Olga Karlíková

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Seeking out the connections between natural processes, graphic symbols and common algorithms of reality led the painter Olga Karlíková (1923-2004) to study birdsong, recording its cadences in the lines of her drawings. Her apparently abstract drawings and paintings are reminiscent of cycles of manuscript texts, written using a language of symbols, or graphic notations for music performances. Karlíková’s hundreds of drawings and dozens of paintings are a seismographic record of processes in nature, tracing the motion of the hand and eye and guided by hearing. From 1966 on, Karlíková sought her own conception of structural landscape painting directly in the countryside. She sketched the constantly changing choreography and orchestration of the countryside, its seemingly identical and yet always different contours in spring and summer, resonant with larks, finches, warblers, blackbirds, tits, swallows, crows and swifts. She systematically compiled “registers” of script referring to sonic formulas for the language of animal communication, and she studied and recorded the motion of different bird species in flight. Her drawings have a kinship with graphic scores, and they oscillate between purely visual percept, and musical form and moment, capturing the sequentiality and uniqueness of the morphology of a particular place.

These aspects of her work are — evidently intuitively — in line with contemporary concepts in world art concerning the inseparability of man and nature, and with the ideas of Gregory Bateson, John Cage and Olivier Messiaen.