Modern Jazz in Sculpture, Prague 1964 - A word on the banned exhibition
The Exhibition of 12 Czech Artists, Worpswede 1966
Opening speech at the award ceremony for the Marcus Aurelius Prize, Rome 1975 - The Artist of Freedom
Exhibition for the European Parliament, Strasbourg 1976
Exhibition Munich, 1981
Art Centre Chagall, Ostrava 1995
Touches of Light, Soběslav 1996
Touches of the Past, Hradec Králové 1996
Touches of Music, Brno 1997

Modern Jazz in Sculpture, Prague 1964
A word on the banned exhibition

Once bewitched by the rhythm of jazz, one cannot be cured of it till the end of one’s life, meeting jazz as part of yourself everywhere: in the city, in the sky, at night, at the railway station, in waiting-rooms, in the streets, under the neon lights, and even in the silence beyond the boundaries of periphery. Jazz has even become deeply rooted in the blood of painters, as their brushes and pencils will confirm. I know canvases bathed in deep red paint. They are the blues. I am full of admiration for temperas with fundamental original forms. They are the rhythms. Jazz and modern painting is very closely related. However, jazz cannot be expressed by painting.

Each art speaks its own language and does not interfere with the other. Nevertheless, modern art as a whole is connected by something very indistinct and abstract, yet simultaneously tangible and concrete. Even the rhythm of the world, or, if you like, the jazz rhythm of this world, is one of the common denominators of fine art.

Jan Kristofori belongs to a family of painters obsessed by jazz. I can't tell you his curriculum vitae, I do not know it, but I know much more about his first drawings, which I have committed to memory forever.

They were the cycles of African jazz, enamoured studies of musicians, gouaches and Indian ink drawings with asphalt stains. Kristofori did not aim for photographic faithfulness, as still happens, especially in works influenced by jazz music. A modern painter should relinquish this aim as he could never compete with poets-photographers, tracing the precise lines of truth and reality.

Jan Kristofori's first jazz drawings were full of the tension and hardness of the struggle, which every jazz musician wages with each single bar. They breathed hot little blues as well as the cold mathematics of west coast jazz. Wonderful sculptures came into existence in Kristofori's workshop after his washed drawings. However, the first exhibition scheduled to take place in May of 1964 was closed at the last minute. The jazz quartet, reciter and author of the opening speech were already prepared, and visitors of the opening had gathered outside the exhibition hall. However, some frightened person decided it would be more reasonable not to hold the exhibition of jazz sculptures. They were allegedly too abstract and might provoke...

I don’t find anything abstract about these sculptures. They are remarkable mixtures of smoke-stained wood, iron and plastic, which very concretely and convincingly convey the enjoyment of jazz. I dare say that Kristofori has made a step forward here again, a step that brings him closer to a more profound expression of jazz as a whole and in his own artistic development. Where the material speaks under his hands, where it is not visibly and artificially composed afresh, the speech of his artistic symbols is purest.

And then there is the third, as yet unfinished chapter. One could find some mature works here, pondering composition and excluding chic fortuity and excessively decorativeness, while starkly and modestly meditating on artistic values. These are the free sculptures and paintings working with various materials. Many things are closely connected with the current European evolution of the youngest art here, which though not depictive, or abstract - if you like -, is all tied to modern man, his life, towns and inner experiences.

I dare say that Kristofori has opened his own way, one that is very hard and far from effective, but the only possible one.

Jaromír Hořec, writer

The Exhibition of 12 Czech Artists,
Worpswede 1966

Nothing new has come from Paris for a long time. Pop and Op Art do not surprise anyone anymore since their expansion to the West, and Russian Socialist Realism is indigestible to us.

And in this status quo, Czechoslovakia and its artists suddenly appeared. The exhibition of Czechoslovak art, organized in the Federal Republic of Germany, proved everything that was only whispered years ago. Several graphic artists had appeared in Bremen before, but the quality of artists was only clearly demonstrated when the Netzel Gallery in Worpswede invited twelve artists to exhibit there. The exhibited works confirmed the high quality of these artists. After this exhibition it was no longer possible to look at Czechoslovak artists from a political perspective or to give discounts due to its provenance.

Only art criteria are valid now. These exacting demands have been attained by Mikuláš Medek, among others. His large paintings invite meditative absorption. Rhythmically arranged within colourful tracks, they amplify statics and evoke quiet movement.

Jaroslav Paur could not defend himself with his broken paintings of towns compared to this talent,.

After all, we would give preference to the serene and gleefully displayed lithographs of Zdeněk Sklenář, though their naivety disparages their artistic value now and then.

The Czechs only sent a few great graphic artists to Worpswede. For example, Karel Vysušil, who proved to be a superb technician, was simply satisfied with his lucid compositions and the development he had attained. The same could be said of Ladislav Dydek, which leaves Josef Istler. A creative artist endowed with fantasy, he proved his talent with his large oils and technically excellent colour lithographs, both surrealist and folklorist, in which, moreover, human and animal bodies were combined with a great deal of wit.

Perhaps he will find another solution in his future development, like Jan Kristofori. This artist, born in 1931, is exhibiting his work abroad for the first time and yet has succeeded in captivating the public with his structural paintings, evidencing his extraordinary feeling for the plastic form of the whole. This artist can incant poetic powers without seeming effort, whether working with wood, metal or other materials, or he lets the colours speak. In addition to Istler, Kristofori is another great surprise in Worpswede.

