Jiri Tibor Novak’s practice is characterized by whimsical and poetic juxtapositions that result in childlike and enchanting imagery. Frequently his works are informed by a myriad of literary sources that result in a dialogic exchange between image and text.
In his latest series of watercolour paintings and pen and ink drawings, Novak explores a new artistic vernacular. This has been primarily influenced by a resent trip to New Zealand where he was moved by the cataclysmic series of earthquakes that have impacted the city of Christchurch and its people.
Jagged crystalline landscapes and geomorphic forms pervade the picture plane, conveyed in subtle hues of topaz and tourmaline. Arcs of colour conjure up visual allusions to energetic forces and seismic waves, while trapezoid shapes and angular shards dissipate, intersect and connect. Two core images – Siesmic Activity, 2012, and Untitled 2, 2012, represent a strong distillation of the artistic concerns that play out in this series.
This body of work also delivers an amalgam of biblical reference points. InEnergy, Creation, Two Fingers, 2012, Novak pro offers a satirical depiction of Leonardo Da Vinci’s iconic work The Creation of Adam, 1511. However in Novak’s version the key compositional device and its conceptual linchpin that describes the moment of genesis are translated as two reduced geometric forms that find a point of connection. Sufficient Resources to Survive, 2012, conveys a small boat stranded on a mountain. Here the biblical narrative of ‘Noah and the Flood’, is employed as a subtle metaphor for survival in the face of catastrophe.
An enduring motif in Novak’s practice is the experience of immigration, diaspora and transition. These notions are espoused by Flying Caravan, 2012, that is represented as a series of intersecting polygon forms that gravitate through space. In a similar vein, Dialogue with Bird, 2012, refers to a discourse around the notion of freedom. Conversely, works such as My Beautiful Country, 2012, and Something in the Air, 2012, celebrate the splendor of the Australian landscape, in particular the Otway ranges near where Novak is based.
By contrast, sculptural works Red Composition 1 and 2, evidence Novak’s enduring fascination with the revolutionary Constructivist movement and the Russian avant-garde. Referencing Vladimir Tatlin’s homage modernism –Monument to the Third International, 1917, Novak delivers a whimsical twist, as the structure is realised as a miniature and comprised only of matchsticks.