The Surrealist In The Brown Leather JacketThursday, July 10, 2014
I must confess here (and I have done it before on this subject) that in the late 70s I was a frequent habitué of Wreck Beach. Many times not far from where I was I could hear a loudish young man pontificate on art. Unless it was very hot he complemented his birthday suit with a big heavy and black leather jacket that seemed to be a size too big. From what I could gather (wind in Wreck Beach can carry, almost enhance conversations), the young man was an artist who taught at Emily Carr. The young man had a European accent and a deep radio voice.
Years later I sort of got to know the man. He is Martin Guderna.
Sometime in the late 1990s his famous father, the Czech-born surrealist Ladislav Guderna had a show at my friend Samuel Frid’s gallery the Threshold on 6th and Granville. Proving that surrealism happens more often than not, when Frid closed his gallery the space became a high-end gas barbecue equipment salesroom.
I looked at the paintings and I was particularly attracted to one that featured a red cone on its left side. Frid came up to me and said, “Guderna is a famous surrealist painter, known around the world but nobody knows who he is here.” Stanislav Guderna died in 1999 and his son said to me, “He died penniless. And the painting with the cone now fetches $45,000.”
I must assert here that in repeated sightings of Martin Guderna, in all weather, I always have seen him with that leather jacket. I will not dare ever ask him if he has ever had it dry cleaned. Bohemians (and Martin is a true-born Bohemian) are Bohemians, you know? In fact about a year ago in the covered parking lot on Granville Island I ran into him (this is strange as Guderna says he has never owned a car). We chatted as I stared at his jacket. Guderna in just a few words said, “New York is dead. Paris is dead. Shanghai is now what those two cities were.” At a later date (today, and more on that further below) Guderna told me that Parisians are still stuck on cubism and New Yorkers on Warhol. To Guderna this is sheer nonsense as he admires Matisse, especially if Matisse’s paintings are accompanied by the music of that great atheist of the 17th century (if you run into Guderna on the street, ask him to explain that fact) Johan Sebastian Bach.
Today sitting outside on Homer and Robson (Starbucks)
having coffee with graphic designers and also artists Ian MacLeod and Ian
Bateson I spotted a man in a brilliant white shirt ($400 at Boboli’s)
wearing nice sunglasses (red-rimmed on
the top). I knew that in spite of not wearing the leather jacket (at age 60
perhaps this artist has become more practical) it had to be Martin Guderna. It
was. We then had a couple of hours of wonderful entertainment with all kinds of
comments on the sorry state of our galleries including the big one on West Georgia Street.
But there was no pessimism here. There was enthusiasm, with clear eyes with not
an ounce of anything that might cloud his vision. We were then invited to
explore his tiny studio apartment. Unfortunately the Sechelt living MacLeod had
pressing things to do so only Bateson and I went. It was a terrific and
entertaining little visit in which I spotted the cone painting and asked
Guderna to pose with his leather jacket. He did this after putting on his “new
look” a jacket from Boboli. Guderna showed us a few of his latest works and all
I can report is that there is surrealism and humour in his work but he is a
true artist who while adoring and admiring the memory of his father, he has
become his own man.
|Guderna's new look|
Bateson and I finished our afternoon at a Yaletown Pub watching Brazil being drubbed by Germany.
The whole day was ample proof that the world is good because surrealism is alive and well and grinning lots.