ECHO – Hamburk

Opening speech at the award ceremony for the Marcus Aurelius Prize, Rome 1975
The Artist of Freedom

Jan Kristofori is blessed with stylisation talent and an expressive gift that places him amongst the most qualified of contemporary artists.

His work is not the usual painting in which brushstrokes and colour play the decisive role. He creates his pictures in the same way as Gothic reliefs and one could call them "sculptural paintings".

The colours of Kristofori's paintings are laid in relief planes, which are masterfully modelled, and which change in accordance with what the artist wishes to express. The colours are carefully mixed with pleasing spontaneity and lyrical tones in direct interdependence with the "motif" and it is his wish that this mark each single painting.

It is this mixture of spontaneity and solidity and, above all, the "idea" Kristofori has "in mente" that creates the variety of colours - soft or deep reds, gloomy grey and sinister violet, deep blue and vibrant ochres - into an agreeable tool of expression, supported by draftsman ship and the sculptural modelling of the painting.

As well as Gothic reminiscence, Kristofori's paintings, also permeated by a certain Czechoslovak natural surrealism, are marked by a deep culture and desire to express freedom as the highest value, so that mankind can achieve proper justice and regain faith again. Kristofori is thus a protest artist. But he is not a noisy troublemaker moved by unseen strings like a marionette; he does not wish to be confused with the many who reject everything and demand to be understood for nothing. He is a voice, who is becoming heard more and more through his art. Through his unequivocal message, Kristofori does not neglect to warn mankind of the great danger they face when they are led by false ideologies and become the victims of moral, ethical, social, political and religious deviations and degradations which spare none today.

We can call Kristofori an "artistic prophet". We are certain that he would accept this definition rather than simple, cold art criticism, as he can thus find his own personality as an artist and a thinking, feeling, hopeful, creative and loving person.

To give his thoughts and efforts, feelings and love and his dominant hope free reign and to surpass the boundaries of his own studio, he takes his work with him everywhere, from Czechoslovakia to Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and Mexico. He repeats the themes that have become a part of him today with feeling and courage everywhere. Thus he constantly renews the power of his ideal, and the value of his artistic and humane message and thus confirms that the hardest and biggest battles for the good of humanity can be won with the wonderful weapon of art, as many artists have done before him for the triumph of Christianity and civilisation, and yes, to a higher degree than many legendary warriors.

Prof. Emilio M. Avitabile

Exhibition for the European Parliament,
Strasbourg 1976

1. The fundamental question of encounters between opposition artists from the East European world and their colleagues and the public in the western world is already marked by grave doubts "whether a dialogue is possible at all". In the case of contemporary Czechoslovak fine art, the touchstone seems to have been a representative exhibition of 33 Czechoslovak artists in West Berlin in 1966. Judging by the reaction of the West German press, the exhibition was surprising in at least one respect: the artists, who were guided by the doctrine of socialist realism presented works which might have originated in any Western country. Only critics in their own country asked the question, "do we really understand these works as their creators intended them to be understood?", which could hardly surprise any of the exhibiting artists.

This state of affairs called "encumbered by the conditions of understanding" is, of course, not restricted merely to a certain sector of creative art. Its existence has been confirmed, especially in literary encounters, beginning with a meeting of Czechoslovak and Western writers in Zurich in 1968, and in Czechoslovak-West German dialogue of the same period in the cultural press of both countries.

The question of a possible meaningful dialogue could be brought down to a more general level, i.e., to what extent communication is possible between rational method and existential experience or, in other words, a dialogue between intellectual Greek tradition and Hebrew Job.

2. The creative artist living abroad has an advantage over a writer, as he is not deprived of his native language. The first glance at Jan Kristofori's pictures makes it clear that here is an artist who is professionally well-grounded and committed as far as the themes of his pictures go. His disposition marks him as the type of artist whose strength of conviction springs from innermost experience, moral conviction, and mature identity. The artist thus bases his work on personal experience, exercising work discipline in the creative process, discriminating between accidental impulses and those that serve a more general validity, and proceeds from personal expression to a testimony of others, those kindred in spirit, of his generation and period, and finally to a universal appeal.

Language - the first gateway to perceiving a nation's rich cultural tradition. This was the first obstacle Jan Kristofori had to overcome when he came to Czechoslovakia in 1946. Handicapped by not knowing the language, he could only divine the rich activity of the already gradually collapsing surrealist generation from reproductions. Just as he had barely begun to find his way into to the Czech avant-garde’s sphere of ideas, disaster struck. The communist coup d'etat, which drove dozens of outstanding artists into internal exile and cut them off from Western culture, was a catastrophe. Some ended tragically - some chose exile, and some stayed on - caught in their own circle. The official government direction accepted only a few "idealists" who still believed. These chaotic and depressing years did not spare J. K., and ended with his imprisonment in 1951.Seven years of isolation left an indelible impression on the young man's emotional life. As all artists, he too was primarily emotional and sensitive, which is one of the basic elements of art. And it is precisely here, in direct emotion - tragedy, despair, absurdity, and hope - that the future essence of his work was taking form. After his release in 1958, he tried to find his individual identity. He was full of specific ideas, but the creative process was missing.

