“It stemmed from painting. I essentially produced something and suddenly had a feeling that it had to become ‘something’. That it doesn’t need to be about something but instead that it is whatever it is. It was a sense of the most essential of essences. I remember walking in the Stromovka park, collecting some clay, leaves and stones and incorporating it into the piece of art. What I thought was about to be a painting suddenly became rugged. At that moment I realized that if things were this way, it no longer mattered what position it was in, or whether it could be hanged. That at the moment of it lying on the ground – because I continued to work on it lying – it loses nothing. To the contrary, that it can be moved in all direction and still be the same thing. That there was no perspective of something but the production of something autonomous. And this was the moment when I realized that art is a process of beginning with nothing and producing something. I realized the difference between knowing to do something and something really being built under one’s hands based on their thoughts.”
“At that time it appeared to me – and it does to this day – that abstract art is an incomparably more accurate way of expression than any other. Because when I express myself in an abstract form, I in fact produce stories. And stories can be interpreted in various ways. Using the abstract way of expression I always touch upon some essential matters and not others which stem from something and are a consequence of something. From the beginning I have been fascinated by the understanding that the important things can be best expressed through an abstract autonomous manifestation. This way I touch upon the absolute much more.”
“Ústí nad Labem meant a great deal for me in all the senses. Also it helped me realize that there was no single landscape, no single type of a city. That there are people who harmed others. That there may be grandmas who may have done the Nazi salute – probably so – but that things are not black and white. It was about making people think about things in larger contexts. When this happens to a ten- or eleven-year-old, it is fairly important and positive for their further lives.”
Important things can be best expressed through abstraction
Aleš Veselý was born on 3 February 1935 in Čáslav. His father came from a large Jewish family, his mother converted to Jewish faith. In the course of WW II his sister and later his father were taken to a transport to the Terezín concentration camp from where they managed to secretly escape only days before the end of the war in May 1945. After the war the family had lived in Ústí nad Labem, also witnessing the expulsion of the local Germans. It was in this city where Aleš Veselý started to discover his talents for art. Shortly after moving to Prague he began studying Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague from where he after two years transferred to Academy of Fine Arts. Along with other young artists such as Jiří Valenta, Karel Nepraš, Jan Koblasa, Čestmír Janošek or Bedřich Dlouhý he soon became a main protagonist of Czech Arte Informale, a local version of the international post-war abstract art. He himself switched from graphics and painting towards an autonomous expression in sculpture and objects. He later became known especially for his large metal objects. Among the most popular is the monumental steel construction named Kaddish and a welded sculpture Chair Usurper. At present he teaches at the Jan Evangelysta Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem.