Czech photographer Jan Pohribny (born 1960) spent years 2005 – 2006 as a regional artist for photography at Arts Council South Savo. During this period part of Angels-series (1999 – 2007) was created. The series follows Pohribny`s previous series called New Stone Age, in which he has also explored relationship of a human towards nature. In the New Stone Age-series human is missing and nature has the leading role, while in the Angels-series human is always in a certain form present. Pohribny`s photos evoke symbolism, Central European art movement prevailing at the end of 19th century. Ordinary realistic themes had transfomed into nearly romantic, emotions were highlighted and artists were free to interpret images and daydreaming, world of fantasy, dreams, myths, mysteries of life and death. Charles Baudelaire, who was also influenced by symbolism, claimed that art is significant only if it offers an introspection into the world behind the visible world, to the world of pure ideas. Intuition, visionary and mysterious features were emphasized as belonging aspects of the artistic work.

There are symbolistic features in Pohribny`s works too. Landscape of South Savo with its woods and lakes becomes a dramatic stage where mysterious events take place and human is in harmony with nature. Landscape as such has an important role of creating poetic and romantic frame for the mythical landscapes in the pictures. It represents pure nature, untouched by industrial and automatized civilization. Part of the landscapes was captured in Finland, however it does not represent an ideal Finnish landscape. In portraying landscapes we are bounded with cultural context which defines for each and every culture what kind of landscape is ideal, or on the other hand what is undesirable, ugly. In Finland, beautiful and admirable landscape is traditionally represented by limpid lakes or panoramatic views from upland. This opinion is deeply rooted in the history of Finnish art and established particularly during era of the so-called karelianism. Finns regard nature as a retreat where it is possible to escape from hectic city life, where can be experienced peace and quiet, where they relax.

Landscape in Pohribny`s pictures is not realistic, real landscape. Being a cultural outsider Pohribny portrays Finnish landscape on the basis of his own ideas. He is not tied with accumulated models that belong to Finnish conception of ideal landscape. His landscape is rather subconscious image of a lost ideal landscape than systemathic analysis of perceivable reality.

There is something hidden in the pictures of Angels-series. Mood is very intimate and mysterious; it seems like viewer was watching an old ritual that in fact he does not have a permission to watch. What is happening? What has happened? And what else yet will? Atmosphere and scenes in the pictures estrange viewer into an observer. This observer could not help himself from observing pictures and from attempts at revealing their riddles. Naked bodies connected to nature in a sort of ritual scenes associate subconscious ideas. Could they be past upholders, protectors of rituals that are now only watching? Are they flesh and blood human beings at all? The title of the series, Angels, refers to beings from the world beyond having supernatural powers. Such title indicates rather teology than prehistorical landscape demonstrated in the pictures. Christian iconography presents angels as the messengers, envoys of God. Pohribny’s figures are also contemplative and a little bit melancholic messengers and mediators between our world and its opposite, other eden. Garden that is no longer Christian paradise, but mirror image of the present world and its hectic activity.

Photography could be claimed to record all that is placed before the objective or cropped by it. In Jan Pohribny`s work seems like there was some unvisible gate between the observer and the picture. This gate openes for a moment and induces observer to believe that the world in the picture is real. While examining the picture observer understands that it is not a real image reflecting on retina. This leads us back to symbolism, intention of which was expressing ideas and emotions through concrete things and beings. Pohribny walks on the edge of two worlds, a certain kind of the present world and the spiritual world. In his photos he depicts unusual visual stories in which human and nature carry on a dialog. Interaction of real and unreal creates gradation that evokes observer`s temptation to adventure and contemplation on his own relationship with nature and subconsciousness.

Paula Hyvönen

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