Pinkava’s works primarily makes merciless reference to the state of the human spirit of the individual in ‘Western’ culture. Searching for the essence, he offers certain generalizations of his reflections, presenting them in generally comprehensible cultural codes. He dismantles their usual validity, however, and suggests possibilities for shifts and changes in their meanings. Pinkava has created a series of propositions about the identity and uncertainties of ‘Western’ man as he passes through historical experiences – crises, rises and falls, always returning to the generally valid rules of human existence, which, it seems, elude our giving them names. If these rules cannot be named with words, their visual evocation, including their infringement, is often stronger and more striking – more striking in their negative imprint and referential ambiguity.
For almost thirty years, Pinkava has created his own, distinctive visual language, which can be identified with his thinking about the world.
Petr Vaňous, 2012
Ivan Pinkava was born in Náchod, northeast Bohemia, in 1961. He graduated from a secondary school specializing in graphic art, and took his post-secondary training at FAMU, Prague, in art photography. He is known mostly as an artist of portraits frequently suggesting aesthetic connections with Mannerism and the Baroque. In his portraits he captures above all the profound ambiguity of man, who is marked by this state or consciously suffering from it. The expression of Pinkava’s statement on the situation of man exiled to mystery comprises spiritual, not intellectual, melancholy, that is to say, a melancholy capable of sympathy, desire, and hope.
The portraits of Ivan Pinkava strongly resist easy interpretation of any kind. They are based on ambiguity, and this intellectual ambiguity is one of their determining qualities. The beings portrayed in the photographs carry within themselves the utterly timeless conflict of a certain uprootedness. They could be some sort of twentieth-century deserters, scarred and fragile beings who cry out for sanctity. They remind us of the conflicts and clashes of our hidden desires and ideals; they are projections of our daily and nightly experiences; they are beings who would seem to know how to enter, of their own volition, their unconscious, their own dark depths, from whence, reborn and purged, they return. They enable us to confront ourselves with the suppressed qualities of the urban man – passion, romance, emotional extremes, the ability to give in -, paradoxically by their apparent external absence from these photographs. At the same time, these picture-photographs, in a sophisticated fashion, touch upon the most fundamental human questions about the meaning of life. The topics, such as death, eternity, lost paradise, destiny, the nakedness of being, are in the great tradition of the European fine arts. It appears that hope, as if masked with scepticism, is probably linked with the theme of most of the artist’s photographs, the conviction that Being has its own profound existential meaning. The partial androgyny of the photographed beings, who sometimes seem no longer to be of our world, only then points to some sort archetypical eternity of the presented themes.
The photographs of Ivan Pinkava are apparently conceived very simply; he tries to work with a minimal amount of media. In this sense we could call them minimalistic. Formally, however, they employ every possible means to achieve their masterly effect. The perfect composition, the almost Nadarian work with light, and the brilliant originals prepared by the author on the basis of a wealth of deep tones, allow for the creation of irreplaceable originals that can scarcely be reproduced without the photographs losing much of their beauty.
The photographs of Ivan Pinkava have since 1988 been exhibited mainly in Europe, but also in the USA, and examples of his work can be found in private and public collections all over the world. Pinkava works as free-lance photographer and lives in Prague.