Jaroslav Vožniak was born in Suchdol near the town of Příbram in 1933. First he became a lithograph, later studied at the College of Applied Arts at professor Svolinský between 1951-54, then at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Together with Bedřich Dlouhý, Jan Koblasa and Karel Nepraš he became a member of the ´Šmidrové´Group and he significantly enriched their programme. Their common confession was ´the aesthetic of the strangeness´ defined by their theoretic Jan Kříž as a specific form of post-surrealist symbolism changed into a tool of alert imagination, serving internal vision and critical acceptance of social reality.
In the middle of the fifties the artist moved from airy landscapes to more closed and expressive forms. Characteristic artwork of sign-synthetized figuration is a series of pictures and aquarels from 1958-60 inspired by the Divine Comedy by Dantes. Following pictures expressed the author´s relation to abstraction (and at the same time of his friends Bedřich Dlouhý a Karel Nepraš). In extremely virtuous drawings, asamblage objects and picture plates he was gradually opening the way to specific forms of his own ´strangeness´.
Jaroslav Vožniak has become probably the most famous by a series of icons in the middle-age Byzantic style, which instead of usual saints pictured film stars. Instead of Blessed Virgin Mary and religious saints there were portraits of world famous film stars as relics decorated by Czech bijouterie. It was the most original Czech artwork of pop art of the sixties and Vožniak was famous even out of the borders of Czechoslovakia at that time. One of his successes at that time was the exhibition of 1968 in Sweden. Already in the second half of the sixties his artwork showed painted passages in the realistic way where they pictured either fetishes of earth passions in the form of beautiful faces and bodies, or links to various types of reality of a life scene.
In the seventies and eighties a very important set of paintings of symbolic content was formed – composed as a combination of relatively realistic scene with various painted objects – it seemed like a 3-D developed painted collage. His work there contains all the strongest co-parts of the author´s rich imagination. Abstraction in Vožniak´s artwork gets back, repeats, from time to time. In the late eighties and nineties arises slightly a large group of moulded structures transforming Pollock´s expression even to ornamental meditation of an eastern type. Painted passages together with applied objects were getting back to the scene of Vožniak´s paintings combined with asamblage during a few last years of his life.
His artwork obviously is a valuable contribution to the treasury of world art culture of the second half of last century. Jaroslav Vožniak died after a long illness on May 12, 2005, aged 72.
(Adapted from: Jan Kříž to Jaroslav Vožniak´s exhibition Honour to Strangeness – artwork from 1957 to 1999)