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Photography / 80

Photography has an extraordinary place in Šejn’s works, not only thanks to the number of realizations, but above all it has been literally running through all his work up to now. Šejn’s first photographs date from his childhood – their motivation was of course not artistic, but exploratory. With a certain simplification we can say that the starting  point of Šejn’s work was his interest in nature, living creatures, plants, the environment in which they live. Already from the end of the fifties we know a series of his photos for which methods he uses also later are characteristic – the serial character of several sequences, the change of the viewing angle, observing the same motive from different distances… About 1960 the serial Way across the Průhonice Park arose, where for the first time wandering is the theme; the way itself delimits the character of views, determines the visible and the hidden. Since his earliest beginnings Miloš Šejn has been using the means characteristic for conceptual photography at the end of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies; in the course of time he enriched these methods by a series of others, but it is evident that already in his earliest works – at least in a rudimentary form – the way of reflecting the perceived world, characteristic for his work up to now, was present. We might consider as the most essential features of his oldest photographs his relation to nature, the effort to understand its own structural qualities and bindings, the active presence in it, realized by wandering about, the intense feeling of the natural milieu (different views, concentration etc.) and at last perceiving or seeing nature through the medium of photography. Photography allowed to fix the changeable structures, existing in one single moment, maybe the form of flocks of birds on water or in the air, or to register the metamorphoses in time (Two views of the setting sun, 1962). Later, during the sixties the interest in details of natural structures (seaweeds on water, for example, which thus could become part of a larger whole (Across Mácha’s landscape, 1967), a three days‘ trip during which a series of photos of the ways themselves and different natural details from their surroundings was realized. The author himself emphasizes that in his works till the end of the sixties he did not in the first place consider the artistic quality of the result, but the experience of the natural milieu. In nowadays we are fully aware of their artistic relevance it is certainly also the consequence of a changed „enlarged“ conception of art. In 1970 Šejn began also to be interested in the film-picture – from these considerations and from the influence of contemporary films, from the character of „film seeing“ arranged trips in nature resulted, in which probably for the first time purely aesthetic qualities prevailed. In the seventies the scale of Šejn’s photographic realizations widened; from 1972 dates the first unrealized project for the Dragon’s Ravine – Fire and Water, where invited onlookers should watch a burning flame lighting the space between the rocks and at the same time hear the sound of water source from
another place in The Bohemian Paradise. Two years later he realized macro photographic series of various details of grasses, their „architecture“, which he also recorded in large cycles of drawings – analogically before that drawings had for example accompanied photographical studies of birds‘ colonies. Sequences of the metamorphoses of the waterfall Mumlava (1976) represent a further form of the artist’s interest in the permanent and thereby changeable natural structures. A whole series of realizations from the last ten years has been motivated just by this impulse – photography proves to be the most adequate means of testimony about nature’s character. For Šejn nature is a great unity from which an artistic work can tear out only some detail representing it for our perception. He is not interested in visually attractive situations, he concentrates on the relevant ones – and more and more often they are either elements, above all water and earth, mostly represented by stones and rocks, or cosmic bodies. The Sun, the Moon and the stars enter into mutual relations with details of nature on earth. Changing light allows him to register the eternal flow of time. Man’s presence is permanent, but inconspicuous; it is given by the character of seeing by means of the photographic picture, but it can also manifest itself by the active human participation in natural happenings. This is evident especially in the last years – the cycles Zebín and the Moon, Zebín and the Sun (1982) are in fact correlations of the movement of cosmic bodies in a limited view through a crack in the rocks, actions with fire realized on the Zebín and in the Mažarná cave (Delimitation of the Space by Fire, 1982) enrich the repertoire of elements by fire and for the first time stress the importance of the human presence. The fire gestures penetrate the cave, react to the shapes of the rock walls, circumscribe them and at the same time light them, make them visible. They associate relations to archaic cultures, to man’s catching hold of fire and making concrete use of it in the space of caves and rocks. Šejn’s gestures also remind us that the prehistoric hunters reacted to the shapes of the rocks and further interpreted them in their first works of art. Lately this conscience of the connection with prehistoric cultures has become more urgent in Šejn’s work. He begins to watch the Sun from important archeological localities and thus confronts today’s spectator with the natural experience of a long vanished culture (Sunset at the summer solstice, photographed from the Neolithic settlement Čertova ruka – Devil’s Hand – in Bohemian Paradise, 1985).

Jiří Valoch
Photographs / Drawings / Books
Municipal House of Art / Brno 4/8 – 5/18 1986
translated by Gerta Pospíšilová

pdfCatalogue 1986.pdf
pdfPhotographs Drawings Books.pdf
Bohemiae Rosa pointAcademy Archives point

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