When I leaf through the books illustrated by Tomáš Řízek, and there are over forty of them now, I am amazed at the breadth of genres, which in a way map out the history of Czech illustration during the 20th century and the effort to resolve the fundamental problems of how to contribute towards the intellectual and emotional development of children, how to mediate the knowledge they acquire in a way that has creative appeal, and how to a approach their psyche.
Besides illustrating classic fairy tales, Tomáš Řízek also works with "artificial" fairy tales or tales from other countries within Europe and beyond. He illustrates adventure stories and presents children with an insight into the world of science, technology, and art.
In his personal interpretation of literary works his illustrations become a means of discovering the world as a whole, in all its dynamism and interconnected links, and he blurs the boundaries between fact and fantasy. In addition to descriptive scientific and educational scenes, where he places emphasis on detail and the corresponding realia, with his fairy-tale literature he favours portents, distinctive details, symbols enhanced with the emotional impact of colour to induce a particular atmosphere while taking account of children's innate perceptive abilities.
Though in vocational terms Tomáš Řízek is self-taught, as he never studied at art school, he has never let this hold him back and has always sought to achieve his ambitions. He gradually learnt the secrets of the creative arts and developed his skills by copying Gothic Madonnas. As he himself says, he was lucky in that for a few years he could take his works under his arm and go and discuss them with Jaroslav Králík, a pupil of Emil Filla, who, besides helping him to master his drawing skills and teaching him about the different painting techniques, also opened up the world of graphics and illustration. Tomáš Řízek then drew on the skills and knowledge he acquired there in his own work, which besides paintings also includes applied graphics (book covers for Alpress, Euromedia, Práh, Baset, Dauphin, Vyšehrad, Olympia, and other publishing houses) and illustrations for various publishers in the Czech Republic and Europe as a whole, as well as in Taiwan and China.
Tomáš Řízek came onto the Czech art scene at the end of the nineteen eighties when he presented pictures inspired by Christianity, the works of the world's great artists, nature, the font of all life, and the fundamental certainty of human existence on this planet.
Since the late nineties Tomáš Řízek's work has mostly focused on illustrations, and his free art has taken something of a back seat. At least until he discovered the culture of Asia and travelled around China and Taiwan, which impressed and inspired him so much that he went back to painting pictures. Unlike the subdued tones set in contrast with the large white areas which are so prominent in his work from the early nineties, his works from the last two or three years feature the bold, lively and radiant colours that are so typical of Asian cultures. The artist also draws inspiration from the exotic history and traditions of the Orient. In their bright colours and lyricism these pictures could be described as a continuation of his illustrations for fairy tales and Asian fables, and will appeal to people of all ages. Perhaps we like them so much because fairy tales open an imaginary door into a world of fantasy, kindness, gentle humour, pleasure, including the message of good over evil. In other words, these are values which more and more we feel are lacking in the world of today and which we are constantly in search of.
The first acknowledgement of Tomáš Řízek's work was an invitation to join the Club of Children's Book Illustrators, which brings together the top Czech illustrators and aims to maintain the high standards of illustrations and creativity in children's books, something which in the last few decades has come under threat from a variety of different media which can be more comfortable and less demanding than reading. The importance of ethical information and the sense of a good read, however, cannot be replaced by shortened texts which, although clever in themselves, are no substitute for a work of art. Besides, with the current spread of homogeneity in civilisation, culture is becoming the only the only thing that distinguishes different communities of people.
What is crucial is that in spite of everything the children's book still remains a living entity which is forever changing and developing along with different forms of creative expression, but also in the face of the changing needs of the modern age.
Czech illustration has a tradition to build on; some of our leading artists have devoted themselves to illustration, and still do, approaching it in a serious and responsible manner, not just as a marginal thing so often associated with making a living, and have imbued it with a great deal of magic, modernity and refinement by making the most of their artistic experience, particularly their drawing skills and faith in their own resources and abilities, to address children as if they were peers. It is these results of this artistic work that have helped to establish the reputation of Czech culture and made it accessible to art-lovers all over the world. I am delighted that one of these artists is Tomáš Řízek, who, together with other members of the Club of Children's Book Illustrators, has taken up the baton as it were to pass on to those who follow in their footsteps.
Mgr. Hana Nováková
Director of Havlíčkův Brod Art Gallery
© 2010 Tomáš Řízek, mobil + 420 602 27 26 77, e-mail: email@example.com | Foto © Pavel Novák, Foto © Tomáš Řízek, archiv Tomáše Řízka
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