Běla Kolářová

Běla Kolářová belongs to the generation which touched off an iconoclastic revolution and “rearmament“ in Czech art during the 1960s. This new wave hit the scene with a program of objective tendencies, proclaiming that art can exist as a process, concept, method, experiment and language, or as something “concrete“—such as a found and designed object. Kolářová’s training is in photography, and her role in the 1960s reversal was associated with this medium from the beginning. As with many of her contemporaries, she arrived at the conclusion that it is not possible to photograph the world, i.e. to use classic methods of representing reality. She therefore invented her own method and technology, the artificial negative. She pressed small objects into layers of parafin on small pieces of celophane, or she actually applied small fragments of natural and artificial materials. Instead of choosing the world that it is possible to photograph and represent as an exterior appearance, she chose the world that is possible to accept, to appropriate as an assemblage of material fragments, using light to transfer them into an autonomous picture on the sensitive surface of photographic paper. A different order of reality emerges in these photographs which operate somewhere between Man Ray’s photograms, Duchamp’s readymades and an “absolute“ record of light.



1923, Terezín / CZ, at that time ČSSR – 2010, Praha / CZ

Kolářová began taking photographs after the Second World War. In 1954 Kolářová began to develop films and to print them in a darkroom. In her photographs she reflected the life of Prague’s (Czech Republic) suburbs. Later Kolářová’s work was based on observing pieces, which she recorded on photographic paper. By the mid-sixties the artist took original photos of poets and writers, such as Samuel Beckett (1963) or Honoré de Balzac (1964), and modified them into new pictures. At the same time she started to make her first assemblages. At the beginning of the 1980s Kolářová moved to Paris (France) together with her husband Jiří Kolář. In the 1990s she lived alternately in Paris and Prague, finally moving to Prague in 1999.

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