Gradually, he met the artistic "underground" of which everyone was aware but which was not officially admitted in public. Medek, Koblasa, Nepras, A. Vesely, A. Tomalík, who died tragically, and many others, significantly influenced his work in his first few years of "freedom".

The exhibition at the Prague Music Theatre, together with Kaplanová, Steklak, Nepras, and Koblasa, bore testimony to his professionalism and thematic ambition. Kristofori professes his propinquity with the artists mentioned above to this day. Under these influences, he created a number of abstract works - but he could not yet use the ideas he was replete with, which had specific form – as neither he nor the time were ready for this.

He felt that the abstract form was not the road he wanted to take in the future. He knew what he wanted, but it was none of the known styles, media, or materials.

The gradual liberalization of artistic life made several exhibitions possible for him at home and abroad.

1968! Another open wound, which tore him from his slowly developing creative activity.

Emigration! A new beginning and new problems; but he was armed - he had sources to draw on and he was free. He knew that he faced the hard task of not sliding toward illustrations and ideology.v

He began to work again; in the beginning, diffident compositions, playing more with colours and material (eventually finding a material to his liking).

In 1972, his first figurative composition. This figurativeness, however, had nothing to do with the different trends - which are not analyses of form but actual depiction of deformation in the object itself. There was no reference to Dali or Medek, in whose work material was ephemeral, for he created his own "surgical" deformation, where each deformation had its own essence. And it is precisely this deformation that emphasizes the meaning of his work, which is to be the definition of everything that surrounds us - indifference, apathy, brutality, love, faith, hatred, death, etc. In 1972, he began work on the series of paintings for the Charter of Human Rights. Twenty paintings of Human Rights (Mennekerettighetene in Norwegian) represent committed art in the best sense of the word. Their author himself explains his intention: I wanted to stir up people who have owned these rights from birth and live with them without giving them a thought ...stir them up to think.

Seeking the broadest possible appeal, the artist made use of suggestive dramatic means. Pictures measuring 70 x 100 cm on which a technique the author calls "structural" or "sculptural painting" was used. By using various three-dimensional materials, the painting is combined with relief.

3. The content of the work of art does not lie in what one thinks, but in what one sees, and the artist does not primarily take what he and we know about the subject as the basis, but rather the forms, their orientation, and colours. Whether we consider the resulting work or parts of it as known and customary or deformed and "abnormal", does not depend on our comparison of the work with the material world, as we know it, but on the artistic context. Our knowledge, no doubt, plays an important role, but cannot change the immediate visual effect of the painting. Under these conditions, no matter whether we approach this painting by intuitive contemplation or explicit analysis, we should follow the perceptive effect which, only secondarily and with a view to what we know about the subject, will lead us to eventual understanding.

The basis of skeleton drawing of Human Rights in most of the individual paintings is a combination of vertical and horizontal lines, diagonals, and circles. This geometric order is then supplemented by textured cracks, scratches, and a confusion of lines. With regard to the compositional concept, the series can be broken down into three groups. In the first, the artist works with a Renaissance perspective. Here, the perceptive centre of our observation follows the converging diagonals toward the point of intersection. The rectangle, which may frame the diagonals on a frontal level, is in itself a dynamic form, with its tension of angles and closed circumference. It is no coincidence that we turn to verbs in describing similar perspectives: in visual observation, something is taking place. This visual happening is made stronger by the number of objects placed into depth in the direction of the diagonal and the accelerating space between them. Picture No. 8 - Private Life? - documents the rule of causality of motion of forms: the large rectangle exists here for the smaller rectangle inside it, which exists for the figure inside it, and the back wall which exists for the half open door, is hierarchically placed before the space behind it. We shall subsequently indicate the importance of this design.

The main problem of similar composition is the unity of the frontal level and illusion of depth. Kristofori solves this with human figures integrated into the depth of the painting by various degrees of darkness and brightness. These figures move in perspective sequence according to the rule of perception that a smaller figure close to a bigger one, and a less distinct form next to a clearer one, has a tendency to appear in motion. A figure standing on a frontal level, on the other hand, acquires the quality of a monumental statue (No. 7 - Justice?).

As a common denominator of the differing approach to the composition of Human Rights, we may take the baroque pyramid composition. The linear element is swallowed by material plasticity, undisturbed graphic outlines lost in distortion, and the clear geometric principle of Renaissance perspective in amorphous magmatic flow (No. 1 - Equality?, No. 12 - Family?). In the third composition group, distinct vertical and horizontal lines converge either in a framing rectangle or symmetric cross, hence, on a frontal level in both cases.

In more than half of the series of Human Rights paintings, the circle is dominant. Our perception knows no more stable form or one more dematerialized and independent of time and events. The circle, which perceptively (spontaneously) and intellectually (allegorically) symbolizes integration, is, however, difficult to fit into the composition of a painting. The structural skeleton, consisting of a combination of cross and circle, of rectangle and circle, or perspective diagonal and circle, puts remarkable demands on the equilibrium of the drawing and to be successful, must correspond to the basic principle of visual perception, our need for a comprehensibly simple order of axes, directions, angles, and strength.

In the Human Rights series, the circle can be found in all three composition groups mentioned above, and its position, as well as its formal and intrinsic meaning make it a logically common denominator in most pictures.

