Forward to the Book
This work explores the connections between Miroslav Tichy and Brian Tjepkema. Tjepkema first met Tichy in the winter of 1990 when he was 23 and at the beginning of his career in the visual arts. Tichy was then 65 years old and, though he was still producing photographs and drawings, was nearing the end of his career as an artist. By 1997, when he first referred to Tjepkema as Tarzan, Tichy had gone into retirement and his artistic production had come to an end.
It should be noted that both Tichy and Tjepkema associated with other artists. Tichy of course was in the finale of his art career when he first met Tjepkema and it was therefore appropriate that Tjepkema should assume the role of student. Tichy, though he studied at the academy, would not likely admit to having teachers. He may claim to have learnt from the Renaissance masters but from a professor or associate, likely not. The same is true of Tjepkema in whose work we can also see the influence of the "masters" as opposed to academy professors.
Tjepkema cites Miroslav Tichy as a strong influence and even refers to himself as Tichy’s apprentice. His statement that both he and Tichy are art alchemists needs further inspection. And especially so in an age when the visionary or mystic finds himself categorically rejected by society at large and even locked up in prisons and mental hospitals. Such claims may require from some a suspension of disbelief. In a world where mysticism isn’t widely accepted , such arguments cannot bear proof. This text neither accepts nor denies the basis of such claims. Rather, the ideas presented by the artists themselves form the basis of the inquiry. The author has remained sympathetic by rejecting the cynical approach. The claims are assessed on their own terms. Ultimately, my role as scholar forbids me from making such judgements. Whether or not these two men are "holy" is a question that is asked outside the domain of the academic.
Though this book looks at the work of these two men through ancient paradigms and deep traditions, their work bears examination as "art." and can quite easily be placed in the art history of their day. While some of their influences are to be found in centuries past, others are just around the corner. Perhaps this is the most interesting feature of their work, how it so effortlessly bridges from the ancient to the modern. How it can be both traditional and modern at the same time. Their art is full of parodoxes, ironies...
In many ways the two represent opposite ends of a spectrum. While Tichy stands at the end of a tradition observing the world in silence, Tjepkema yells out at the other and with his art and fame strikes out at the establishment. Whereas Tichy works in a haphazard fashion embracing the randomness of chance, Tjepkema is exact and precise in the execution of his. Tichy’s laboratory is marked by chaos, dirt and disregard; Tjepkema’s laboratory is full of neatly painted boxes lined carefully in stacked bookshelves, the floors are spotless. Tichy’s artwork is covered in dirt, torn and disregarded; Tjepkema’s work is cleaned and filed neatly in closets.
While these polarities exist, and in the polarities these two artists manage to find a connection, similarities also abound. Both Tichy and Tjepkema, for example, focus on form rather than detail in their painting and drawing. Both artists draw material from the refuse container. Both men use reality as a private theatre. Both have stories to tell from the mental hospitals and prisons. Both express a philosophy similar to solipsism. Each sees himself as an "Ubermensch" and both claim fearlessness of the world before them. Tichy performs in Kyjov while Tjepkema takes his theatre from country to country
This is not a work of criticism but rather a piece of scholarship. No attention is paid to qualitative judgements of good or bad or whether or not these subjects are even worthy of study. At the time of this book’s writing, neither artist has been wholly accepted by the academic community. Many "experts" are debating whether Tichy really deserves such serious consideration and Tjepkema, though taken seriously in some circles, works mainly underground and has limited fame. Whether or not these artists will find their place in the cannon of art history is a question outside the scope of this book. This author finds their work sufficiently interesting to warrant further study and that is reason enough to proceed. This book represents the fruit of that study and it is hoped will provide an outline to understanding these two artists.
Peter Clarke (March, 2006)