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SON CONFRONTS FATHER'S SCULPTURE WORK IN PAINTINGS

Keeping it in the family

THE DIALOGUE between Michal Uher, 58, and Rudolf Uher (1913-1987) is a discourse between son and father, where words have turned into works of art. In his mostly black and white abstract paintings, the son uses fragments of shapes from his father's sculptures. And, for the first time, the two are displaying their works together in an exhibition entitled Dialogue.
"I keep asking myself where [my father] got all his ideas from," says the son, Michal Uher. "But the most essential thing about his art is that in the 1960s, he elevated the material to be the goal and not merely the means of art. In his works, the material is not a medium to tell a story, but the ultimate aim [of the art]."
Because he is a painter, not a sculptor like his father, Uher tackles transferring his father's three-dimensional concepts into the two dimensions of painting.


FATHER (left) and son in their studios.
photo: Ľubo Vladár and Jana Uhrová

THE DIALOGUE between Michal Uher, 58, and Rudolf Uher (1913-1987) is a discourse between son and father, where words have turned into works of art. In his mostly black and white abstract paintings, the son uses fragments of shapes from his father's sculptures. And, for the first time, the two are displaying their works together in an exhibition entitled Dialogue.

"I keep asking myself where [my father] got all his ideas from," says the son, Michal Uher. "But the most essential thing about his art is that in the 1960s, he elevated the material to be the goal and not merely the means of art. In his works, the material is not a medium to tell a story, but the ultimate aim [of the art]."

Because he is a painter, not a sculptor like his father, Uher tackles transferring his father's three-dimensional concepts into the two dimensions of painting.

Since his teenage years Michal spent time in his father's studio, and assisted him during the creative process. As he says, even at the age when children rebel against their parents, he always respected his father's art and was "in coalition with him".

"There were always artist friends of my father around, but I have never been pushed to do art; I was free to choose. My father motivated me through his work, he never forced me into anything," says Uher.

Rudolf Uher, one of the founding figures of Slovak modern sculpture, was, to a great extent, a self-taught artist. Michal, who studied architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, has always asked himself what inspired his father, a village teacher who came from a poor family with 13 kids, to dedicate his life to art.

"My father studied at a teacher's seminary in Modra, and during his stay there he had the opportunity to work at the ceramics factory. That was his first encounter with clay and at the age of 33 he decided to be a sculptor. He started working at home, very unsystematically, and then [in 1946] he went to Paris, without speaking a word of any foreign language, to the studio of [Romanian Constantin] Brancusi, a guru of modern sculpture. His stay there marked him deeply for life," says Michal.

Michal witnessed the gradual development of his father's works from figurative to abstract sculpture, and after 1973, when his father had a stroke which left him partly paralysed, he assisted him directly with his sculptural work. He motivated his father not to give up, and made him return from stone to the original material of his artistic career, clay.

Michal's canvases contain subtle, often unspoken quotations from his father's sculptures. They show that his dialogue with his father is "quiet, thoughtful, without unnecessary words, and focused", says Katarína Bajcurová, curator of the exhibition.

The Dialogue exhibition by Rudolf and Michal Uher is on display daily except Mondays from 10:00 to 18:00 at the Galéria SPP (SPP Gallery) on Drevená 4, Bratislava until April 27. Admission is free. Tel: 02/5441-6103.

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