Fotograf Magazine

Miroslav Tichý: The Legend of Beauty (20. 11. 1926 – 12. 4. 2011)

To briefly describe not only the importance and magic of the work of Miroslav Tichý but also the periphery of his acceptance and refusal is an impossible task. This is a story that remains creative and incomplete, like some unfinished novel about an artist who formed his own hidden world founded upon disconnection and waywardness.

I met Tichý personally at the end of 2006, when his first independent exhibition ended in Kunsthaus Zürich, a bastion of Swiss art virtually impenetrable to other Czech artists. I was a frequent guest in Kyjov in the months that preceded Tichý’s retrospective in the Brno House of Arts and in the accompanying book. At my lodging, a lady there told me about how Tichý used to try to inconspicuously photograph her when she was young. His friends from various times of his life told me about his perspective and wide-ranging education. To my surprise, Tichý himself first told me that he is not worthy of any exhibition. However, we spent several days together debating his work and life, including his study at the Academy, and the years he spent isolated from society.

It is impossible to deny the unusual confidence and diplomatic skills of Roman Buxbaum, Tichý’s discoverer (though Tichý’s existence was known to many long before). Buxbaum’s foundation, Tichý oceán, nevertheless began in time to manage the work in a way that showed minimum regard for the author himself and his loved ones. He dictated ever more strict terms and conditions to Tichý’s neighbour, Jana Hebnarová who had taken care of the author after the death of his mother, and he illegitimately assumed position universal copyrights to Tichý’s work. It was this woman who thanklessly found herself at the centre of interest in the suddenly famous artist. She helped Tichý to preserve his world until the end. Besides the ever-more-difficult care, she was also responsible for settling legal relationships concerning his work and protecting it from unwelcome visits. As Nataša von Kopp eloquently notes in her film, WorldStar, the encounter of the private preserve of Tichý’s life and the bombastic pomp of world galleries turned out to be effective but, at the same time, absurdly incompatible.

Kyjov, a seemingly ordinary Moravian-Slovak town, hides within many magical anachronisms and a number of truly distinct individuals. Besides Jiří Veselý, the author of lovely poems about girls coming of age and who, by the way, claimed that Tichý had a tendency towards a platonic image of female beauty and towards Czech-made rum, the town also produced Zdeněk Vašíček, polymath and dissident, who was a close friend of Tichý in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Besides Tichý himself, Vašíček was the first kind and attentive reader of my text included in Tichý’s first Czech monograph. Two years ago when I convinced him to write a personally-conceived essay for the catalogue of the Krakow exhibition of Tichý and his companions, after several days of deliberation Vašíček said to me: “I will write about Tichý only after his death.” The sad irony is that Zdeněk Vašíček died just a day after the passing of his childhood friend.

So we are perhaps left forever with the unanswered question: who was the real Tichý? A passionate artist who in the hunt for a motif went entirely beyond aesthetic boundaries? Or a sarcastic prophet, as he enjoyed presenting himself? A more scrutinizing look makes it easier to understand the pride in which he ignored his fame in order to maintain his own integrity. Tichý was a high God of his own world, and knew it all too well.

When I got to the train station in Kyjov this Saturday, I realized in the middle of that flood of spring flowers and fragrances the main thing that remained with me personally from Miroslav Tichý; he transformed in unmistakable fashion this entire little Moravian town into a fantastic world of (not only female) beauty. His photographs, drawings and paintings shall remain here forever as a fantastic documentary of seduction and desire. There is nobody left to thank, which is an even greater credit to Miroslav. The legend is complete, to live one’s own life. To you, Mr. Tichý, serenity and peace.

Pavel Vančát