Monday, October 1, 2012

The Reluctant Artist


Donna Watson, altered digital image of nest, rice papers, acrylic

Miroslave Tichy was born in Czechoslavia in 1926.  He studied painting but never finished due to communism in his country in 1948.  Tichy dropped out and became a dissident and a hermit.  He refused to kowtow to the communist regime and spent 8 years in prison.  He retreated from society, grew a beard, left his hair uncut and wore tattered clothing.  He became interested in photography but had little money.


Tichy would gather trash such as empty cans, old glasses, shoe boxes, plexiglass and other junk that he could use to make his own cameras.  For his lens, he would cut plexiglass with a knife.


  Using these cardboard cameras constructed from found materials like clothespins, spools, tubes, string), Tichy shot about 2 rolls of film per day, mostly of females caught unaware in the midst of their day-to-day activities (sunbathing, reading, riding bikes, sitting on park benches).


By the end of each day he would have about 100 shots.  While there is an element of voyeurism to his images, the women became used to Tichy wandering about and taking their pictures from a distance.



Tichy never showed anyone his photographs.  As a matter of fact, he usually threw them into a heap on the floor.  They would be stepped on, scratched, crumpled up, or left out in the rain.  Old and neglected, many of them have partially oxidized.  They are covered with fingerprints, grit, insects...they are small and oddly shaped.


The photographs looked like the mistakes other photographers would throw away.  But for Tichy
the imperfections are where the beauty resides:  "The flaws are part of it.  That's the poetry."

Many of Tichy's photographs ended up in a big heap on the floor.
Tichy lived in a small hut most of his live.   He never traveled far from his hut nor the town he lived near.  He never showed his photographs to anyone.  He was considered an eccentric artist.


He may have had a foot fetish.  A lot of his photographs are of women's legs, feet, or shoes.

It is only a few years ago that the public was able to view the pictures he took with his homemade cameras.  His first solo exhibit went straight into the main exhibition space in the Kunsthaus Zurich.
Tichy refused to go to any of his exhibits.  A number of books have published his images.  Tichy passed away this year.


"Photography is painting with light!  The blurs, the spots, those are errors!  But the errors are part of it, they give it poetry and turn it into painting." --- Miroslav Tichy

"Identity is gradual, cumulative; because there is no need for it to manifest itself, it shows itself intermittently, the way a star hints at the pulse of its being by means of its flickering light.  But at what moment in this oscillation is our true self manifested?  In the darkness or the twinkle?"
---  Sergio Chejfec,  The Planets
 


40 comments:

ronnie said...

what a fascinating story - thanks for sharing (I'm simultaneously thrilled but kinda creeped out by the images and thought of a strange guy snapping surreptitious pics of girls feet...)

Ms. said...

I'm moved by this story--by his self imposed exile after such trauma, by the inventiveness of his constructions, by the 'view from afar' photos (when is photography not a voyeuristic after all, even with willing subjects), and by his acceptance of both his condition and the 'flows' in the work...he was right too, they did approach painting.

It puts me in mind of a site I follow that might also interest you and your readers--
OUTSIDER ENVIRONMENTS SITE HOME
http://outsider-environments.blogspot.com/
MARCEL DHIEVRE
http://outsider-environments.blogspot.com/2012/09/update-3-marcel-dhievre-au-petit-paris.html
FLICKER STREAM
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ville-saintdizier/sets/72157631269608640/
--

Noela Mills said...

Extraordinary - people like this add such a rich texture to the essence of humanity.

Lynn said...

Wow. Thanks for this post, Donna.
I didn't know of Tichy or his work before. What a fascinating man and body of work.

ELFI said...

phantastique!

Valerianna said...

Such treasures hidden in a life of a man many would have dismissed, I imagine. Beautiful, painterly images. I wonder at all the remarkable creativity and vision that is hidden away and might never be shared.

annell said...

A wonderful story about an artist doing what he does. And as artist that is what we do. I love his work!

lyle baxter said...

a sad tale,but a wonderful post. I am always amazed at the lengths people will go to capture their vision! thank you!

Gaby Bee said...

Absolutely fascinating post, thank you! Enjoyed the visit today...

india flint said...

the cameras are in themselves beautiful objects - and it seems to me that Tichy's life was consumed by "art work"...the work being the making of his equipment, the quest for the image, the making of the image.

that he simply piled the photos on the floor makes sense, as having fixed the image in the paper, the "work" was done

thank you Donna for bringing him to our attention

Kathryn said...

Loved reading this post, it was a shame that he couldn't receive pleasure from others viewing his work before he died.

Lisa said...

Thank you for such a beautiful post about Tichy...i never cease to be amazed by his genius.

henrietta (aka ani aka zani) said...

Donna, what a lovely post you have shared. Truly speaks to the simple, internal life and the beautiful one can find from within. What strength in enduring.

eb said...