In general, the crucial point of the picture can usually be found in its upper half and it is also here, above the line of the horizon or above the crossbeam of the cross, in the rectangular frame of a door, a bridge arc or Gothic window, that the author places a crowning circle. The upward sweep toward the circle is most expressively stressed in picture No. 18 - Freedom of Spirit? - where the hands of the prisoners in the confinement of a cylinder reach up with their bowls to the circle above them.

In visual observation, we first define form and, only secondarily, colour. As a rule, the fewer the colours a painter uses in his work, the more reliably we can orientate ourselves in the picture. Nonetheless, colours usually make us contemplate content. The author of the Human Rights series used them in their primary effect - the colour blue makes the surface remote, red and yellow, in contrast, bring it closer; green indicates immobility, a bright surface better rendering the impression of a material fundament than a dark one - as well as in what we traditionally attribute to individual colours. He works with colour, brightness and light in a modern way, i. e., without shadows. The light of his solar circle does not represent realistic solar energy, but an expressive conveyance of the golden Gothic circle.

The distribution of brightness, its flow towards a perspective diagonal or toward a vertical rise, adds to the spatial relief, brings about visual tension and accentuates the idea. This consistent accentuation of the brightness of light figures and other objects against a dark background has been an idea in the history of European painting, elaborated since Filippo Lippi to the present day. Finally, one of the techniques used in the Human Rights series also covers the bottom layer with a transparent varnish, thus producing a light effect.

4. We can follow the ancestry of the elongated figures in the series under discussion back to the figures on Greek ceramics of antiquity. Still more direct is their relationship, not only as elongated figures, but also as faces as masks, to international Mannerism of the 16th century, especially Gothicizing El Greco, or the waxy relief figures of Pontormo of Florence. However, there are still more links between the painting style of Central European Mannerism and the Human Rights series - and ultimately the entire line of Czech and Central European modern painting. Allow us to mention at least the brownish colouring, elements of mystique and exaltation, obsession with conflict and the idea of a labyrinth of cells, which concludes the series.

Genealogically, it may also be traced back to the modern English artist F. Bacon, and his preoccupation with the tragic denudation and rending of the body, which is confined in a cube of converging naked walls. Most of all, however, it is the ambiguity which links these artists with the Human Rights series.

Objects depicted in their characteristic outlines seem like a release mechanism for "thinking eyes". The characteristic implication thus establishes a link between what we see through our sensory and intellectual experiences and our expectations. The ambiguity of the artistic work in its parts and as a whole in the Mannerism style of the 16th century and in modern art interprets the state of the world and the individual. This approach undermines the solidity of the material world, indicates a crisis, and draws the spectator into the work's meaning, with its layers of problems, which intensify each other. An example of this approach in the Human Rights series is the employment of realistic perspective in an unrealistic space, a method known as "metaphysical painting". The result is a sense of eeriness, where the rational material world gains dreamlike, barely tangible qualities. Within this framework of contradictions, there is a number of minor contradictions - between the clearly defined line and spot, between brittleness and solidity, between man divested of absoluteness and complete form, between a cube of a cell and the possibilities suggested by a window or a door, between the happenings confined in the time of material, rational perspective, and liberation from time in the dematerialized circle.

Tension in the strength of geometric forms seems to echo the tension in the multifariousness of the world in which we live. The form of the cross mirrors the harmonic balance of the horizontal and vertical line, but also the place of agony and death. The impersonal brick wall is the wailing wall, but also the narrow path of recognition. The bowls in the outstretched hands are those of prisoners, but also patens. The lower part of the picture is the valley of shadows, but also the place of prophets, above who promise rises. The rubbish heap is a place of discard, but also the burning place where the Phoenix rises from the ashes. And the circle, that perfect form to which the rest are heading, expands in its brightness.

The transgression from the personally experienced to symbolic testimony, from the chronological and historical to the temporal and timeless principle, from creative language to moral message, is, to quote a poet, the use of memory for freedom.

...This is the use of memory:
For liberation - not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past. Thus, love of a country
Begins as attachment to our own field of action
And comes to find that action of little importance
Though never indifferent. History may be servitude,
History may be freedom. See, now they vanish,
The faces and places, with the self which, as it could, loved them,
To become renewed, transfigured, in another pattern.

Ladislav Pečiva, historik

Exhibition Munich, 1981

Painter, graphic artist and excellent illustrator Jan Kristofori has a powerful expressive range of expressive tools, so visible that he is gaining an ever growing public.

Part of his work is reliefs that bring together colours, three dimensional materials, handwriting and many hidden aids in a uniform and strong effect. Although the only adequate name for this series is poetry, its mood is muffled with astounding toughness. This is only logical - as the theme itself is too cruel. It is the endless suffering and humiliation of the mass of humanity in all its manifestations: in work, the ability to think critically, will, feelings, entitlement to love and creation.

If we are educated in this way, we must adjust our means to the end. For instance, note the choice of colours. Kristofori does not paint with colours - he thinks with them, or yes, even better - he meditates with them and tries to find a way. The root of Kristofori's work is religious. The style - if we take refuge in traditional codes - is distinctly anti-baroque. For Kristofori’s experience is of an earlier date. It is gothic. Everything in his paintings strives upwards, rising, bursting, bridling, bracing. It is tears flowing or gushing, it is the melting wax of candles of pain, it is the high gothic windows.

This work is a vertical outcry. Kristofori was experienced totalitarian destruction on his own body. He has irrefutable proofs through his own experiences from Communist concentration camps. He has the right to bear witness. He comes from a family of fighters. He is a revolutionary and a rebel, a lonely rebel.

