The new exhibition in Brno traces the century of Czech comics
“With Tomáš Prokůpek, the other curator, we did an exhibition on Czech comics ten years ago called Signals from the Unknown.
“We tried to trace the history of Czechoslovakian or Czech comics at the time and came up with the idea that Josef Lada’s pranks by Frantík Vovísek and Bobeš the goat can be considered the first modern Czech comics .
“This series of comics was first published in 1922 in the newspaper České Slovo, so we felt that now was a good opportunity to present a comprehensive exhibition on Czech comics.
“We decided to limit the exhibition to only original art because nowadays, when many comic creators are using digital technologies, the boldness of original art kind of gets lost in translation. .
“So we decided it was time to show how beautiful an original comic book page can be.”
Apart from Josef Lada, what works are on display and how did you select them?
“Obviously there are the great artists who are somehow linked to Czechoslovakian or Czech comics of the 20th century. So, in addition to Lada, you will come across works by Ondřej Sekora and René Klapač. There’s Jan Fišer with his Rapid Arrows from the script by Jaroslav Foglar, as well as works by Kája Saudek.
“We were obviously limited by the fact that some works no longer exist or that we don’t know where the originals are.
“Obviously when selecting contemporary artists we had to go with the minority of them who still do their work on paper with pen and pencils or whatever technique they prefer.”
So when you talk about contemporary artists, who is represented at the exhibition?
“The exhibition is organized into three sections. The first is before 1945, the second is from 1945 to 1989, and the last section is contemporary comics. And for each of these sections, we have a main artist.
“For the contemporary, it’s Lucie Lomová, who in a way represents the changes that the genre has gone through over the last 30 years. She started out as an artist doing children’s comics, but now she specializes in adult comics.
“In addition to Lucie Lomová, you will see Jiří Grus, Toybox and other big names in contemporary Czech comics at the exhibition.”
Also on display will be a series of unpublished comics by the great Czech modernist painter Josef Šíma. Could you tell us a bit more about this?
“It was a discovery of my colleague Tomáš Prokůpek who found it in the archives. It’s four pages from his 1928 comic book Poodle Horse and we’re exposing one page.
“To be honest, we don’t know much about it, but it’s a fascinating insight into how commercial cartooning worked in the 1920s.
“It’s something that definitely needs more research, but Josef Šíma can, even if it’s quite an exaggeration, be considered a comic book author, even if we only have four pages of him.”
Finally, what does the series say about the state of the art of Czech comics?
“Well, the show is more of a retrospective rather than an attempt to say something about the here and now of Czech comics. But I think any visitor who spends some time at the Brno exhibition will confirm that Czech comics have their own face and genres and there is something that can be translated.
“Czech comics have recently expanded globally and there is a small section dedicated to contemporary Czech comics in translation. You can see for example various editions of Kateřina Čupová’s RUR, which has been translated into Spanish, Italian and South Korean. So I think this proves that Czech comics are still a vital discipline that has something to say and is worth listening to.