These reflections are based on reality and supported facts, with my greatest desire for honesty. My intention is to avoid the veneer of a nice promotional wrap, in line with customary commercialism. I seek to instruct and explain, rather than to grab attention.
In these writings, I am reflecting on the origin, the development, and the conclusion of the Multiple/Multilateral Sculpture. These explorations in sculpture consequently led me to expand beyond art, to the concepts of the Multiple/Multilateral Thought and Understanding.
The timeline can be divided, progressing in three major stages:
Late in 1968, I left Czechoslovakia with my partner and future wife, Danica Betakova, to begin a new life on both personal and professional levels. Together, we immigrated to Canada, with the promise of a bright future.
My first employment opportunities were uninspired: I started working at Henderson Furniture repair, then joined Villeneuve Mechanical Services for plumbing repair, and shortly after, moved to Allied Film Service (Kodak) as a photo processor.
My hands were exposed to varied materials, but my mind needed a suitable outlet. From the time of my entry to Canada, I picked up some clay and plaster of paris, and exploded into sculpture after sculpture.
My inspiration was taken from life experience and current events. For example, Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 journey to the Moon was reflected in a sculpture titled The Touch of the Moon.
Further inspiration came from nature and human forms, coalescing in unison. Such inspiration was embodied in the sculpture titled The Awakening (of Nature, Spring). Upon close observation of this creation, I found an accidental formation of a secondary form. I later defined such secondary forms as the duo set.
Many more artworks were created in search of ideal forms to apply in this newly discovered possibility of expression. I practiced varied motifs in each sculpture, relief, painting, or other media, with the goals of mastering the techniques and reaching for figural, emotive, and wholesome ideals at the highest achievable levels. Efforts were focused on creating sculptures that multiplied the information present in the main work, and that increased the level of sensations raised within the observer. Every work had a specific research purpose.
This was also the time when I turned my observations from stoic objects to the clouds, with their ever-changing formations.
In 1972, I approached the National Capital Commission to present my creations. I crafted a proposal for an outdoor exhibition, and the Commission subsequently approved for it to be held at The Nepean Point Park (and what is now the location of the National Gallery). With the public, my exposition became quite a success; with the members of the profession, I was delighted to receive invitations from a couple of gallery owners in New York, to join their gallery artists.
The guest book records, to my pleasure, the comment by visitor Gary Paruka: “It is not just interesting, it is GOOD!” In person, he informed me, with a kind of pride, that he found over thirty images of figures within the sculpture Vision in a Form. This was an excellent start in my pursuit of the Multiple Sculpture.
At this point, I would like to stress that the development of the Multiple and Multilateral Sculpture was not a gimmick to attract attention. Quite to the contrary, it was the substance of serious research, based on the platform that to know something means to examine all aspects of that object, as it is and as it could be. It combines the study of the object with the freedom to let the imagination soar. History documents that progress is the result of knowledge plus imagination.
With works such as Girls, Mankind, and Vision in a Form, I achieved the multiplication of information I sought. My success relied on searching for figure-like formations within an abstract backdrop. This gave the possibility of augmenting a main work without causing it disruption, by exposing simple figurative expressions over the entire surface. Such technique is shown clearly in a later sculpture, titled Unity. However, this initial exploration was not my final aim.
I was looking for how to merge expressions, without causing them to interfere with each other; consider the clouds, forming and reforming images. To achieve this grander goal, I realized that I needed to expand my use of expressional techniques. This led me to experiment in many individual works and to nurture my expressional techniques. Examples of these techniques include Inner Forms, Outer Forms, Transitional Forms, Positive-Negative Forms, Expanded Forms, Linear Forms, and others. The pursuit led me to a self-realization: my development was running parallel to historically defined ‘styles’. In my case, the search for expressional techniques was critical in creating building blocks for a new structure – The Multiple/Multilateral Sculpture.
Through the late seventies and early eighties, I followed the principle behind my new structure, and accumulated knowledge during my studies. My efforts culminated with the rise of works such as Soliloquy, Dreamers, In the Moonlight, and of course, the sculpture Melody (of Life) 1981.
To conclude this decade, a special opportunity came in 1980. The Czechoslovak Society for Arts and Science, led by Dr. Sistek at that time, expressed interest in my work. In collaboration with the Society, I prepared a solo exhibition for The National Library and Archives, in Ottawa. It was held during the fall of 1981.
In the selection of works for this exhibition, I decided to withhold the most definitive Multiple/Multilateral Sculptures. Rather, I placed the main focus on the sculpture The Legacy of Vinland. I decided to execute this work on a large scale and to present it as a central piece. It is worth noting that, beyond its importance in the exhibition, the sculpture is significant in following one possibility among the many routes I could have pursued; consider, for example, the model of an earlier work titled Unity.
The Legacy of Vinland presented the history of Canada in a simple, non-political, and commentary-neutral representation. Its achievement of an unbiased description is documented in Book of Visitors with comments such as
A sensitive portrayal of the legacy by Paul W. Bennet (Nov. 22, 1981), and
True Canadian sculpture – Canada’s heritage is enriched by the Multiple Sculpture by Bernard P. Walke (Nov. 22, 1981). The book carried many very interesting and appreciative comments.
