The work of Jan Nedojadlo has the power to transform, to transport you to an exotic magical fantasy. Hundreds of thousands of people have engaged with Jan’s work in diverse locations from international galleries and museums to festivals and nightclubs for over a decade. Jan has established a practice, which has a broad appeal coupled with heartfelt social messages. By creating art that communicates directly and indirectly on a grand scale, his work speaks across generations and understandings of art and by taking works outside of the gallery space he reaches audiences that may not engage with art in more formal settings.
By physically being ’allowed’ to enter the works Jan challenges the standard and takes his work further than the sculpture/object in space, which is viewed externally, to ask the viewer/participant to become enveloped in the work as an essential process. By offering an equal platform for participation Jan’s works create an egalitarian forum for the understanding and involvement in the ideas and substance of art. In his sculpture you can escape the regular space of the display room/gallery, interaction is encouraged as well as moving from thinking at the cerebral level to taking the weight of your feet and looking at art from literally a different angle.
Heart, eye, lung, womb; title Jan’s sculptures, his environments invite you to go, literally, inside the mind and vital organs of the artist. The works involve a direct involvement physical, sensual, audio, dealing with all the senses in a way toward dissolving the gallery walls to let the outside world in. The sculptural installations mark a shift from the creation of solid matter in the pursuit of an internal or surface change accessible to all. Jan aims to challenge our assumptions of space he states “as you walk you cannot assume that it will be flat all the way” a desire to want the viewer to stop and refresh their awareness, challenging assumptions. On entering the works the surfaces are uneven your feet may end up higher than your head, you may need to scramble on all fours for the exit higher than the entrance, creating an exciting disorientating world. There is an element of exploration of new territories, a repositioning of physicality. For adults the experience can be a regression or rekindling of the childlike spirit/inquisitiveness, bringing back memories of den making and inspiring imagination, Jan’s works are ‘sculptures for first and second childhoods’ . For young people the works pose endless possibilities for imaginative journeys. In some ways through the holistic experience of his work the artist intends the participation process to act as a “sensory doorway – if you open up enough doors you can ventilate the self”. He aims for a suspension experience through participation – one that cannot be framed by past experience, as if for the first time bypassing the familiar, capturing people to respond in an alternate way, through the senses. ‘This is art to be viewed on your back - and not just with your eyes and brain - but experienced with your whole body’
A concern for the environment pervades throughout Jan’s sculpture, materials he uses are found or donated the process of acquisition sometimes a key part of the creation process. Works are often constructed entirely of discarded, superfluous man-made materials leftover from industry like upholstery foam and plastics or domestic cast offs such as plastic milk bottles and carpet. The sculptures are in themselves sustainable environments, reminiscent of 60’s utopian architecture and design - they are dreams brought to life. The sculptures are subtle but effective statements on the ecological problems we are facing globally, provoking thought and inducing feeling in an aspiration to actively alter participants’ perceptions, without dictating directly what to think. Jan avoids the hostile tact of political engagement opting for a more sensitive approach, participants are cradled in the works, have fun, touch, feel, smell and listen – taking part in the creative process at an experiential level, some people may be unaware that they are part of a narrative commenting on consumerism and production, which is fine, there are multiple angles to the work in which an innocent engagement in the creative process is pivotal.
Nature, anatomy, space, science fiction, access, environment, fun, are all words that inspire Jan’s works alongside a myriad of others. Key artists from the 20th Century have also been an influence throughout his career from early on. For example Joseph Beuys’ use of felt in an installation that could only be entered though a small low door it was an installation that used the entire space, combining smell and the psychological effects on the viewer. Another inspiration has been Niki de Saint Phalle through her bombastic use of colour, size and impressionist palette. Jan saw in her work a kinship in terms of referencing a folk art spirit and an irrepressible energy not tailored to conformity but sharing a refreshing exuberance. Through her use of size, colour, materials, texture and surface it seems as though anything is possible no rules apply. Sainte Phalle also made works for public space and allowed interaction enabling many people to access, explore and enjoy them on their own terms. Howard Hodgkin’s use of colour, for Jan invokes a kind of ‘sensory joy’ nothing held back, in the vein of ‘healthy play’ . Jan calls himself a painter’s sculptor, due to being trained initially as painter, this influence can be read in his works whose vivid expression explodes through sculpture to dramatic effect. Another artist who Jan finds an affinity with is Hundertwasser who was quoted as saying ‘the straight line is godless’ he influenced with both an affinity for vibrant colours and respect of nature, organic architecture and manifestos for the relationship between natural systems and the built environment through art.
Like entering into a structure in a Bosch painting Jan's sculptures provoke
a sense of awe and wonder, bringing fantasy to life. They offer the
opportunity for a joyful exploration of the senses. Likened by the artist to
his experience of walking in a forest where "you can touch the bark, smell
the moss, see the sun - translucent - through the leaves, experience an
encompassing, emotively uplifting passage - why can't art be like that?"..
Jan likens the experience of his practice to the creative exploration of a
child who encounters an armchair, who explores all the surfaces and tries to
get inside it or underneath. Daydreaming it into an animal, a city, a
vehicle then one day it becomes just an armchair. Jan aims through his work
to retain that former state of inquisitive imagination, unblocking creative
experience to enable participation, giving adults permission to be 'child
like', to let go, to touch and break free of formalised sensibilities, and
to offer young people a place to encounter, art. Jan's work aims to bewitch
and enchant in a totalising and sensory way, to be a location for dreaming.
Louise Clements – Artist/Curator