Alois Janak *1924

The Dialectics of Reality and Dream

Immersing into the art world of Alois Janak is tantamount to immersing into a world of dreams, the world of a mature painter and graphic artist, who found his very own way and for decades, has consistently staid on, and continued along this path. Let us join him in his travels, accompany him for part of his way and be transported, be enchanted by  his dreams and visions. This way is a path which leaves the normalities of everyday life, which denies rationality, but vehemently calls for emotions and imagination. It transports the viewer into a magical pictorial world, a world in which the beautiful, the humoristic, the endearing and enchanting dominate.

There is an astonishing consequence in the artist’s work, a consistency which, on the one hand, expresses itself in the symbolically encrypted motif-world, on the other in the formal, artistic conversion and translation. In this sense, Janak’s oeuvre is based on two different pillars: the unique formal perfection, the acquired technical knowledge and the infinitely rich imaginative power, the artistic visions and utopias of the creative genius.

What exactly is it which makes Janak a Janak, and thus unmistakably unique? There are two aspects which need to be emphasized in a short description: for one thing, the stringent, formal-aesthetic handwriting as the element of uniqueness and of style and, for another,  the very own pictorial world, a clearly understandable repertoire of motifs in its innumerable phenomena and its fascinating diversity.

Under formal-aesthetical points of view one recognizes in Janak the artist as designer, as constructor.  Like an architect he builds the fundamental framework of his pictures: with pencil, a ruler and compasses he creates picture fields and systems of coordinates for his motifs. Lines and arrows, circles, squares and rectangulars become basic structures, assistants in orientation and directions. In their subtlety and geometric austerity they remain in the complete art work as relicts of the creative process, they are upgraded to their very own expressive value. In addition there is the script, the handwriting, which, as an element of equal value to the geometrical forms, appears in  Janak’s pictures. There are titles, explanations, free associations of thought which are highly relevant not only in content but also aesthetically. The writing is not just writing, it is calligraphy, that is a writing to be understood as an autonomous, artistic value. The letterings form part of the free, artistic motif and thus contribute something of essence to the aesthetic-poetic effect of the paintings.

Janak’s understanding of art is, therefore, a universal understanding: he emphasizes the proximity of painting to other art forms – to architecture, scientific drawing, literature and poetry – and permits the boundaries between these art forms to blur into each other. The artist makes use of the various elements of the scientific constructive and the literary poetic in order to form them in his works into a synthesis of many individual pieces of art. However, apart from the described graphic elements, painting always maintains its absolute importance. Whereas the linear, forever clear and precise, limits the form and the compositions to different planes and separates it into objects, colour, as if subsequently superimposed on these objects,  has its very own and independent quality and is thus substantial. It is an indispensible means for the artist, an instrument for the generation of harmony. Janak’s palette is colourful but not flashy. It is – like his motifs – life-affirming, poetically gentle and cheerful. Lightness is evoked. The overt colours of the background, without an effect of depth, permit objects to float over the painting, divesting them of  reality. Finest nuances, refractions of light, shadings and delicate, soft colour gradients lead to an open and atmospheric effect, emitting mysterious and low sounds, its dreamy cadences and rhythms to be reflected in the motifs. From a small repertoire, from a handful of select symbols and metaphors, the artist creates, by means of countless variations and changes of the compositions, and with an honest love for detail, an unending number of expressive possibilities.

The artist loves nature and the maritime: flowers, animals, lakes and the sea are his preferred motifs. In parallel, there is his fascination with everything technical: ships, aircraft, balloons and lighthouses enliven the pictorial areas, detached from space and time. But even the simplest, everyday objects, such as shoes, umbrellas, bulbs, bottles or inkwells are given justification in Janak’s world of motifs. In short: Janak loves life in all its facets. Things, found in our life as a matter of course, he lifts from their ordinariness and their normality, and gives them a new right to exist in his totally individual world of imagination. What we seem to know, the artist shows us from a completely different perspective.

Janak looks at the world with the eyes of a child. He succeeds to lay a filter of the fantastic over things, and thus give them an unknown, mysterious fascination. In-spite of the veristic loyalty to details,  the representation of the dreamlike dominates. The sphere of reality becomes lost in the sphere of the unconscious; the banal transforms into something wonderful. The pictures become insoluble enigmas, thus activating categories of understanding which are so very different from those of our everyday life. In this sense the art of Alois Janak reveals a relationship to surrealism, to leading lights among the artists of our century, such as Rene Magritte or Salvador Dali. Against this background of art history and tradition, Janak has his very own personality, he presents himself as an autodidact. His dialectics of reality and dream make him one of the eminent artists of our time.

Text by Sina Strüssmann




Alois Janak

1924        born in Krasne Bresno, Czechoslowakia, as son of a headmaster
1944        school leaving certificate (Abitur) in Prague
199-45        wartime deployment in the aircraft industry in Prague
1945-48    study of agricultural science at the technical university, Prague,
for political reasons, prohibited to study
1946-49    private studies of painting; interim stay at his own farm; completion
        of a two months of military service
1949        fled to Bavaria and Paris
1951        works as a broadcasting  producer in Munich
1952        begins to intensively devote himself to oil painting
1954        marries the daughter of the Munich composer, Professor Dr. Sachsse;
        two children
1956        stay in the USA
1957        first exhibition during the period of his emigration in the Gallery
        Marcel Bernheim, Paris and since then, numerous exhibitions in
        Europe and overseas
since 1982    lives and works in Switzerland