His pictures are not ashes that will blow away with the first breath of wind. One cannot move these pictures because one cannot move Kristofori. He is not for sale and not to be bought, because he expresses what he himself has known.

He is - which correlates - anti-ideological, still as mortal as all of us, but not to be defeated. Because he is a person who has gone through fire and remained a human being. Therefore he is a warning to all the naive, who are willing to follow false prophets time and again. He is wise: he knows that paradise on Earth is not feasible, but that there are still possibilities for solidarity, help, bravery. Paradise on Earth is for cowards. Fight against evil for the people.

Jan Kristofori is one of the courageous, modest people fighting evil.

His reward? It’s as if his artistic mastery was something was ascribed to him as something incidental, though naturally extra. But what is not free, is the content of his pictures. It is gained through struggle. Here is a message that has meaning.

Ivan Diviš, poet

Art Centre Chagall,
Ostrava 1995

Dear friends, dear maestro,
I consider it an honour, but also a very difficult task for me, to introduce today's exhibition and acquaint the public with a personality of such universal nature in the field of arts. Where do I start?

Should I talk about the results of Jan Kristofori's co-operation with book and music publishing houses, with theatres, architects, exhibition companies, conservationists or film corporations? Or should I present the author as a painter, graphic artist, sculptor, architect and designer? It would also be possible to analyse some of his apparent polarities. For instance, Kristofori and music, Kristofori and poetry, Kristofori and theatre, Kristofori and illustrations. Of course, I could only mention some of these features, but decidedly not all of them, as I have not even succeeded in naming all of them here. Moreover, Jan Kristofori's art proves that the substantial message the author manifests and emphasizes takes place in other polarities: Kristofori and light, Kristofori and doubts, Kristofori and faith, ethics, love - in one world - human life.

It is interesting to see how a deep and sincere reflection of this plain and most natural theme for man, has always hindered the assertion of the positivistically flattened model of life that has been doggedly enforced upon us so long. Similarly, it is interesting to find that face to face with this work, to which this awkwardly flat positivistic philosophy is absolutely foreign, and despite half a century of mists, we are able to see quite clearly.

Kristofori's existentially perceived pictures, works of art and graphics have their basis in the non-figurative painting of the early sixties. The Czech informel with all its undertones of fear and inner crises impressed on Kristofori's paintings a disorderly dynamic structure and the dark tone of destruction. Simultaneously, the author undergoes a fight for life with hell in them. We can see a careworn human figure that is being tormented by the surrounding insatiable relief structure in his pictures. There is a clearly distinguishable desire here to dispel darkness, to escape fate, to show the way. The course of this line of development in his work could be represented by the pictures "Great Cock-Up in a Small Space" from 1962, "Waiting" from 1986, and finally, the picture "It Had to Come Out Some Day" from 1990. Apart from the contrast of the soft lines of bodies and rough structure and of course the battle between darkness and light, a frequent feature of Kristofori's works is the element of time and the circle. Man cannot overcome time and cannot leave his place in the circle, whose each point is the beginning, duration and end. Here we are reminded again of our determinateness and the eternal cosmic cycle. In the same way as Kristofori's work is fed from sources of structural painting and new figuration, it also has its roots in lyrical symbolism. It cannot but remind us of something from Mácha, Březina or Preisler. Such is the effect evoked by the cycles, Mass, Prague Symphony, Returns or Human Rights.

The secret of Jan Kristofori is his magic ability to penetrate into the soul, evoke deep personal experiences which, in spite of the monumentality of content, turns the work of art into something intimate to us, cherished like a jewel that defies pompous publicity. It is worshipped intimately (like that jewel) for its aesthetic qualities - as a beautiful thing. Kristofori's pictures, works of art and graphics are evidence that the word "art" - "umění" (in Czech) has something common with "can" - "umět" (in Czech) in this professional sense. The artistic form of the art work is certainly not of secondary importance to the author.

It is also for this reason that I am convinced the exhibition will draw great attention from the public and especially collectors.

Dear friends,
at this time, I would like to mention the progressiveness of the exhibition programme of the Art Centre Chagall, thanks to which the hitherto comparatively little known work of Jan Kristofori is now nearer to lovers of contemporary art in the Ostrava region. After all, it is not only Ostrava which is emotionally indebted to the significant work of this artist. A long list of one-man and collective exhibitions by Jan Kristofori mainly includes a variety of European and American cultural centres. It is not until the advent of the nineties and the return of Jan Kristofori from exile (he left for Norway in 1969 and worked abroad for over twenty years) that the frequency of the author's public presentations in our country has increased. In this context, it behoves me to mention the Ostrava and Havířov exhibitions in 1990 and 1991.

The reasons for the enormous difference in the cadence of exhibitions in the Czech Republic and abroad are more than evident. It is also illustrated by the name of the exhibition organized by the European Club of Culture at Pálffy Palace in Prague in 1991. It read symbolically: "From Basement to Palace" and precisely expressed the thorny and painful path the author had to endure from his seven years in Jáchymov’s place of suffering, to the risks of membership in the underground movement in the sixties and other political slights, away from the reach of daylight again.

