She Would Like to Roam in the Land of Fairy-tale
She would like to roam in the land of fairy-tale, these are the words used by Marie Kodovská (1912–1992) to describe the character of the girl Lipěnka, who was granted by Praděd himself to an elderly childless couple, in her fairy tale in verse The Praděd Spirit. This dreamy girl, who in this dream / will dream beautiful dreams / then in the morning a lark / will wake her up with a song, later loses her family, destined to live on her own / and this is the drama / of her life. Only by boldly freeing her lover from a curse does she break free from her loneliness and dedicates her life to happy love.
Because Maria Kodovská was not given a similarly happy fate, she projected primarily her own self into the character of Lipěnka. Fairy-tale and dream in the sense of desire, a wish, had from the very beginning been the fundamental themes of her poetic and graphic work precisely because her own life was definitely not a fairy tale or a dream come true. – She came from a poor hilly area of Slovácko, where her family had to work hard in the fields. An extremely susceptible and sensitive child, she was involved in an accident in which she suffered a burn injury. She had to learn to live with a lifelong handicap of a paralyzed right hand. She was not given the chance to share her life with her dear beloved she imaged, but with a man lacking empathy, a simple, cruel carpenter apprentice found by her mother by means of an advertisement. He was jealous of any intellectual and creative activity of his wife, so at first he forbade her to write poems. It was therefore not surprising that the author described herself as a poet shouted at. Immigrant life in Rýmařov, located in the foothills of the Jeseníky Mountains, was no idyllic either. Exhausting work in the Brokát textile factory, care for her mother and three children as well as the subsequent disability pension certainly did not ensure the family's well-being – quite the contrary. – The only way to fight the bleakness of the reality of life became her poetic work, later (at the age of fifty-two!) her work as a graphic artist. Only in this way could she create her own fairy tale and realize her dream.
We do not know exactly when Marie Kodovská was born as a poet; the oldest surviving poetic manuscript discovered so far dates from back in 1955. However, it is generally known in which year Marie Kodovská became a graphic artist, an experimenting, inventive, passionate, even obsessive one: in the spring of 1964, a small catalogue from the legendary exhibition Naive Art in Czechoslovakia got into her hands, brought by her son Vladimír from Prague, and she began to create her first tempera drawings on paper. It is amazing how quickly she was able to move from a concrete form and epic depiction to a completely distinctive stylization and timelessness of her themes; at the same time, she gradually abandoned attention to detail and decorativeness in favour of use of simple surfaces and lines. She did not have to invent themes, they were sown in her like seeds from previous years, ready to grow and bloom. She was aided by Czechoslovak Radio broadcasts, listening to fairy tales in particular. It is therefore not surprising that one of the first poetic texts, typed on a typewriter donated by Czechoslovak Radio in 1960, are fairy tales in verse. She was so fascinated by the sea and the underwater world that she treated this theme in the epic Tale of the Sea King and How Honza Became King in the Red Sea, in which we can again see the main character as the author herself reading I am attracted by the beauties of the sea […] Honza, King of Imagination / painted his sea / pouring waves into pictures / enchanting his happy love / in his art / ruling his fairies. Just as she could easily describe in her poems the mysterious and self-contained sea underworld, she just as brilliantly depicted underwater events with marvellously fantastic flora and fauna in her large-format temperas from the 1960s and later in watercolours and pen drawings. Pendants to themes depicted in her poetry can also be found in her pastels, wax crayon drawings, pen drawings, temperas or collages, titled Earth, Sun, Stars, or Universe. She dedicated her Months and Seasons cycles to nature, of which she was a sensitive and humble observer. She made several variations of them in the form of crayon drawings, ink drawings and especially impressive large-format paintings using synthetic enamel on hardboard. The breath-taking stylized figures of individual months are captured in a number of symbolic details, based mostly on their names, which she incorporated, sometimes in legible way, sometimes hidden, directly into the painting. Written word and text were, after all, always an integral part of her graphic work; likewise, she accompanied her typescripts with equally original illustrations. – The Months cycle was followed by fairy-tale figures of princes, princesses, kings and elves, painted by enamel on hardboard boards and living with the author, hung on the doors, partitions and walls of her house in Mlýnská Street in Rýmařov. It is beautiful to enter a fairy tale […] and live like a king / create a hall with paintings / the more beautiful they are / the more my heart will bless the spirit.
Through the exhibition in the Václav Chad Gallery, this absolutely unique artist, who can be classified as a naivist or art brutalist, but can also be seen as a sovereign solitaire, returns to the region of her birth, childhood and adolescence, so that the strength of creative love / can refresh the guests through the paintings.
Michal Vyhlídal