Alex Sadlo is a Czech-born artist who is known for his colourful semi-abstract works. He was born in rural Slovakia, which was then part of Czechoslovakia, in 1927, to a postmaster father and a mother who worked as a nurse during WWI. He describes his childhood as idyllic, with freedom to roam in the surrounding forests and swim in the streams.
His precocious talent for art was first awakened by the icons in his local church, and this imagery was to remain an influence on his work for the rest of his life. The family, including Alex’s two older brothers, were evicted from their home during the occupation in 1939, and went to live in western Bohemia.
Here, Alex was fortunate enough to secure an apprenticeship in theatre set design in his teens at the Plzen theatre, and was later admitted to the Prague School of Graphic Art. Here he studied printing techniques, life drawing, and art history.
However, his deep-seated anti-communist beliefs meant that he was expelled in his fourth year and did not complete his degree. He initially made his way to a migrant camp in Austria, before being accepted as a post-war migrant in Australia. He settled in Adelaide in 1950, taking a series of jobs to support himself, and eventually returning to his artwork.
His frugal circumstances meant that Alex was an early pioneer of using found objects in his artwork, saving everything as a potential art material and never wasting or throwing away any resources. He began to produce the large-scale semi-abstract figures he is best known for, and also began to use enamelling on copper to produce jewellery as ‘art to wear.’
In Australia, Alex developed an admiration for Aboriginal art, and this came to influence his own work. He experimented with stripes to produce 3D effects and combined bold colour schemes with abstract designs. During this time he took a job in an Italian ceramics factory, where he learnt how to produce brilliant glazed enamels on copper.
Throughout his long career, Alex was very versatile in the media he used, producing highly skilled works in oil, pastel, collage, vitreous enamel on copper, as well as carved stones and opals and work in ceramics, gold and silver.
In 1968, he finally agreed to curate his first solo exhibition of paintings and jewellery, which was highly successful and led to purchases by the Art Gallery of South Australia and the Australian National Gallery in Canberra.
In 1972, Alex moved to England, setting up a workshop in Slough, Berkshire. Here, he continued to produce jewellery, paintings and ceramics which sold well in the London art scene.
He produced large-scale semi-abstract pieces in oils that were often based in figurative or musical images. He was also a highly skilled portrait painter and produced more realistic works in this genre. His joyous work remains highly sought after today and has been celebrated by many exhibitions and retrospectives as the artist reaches his ninetieth year.
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