When his sculptural group "Why Wouldn't We Rejoice" was destroyed at the symposium Sculpture and Town in Liberec in 1968, "these bright prospects" compelled Jan Kristofori to leave the country. In this context, I cannot omit remembering a "similarity that is quite accidental" here - the destruction of sculptures at the Ostrava Symposium of Spatial Forms two years later, and a very similar fate and grounds for emigration by one of Ostrava artists - Rudolf Valenta. It is an irony and an obviously incurable trauma of Czech culture that many of its outstanding talents had to grow up or mature abroad, over the fence - in better tended and treated gardens. Through hard work, Jan Kristofori won not only a number of prizes for his artistic work abroad, but was also awarded the German and Italian title of doctor honoris causa.

His world-renowned work has grown on the ruins of his Liberec sculptures and on the ruins of his dream of free life in Czechoslovakia. Jan Kristofori currently exhibits the fruits of his labour in a Czech garden once again and we are grateful to him that he has never ceased to consider it as his own.

Petr Beránek,
Director, Art Gallery Ostrava

Touches of Light, Soběslav 1996

It is usual to speak of the author's work in superlatives at the opening of an exhibition - no matter whether it is deserved or not, his successes in the past are enumerated and the most important preceding exhibitions are mentioned...

In the case of Jan Kristofori it would be possible to take up this theme and talk for a long time, but it would be like "carrying coals to Newcastle". I suppose it could not do any harm to define Jan Kristofori's creative work negatively, that is to say, what it is not, and among which authors Kristofori does not rank. Then perhaps the precious features of Kristofori's works will stand out more markedly and be easier for us to see.

Kristofori does not belong to those whose main goal is to shock and irritate the onlooker through the perversity of prolapsed pseudo-forms or to demonstrate his unbalanced splenetic behaviour and disharmony, and often to even present it as a heroic artistic act.

He does not rank among those authors whose works are reflections of destroyed inter-human relations, works that do not contain harmony and consonance but fight against all, works emphasizing the artists' own experiences of any quality, where the onlooker is only a secondary factor.

He does not rank among those whose works are often perceived as cesspools for the sewerage system of the subconscious, as a dump of ruins affecting us with emotional strangeness, lethal decomposition, debris, or rags acting on the onlooker horribly, ruthlessly and with disturbing effect, or infecting him with astromental sludge.

C. G. Jung once expressed himself about part of modern fine art to the effect that nothing in them looks forward to the observer and that everything averts from him, and even beauty, if any, appears only as an unforgivable delay in this aversion. One looks for the ugly, pathological and morbid, grotesque, unintelligible, banal, and all this is aimed not at expressing or exposing but to obscure in a way that is not intended for any man seeking something, but as a cold mist which covers un-peopled swamps, unintentionally, as a theatre that can dispense with the audience".

True art does not want to ostentatiously demolish but to create. While once at private student level experiments were conducted in fine arts, only then followed by creation, the experiment is often presented to the public today as art, and the basis as a goal. As Gustav Flaubert once said: "Small streams in flood may look like an ocean. However, they lack one thing: dimension."

Often, art critics have also lapsed into elitism and snobbery where sophisticated and fabricated evaluation criteria, which are an end in themselves, do not correlate with the notions of beauty, good, purity and thus ignore the time-honoured and irrevocable purpose of art which should be to make man better, cultivate him and help him live.

Official science, particularly psychology, has not yet appreciated and mapped the fact that perverted and disharmonious works generate blocks in the human psyche which are difficult to remove. The influence of destructive and immoral work, whether in film, music, literature or fine art, may persist in the inaccessible and deep sub consciousness of its consumers for a very long time and will one day require great effort and perhaps suffering to dissolve its virulence so as to prevent it from blocking the perception of higher thinking and emotions.

If we can rely on the knowledge of clairvoyants and insiders, the Earth is also a living thing sustained or, on the contrary, destroyed according to the quality of life of its inhabitants. Allegedly, the spiritual sparkling vibrations of saints, prophets, wise men and artists who have ever lived on this earth and whose thinking and creations have operated at all levels, that is to say, also in matter, have also secretly helped slowly create the precious stones and crystals at the earth’s heart. In fact, it is the first invisible cause, or motive of their creative activities. A glittering precious stone or crystal is allegedly nothing more than "materialized" virtue or its spiritual primal type. Just as virtue is hidden in the depths of the heart, so precious stones are hidden in the earth’s depths.

With this parable we come back to the correlation between ethics - aesthetics - spirituality - salvation. We arrive at the confirmation that creation is not a noncommittal game without the need for self-discipline, but a supremely responsible activity as the works, once created, continue living their own life and influence their environment in various ways.

Jan Kristofori has understood that the artist need not and should not, and a true artist even must not, descend to the level of the mass consumer, but, through his work, must altruistically offer him advancement to his own level. That is why Kristofori does not draw on the invisible network of interconnected relations and impulses of the resonant morphic field of prevailing contemporary art, that is, on the mental flows of the collective consciousness of lower levels. It is currently the strong influence of radiated mental substance on which most starting, as well as renowned authors are inadvertently slipping.

In this way Kristofori has preserved his strong undisturbed information intensity.

His creative process is supported, or even initiated by his intensive identification with - as well as his detachment from actions, events and topics of current concrete development and his fortunes, through which he partakes in the sufferings and values of Mankind. Kristofori's cognitive procedure, thematic repertoire and form of processing, as in the case of other true artists, arises more from the roots of his current fortunes, experiences and humanitarian themes. He has succeeded in what only a few people have achieved - namely, he has adapted himself in neither style or content to the requirements of those who regulate the content of the cultural industry according to the demands of sales (previously ideological, now market) but, at the same time, has penetrated to the public at large. He is an artistic self-made man in the best sense of the word.

