Everyone His Own Heaven

Katarína Bajcurová

The oeuvre of Pavol Macho (born 22 September 1965 in Streženice near Púchov, Slovakia), the young talented glass artist representing contemporary Slovak glass, rightly captures our attention. His work differs from that of his contemporaries and even from that of his predecessors. He follows his own artistic path – even at the cost of breaks, obstacles or comebacks – and moves ahead. His professional growth and education were connected with the common fate of Czech and Slovak glass making. In 1983-1986 he was trained at the Department of Glass Painting at the School of Glass Making in Kamenický Šenov (today in the Czech Republic), and continued studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava (under Assoc. Profs. Askold Žáčko and Juraj Gavula) in 1989-1996. During his studies at the Academy he had the opportunity to study at Ecole des Beaux Arts in Saint-Etienne in France (1993). He had the courage to go beyond the generally accepted view, the unchangeable paradigm according to which the “tradition of Slovak glass does not lie in colour”. Engaged in painting on glass, he is currently the only Slovak artist whose work brings fresh inspirations in the broader international context of contemporary glass.

The innovation of his contemporary work can be best seen at a mere glance back, at the development of Slovak glass in the past and the present. For years modern Slovak glass was connected with Cigler’s creative message. Let us recall the Czech glass artist Václav Cigler who headed the Department of Glass at the Bratislava Academy of Fine Arts in 1965-1979. Several generations of graduates from the Academy followed his artistic and spiritual creed. Any evolutionary movement in Slovak glass continued being perceived especially from the aspect of his conception of the cut optical sculpture of geometric shapes, as a thesis and antithesis to Cigler and his followers. Pavol Macho however belongs to the generation of young glass artists unburdened with this heritage. In the course of the 1990s, their main interests began to shift towards inter-medial and mix-medial statements, to the new pictorial and spatial paraphrases of the aesthetics of object and installation. Although the image of modern Slovak glass differentiated into a variety of expressive, spatial, material and technological forms, it was rather concerned with the search for form, inner space, and individual expression. In this sense, colour in Slovak glass rather played a secondary role: it was just an additional means of expression, accentuating the emotional impact of the work of art, applied as the inner pigment, as the colour of tooth enamel, without the use of sui generis painting techniques.

Pavol Macho’s engagement in colour and glass painting started during his training at the Department of Glass Painting of the School of Glass Making, where he absorbed the skills of the craft and the knowledge of technologies connected with the Czech glass making tradition. On the contrary, at the Academy of Fine Arts, where the tradition of painting glass was undeveloped, he was rather absorbed in other spatial dimensions. He returned to colour and to glass painting only during his first years of professional career. The stimulus to this preoccupation was connected with his teaching post at the School of Glass Making in Lednické Rovne (the only secondary school in Slovakia specialised in glass making), where he taught at the Department of Glass Painting. He began to explore the possibilities of joining colour with glass (its surface) on similar principles as in classic painting. From the very beginning, this union did not appear to be simple. It was necessary to solve the technological problem of materials, to connect a sheet of glass with paint so that glass would not remain solely the physical support, the “bearer” of painting. Countless tests were done before the sheets of glass, on and in which mass as well as volume and the glass surface joined with colour and paint, appeared from the furnace. Macho managed to join three basic layers into one totality of a glass picture–object: the primer (eventually appearing as the last or the first layer), the inner painting (originating through paint melted inside the glass sheet) and the painting on the surface (either the first or the last layer).

Pavol Macho prefers working with sheet glass by forming and deforming it in its hot state, and this enables him to create reversible paintings – reliefs, picture–objects. One can walk around them, look at them from both sides, since each side reveals a different image of the painted work. It not only depends on the degree and kind of pigmenting, on applying the primer, on the painting of the inside and the surface, but also on the transparency, the absorption and the radiation of light through colour, as well as on outer luminous effects changing the picture’s relief. Macho makes an ingenious use of both transparent and opaque colours, using metal, lustre, matt and brilliance, as well as the division of the sheet into transparent and non-transparent parts. The fact that by melting, Macho joins several layers of painterly treated glass finished in a simple line drawing, both inside and on the surface, endows his picture-objects with a relief character, a depth, and an illusion of creating the inner space, which is in fact real.

And in this particular inner space he tries to narrate an immaterial story of his painting as a spiritual mood, an unlimited metaphor, a playful game of metaphysical contemplation. Although thin lines contouring mysterious figurative symbols emerge incidentally and randomly from the glass mass with grooves of drawn colour tones and calm tonal values interrupted here and there with a passionate and dissonant gesture, this painting and drawing has no ambition to depict anything. It is as if arms and legs, spread out and flying bodily fragments, animated as “flock-like” formations or drawn details controlling the totality, lacked any concrete, iconic and conceptual motivation. These images describe nothing, nor decorate anything; they resign to noble ideals to transform the world through art, and to the existential cumbersome narratives about the sense of life. They merely desire to be paintings by themselves and for themselves: the end of painting or its hundredth beginning? Macho’s paintings simply exist. They neither compel nor prohibit, but offer the possibility of choice. “Everyone his own heaven or everyone his... “

Pavol Macho is a man of arts. Equally good at painting and drawing on glass and in glass, in colours and lines, he can express himself in poetical language, in poetry (his first book of poetry was published in Slovakia). Since these are two independent spheres of interest, his paintings and drawings on glass and in glass are not subordinated to verbalisation; they are not illustrations accompanying his poetical texts either. In spite of what has been said, the perception of his painting and poetry is not so simple because we can always express everything in forms and colours, and we can always paint everything in words of a poem...