Karol Ondreička: Equinox

            The mystery of being and the relationship of the man to the nature are two basic ideas of Karol Ondreička’s work. The mystery of being is connected with a motive of the wife, who has for him some kind of holiness, she was a symbol of a man, human, and life together, what we can see in his graphics works Life I, II, III (1995-1996, etching, aquatint, mezzotint, dry point).

            Spring Mystery, as is the name of Ondreička’s graphic sheet from 1984 (etching, mezzotint, aquatint, dry point) too and personified this very secret of eternal cycle of life and death. Varied imaginations, superstitions and symbols were connected with beginning of the spring from the time of neolith. The day of spring equinox was specific, because the day settled with the night, and on this day the light „procures superiority“ over the night, what was significant symbol for the procuring dominance of good over the bad, life over the death. It was the day of victory spring goddess, as a symbol of rebirth and life over the power of darkness – death.

            The seasons, mostly the beginning of the spring, had a very important position in the mythologies of the first peasantry’s civilisations. The life of culture crops was compared with the human life and was weaved with various holy secrets, reflected with contemporary religions systems too. The comparison of human’s life to the plant is expressed by pictures and metaphors landed from the plant drama (life is as a field flower etc.). This metaphor has nourished the poetry and philosophical thinking for over thousand years and has stayed truthful for the contemporary man too. A woman plays a key position in the time of neolith, because the fertility of the soil was compared with the woman’s fertility. The woman started to be a guard of secret, because she ruled the beginning of life, food and death. The main goddess Mother Earth was connected with the cyclic restoration of the nature. The goddess Mother was a symbol of fertile soil and vegetations cycles of plants theirs repeated raise and deconstruction. The birth of mortal young god, the husband or son of Big Mother is known from the neolith. We know him also from Anatol Neolithic localities Çatal Hüyük and he was discovered in later civilisations too, for example Sumerian god Dumuzi, who settled in the underworld and personified cyclic life of plants, he rose up from the underworld in the springtime and returned back in the autumn. Egyptian god Osiris (Usire) was a symbol of the source of fertility and growing too, because the god Seth murdered him and the god Horus resurrected him. We can find these archaic pagan religious systems in Greek mythology in eleusin mysteries two-time resurrected god Dionysus. Bacchanalian reveals were celebrated in March and April, and they were feasts of fertility.

            The feasts of equinox existed from the prehistoric time, and were taken by the Christianity, which held a lot of pagans habits and used them for theirs own religious aims. The celebrations of Annunciation of Our Lady are the most important of them and they were connected with the beginning of spring agricultural works in medieval time, and also the celebration of Easter, the most important Christian feast, that was the symbol of ritual death with the intention of resurrection and endless life. The cult of goddess of fertility Kybella, who was called “Big Mother” or “Mother of Gods” and was considered as the author of all on the world – animals, human and gods, was kept by old Romans from the Near East. She fell in love with beautiful young shepherd Attis, who was a child of a virgin. Attis deprived himself of his private parts and died. Kybella resurrected him and in accordance with one tradition changed him into a pine tree, and with another one she changed him into a god. This resurrection happened in the time of spring equinox. We have pagans rituals connected with celebration of spring in Slovak folklore too. It is taking out Morena, a mythological figure of old Slaws. Her ritual death (she was pitched into the water) arranged, that the winter was loosing the place to the coming spring and ensured that vegetation cycle of year was restored.

            People knew to fix the first spring day – equinox as early as in younger Stone Age. This day was important for the agricultural way of life, for the fixing of the time of planting out of cultural plants. It was reason why were constructed the first astronomical observatories. These were a type of lunar-solar calendar. It was a circle fortification, which was clustered around with the moats and palisades with four gates. It provided to delimit exactly the time of the beginning spring on the base of the high and low moon for the “first astronomers”. We can find in Slovakia too observatories similar to the world known megalithic complex Stonehenge in Britain, for example in Bučany near Trnava, Žlkovce or Svodín. 

            The first concrete fixing of the date of spring equinox was during the rule of Julis Caesar in 45 B.C. In that time there started the solar calculating of the day instead of the lunar calendar that lasted 29-30 days. The spring equinox was fixed on the 25. March. The pope Gregory the XIII. declared the day of spring equinox on the 21. March in the second reform of calendar in 1582.

            The spring motives and the motives of others seasons are not the one in the art work of Karol Ondreička. They reflected very well his connection with the nature and natural elements, for example graphics Stalks (1980, etching), The Land with Two Stones (1990, etching, aquatint, mezzotint). The author never kept secret, that the natural environment in the region of Čachtice, where he grooved up, influenced him. That was very close to his teacher Albín Brunovský, who used in his work motives of the nature from the Záhorie, where he was born. Karol Ondreička is one of the oldest and the most important students from graphic special class of Albín Brunovský at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava (1968 – 1974). He graduated with the illustrations of bibliophile edition of M. Válek poetry: “Home are hands, where you can cry.“ Albín Brunovský was often saying to his students as important is the literature for the fine art. It is connected with the topic of his department of illustration and bookwork at the Academy. Ondreička was more close to the literature than the other students, because he graduated at the Pedagogical Faculty in Nitra (1962 – 1966), department Slovak language – Russian language before studying at the Academy of Fine Arts. May be thanks to A. Brunovský he has the possibility to meet the poets of so-called “Trnava’s group” J. Ondruš, Ľ. Feldek, V. Mihálik and to illustrate theirs works. In that way he had the possibility to acquaint the manifest of Trnava’s group, which destructed the border between the literature for the children and the adult. A. Brunovský applied this principle in his artwork. The illustration work of Karol Ondreička is very important part of his artwork. He illustrates about 200 books, and maybe the illustrating of the poetry of M. Rúfus influenced him into the lyrical vision of the world, which he transferred into his free graphics and paintings.

Mgr. Viera Radziwill-Anoškinová,

Mgr. Martin Vančo, PhD.

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