Jindřich Štyrský’s and Toyen’s “Artificialism” (1927-1928)
Translated from the Czech by Alexandra Büchler.
From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes,
1910-1930. (The MIT Press. Cambridge, MA: 2002).
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Cubism was the outcome of the traditional division of painting into figurative, landscape and nature morte, where the main difference consisted in descriptive thoroughness. Essentially, it was a new method and technique of depiction, replacing the illusion of optical perspective by the illusion of reality distributed in space. It generally looked at painting through a model. Formally, the painting coincided with the appearance of reality, and where this was not possible, the result was deformation. Analysis of reality led to its mirroring and duplication. Cubism turned reality around, instead of spinning imagination. When it reached maximum reality, it realized that it lacked wings. The eyes that had become sensitive, kept glancing back at the horizon of their origin, with the result that what came next was an illogical “return to nature.” Yet, Cubism offered painting unlimited possibilities.
Artificialism comes with a reverse perspective. Leaving reality alone, it strives for maximum imaginativeness. Without manipulating reality it can still enjoy it, without an ambition to liken a clown’s cap to a body that may not have any other charm than that of abstract infallibility, which nevertheless suffices when it comes to satisfying poets well versed in mystification. Mirror without image. Artificialism is the identification of painter and poet. It negates painting as a mere formal game and entertainment for the eyes (subjectless painting). It negates formally historicizing painting (Surrealism). Artificialism has an abstract consciousness of reality. It does not deny the existence of reality, but it does not use it either. Its interest focuses on poetry that fills the gaps between real forms and that emanates from reality. It reacts to the latent poetry of interiors of real forms by pursuing positive continuity. The exterior is determined by  poetic perception of memories (negative continuity). Remembrance of memories. Imagination loses real connections. Deduction of memories without the aid of memory and experience prepares a concept of painting, the essence of which excludes any mirroring, and positions memories into imaginary spaces.
Memories are prolonged perceptions. If perceptions are transfigured as they are born, memories become abstract. They become the result of a conscious selection that denies imagination, and pass through consciousness without leaving an imprint and without disappearing.
The outcome of abstract visual memories at the stage when they permeate one another is new formations that have nothing to do with reality or with artificial nature. This stage does not coincide with the receptive and passive state of artificial paradise or with the erratic logic of abnormal individuals.
The function of the intellect is external and final. It organizes and disciplines and to some extent chisels the mass of emotional response. The process of identification of painter and poet is internal, indivisible and simultaneous.
An artificial painting is not bound to reality in time, place and space, and for that reason it does not provide associative ideas. Reality and forms of the painting repulse each other. The greater the distance between them, the more visually dramatic is the emotiveness, giving birth to analogies of emotions, their connected rippling, echoes all the more distant and complex, so that at the moment of confrontation between reality and image, both feel entirely alien in relation to each other.
An artificial painting elicits not only optical emotions and arouses not only visual sensibility. It leads the viewer away from the merry-go-round of his usual imagination, dismantling the systems and mechanisms by which ideas connect. Artificialism abstracts real spaces, giving birth to a universal space, which is often replaced with surface distances, so that forms are connected by means of distance. The color itself has gone through a light process, and is therefore not affected by the anomalies of diffused and condensed light. The value of nuances and transpositions creates a lyrical atmosphere.
The composition of a painting based on lack of interest in reality, presupposes complete consciousness and is dependent on concrete logic of artificial painting. It is entirely definitive, unchangeable and static. The forms in the paining coincide with images of memories. Giving the painting a title is not an act of describing or naming its subject, but of characterizing and giving direction to emotion. The subject is identified with the painting and its forms become self-explanatory.
[Originally published as “Artificielismus,” in ReD Vol. 1, No. 1 (1927-28)]