The author of the paper Dr. Tibor Kočík, a member of the Association of the Theorists, Critics and Art historians of the Slovak Republic, divided his study into three chapters, giving it the name Searching for spiritual aspects of contemporary art in Eastern Slovakia. Kroměříž Colloquium in 2011 spontaneously initiated author's ideas about spiritual tendencies in the contemporary art of Eastern Slovakia. It is the topic that cannot be sufficiently analyzed in order to its versatility. Fine art of Eastern Slovakia is still waiting for a complex analytic-synthetic way of dealing with focus on its spiritual aspects.
The first chapter is titled Looking through the rift of the past century. It notes that in Eastern Slovakia, the centres of fine art life in Košice and Prešov were formed during the course of history (to a lesser extent in the Spiš region). In the section where the fine art life of Košice is displayed, it returns to the period between the 19th and 20th century, when Košice encouraged lively artistic life of the bourgeois, and additionally supported not only art crafts but also chamber painting. The artistic and educational appearances of Klimkovič brothers were very encouraging. Thanks to their influence, many other artists became important representatives of Hungary painting (J. Benczúr, L. Horovitz, Ľ. Csordák).
At the beginning of the 20th century, the artistic spectrum of Košice was enriched by two important painters – a representative of landscape and luministic painting E. Halász-Hradil and our first post-impressionist, a modern painter K. Köváry-Kačmarík, whose work represented perhaps the closest connection with Central-European modern era. Dr. Tibor Kočík also stated that new situation in Kosice’s fine art life aroused after the formation of the first Republic of Czechoslovakia. Dr. Josef Polák, the director of Eastern-Slovak museum in Košice, started to develop a new important artistic concept. As an excellent organizer of artistic life, he was supporting the figures of intellectual and artistic life of Košice. (the representatives of artistic avant-garde were there: V. Perlrott Csaba, L. Thányi, J. Kmetty, A. Lesznai, A. Bortnyik, K. Kernstock.)
For artistic life in Košice, the work of E. Krón – one of the most recognized graphic of Hungary, had a remarkable influence. He ran his own drawing-graphic school. It became the intellectual centre of artistic life. It was regularly attended by K. Bauer, and also by the aspirants for fine artists being led under the direction of E. Halasz-Hradil, such as V. Šipoš, L. Váli, H. Lazarová. The same interest in art events had the aspirants for painting led by Ľ. Csordák - G. Stellerová, K. Lunáček, V. Beneš. Among the graduates of Krón´s School were also the leaders of Eastern-Slovakian art life J. Collinásy, J. Fabini, Ľ. Feld, J. Jacoby, A. Jasusch, J. Kollár, V. Löffler, I. Oravec and K. Sokol.
In Presov fine art circuit after 1918, there was an ethnically diverse group of artists. Besides M. Kurth and J. Török there were E. Rákoši, M. Jordán (mainly sacral themes), a Czech J. Němeček (created album of etchings named Wooden churches in Šariš), and also the graduates of Prague academic studies J. Bendík, F. Gibala, and D. Milly.
In the second chapter titled From stagnant waters to spiritual challenges, Dr. Tibor Kočík depicts a fine art context in terms of eastern Slovakia during the "golden sixties ". He states that abstract painting developed in order to visualize the spiritual, to justify the internal mysterious world of artists. The development of abstract painting in Eastern Slovakia came to existence together with constructivist tendencies. Its initiation was supported by Prague and Bratislava exhibitions Confrontation I, II (1960), Confrontation (1961), Confrontation III (1965) and New Sensitivity (1968). It included some underground events. They integrated the rebellious efforts of progressive core of the young generation. They defined the form of abstraction in the modification which corresponded with the opinion platform based on the lessons learned from the works of abstractionists (A. Tapie, A. Burri, J. Dubuffet, J. Pollock and many others). The significance of those events laid in the fact that that despite the adversity of then policy, the needed platform for supporting current artistic tendencies came to existence. Thus, the artistic creation differentiated and evolved in its features in the region of Eastern Slovakia. It is worthwhile to mention some artists from Kosice - J. Bartusz, K. Csákó, A. Eckerdt, T. Gáll, J. Jakoby, J. Kornucik, J. Mathé, M. Petrek, J. Sabol, V. Takáč, from Prešov - sculptors and painters A. Gaj, J. Machaj, F. Patočka, D. Pončák, D. Srvátka, I. Šafranko. During the eighties of the past century a new wave of abstraction arrived. The phenomenon of the new wave did not avoid Easter-Slovak art scene. Her supporters painted pictures which reflected virtual reality of a postmodern world without visibility of sources of imagination, originality, novelty and even spirituality. At that time the informal (underground) exhibition events urgently reminded about the difficulty in mapping artistic complex terrain and its multifunctional morphology. The confrontations of young artists and their senior colleagues could not be deprived from ruthlessness and aggressiveness. In art works the paradox, metaphor, and a tendency towards subjectivism as a real source of inner freedom appeared. Their art conveyed possible moral and emotional, but above all, a spiritual renaissance of man and transformed the world in all of us. Several authors from a variety of informal, nonpublic, or underground artistic actions took in our fine art society significant positions after November '89. Perhaps the clearest sign of upcoming changes was the semi-official exhibition of over fifty works of Czech and Slovak artists Prešparty '88 in October 1988. It was conducted by academic sculptor J. Bartusz and by some young artists from Prešov and Košice. It redefined the actual state in broader artistic context. It revealed a huge difference in creation, which originated in the social order and the one that originated by means of experiment in the studio and the underground structures. It associated artistic trends from the sixties, partly in response to the above mentioned Confrontations. It implicitly followed up