manifestos of Explosionism, combined Boudník’s literary and artistic activities. He wrote many other manifestos and proclamations, as well as poems, reviews, essays and small pieces of prose for his own samizdat edition of Explosionism, as well as keeping a diary and maintaining a voluminous correspondence. His art work was more of an accompaniment to other activities at that time. For this reason, more than the minor sketches, miniature graphics, decals and photograms, the first half of the fifties is characterised by his actions in Prague streets, during which Boudník demonstrated the “omnipotent power” of art on sections of flaky wall. The target of these euphoric illustrative proclamations was passersby, who embodied “humanity” for him. He reached out to the potential for imaginative, creative abilities in every person, in order that they became involved in the creative, positive reshaping of human society. Drawing on his unusually original inventiveness and experimental creative procedures Boudník had already more or less intuitively arrived at several fundamental considerations which stood at the centre of the transformation of world painting, above all European tachisme and American action painting. His street explosionist actions from 1949 to 1956 made of Boudník a kind of Czech pioneer of happenings.
Explosionism became the core of the whole of Boudník’s work and was the basis on which he carried out his graphic experiments over the next eighteen years. In 1954 he created a unique active graphics. The basis was not the mechanical print, but the spontaneous creative gesture. The emotive mechanical destruction of the matrix using various material fragments of metalworking waste thus basically became the absolutisation of the physical act in the creative process. In 1957 he experimented with the technique of monotype, the gestural potential of which, as a graphic designer, allowed him to express himself in a painterly way. Using the structural technique which he discovered in 1959, Boudník created an original version of “art in a crude state”, later known as textural painting. He based it on a plastic relief of organic shapes in the form of a graphic ensemble. The material structure of the graphics thus acquired the quality of an autonomous sculptural relief. In 1965 Boudník added magnetic graphics to the structures. The free ensemble entitled Derealisation from 1961 to 1962, which was initiated by his friend, poet and artist Jiří Kolář, comprises the coloured pages of an anatomical atlas, reprinted with the matrices of structural or active graphics. Boudník achieved the resulting of graphic multi-prints through the deliberate confrontation of abstract material structures and realistically depicted human anatomies.
Boudník again updated the principles of active graphics using drypoint in Letters from the middle of the sixties, a work reminiscent of the Decrees written by Jiří Balcar from 1959 to 1960, which were often combined with relief structures or monotype. Boudník deliberately obscured their message by overturning the texts during the final printing of the plate. In 1965 Boudník undertook a set of magnetic graphics in which he expanded the expressive possibilities of existing structures. Their relief comprised steel shavings, which Boudník “organised” into abstract clusters on the surface using magnets.
The last experiment involved symmetrical structural graphics on the theme of variations on the Rorschach test (from 1966), which drew on the associations generated by abstract blots on ten cards, which were then interpreted by an expert. Boudník used the principle of symmetry by overlaying the matrix along the central axis. The irregular blots which were created during printing created spectral organic forms of bugs and the animal world.
Boudník’s creative work came to an abrupt end with his premature death in 1968. However, the originality of his ideas and artwork made him a key figure who established one of the paths of Czech post-war abstraction.