With this boldly coloured interactive book, the Prague artist attracted her first international attention. What initially looks like a simple, colourful cardboard counting book for young children unfolds with a surprising dynamic once opened.
"Hippo...I, bird...you, look!" is the text on the first double page; on the left there is one massive hippo in a black coat and, on the right, a red, seated clown figure whose body shape imitates that of the black number Two above. The number Two is also printed on a flap hiding a hippopotamus with a red bird on a yellow background. The connections between the individual elements are multiple, not linear, but strikingly multidimensional. The following pages follow this principle, always addressing not only the eyes and the cognitive perception of readers, but also their fingers and senses, which can trace cut-outs, lift flaps of different shapes and sizes, pull out a mini-leporello or feel an embossed print.
The cardboard picture book is structured like a game, an invitation to see numbers in a spatial context. Rather than enumerating common everyday objects, such as "one ball, two apples, three plates", Pacovská’s book is concerned with a complex interplay of different forms. The numbers are translated into figures as clown, bird, or man, who have to bend, hunch, or stretch to imitate the shape of the numbers. Numbers, so the message, are not static and immutable concepts but full of life; they can be colourful and ever changing, inviting you to play.
Květa Pacovská, born 1928 in Prague, lives and works in her city of origin. She practices conceptual art in painting, graphic design, and sculpture and is considered an exceptional artist in the field of art and books. She has gained worldwide fame with her experimental picture object books, which she considers to be a kind of paper sculpture.
After studying at the Prague Academy of Art, Architecture and Design, she began illustrating fairy tales and children's books as early as the 1950s. With the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, new opportunities opened up for her book-artistic work. She gained access to the coated papers and cardboard for picture books that were commonly used in the West. Her first new project "One, five, many", 1990, is also her first object book for children and marked a milestone in the creative development of the then 62-year-old artist.
In addition to free works, including large-format oil paintings, collages, objects made of cardboard, paper, strings, wood or metal, she designs numerous book projects as a new form of interactive object book. Květa Pacovská sees her book-artistic works as a kind of three-dimensional paper architecture that one can enter into in order to experience them with all senses. "My picture books are an interplay of different ways of reading. They each set free a different perception of space, rhythm, touch, or colour." And: "My art is by no means based on the understanding to interpret or illustrate texts. Rather, I work on the basis of the visual arts." (Maximum Contrast, p. 148)
Pacovká's works have been widely exhibited, including at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, 2007, and the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt/M., 2008. Her most important award is the Hans Christian Andersen Prize, 1992, one of the most prestigious international prizes for children's and young people's books, which the international children's book organisation IBBY awards every two years.
About the ArtistPictureBook, Pacovská says: "The picture book is the first gallery that children enter".
The Art of Květa Pacovská
Gossau-Zürich, Michael Neugebauer, 1993
Květa Pacovská, Open Space
Paris: Fondation M. von Cronenbold
Wabern: Benteli, 2001
Květa Pacovská, Maximum Contrast
Eva Lienhart (Ed.)
Exhibition catalogue, Museum für Angewandte Kunst. Frankfurt/M., Bargteheide: Michael Neugebauer, 2008