Emil Sedlák: Maldoror’s Songs and Naughty Ear

“...deadly evaporations from the book will penetrate into his soul as a water into the sugar.”

        Tenor of this exhibition is pastels, which are inspired by the book of French writer Lautréamont: Maldoror’s Songs. We could say, that the book Maldoror’s Songs is considered as the beginning of surrealism in the literature. The real name of the creator of this book is Isidore Ducasse. He was born in 1846 in Montevideo, Uruguay. His parents were French, who worked on French consulate. He came to the France in1859 first time. The first song from the Maldoror’s Songs he published on the end of 1868 and in the summer 1868 in Brussels he published the Maldoror’s Songs complete in his own impression with the pen name Comte de Lautréamont. The Songs were printed, but they were not published, because the publishers had not the courage to give this work on the book market. Lautréamont tried to send some review copies of the book to the literature critics, but they were reticent. Only one man wrote the review, where he compares Lautréamont with Boudelaire and Flaubert, because he in the same way “believes that the esthetical notion of the evil contains very strong germ of goodness, of the highest morality.” The book was not published during the life of Lautréamont, and he died in November 1870.

        Maldoror’s Songs were issued in 1874 that means four years after his death. The critics were reticent again. The book was issued second time in Paris in 1890, twenty years after Lautréamont’s death. The critics finally reflected this issue. This work was genuinely appreciated fifty years after author’s death as predecessors of the modern poetry of the 20th century. Especially surrealists André Breton and Philipp Soupault were strongly inspired by this work. Both writers became the editors of Lautrémont’s writings, his commentators and interpreters who influenced other members of a surrealistic group. They published collected works of Lautréamont with Breton’s foreword and many illustrations made by famous artists as Salvador Dalí, Victor Brauner, Oscar Dominguez, Max Ernst, Espinoza, René Magritte, André Masson, Matto Echaurren, Joan Miró, Wolfgang Paalen, Man Ray, Kurt Seligmann, Yves Tanguy.

        Surrealism, as one of the style of modern art, tried to discover and map hidden parts of reality. It was established on Dadaism and symbolism, and on Freud’s psychoanalysis too. Surrealistic painters were inspired by imagery of damned poets (G. De Nerval, Lautréamont, Ch. Baudelaire, A. Rimbaud). The first manifest of surrealism was published in Paris in1924. André Breton wrote there about the cancellation of borders between the dream and the reality, life and art. He defined the surrealistic work as an authentic expression of thinking without esthetical, ethical and others limitation. Surrealism put the stress on the imagination and chance, not expected meetings of things and phenomenon.

        Emil Sedlák met Maldoror’s Songs in 1984. Sedlák made first works inspired by this book in 1985 and he still has continued. Till today he has created a cycle consists of 77 pastels. This exhibition presented 25 from them. The main topic of the works is a fighting, fighting everything against everything, everyone against everyone, the drama of a man’s moving between a heaven and a hell, a conflict between a Divine and Devilish, a drama of a hell and heaven inside and outside us. There is depicted the world of a fantastic things, elements, symbols, characters of people and animals. We can find all these motives on the pastels of Emil Sedlák. He applied here the method of magical realism, which was used by the surrealistic artists. It is the depiction of painter’s internal visions, fantastic imaginations and spectacles of daily and nightly dreams. That is why the pictures are realistic. The painter combines in his works various things of reality and creates from them a new, poetical reality as if outside of time and space. In his pastels we can find a lot of kind of animals. A lot of animals are described in The Songs also – there are 185 species. We can see there claws and sharp teeth as a symbol of cruelty. Animals are here not only a symbol or metaphor, but they simply exist. They are used as a metaphor too – Maldoror changes into the many species of animals – eagle, pig, swan and the others. It comes out from the Maldoror’s imagine of double substance of a man – human and animal, so called pediculus humanus, as Michel Pierssens characterised it. The pastels of Emil Sedlák inspired by Maldoror’s Songs are not only the independent illustrations of this text, but they are an expression of his inner feeling and his reaction of this famous literary work, where he has found inspiration more than 20 years. We can say, that this is his creating program.

        The selection of graphic work of Emil Sedlák is presented on this exhibition too. There are graphic cycles, free graphics and occasional graphic – ex libris. Emil Sedlák started to develop his artificial view as a student of graphic special class of Prof. Vincent Hložník on the beginning of sixties. We can include his graphics into the fancy graphic, which was pursued by Albín Brunovský in Slovakia. But Sedlák concentrated himself on the manieristic opinions of art, on the metamorphoses of peoples and animals, as in the graphic cycle The Music of Today (1968). He used erotic motives in lot of his graphics, but they are not visible on the first view, but we can see them after observant perceiving. Such are for example graphic cycles Naughty Ear (1971), Sanyo (1971). His favourite motive from the animals are spiders, which are not depicted realistic, but from the metamorphoses with the man, for example the trunk of the spider in the shape of human skull or human torso, for example the cycle Spider (1988).

        This metamorphoses and the deformation of animals and peoples are together with strong erotically motives a typically signs of Sedlák’s art work not only in graphic, but in painting too. It may be the metaphorical notion of painters feelings, his psychical conditions, where he copes with the animal essence of a man – pediculus humanus.


Mgr. Viera Radziwill-Anoškinová

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