Born in former Czechoslovakia in 1952, Lumír Hladík lives and works in Toronto, Canada. He graduated from the Václav Hollar Art College in Prague, studying art and design, in 1976. Fascinated by the immediacy of the conceptual art movement in the 70’, he engaged in performance art, installations and intervention, along with similar-minded artists such as Karel Miler, Petr Štembera, Jan Mlčoch and Jiří Kovanda. He has adopted a very distinctive form of body art, described by the renowned art historian Pavlína Morganová as arranging “derailed situations”, documenting his art in photography and 8mm film. His early work explored the notions of alterity, mortality and determinism. After moving to Canada in 1982, Hladík connected vigorously with Canadian wilderness. He spent over three decades studying natural scenes of yet another aspect of mortality – entropy. His art mixes the solemnity of gothic and baroque exuberance with the essence of the ultimately disorderly, unruly, raging Canadian Primeval forest. Hladík’s work exploits and cross-pollinates wide spectrum of disciplines such as drawing, mixed media, vintage ready-mades, performance art, interventions and installations. His work is multilayered, riddled with ambiguity, double entendres and myriads of subtle references. Hladík claims that his art responds to today's society’s ubiquitously ridiculous "rational" defence of its own irrationality. His focus manifests itself through four streams of work:
The Canadian curator, Daniela Šneppová described Hladík’s drawing art as “exquisitely executed, made with a range of marks and fluid gestures that go beyond a mere manifestation of entropic textures, or a simple reproduction of decaying forms… tracing invisible energy fields moving across tree-roots, rotting wood and decaying anatomy in a search for an innate, metaphysical form”. Hladík often refers to his drawing practice as a juxtaposition of pre-Cambrian and current human mental states.
Hladík’s series of symbiotic reliquaries began to take shape in 2006. These objects are co-created with the assistance of Canadian wildlife. After exposing his semi-finished objects to random attacks of black bears, fishers, martens, raccoons, birds and insects in the outdoors, he gathers these marked/ mangled remnants and engages in part preservation, part restoration work in his studio. The partially destroyed objects are then enhanced and complemented by additional natural elements, entropic drawings, vintage ready-mades and decorative elements. When this elaborate embalming ritual is accomplished, the final “relic” is then entombed in a protective museum display. Hladík’s urge to preserve and venerate divine destruction generated by innocent “living saints”, anonymous wild animals is his knee-jerk reaction to a phenomenon he describes as the “derailed civilization”. He claims that, “our disrespect for death is killing life!” Hladík's Symbiotic work is closely associated with the lost art of the “Catacomb Saints”: ancient Roman skeletons. During the 16-19th century they were frequently exhumed from the catacombs of Rome, given fictitious names and sent abroad as relics of saints.
VANITAS objects, installations
Through installations and interventions with deteriorated objects, Hladík explores a new facet of the disrespect for death theme that animates his work. These are referred to as a contemporary version of VANITAS, a symbolic art form originated in 16th century Holland. Hladík’s installations are composed out of “treated” ready-mades, natural elements and objects scavenged from multitude of sites and antique shops around the province of Ontario. Dark and intelligent, they are Hladík’s response to the notions of entitlement, hubris, guilt and shame.
In his interventions, Hladík is reconnecting with his performance and action art form of his early years. His absurd and irrational interventions mirror “irrationality of the human behavior, which (probably) will never go away.