Renowned Czech artist Adriena Šimotová dies at 87

Adriena Šimotová, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic has lost one of its most respected artists: Adriena Šimotová, who passed away on Monday at the age of 87. Šimotová, who couldn't exhibit officially in Communist Czechoslovakia during the so-called ‘Normalisation period’, went from a classic painter’s approach early in her career to a more abstract but also figurative style, often working with images in fabric or paper.

Adriena Šimotová,  photo: CTK
Adriena Šimotová used paper and fabric – crumpled, ripped and torn, sometimes printing parts of her body, including head and face – to create unforgettable images. Her work is poetic, the tactile manipulation of the paper striking. Fragile, at times brutal, always humanistic. As an artist, ‘touch’ was her single-most defining element. In one of Šimotová’s last interviews, she described why for her it was so important:

“It is my way of communicating. Communication for me is the most important thing, the fact that it is my hand offered - and received – that is the reason I do it.”

Her curator Pavel Brunclík describes her approach to paper like this:

“She said somewhere that the material was like ‘skin’. It was a material that was very close to what she was looking for… and ideal for what she wanted to express.”

At the same time, she suggested in an interview for Czech TV back in 2001 that she wanted to be remembered for work in other materials as well:

Painting by Adriena Šimotová
“I wouldn’t want to be referred to as the ‘paper’ artist. I choose paper only because it is reacts so sensitively in one’s hands.”

In her final years, Šimotová had to overcome poor health and physical disability to continue working. On the occasion of her 85th birthday she exhibited both older and newer work at Prague’s Kampa Museum together with the Rudolfinium Gallery. Throughout her career, not least after 1989, she exhibited across Europe and is one of the few Czech artists to have her work in the permanent collection at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. In 1991, she received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France and in 1997, the Order of Merit from then-President Václav Havel.