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Mikuláš Medek (1926–1974) Sensitive Signal III

mixed media (oil, enamel) on canvas
1963
lower right
100 × 75 cm
frame

Starting price5,500,000 CZK Final price6,720,000 CZK
89th Auction, lot 88 This high-quality imaginative painting comes from the studio of one of the most important painters of the second half of the 20th century and represents one of his creative periods, which he entered in 1963. In this period, a hint of figuration returned to Medek’s so-called “prepared paintings” whilst maintaining his existing structural painting system. The strictly organised organic structure started coming to life with independent geometric formations, which were gradually transformed into anthropomorphic forms. This gradual change can be observed in his cycles Sudden Events and Sensitive Manifestations, as well as in Sensitive Signals from 1963–1967, including the presented work Sensitive Signal III. The impetus for this transformation could have been the order of dean P. F. Vavříček to decorate the church in Jedovnice. Thanks to him, today the church has a decoration of an exceptional artistic level, in which leading avant-garde artists participated, such as K. Nepraš, J. Istler, J. Koblasa and, above all, M. Medek, who is the author of the altarpiece dominating the entire interior. As the dominant subject matter of the altarpiece, Medek chose the cross as the cornerstone of Christian symbolism, which was reflected in his later works as well. Just like the cross of the Jedovnice altar, the Sensitive Signals are formed into a “crux commissa” (i.e. a T-shaped cross) and directly follow the interest in the human figure. They present Medek’s sensitive reaction to the situation of a man in a modern big city; a person as a receiver of signals, subject to various warnings and commands directing his activity. As Medek wrote in his Notes III (1963–1964): “The signal occurs in the movement between the sign and the addressee. A visual signal is a dynamic message […]. The line of this signal is the body of the signal itself.” The dark circle in the middle of the beam has an ambiguous role as a source of radiating and absorbing information at the same time. The presented work is an excellent example of Medek’s high sensitivity to the contemporary societal climate and to the psyche of an individual living in the oppressive conditions of a restrictive regime. The value of this painting is enhanced by its origin in the collection of a prominent art historian. It was exhibited at the artist’s solo exhibition in Liberec (Twenty previously unexhibited paintings from the years 1960–1965, Regional Gallery in Liberec, March 1966), in the catalogue of which it is reproduced in black and white (Č. Krátký: Mikuláš Medek. Twenty previously unexhibited of paintings from the years 1960–1965, Liberec, 1966, cat. no. 6). Assessed during consultations by prof. J. Zemina and PhDr. E. Kosáková-Medková, art historian and the artist’s daughter. The expertise of PhDr. K. Srp is attached.
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