CONTEMPORARY ARTIST VLADIMÍR KOMPÁNEK CAPTURES TRADITIONAL WINTER HOLIDAYS

Top pick: Slovak winter on canvas

PICTURESQUE winter landscapes and scenes from traditional village life are the prevailing themes in paintings in an exhibition that opened last Thursday in Bratislava's Zichy Palace.
Even though it is titled Christmas Time, the display is both a reminder of the upcoming holidays and a celebration of the 75th birthday of Slovak artist Vladimír Kompánek. Kompánek's exhibited paintings do not focus only on Christmas but also on the magical winter season and the beauty of the countryside in snow.
"We have chosen the paintings in cooperation with the artist and most of them are related to Christmas. Vladimír Kompánek comes from central Slovakia where many traditions, such as carol singing, are still practiced [in the countryside]," says Viktor Hulík, curator of the exhibition.


WALKING with 'Turoň' features Kompánek's favourite motif, a small horse.
photo: Courtesy of FO ART Studio

PICTURESQUE winter landscapes and scenes from traditional village life are the prevailing themes in paintings in an exhibition that opened last Thursday in Bratislava's Zichy Palace.

Even though it is titled Christmas Time, the display is both a reminder of the upcoming holidays and a celebration of the 75th birthday of Slovak artist Vladimír Kompánek. Kompánek's exhibited paintings do not focus only on Christmas but also on the magical winter season and the beauty of the countryside in snow.

"We have chosen the paintings in cooperation with the artist and most of them are related to Christmas. Vladimír Kompánek comes from central Slovakia where many traditions, such as carol singing, are still practiced [in the countryside]," says Viktor Hulík, curator of the exhibition.

Besides Christmas, Kompánek has also drawn inspiration from the holiday of Shrovetide, the period traditionally lasting from Three Kings Day (January 6) to Ash Wednesday (six weeks before Easter). The original customs connected to this holiday were masked processions and feasts marking the transition from winter to spring. One custom involved people walking around the village dressed up as animals. The main character was an ox, which symbolised fertility in the old Slovak tradition.

Despite many of these customs not being practiced any longer, people still understand their origin and the legends their ancestors connected to the holidays. Therefore, Kompánek's paintings and sculptures conjure up a mysterious atmosphere. The images of musicians and people dressed up in costumes have become one of the characteristics of his work.

Another essential element of Kompánek's art is a small horse, his favourite object, which is often depicted in red and symbolises childhood. It appears in his paintings and sculptures, either as a toy or as a horse with a carriage. One of his series of various wooden animals is entitled 'For children and adults - for joy and forgetting' which also shows a longing for a return to the age of innocence.

Kompánek's art style is very playful, almost childish, using geometrical shapes in a simple manner. He states that he is fascinated by the child's view of the world, a completely different perspective through which everything seems new and exciting.

Kompánek belongs to the group of artists that formed around Mikuláš Galanda in 1957 and that significantly influenced Slovak modern art with its search for originality and the return to folklore.

"Slovak themes are predominant in the art [of these artists] but they have found a new dimension in those themes and given them new verve," says Hulík.

The Christmas Time exhibition by Vladimír Kompánek runs at the Gallery Z, Ventúrska 9, Bratislava until January 5. Open daily except Sunday from 12:00 until 18:00. Free admission.

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