The visual work of Jaromír Švejdík alias Jaromír 99 has long been known to a large group of comics fans, and in recent years to others as well. After the comic book “Alois Nebel” became a generational film legend, the outlines of his work became familiar even to people who are not frequent visitors to art museums and exhibition galleries. Yet this is precisely where the work of this artist should rightfully find its place: His works on paper are exceptional with their relevance and visually convincing character, although achieved with minimalistic means of expression.
Jaromír 99 has established himself on the visual scene as a graphic artist telling his stories through both classical drawing and computer graphics. He creates scenes with grand composition and elaborate perspective, in the foreground of which he depicts idiosyncratic heroes and constructs thrillers in a manner corresponding to the character of each visual novel. The artist selects his topics from across various genres, so that his bibliography includes for instance Bomber (Labyrint, 2007), a coarse artist’s comics story from the borderland; but also a classic of world fiction, The Castle by Franz Kafka (SelfMadeHero and Labyrint, 2013), which brought him a nomination for the prestigious Will Eisner Award in 2014. Thanks to the artist’s visual sensibility and his skill for transposing all aspects of the text, these comic books have attained broad popularity, the most significant international acclaim being won by a trilogy about a train dispatcher from Bílý Potok – Alois Nebel (Labyrint, 2008), created by Jaromír 99 in collaboration with writer Jaroslav Rudiš. Under his artistic direction the book was then turned into a film with the same title, which later won the European Award for Best Animated Film, and an Academy Award Nomination.
Apart from comic books, Jaromír 99 also produces illustrations, in which he adopts a more austere form of expression than in his visual novels. His most peculiar expression, however, is to be found in his self-assigned work, for which he has mastered the cut-out technique – an almost forgotten art of bygone street buskers and fair or salon entertainers who, with nothing more than paper and scissors, impressed broad audiences by cutting out portraits and whole figurative scenes. In the work of Jaromír 99, though, cut-out layers of paper in various colours, folded one over another, surpass by far the superficial amusement of popular art. They offer insight into a world that may seem to be constructed of simple forms at first glance, but is at the same time quite complex and convincing in addressing the viewer with sparse and very sparingly cut and scissored lines.
This world – no matter which of the aforementioned forms and techniques are used to create it – displays substantial themes, such as the issue of Sudetenland, represented by the dark woody borderland landscape, familiar to the artist from his native region around Jeseník, or the stories of people whose faces and fates he discovered on tombstones in formerly German villages. Apart from historical themes, however, he also bears witness to the present with numerous self-portraits and portraits of his friends – musicians, writers and visual artists.
The present exhibition titled Leave Me Here! presents the artist’s work in a broad retrospective. The title that he has chosen for the show paraphrases a sentence from old partisan films, when an exhausted hero crossing the mountains with his comrades tells them that he has no more strength to continue and should be abandoned to his fate. In the case of Jaromír Švejdík the sentence is an expression of the fact that he has found his definitive place, his artistic position and his style, and is no longer interested in running after new discoveries. His visual work, which now amounts to hundreds of self-assigned works on paper, several published comic books, a number of book illustrations, film works and even a realised interior design for the bar of the Světozor cinema in Prague city centre, represents an extensive but internally coherent oeuvre, which constitutes a universe with clear outlines and distinct heroes, a universe treated in an original, irreproducible and clearly distinctive artistic language. Faced with such a body of work, one can indeed stop for a while, have a rest and – having noted Leave Me Here! – take stock.