While I had my supporters, it is unfortunate that I lacked sufficient funds to publicize my exhibition anywhere. This financial situation was quite obvious to me: I had a family to support, with two young sons by this time. However, I was hopeful, and must give due credit to the many visitors who spread the word of my art around. In the end, the count of this short-lasting exhibition greatly surpassed the mark of one thousand.
The decade of the 80’s began on a very positive note. My wife Danica obtained a temporary placement with the Canadian Public Service. She worked hard, and soon after, won a competition for promotion to a permanent position. Consequently, our financial situation improved.
In the meanwhile, I wrote a book on the development of the Multiple Sculpture. My book was duly copyrighted and registered, although it was never published.
In this period, we realized that the condominium we called home had become too crowded; we were in need of more space for our family, as well as for my studio. While I started attending many successful competitions and follow-up exhibitions, and received some lucrative offers from several New York galleries, I valued my independent status as a sculptor above gaining entry to such group.
Beginning in 1984, the family bought one acre of land in Luskville. Danica brought me some books on wood construction, with which I was hard at work designing our future home. In 1985, the new home was becoming a reality. I have many thanks to give my brother Vladimir, who came from Czechoslovakia to help with the construction. Our efforts were a bit funny, since I had no tools except a hummer, an axe, and a handsaw. By the time my brother left in September, we had completed the rough-in. Thereafter, I continued as a one-man crew, with occasional help from friends.
During this time, I received an offer to participate in a 1986 competition by The Hakone Open Air Museum. Upon receiving my entry, it was suggested that I deliver the Multiple/Multilateral Sculpture Melody, set in a large scale. They wanted me to be the official representation for Canada as a Guest Sculptor.
For the next six months, with Danica working to pay the bills, I was the mother, the father, the cook, the driver, the mechanic, and the sculptor, routinely working above twenty hours a day. At the end, it was all forgotten when I received the note:
Your work Melody was awarded the Superior Prize.
There was a special moment for Danica and me while visiting the Opening Ceremony at the Hakone Open Air Museum, and the consequent opening at the Utsukushi ga hara Open Air Museum: the British High Commissioner, accompanying the British sculptor Michael Sandle, noticed that we had no representation from Canada. With a sensitive comment regarding our association with the Commonwealth and allegiance to the Queen of England, the British High Commissioner offered himself to accompany us at the ceremony. This honor was, of course, to our great delight.
The trip led to a commission for Fukuoka City, and for a while, we gained some financial freedom.
Later in 1987, I took a big risk by entering my new Multiple/Multilateral Sculpture titled Desire into the Competition section of the Hakone’s 2nd Rodin Grand Prize Exhibition. I had many reasons to participate, but my main desire was to conclude my efforts to gain my place in the Arts. I did well, and had great success with the Multiple/Multilateral sculpture Desire, including the award of my second Superior prize.
I was very honored, especially when I consider the well-known and well-supported sculptors in attendance, such as the French artist and ultimate winner of the Grand Prize, César (Baldaccini). I was touched even further when César congratulated me in person, expressed his appreciation for my Multiple/Multilateral Sculpture Desire, and invited me to France. His appreciative comments are written into the catalogue, along with the comments of the other participants, including Cervantes Pedro (Mexican), de Santiago Hernandez (Spanish), Cervantes Rosalina (Mexican), and Dean J. Meeker (American).
With this, I concluded all what I had to say professionally, in any of the articles ever published about my work, the Multiple/Multilateral Sculpture, and my position in the Arts.
The cost of casting Desire very much exceeded my expectations, and consequently, we found ourselves in considerably deep debt. I was inexperienced in contracts for commission works as were offered to me (for example, by Kotobuki Seating Co, Ltd., Japan); I was shy to admit my financial situation, and negotiate terms beneficial to all parties involved. By declining the commissions offered by the parties interested in my works, I may have left the wrong impression about my appreciation and continued aspirations.
In 1989, I was recommended for work at the International Sculptors’ Studio in New York, to share my findings from the Multiple/Multilateral Sculpture development. Sadly, I could not find the supporters I needed for this move.
I guess this was the time for me to get out of the proverbial kitchen. The issue was not that I could not take the heat of the kitchen, but the main course was cooked and served, and found by people and food critics to be par excellence. It was the time for me to rejoin my family, where I was needed.
To conclude my active life as a sculptor, I would like to introduce you to my painting from the seventies, titled The Flagman. En route to preserve my status as an Independent Artist, I have encountered many a flagman, whether there was construction or not in the background.
In closure, I would like to say that among the many visitors from all ranks of life who expressed appreciation for my works, the closest to my heart was during my visit to the city of Fukuoka in 1988. On that visit, Mr. Sugawa, the chief architect of the governmental project, told me:
Since the unveiling of the sculpture Melody, in a daily routine, an old woman and a child stop at the sculpture, walk around looking at Melody with admiration and – talk; before they depart to their daily life.
What more could an artist ask for as reward, than to be appreciated by the old and the young, and by the many in between?
Thank You, Rasto.