Stanislav Kolibal celebrates his 80th birthday with a new exhibition.

'Displaced corner'

At the age of eighty Stanislav Kolibal is still active, testing new approaches and ideas. This year he has devoted himself to painting and his work is now on display in Prague's Veletrzni Palac, the part of the National Gallery devoted to modern art, until the middle of February. The watercolours on show are all in a shade of gray and represent trends in modern contemporary art. What might seem a random accumulation of squares, circles and rectangular shapes is in fact carefully composed to the very last detail.

"You might see in this picture a square which looks like it could be the front of a rectangular form. But we can't be sure whether this square in the front is in the front or if it is just a part of another object. That is how I make a viewer think twice. I am sure that we all experience very similar feelings nearly every day. We are not sure about something that seems to be real and clear. And that is the link between my abstract art and reality."

Because he was not liked by the communist regime Stanislav Kolibal did not exhibit at home for eighteen years. However a few exhibitions made it to London and New York with the help of his friends. Without an opportunity to take part personally he retreated to his studio and experimented with the walls of the studio, which in a way were like the walls of a prison. Here he remembers the old days.

"I was not allowed to exhibit nor create outside my studio. It became my only world. I started to use the studio's ceiling, floor, walls or an object that was somewhere in a room. I would connect this object with the walls using strings. I would paint on a wall, lay mirrors on the floor which created different shapes on the walls. I thought up a new way of creating sculptures that was later adopted by many other artists. It is now known as "installation".

Installation builds a strong link between a sculpture and the space in which it is created. The sculpture and the space need each other.

Kolibal's main interest is in abstract forms and creating paradoxes, but definitely not in imitating reality.

"For a significant part of my life I was surrounded by the official art of the totalitarian regime. Its main inspiration was socialist realism: depicting happy working people. I have never warmed to it. I still don't like it. It is not my cup of tea."

Stanislav Kolibal has also made a significant impact as a teacher, a theatrical designer, an illustrator, an architect and recently he has been setting up art exhibitions. When I asked him which aspect of his work he most identifies with, he replied:

"I think that one of my fiends, an architect expressed it best. He once asked me the same question as you: 'Who are you? What is your job? You do so many different things.' After a short while he replied to his own question. 'Oh of course, I know you are Mr. Kolibal."