The painter Vladimír Houdek belongs to the neo-modernist generation of young artists who are not afraid to experiment with classical painting and to create new visual forms through a confrontation of the concepts of modernist and postmodernist images. For Houdek, the act of painting is conditional upon an education in and conscious communication with historically well known works, which still remain a semantic question mark for us and serve as the starting point for a creative interpretation. Born in Nové Město in Moravia, Houdek originally studied window dressing and is at present completing his study of painting at the Vladimír Skrepl Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. In 2010 he won first prize in the fourth annual Critics’ Prize for Young Painting, and in the same year was nominated as Personality of the Year. In 2012 he finally won the Jindřich Chalupecký Award.
He expresses himself by means of thematically integrated cycles of pictures based either on large or miniature formats. At the beginning of his career he was attracted by expressionistic series of visual stories on the search for a place from which to define his relationship to painting, firstly against the background of a wood or an impenetrable Ernst-inspired ticket in which he embeds morphologically interchangeable, bizarre forms of man and beast (see the exhibition entitled The Boy Náprstník, Galerie Jelení, 2010). Later the thickets would be transformed into a fixed wall in front of which a figure stands, perhaps a guide to art history, often endowed with a donkey’s head, whose gestures indicate that he has come up against the limits of his sensuous experience: it is not clear what lies beyond this horizon. The figure is clearly disoriented by the sheer weight of the miscellaneous conceptions of painterly tendencies (informel, cubism, constructivism, etc.) and their interpretation. An important figure in the cycle Measurement of Space (Critic’s Gallery, the exhibition “Around and Around, Into Silence”, 2010) is a man whose prototype is the Germany artist and photographer Richard Agner, who is trying to record by sketch and snapshot the free fall of bodies in space and reveal the mysteries of the physical laws of the material world. In the Yellow Triptych this man is measuring the space using his own body. In the cycle Melancholy, created at the same time and exhibited in the same year in the Moravian Gallery, contrasts of light, shade and darkness become part of the geometric structure and optical material. From this point on the artist continued to develop purely geometric pictures inspired by ancient philosophy – measurements of the cosmos using cones, circles, pyramids, etc. The cycle Anagrams does away with figures and draws on the psychology of vivid colours in morphological anagrams, such as the gravitation of a controlled cone, and draws attention to the black background with contrasting frames by means of an expression of the spherical dynamic of cosmic bodies.
The artist states that his pictures, conceived of as layered references to the history of art, begin on the basis of intuition and are only transformed into their final rational form during the actual process of painting. A useful aid for expressing these semantic references is the repetitively used circle, which Houdek first conceived of as a black “empty” space, into which he embeds his personal content. The semantic layering of references is symbolised by the collage, the methodology of which Houdek has developed in such a way that he pastes painted strips of paper onto canvas. He seeks inspiration for his considerations regarding painting from many different sources, and his methodological starting points determine both the mental and formal character of the work, whose current visual specificity is a grey-black colour scheme and the inventive configuration of forms within the picture.