The Nymphaeum from Somewhere Else

“When they speak of academism, it’s as if it were a dirty word!”

The pejorative nature of the term ‘academism’, referring to European painting and sculpture from the last third of the 19th century, seems to be almost impossible to overcome – at least in our country – a legacy of modernism, which rules the taste of the majority of society. Why is this so, when ‘classic’ modernism or the reductive tendencies of the 1960s are not still completely comprehensible, this is the question; and for such a small country, one that is inexplicable, for many given connections are due to the emphasis on nationality, which is fairly historical by now. Also, in the first, state-forming, Czechoslovak Republic – refusing everything from the (Austrian) past – one spoke and (even acted) more ‘modern’, and even here the internationalist dimension of salon art had legions of champions and admirers at that time.1/ Refusing academism was even – with the dictate of national progress – perceived as a question of good or bad taste, and the former Czechoslovak Masaryk-led state of the time paid tidy sums for artistic goods – mostly of French provenance, but domestic as well.2/ Today an analogous connecting of definable social interests, finance, and art – it seems – is no longer valid. The clueless boundlessness over the state of today’s (non)cultural (un)political contemporary Czech Republic is now just the logical result of not looking at the issues of the past, for the ever-growing phenomenon, at least in the Prague municipal apparatus, is that artistic pieces are “for free”!

At the dawn of the 21st century we do meet with art, and with “art” which can be anything. The condition is “only” its institutionalisation – and on our home turf, that could be anything, even a rabbit breeders’ association. Artists, especially here, do not have it easy. In the unprecedented absence of public commissions, to the world of the visions and visual sensations of the virtual networks of the internet, they must – and sculptors especially, for their positions are truly tied to matter, with which time management is unusually difficult – truly engage….

MojDa – David Moješčík – is one of that not large group of sculptors of the middle generation who do not teach at universities, who do not work to their utmost as a source of labour for others, but instead prefer to fulfil their own programmes. His philosophical and creative works are influenced by the fin de siècle phenomenon – this liberally powerful creative epoch, manifesting itself like the delta of a mighty river,3/ in which out of the mental depths often flow contradictory streams –as if it is only in the tension that they always sink or disappear forever into oblivion, or just vegetate in the shallows of the (sub)environment pools of an oxbow. Here the artist is something like a fisherman: he takes suitable visions and ideas and the rejected ones are thrown back. At the same time David Moješčík is a skilful modeller, a substantial figuralist, who works with postmodern subjects and symbolic visions of spiritual yoga. Such a background was determined by his family, since childhood, for his father Miloslav was interested in yoga.4/ At the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Technical University in Brno under Michal Gabriel5/ he stood out. I remember being in one of the exam juries, where Moješčík’s sophisticated exhibited figure captivated us all. It wasn’t the obstinate narrative of the modeller, following with photographic exactness the look of a given model, rather he was attempting at a classic, at the ideal of beauty; for his work on a figure – the female figure – was rather the reflection of individual studies of more than one model.

David Moješčík generates his figures and their postures in different ways. Characteristic for him are rather complicated sculptural positions and unusual postures in which at the same time they overcome the usual difficulties of their own stasis; the final appearance of the statues is conditioned by the sought ideal relationships of the details to the whole – as a rule, naked female beauty. His nudes are perfect, even though they may seem distant. This feeling is underscored by the unsettling stiffness of the corpus; it is as if the “bodies” were controlled by the hidden interior movement of a future moment when after exhalation and inhalation, they “must” come to life! Peculiar to Moješčík’s work are his Levitace [Levitations], which the artist has elaborated for several years now in multiple variations: figures of women in yoga positions determined by their own gravitation, they “levitate” somewhat fleetingly, on three minimal points – the little toe and the middle fingers of both hands. The elaborated muscular surface tension, in the softness of the effects of light, is a given, just like the potential coloration and possible “enlivenment” by insertion of glass or steel eyes.6/

Retro inspirations are now again an ordinary part of the thematic and morphological “dictionary” of fine art. Historical, normative connotations however have ceased to be socially binding. The artist and his work are (only) exhibited in the practical criticism of contemporary production, which as was said, can appear in the institutionalised regime like almost anything. David Moješčík, who desires to stay above all a sculptor, also negotiates these impermanent multifarious strata. He has invented a means of creating his own universe – with diversity at the same time. The Nymphaeum – a full bevy of floating, naked girls as a natural species, with fauns inside the “disputation” – was originally the pictorial vision of the famous French 19th century academic painter William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825–1905). This vision – it seems – symbolically fulfils the quite contemporary Moješčík esprit of identificational needs, and in its élan vital it aims at joyful, although self-responsible, living.

Pavel Netopil

1/ For more, see Marie Rakušanová. Bytosti odnikud. Metamorfózy akademických principů v malbě první poloviny 20. století v Čechách [Beings from Nowhere. Metamorphoses of Academic Principles in Paintings of the First Half of the 20th Century in Bohemia]. Academia, Prague 2008.

2/ For more, see: Nikolaj Savický. Francouzské moderní umění a česká politika v letech 1900–1939 [French Modern Art and the Czech Political Scene, 1900–
1939]. Academia, Prague 2011.

3/ “The 1900 phenomenon resembles a huge delta. Through it flow all the tendencies of the 19th century, starting with sentimentalism and romanticism, continuing through symbolism, and ending in decadence, historicism, and ‘modernism’.” Josef Kroutvor. Hlava Medusy [The Head of Medusa]. Jazzpetit no. 29, Jazzová sekce PPSH, undated.

4/ Ing. Miloslav Moješčík (1947–2009) was a yoga instructor with international certification (Yoga in Daily Life).

5/ David Moješčík completed his apprenticeship in stone masonry in 1991 in Žulová; in 1992 he studied at the construction school in Ostrava in graphic design; a year later in 1993 he transferred to the fine arts school in Ostrava in industrial design; and in the same year he left for the stone sculpture school in Hořice v Podkrkonoši, whence he graduated in 1996. In that year he was accepted to the Faculty of Fine Arts of the Technical University in Brno, studying sculpture under Vladimír Preclík; after Preclík left the university he continued studying figural sculpture under Michal Gabriel, graduating in 2002.

6/ The key role of sight, from the anthropological, religious, and purely medical perspectives, is interestingly dealt with in: Frank Gonzalez-Crussi, On Seeing. Things Seen, Unseen and Obscene. Overlook Press, New York 2006.