Donna,
this is a wonderful story
about a wonderful man
I love the cameras
perhaps even more than the photos
(quite partial however to the shoes)
love his rugged determinism
his wabi sabi living
yes, the poetry in the flaws...

thanks so much
for inspiring my day!

xox - eb.

Leslie Avon Miller said...

It is by breaking away from the collective we come into our own. One can not help but see the power in his life of determined individualist.
We are fortunate he had a vision captured on photographic paper.

ZenDotStudio said...

You never cease to tantalize with the interesting stories you post. You are an explorer, generously sharing your discoveries of strange continents and landscapes.

I thought the cameras were enough, as strange art objects. And like others I am a bit creeped out by his choice of subject matter. A unique and authentic character, that's for sure!

Caterina Giglio said...

thank you for this post Donna, I have seen his fascinating cameras, but not the photos, very interesting artist and amazing work... too bad so much has oxidized...

Jann Gougeon said...

Very interesting and love his words . . "the errors are part of it, give it poetry."

Jane Aston said...

Wow this made my day, thanks for this.

Dan Dorfer said...

Brilliant.
your post was exactly the information I needed today, determination, do-it-yourselfism, consistency, apart from the "norms", staying true to self and not being attached to what anyone else thinks about your process.

Seth said...

Fascinating post Donna. I was lucky enough to see one of his exhibits in NYC several years back. His photos are unlike others I have seen -- and he certainly was obsessive in his themes. He created hand drawn frames for many of his photos, mostly from torn cardboard and pencil/ink. At the exhibit they had filled a huge glass fish tank with his handmade cameras and other equipment that he used. The cameras were extraordinary in person -- a sight for any mixed media artist to behold. Thanks for bringing back these memories.

Tammie Lee said...

hi Donna,

you find such wonderfully interesting stories and people to share with us. Thank you!

ArtPropelled said...

I wonder just how much his 8 years in prison influenced the direction of his work. His cameras are extaordinary!

JAQUINTA said...

really interesting esp the cameras


londonbookworks.blogspot.co.uk

mansuetude said...

I would love to try shooting with such cameras, after doing oatmeal box and other box pinholes. It allows so much more random magic and light one never would dream to enter the image. The mind filters so much magnificent color and texture etc...

Kathy Johnson said...

What a truly unique individual he was. His cameras are wonderful assemblages in themselves. He certainly stayed true to his vision, through prison and living as a hermit.

Laura said...

Awesome...

Mick Mather said...

Is this thin on?

Kim Hambric said...

Fascinating! Thank you for introducing me to this artist.

mano said...

2008 I saw a wonderful tichy- exhibition in frankfurt/main. I was very fascinated of his photographs and the story of his life. thank you for sharing this great artist!

Sharmon Davidson said...

I had never heard of Tichy. It's a great story, but begs many questions, for me; I guess I'm the curious type. Such as: how did he develop 100 photos a day? That's really expensive; did he have his own darkroom? Also, I like what he says about the mistakes. Yes.

Tonya Vollertsen said...

You always come up with such inspiring and interesting blog posts! I love the cameras he made as much as his photos.

Debrina said...

Had a blast reading this illuminating story thanks Donna!! I love the results of his foot fetishist labor and disregard. The crumpled, misshapen heap of photos that he created paid off - adding to the grungy charm of his art. Perfection in imperfection.

Velma Bolyard said...

i've looked at this several times, and thought how right it is that the making of the camera(s) and the photo(s) was important and sustaining for him, NOT the ehxhbition(s), etc. i wonder what a conversation with him would have been.

nancy neva gagliano said...

Hi, Donna....thanks for your note of many weeks ago. because YOU WROTE, there's been a little nudge very often to check in on the outer world.
so i began working on a "catch-up" post tonight, and will try to finish before my 'recalled mac' goes in on tuesday. it needs a new hard drive they say.
THIS post of yours is as always so exciting. i learned of this man's life last winter in a photography class...a documentary film about him. inspiring...

i appreciate your work, Donna, and that little nudge you sent to me. i am good. and will send some new photos into the airways. facebook has been a QUICK fix for bits of communication. x0neva

Ruth Armitage said...

Interesting post about an artist who was passionate about making art!

Carole said...

Thanks, Donna, for another fabulous post. I hadn't heard of Tichy. His cameras are pieces of art in themselves.

Judy Martin said...

Donna, for some reason, I have been away from your blog - but why? It is so fascinating - your three most recent posts have educated and inspired me.

In this post, I learned about an artist that was new to me. The cameras that he made himself are astounding - and the two rolls of film a day - passionate.

Thank you for taking the time to add your intelligence to the blog world.

Gwen Buchanan said...

I admire his fortitude and I relate to his dropping out, his retreat from society and becoming a hermit.... but couldn't grow a beard for the life of me.

Di said...

As an avid amateur photographer, I just loved this post. When you have a passion no one can suppress it! Sad yet inspiring :)