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Opposites at first divide things, distance them from each other but then ultimately join them in a perfect harmonious union. That is the case, too, for Petr Kavan, a sculptor essentially Czech yet living in distant, exotic India and finding his personal expression there. Kavan once carved puppets for a production of Faust and similar theatre pieces in the spirit of Matej Kopecky and itinerant Czech fairground entertainers. But then, unexpectedly, came the journey to India and an encounter with another word.

Kavan first came to India as a curious tourist, visiting Bombay, Dharamsala, and wandering along the Ganges. Perhaps chance, perhaps fate led him to Mahabalipuram, a harbour with many sights and a tradition of stone masonry. In Bohemia Kavan had worked with softwood. In India, however, Kavan was faced with a new, unknown material, namely, black granite, hard as steel. Work with that kind of stone is not easy; it usually requires the experience that has been acquired over many years and passed on from one generation to another. His fascination with the new material was so strong that Kavan stayed in India for another years. He humbly became intimate with the region of India, studied the craft and the language, and shared in the local customs and practices. He changed his diet, changed his style of dress, and, as is evident from the photographs, even changed his appearance, the human form of the artist. Only this sort of merging with the different culture and everyday life of a country makes sense and can yield positive results.

Kavan has entered upon another expression of time in space than what we in Europe are accustomed to. He doesn't hurry, he submits to psychological and biological rhythms, he refuses "creative stress", his work matures, becomes complete cultiminates, slowly makes itself at home in the world. Perhaps that is why his things are suddenly so intimately close and comprehensible to us, despite the opposites of different cultures and distant civilizations.

Along the walls of Petr Kavan's skyscrapers crawl snakes and lizards; on the top of the Empire State Building sat the king of the monkeys, Hanuman. In fact, such is the picture of these years, in the chaotic time of an interim. The elegant Functionalist constructions of Western architecture sag under the heavy application of ornaments and decoration of the once exotic Orient. We are looking for our place, and art, real art, is the very essence of that search.

Josef Kroutvor

© 2002 Petr Kavan, ArtForum / ICZ a.s.
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