Gabriel Kosmály - Expressions

 Beginnings of Photography

        There are two distinct scientific processes that combine to make photography possible. The first of them is optic. The Camera Obscura (dark room) had been in existence for at least four hundred years. There is a drawing, dated 1519, of a Camera Obscura drawn by Leonardo da Vinci. The second process was chemical. In the sixteen hundreds Robert Boyle, a founder of the Royal Society, had reported that silver chloride turned dark under exposure, but he appeared to believe that it was caused by exposure to the air, rather than to light. In 1727 Johann Henirich Schulze discovered that certain liquids change colour when exposed to light and at the beginning of the nineteenth century Thomas Wedgwood experimented successfully captured images but his silhouettes could not survive.

        The beginning of photography is often linked with two brothers, French soldiers, Nicéphore and Claude Niépce, who first used material that hardened on exposure to light. Especially Nicéphore created the first successful picture in 1827. After the death of his brother Claude in 1829 Nicéphore started his partnership with Louis Daguerre. Daguerre discovered a way of developing photographic plates, a process which greatly reduced the exposure time from eight hours down to half an hour. He also discovered that an image could be made permanent by immersing it in salt. Following a report on this invention by Paul Delaroche, a leading scholar of the day, the French government bought the rights to it in July 1839. Details of the process were made public on 19 August 1839, and Daguerre named it the Daguerreotype. By the improving of that method was developed the photography during the 19-century as we know it today.

Gabriel Kosmály and neo-expressionism

        Expressionism, as a style of visual art, was born in Germany in 1905. The artists assembled in associations Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) put the stress towards expression of internal feelings by coloured or shaped deformations of objects. Same processes were provided also in the field of contemporary photography. There were from documentary photograph derived or emancipated art photography as independent art moving. Whereas before 1st World War expressionistic photography was depends on the individual experimentation, expressionism was grown out especially in connection with gesture abstraction in USA, where American painter William Klein made this kind of photography. In European area expressionistic movement in photograph was near linked with the evolution of abstraction before 2nd World War, for example on the monumental abstract pictures made by El Lissicky from a couple of small photographs in Köln am Rhein in 1928. Explosion of expressionism in the 1950s was also determined by expositions of ”Subjective photograph” where displayed new works Swedish photographers Hans Holmström and Lennart Olson. An interest about modernistic poetics of surrealism or expressionism in photography started in Europe in connection with another type of visual arts, paintings, graphics or sculpture.

        Together with realistic expression was used more expressionistic idiom of works made by hard gradation of tonality, graphic structure of lines, half shades or granular structure of photography. For the most part of this kind of photography was typical stylised composition made from motives of nature – morass, rocks, woods (e.g. Lucien Clergue) or urban microstructures (e.g. Jerry Uelsmann). These tendencies arrive to area of Czechoslovakia during the 1960s. In Slovakia for example Anton Štubòa composed in his photography pop-art principles based on using usual things of life – components of machines or tools depicted as graphic drawings on the white background. On the other hand Ladislav Borodáè created expressive photography by macro-shots of nature’s motives as baroque compositions, used also in monumental sculptures, e.g. Photographs sculptures from 1970 – 1971.

        Next photographer, Milota Havránková was dealt by abstract photography in the 1970s. In this decade she was a teacher in the Secondary Vocational School of Arts and Crafts in Bratislava. She created many abstract photographs structured by Sabattiere’s effect and granulation of tonality and from 1973 she started combined abstract compositions with geometrical, linear drawings. Havránková influenced also her students, especially Gabriel Kosmály. He used Sabattiere’s effect for creation abstract and expressionistic pictures together with solarisation and isohels. These kinds of techniques he reached also by own techniques consist of destruction of negatives and positives, e.g. scratch, compound or pull of negatives or slides. He was able to make by these techniques new works photo-graphics in boundary of photography, graphics or paintings. Albín Brunovský’s student, the graphic Karol Felix, who shared a workshop with him in the 1980s in Nitra, also influenced Kosmály. But Kosmály’s work is not depends on the surrealistic or fancy art, like V. Macek, a theorist of Slovak photography, said. His photographs are typical expressionistic works based on the catching his own psychological state. For example many works depict Moving, Time, Metamorphoses or Flits (of minds). On the contrast of surrealism he does not creates a new world or reality but he depicts real things or persons deformed by expressionistic point of view, like Mobile telephone, Night butterflies of Bathing’s (women). On the other hand technological processes, Sabattiere’s effect, solarisation or isohel determine an accident’s structures of his photography. On the contrast of classical graphics, known especially from Karol Felix, he can petrify more easily a mind of artwork, as far as a light of expressionistic graphics. Finally, a lot of works are neither in relation with classical photography or with graphics, because they are unique works of art, which cannot to be reproduced in the same way the second time.

        Gabriel Kosmaly is Little Big Man, not by his physical figure, but his works. On the contrast to the others photographers, which were interested in abstract photography, for G. Kosmaly is not this work an experiment with the possibilities of medium photography, but the programme of work. That is why, this kind works we cannot find out neither in Slovakia or in the other world as well.

English by Viera Anoškinová and Martin Vanèo


Solarization – exposure to the rays of the sun
Isohels – a line drawn on a map connecting points that receive equal amounts of sunlight.
Camera obscura – a darkened chamber in which the real image of an object is received through a small opening or lens and focused in natural colour onto a facing surface rather than recorded on a film or plate.

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