Barbora Kundračíková, art historian

The book is the touchstone of human culture. Through it, we can grasp not only ourselves but also the world of which we form a part. It has the ability to fulfil the potential of both these spheres and to urge them to communicate. In this sense, it represents, as well, the best that is within us as humans – against all the evil that we often enact, so frequently for the “right” reasons. HOLD is the book of books, the language of the earth that each of us speak in solitude, yet also everyone together. A relation of experience with the world now at the edge of its survival, nonetheless remaining incredibly beautiful. A reflection of the personal character of our relationship, though quite naturally anchoring it in a more general framework – and again being reflected therein. And the conjoining of both scales is set by the work’s own conception in this solid, compact, but still complex book-form, which cannot be perceived only visually. Here as well, the book resonates in a positive sense. Not even the polyphony reflecting “climate anxiety, corporate doublespeak, international migration, atomic energy, and the counterintuitive beauty of the world” can end in its dissolution, instead in reconstruction and a new narrative.

The poetic voice of Sally Ball is almost analytically precise and overwhelming in its certainty. Yet the images that it evokes are just as layered as those created by Jan Vičar. Indeed, the linocut is justifiably the “softest” printmaking technique, allowing for the sensitive impression of individual layers, whether of meaning or colour, through new shading. The result, in turn, seems something outside of this world, or more precisely as if it were the “other” world – golden, tinted purple at the edges. If the main theme of the project HOLD is the end of the human era as hitherto known, it represents an application of the most traditional of all known technologies as a fitting counterpoint: is not the book, the poem, the print a technology as old as humanity itself? Yet even these can provide all that is necessary for our correct “naming what you’ve done”, as Ball writes in one of her poems. Such is, to be sure, the first step on the path towards correction.

HOLD (2018) is an authors’ book in a limited edition of thirty-five original exemplars with dimensions 52 × 65 cm. It contains seventy coloured linocuts with engraved text. Bindings are hand-sewn, inside canvas, leather, or parchment. It is presented here in the original form of separate pages – as it was exhibited starting in 2015 in Spain, France, Germany, Austria, or Japan. Examples can be found, among other locations, in the National Literary Monument in Prague or the Iowa University Library.

Poet Sally Ball (* 1968, Summit, New Jersey, USA) is the author of the volumes Annus Mirabilis (2005), Wreck Me (2013) and Hold Sway (2019). The poem “Hold” is part of the last-named publication. Ball is a professor of English at Arizona State University, where she has also significantly assisted in the activities of the local publisher Four Way Books. Her work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Harvard Review, Scoundrel TimeTin House. She lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona.

Graphic artist Jan Vičar (* 1967, Svitavy, CZ) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He has received many awards, among them the Prix de Gravure Mario Avati (2018), awarded by France’s Académie des Beaux Arts, the Boudník Prize (2020) or the Premio Leonardo Sciascia (2022). His work is represented in the collections of many public and private institutions, among them the National Gallery in Prague and the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation. He lives and works in the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, occasionally in Rheims.