His art is not a country to be deciphered but a morphic field for liberating co-operation in which the onlooker becomes part of the work which, simultaneously, is part of life and creation that are filled with truth. The reality of such art is not just a "text to be solved, but a language to be spoken".

Kristofori paints about his and all human grief and suffering, victories and values. They are contained in his work, and his work itself is often what they are.

He is not one of those authors who point to an obviously ideal human future in their art. The concrete content and method of formation of his work speaks of experience of woe in the dust of the earth, as well as the painful sharing and re-melting of human suffering he has experienced. His work is inherent in present time. It reflects the contemporary state of Mankind, its problems, pains and values. His work may be more down-to-earth than, for instance, that of his friend Zdeněk Hajný, but at the same time it is charged with a force of life experiences. His path in life initiates his creative work. In part, it is through his past eventful destinies that he strives for conscious sharing in the suffering and values of Mankind.

There is a moral strength here, perhaps in the thousands of drawn messages once sent by the author to the world from prison. Here he first matured as a man in pure humanness - which also gave him the enormous magnitude of seeking and successfully finding or accepting thematic and artistic intuition.

"The artist walks to the perfection of his work through the perfection of his life" Otokar Březina wrote to František Bílek in 1900.

"All recognition is an evolutionary process, that is, an action based on events" Zdeněk Neubauer recently wrote. If such art is enlivened by pure inner human-divine potential, it speaks to us in a special way and awakens our comprehension of cosmic relations. It evokes a mysterious connection with the spiritual world in us, though often unconsciously.

Works by such genuine artists then influence the earthly world apparently much more deeply than generally accepted. They co-create the climate of collective consciousness of Mankind and thereby its evolutionary aspirations, too. The influence of art works into which spiritual-ethical-aesthetic vibrations and values have been impressed will not be lost, but spiritualize both man and matter. Every truly spiritual work is both an antenna and corridor related to the sphere from which it was inspired. Perceptive individuals may even unwittingly connect to this force corridor and thus gain support or their own life inspiration for the solution of their fateful labyrinths. For in the act of creation itself, a ray is radiated into the earth’s atmosphere that permanently influences the intensity of general spiritual light.

Such true artists follow the orders of intuition, not the general good or bad taste of the period. They do not use any authority to push through their approach. It is certainly a process which is slow, continuous, with ups and downs, failures, reversals or turnarounds, but that is part of all development.

By surmounting the obstacles of the material world, with efforts to obtain global insight into human-cosmic mysteries and by seeking the inner voice of inspiration and intuition, the artist dissolves and thus redeems a part of lower humanity and acts on a plan of spiritualizing himself and mankind running like a red thread thanks to artists such as Jan Kristofori.

It is clearly also due to the development of Kristofori's relation to Christ's impulse for mankind. He has not accepted this with passive obedience, as is often required, sometimes even to the detriment of the matter, but he has been working himself, perhaps laboriously, but with a genuine human honesty and authenticity, towards a vividly felt relationship to Christ's mission and the destinies of mankind.

Karel Funk, Christian Philosopher

Touches of the Past,
Hradec Králové 1996

From the touch of God's finger in making Adam as rendered by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, we undoubtedly know what immeasurable force may be hidden in the process of approaching and touch. What unthought-of responsibility ensues from subsequent events, indelible impressions of the present beside the recognised history of the past.

We touch, if we make slight contact, sometimes even unknowingly – with something or someone. Often we unfavourably interfere, if we affect relations or sometimes even certain rights. We may touch by mention of something, a memory, remark - sometimes with unusual and desirable tenderness, and others without and as awkwardly as "a bull in china shop".

We touch for contact, for messages that we send or want to receive. In all these touches we are seeking real human dialogue.

Some of us can give testimonies of these touches that persist. There is a whole range of them. From touches of joy, the universe, conscience, time, truth, suffering, human rights, humanity but also music and letters between people, to touches of the past. This, for example, was an incomplete list and spectrum of messages and touches by Jan Kristofori. He imprints these messages indelibly in defined spaces in order to concentrate the force of his touch. They are then permanently imprinted in our minds and hearts. The spaces of his pictures, graphic art, collages and other works act as magic and ebullient forces generating touches in which sparks of enormous energy can be seen.

Where touches of the past are concerned, they compel us to take to heart and consider questions that are essential and important and to refrain from dancing the dances of the day around misty actions and transgressions. For Jan Kristofori the past is evidently an integral part of our time and apparently the future too. However, no matter how interrupted, it is continuous. You cannot escape it and it cannot be deliberately changed. This can only be done by the creators of school curricula, though they only succeed for a very short time, and always unconvincingly.

Jan Kristofori has drawn our attention to many places and cases of distortion many times and he will undoubtedly not leave us alone in future. It is as if he has adhered to Masaryk's idea (I am paraphrasing here): "We have always lost national sovereignty whenever we have ceased to live morally as a nation." Masaryk came to this conclusion by looking back to the past. He never dreamt he was a perfect futurologist. For more than fifty years countless people have tried hard to substantiate this knowledge.