on everything that represented Košice and Prešov art scene throughout the past century: innovation, originality, searching. Prešov artistic action was not the only one that occurred in Eastern Slovakia in the 1980s. Then the tour of young artists followed – Humno '88 (Košice 1988), Neon I, II (Košice 1990), Laboratory (1992-98), International Art Symposium I (Prešov, 1992), International Art Symposium II (Poprad – Vysoké Tatry 1994), International Art Symposium III (Košice, 1996), International Art Symposium IV (Vyšné Ružbachy 1998) and other. The third chapter is titled Touches towards two personalities. Out of the nearly 130 diverse personalities of fine art of Eastern Slovakia, the author focused on academic sculptor from Košice Ján Mathé and on academic painter from Prešov - Martin Zbojan, PhD. Both of them have shared common spiritual aspect of their artistic creation. Moreover, they both attended the same school of their artistic education - the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. The creation of John Mathé possesses natural respect in art society by means of not displaying the artistic imagery recourse to short-term issues. During his artistic production, Mathé remains in the position referring to strong spiritual message. Remarkably, his sculpture creation has been marked by shape simplicity, the negation of traditional modeling, geometrics, pure linear shaping, and dominant presence of tectonic and structural rules. Evident are the features of metaphorical, pictorial, symbolic and associative character. Ján Mathé started to use an abstract sculpture language in the middle of the 1960s. He went through short development phases: from stylized studies to more radical formal expressions. In the mid 1970s, the theme of life fetus occurred in his artistic creation representing a kind of existential approach. Having been on a higher quality level, the transcendental tones resonated in the artist’s thinking about values of human life and being. The first piece of art of his successful cycle of sculptures was the sculpture called The Cradle of Life, 1975, The Fruit of Life 1975, The Fruit of Life I, 1976, The Fruit of Life II, 1976, The Fruit of Life III, 1977 and Fruit, 1978. He kept returning to the motif of the fruit of life (symbolizing the birth of the divine, spiritual child in us) for the following two decades. This art work was very well evaluated by a Czech philosopher, theologist and art historian Josef Zvěřina. He perceived the sculpture The Fruit of Life as a sacral sculpture made in abstract way, referring to a modern picture of Virgin Mary in monumental terms.
The author of the paper wrote about martin Zbojan that he belongs to a strong generation of fine art artists of former Czechoslovakia (out of the Slovak ones, he mentioned Jozef Šramka, Ivan Csudai, Laco Teren). This generation was very strong in ideas but also in numbers. They started to assert themselves in the second half of 1980s, and also at the beginning of 1990s, during the times of sudden entering of extreme variety of fine art approaches, when the proposal such as “the death of a hung up picture is here”, the picture as such cannot tell anything and it is extinct. In our painting, the conceptual strategies were at the end of their existence and the tendencies with dominant painting stopped to be preferred. For no one from “real” painters, to which Zbojan belongs, was that a simple situation. Painting was in a difficult position. Painting became silent. The attention shifted somewhere else. Galleries, hand in hand with contemporary trends, started to explore new media. According to Dr. Tibor Kočík, Martin Zbojan was not and is not a painter, whose development evolved in a discontinuous way. Zbojan has never wanted to shock with something new. Even if he came up with something new, it was not in the contradiction with something he had expressed before. Perhaps, this was the reason why he had avoided a flat rate classification. He inspires himself in the depths of his inner being. He benefits from a wide range of his private ciphers and from his individual mythologies. He raises difficult ontological questions. He draws us into the world of his inner confession. He deals with spiritual motifs, and with a great desire of man (even an artist) – to fill the emptiness with something valuable. It is known that Zbojan patiently develops and cultivates the style of his painting. It evokes a special spiritual dimension - for example the one that is connected to the search for Arcadia, an idyllic land of paradise with its carelessness and safety. His Shadows of Paradise (oil, 2009) speaks about it. Zbojan’s paradise is the paradise with shadows, which penetrate into author’s consciousness and, whether we like it or not, they penetrate in the form of prolonged shadows directly (or indirectly) to our presence. The symbolism of paradise is perceived personally: for him it embodies the state of self-realization and conscious peace. It is not easy and sincere to obtain such a state. In the creative work of the artist, gaining such state requires more than just deprivation of needed things. It requires a personal fight with the shadows – in the form of self-reflection and self-criticism. The way he evokes spiritual position is represented by signs, mostly symbols, icons, sometimes colour, sometimes amorphous visual signals. The major theme of one of his pictorial cycles, which he was dealing with for along time, was stone. On one hand, there is inorganic simplicity of the mass, on the other one, psychoanalytically, it stands as an important symbol. For instance, if the stone is erected (which has phallic significance), it is a symbol of natural energy (even male creative energy). It can also be a symbol of regeneration ability and strength (if it is stone with holes or carvings). The undone stone symbolizes psyche. Generally speaking, the stone is the symbol of faith, truth, something stable and solid. It symbolizes the principle of creation (including man), incorruptibility and immortality. The stone is even the symbol of God Himself, the absolute... Zbojan painted The Stone on the Snow, oil 2009, Forgotten Stones, oil, 2009, Burning Stones, oil, 2009, The Eclipse of the Stone, oil, 2009 and other. The paper ends with the conclusion, quotations and the list of bibliography.
Košice, March 2011