MIROSLAV TICHY (1926-2011, CZECH REPUBLIC)
I am not a painter. Nor a sculptor. Neither a writer. I’m retired Tarzan.
Miroslav Tichý was a photographer who from the 1960s until 1985 took thousands of pictures of women in his hometown of Kyjow, in the Czech Republic, where he was born in 1926, using homemade cameras constructed of cardboard tubes, tin cans and other at-hand materials.
Although Tichý is regarded today as an outsider artist, he studied at the Academy of Arts in Prague, and for a time seemed on the path to becoming an esteemed painter in the modernist mode. After the studies Miroslav withdrew to a life of isolation in his hometown. In the late 1950s he quitted painting and from the end of the 1960s he began to take photographs mainly of local women, in part with cameras he made by hand. He later mounted them on hand-made frames, added finishing touches with pencil, and thus moved them from photography in the direction of drawing. The result are works of strikingly unusual formal qualities, which disregard the rules of conventional photography. They constitute a large oeuvre of poetic, dreamlike views of feminine beauty in a small town under the Czechoslovak Communist régime.
His works remained hidden for several years until they were discovered by Harald Szeemann that organized an exhibition in the Contemporary Art Biennale of Siviglia in 2004.
A Tichý typical camera might be constructed from plywood, sealed from the light with road asphalt, with a plywood shutter with a window cut through, operated by a pulley system of thread spools and dressmaker’s elastic.
A homemade telephoto lens might be constructed from cardboard tubes or plastic pipes. He made his own lenses, cutting them out of plexiglas, sanding them with sandpaper, then polishing with a mix of toothpaste and cigarette ashes. Once a picture was printed, Tichý might scissor off unwanted parts to improve the composition. Particularly successful images were pasted onto cardboard. He often drew lines with a pen or pencil to reinforce the subject’s contours, or to heighten an image’s expressiveness. He might decorate the margins with hand-drawn designs.
Photos (© Tichy Ocean):
4) Handmade camera produced by Miroslav Tichy
Miroslav Tichý: Tarzan Retired, by Roman Buxbaum, 2004