Fortunately there are many among us who do not forget and, moreover, can point out the erring nature of our ways, our steps and decisions through their means. Kristofori's cycles often almost document and, moreover, appeal in warning to our insufficiency - where possible, self-knowledge is the first step to remedy. Let’s hope so!

In this aspect the humanist view logically and most clearly prevails. Here again according to T. G. Masaryk: "...the Czech humanistic ideal is not and cannot be a romantic fantasy... Humanity without consistent endeavour and efficiency is dead. Humanistic ideals require us to resist - consistently, anywhere, in everything - the evil, namely our own, as well as that of foreign non-humanistic societies and their educational, religious, political and national bodies - all of them! Humanity is not sentimentality, but work and work again." (The Czech Question,1895).

Kristofori's Touches of the Past are clearly searching for the truth of humanity. They pursue an understanding of man amidst events. Endless and enduring comprehension. From such positions one usually resorts to raising fingers, sermonizing and moralizing. However, this is not Kristofori's case. He belongs to the few who can invite and call others to the path of recognizing truth, so that it is impossible to resist the appeal and, moreover, so that it is possible to believe. An inner real credibility of the artist's mission is the supreme goal of his work.

It is not given to many to be able to create, to provoke, consistently build, keep up and patiently offer a real dialogue through their work. Jan Kristofori ranks among them. He can evoke in us the old but constantly topical question "Who are we and where are we going?" What is our past and hence our present? Where and how have we lost our ideals, promises, faithfulness to ourselves? By his touch, he patiently and constantly invites us to participate in these dialogues. And it is not done with a kind stroke, but as a manly and direct challenge.

It has the nature of appeal with a firm stance. It does not flirt with quasi-knowledge, but stands on it own. It is based on a moral imperative.

Therefore, let’s enter Kristofori's world. It is usually full of impulses and provocations, unrest and dissatisfaction. But you will also find a great source of energy here for the dialogue that we need so much now - as perhaps everywhere world-wide. Therefore, let’s touch this possibility and thank the artist that he has not left us in peace. Let’s speak to him, let’s speak to one another, let’s seek human touch, despite discouraging tendencies.

I wish this exhibition a full and true reception and of course I look forward to further Touches.

Milan Klíma, Dean, DAMU

Touches of Music, Brno 1997

Through Jan Kristofori’s exhibition we step straight into the middle of a concert. We find a record of music and its execution here. We meet a musical painting on the road from a two-dimensional score to our third dimension, on the road to us.

Similarly, like music itself - it is coming to meet us... A combination of painting-graphic relief with both a shallow and fairly deep score is its artistic form. The sculptural foundation is gently modelled with a colour tone and its values, and so it is dematerialized through colour at the same time...

In the integrity of thoughts we can thus see an inwardly exciting structural picture - a reflection of an imaginary structure of our own soul. The wise, deep and unforgettable has first been scored in it after all. The accompanying colouring of these things, phenomena and events may then be spread nearly at the surface, but still penetrates through and radiates far into space...

The mythic and biblical experience of Creation when light was separated from darkness, music from chaos, namely harmony from impetuosity, the experience rendered here in the form of a gothic alter statement reaches before the memory of the human species itself. Yet, it was engraved somewhere by someone, so it could not be forgotten in the future. Hence the unrepeatable pictorial similitude of Kristofori's patinated score with the oldest and most sacred ones: with engravings in rocks, on Sumerian rocks, on seal rollers and stamps, but also similitude to the far later relief interventions in the graphic matrices of art engravings and etchings...

Ancient scores may appear here. Music scores with drawn ornaments on manuscripts of accompanying and attendant texts, notes and annotations taken down in ancient primitive languages of the world are artistic diaries of ancient masters, but also of those who are yet to come and will rewrite the Light of the universe itself into these music scores...

We are listening to prophetic music. For its composer - conductor comes to us by name - or, that is to say, in the name and with the name - of faith and a measure of Christian matters, in the name of good and light, in the name of CHRIST...

Through the magic etymology of the name JAN KRISTOFORI we welcome a Czech Jan - a hind-hearted Honza from an old Czech fairy-tale, namely the Honza we have looked for so impatiently, because the world is tossed about by dragon's vagaries again. Our dragon quarrels are all that has been left to us from our dear fairy tale. Fortunately, the fairy-tale is a new light-friendly hope too. It is the time after the snake and the quarrel, and those are different times already! And so fairy-tale Honza is also Prophet John, preceding Christ, John from his square or from the place of his sermons - FORUM CHRISTI. Only the doubting Thomas, who does not believe the picture and name, erroneously reads his: KRISTOFOR. But even he will start believing one day, too, when the picture of darkness is lighted by the initials. J. K.!

Dear Mr Jan, we thank you for your prophecies of the mystic twenty-four musical paintings and we hope you feel at home here. In spite of the old saying, may you always be just a prophet in our home...

Dear concert friends, next time if we happen to find ourselves in the Hall of Bohuslav Martinů unawares, then we may have entered there again through the picture of J. Kristofori. His concert will last forever here, in the same way as we continue to hear some art compositions by W. Sokol, B. Borovský or V. Komárek here till now...

Through Jan Kristofori’s exhibition we have stepped straight into the middle of a concert. We hope that his exhibition - TOUCHES OF MUSIC - touches and concerns us.

Jaroslav Dvorský, Art Historian