Václav Syrový - Homepage

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Václav Syrový (11 June 1934 – 25 March 2010) belongs to the most distinctive and singular art brut authors of the turn of the 21st century.


One hundred and forty kg tough guy, Václav Syrový, was five times the national champion of Czechoslovakia in weightlifting heavyweight, in which category he also held all the records, at the Rome Olympics he lifted 172.5 kg and ranked eighth. His deteriorating health made him lose the incredible 56 kg in six months and thus the 35-year old weightlifter became a marathon runner.

Václav Syrový has lived in a secluded place at the foot of Lusatian Mountains in a little town called Cvikov, where he used to work as a dental laboratory technician. He liked to paint with his daughter using water colours and his interest in sports inspired him to make sketches of sport motives that he later tried to transform into 3D by means of small tin castings, i.e. the material he used to work with in his job. Ever since his school days he has admired woodwork, a few times he visited a local professional woodcarver, and once he was given four chisels by his friend, he tried to create some reliefs and sculptures.

When at the age of 56 Václav Syrový involuntarily retired and was granted the disability pension his mental health started to grow worse. By happy coincidence at that time Václav Syrový discovered the charm of African masks and started to make his own. When he sat down to work with a block of wood, he had not the slightest idea what will come out of it, but the rewarding feeling from the creation was so liberating that the following years he was fully devoted to woodwork.

Exuberant imagination and his trains of thoughts contributed to the fact that the majority of masks by Václav Syrový have a unique character. Striking were particularly the strong teeth and component part of the masks became pieces of wires, plastic, horns, feathers or plumage, bristles, glass, buttons, suitcase handles, barbed wire, an old broom, rusty rakes, bones … simply anything that could be used, anything of the stuff he had found during his raids of dumps, or when walking from a garbage can to another.  Everything that could express his feelings in an artistic manner, the processes going on in his inner self. At the beginning he made simple and uncoloured assemblages, but gradually he started to colour their faces, hair and stuck out tongues.

The inner world and problems of Václav Syrový became most obvious in his works called Neurosis, Psychosis and Schizophrenia.

The core parts of assemblages by Václav Syrový are most often made of wood. Thinner and longer bits of wood and branches he used to create distinctive animals and figures that he also put on pedestals. If an arm or a leg was too short, he would extend it, prolong it, connect it or add a piece of hose. Suitable sticks he would use as a support stand. His memory of his dearly loved mother was reflected in his works in characteristic sculptures of a woman or Madonna and child.

Václav Syrový has spent most of his life living alone and thanks to his “collecting passion” he has been considered a peculiar fellow. The unique collection of his works came into being in serenity and seclusion since the author actually created for himself. A fortuitous visit of a gallery owner ended in a rejected offer worth one million Czech crowns. Václav Syrový has not sold a single item in his life.

The works by Václav Syrový are included in the permanent exhibition in the North Bohemian Gallery of Fine Arts in Litoměřice which has the largest collection of naive art in the Czech Republic. They are also in private collections all over the European Union.

Filmography: Children of Václav Syrový, Poetická galerie, 2010