Art Criticism

The roosters of Pavel Hajko

The central motive of the artistic universe of Pavel Hajko is a rooster. It is an old and well-known motive with very rich symbolism, present in mythological tradition of all the continents in various semantic variations, although several meanings of this symbol dominate.

A rooster is, according to many folk tales of many nations, the bird of the Sun and the messenger of light. It is a solar bird which announces the arrival of light and the birth of a new day with its morning crowing, thus sending away the daemons of night. At the same time, it is very much a male symbol, which is used by Pavel Hajko in abundance, embodying thus, in a rooster, the male principle of his bi-polar artistic world. Hajko’s rooster is aggressive when defending his territory and always ready to mate. And it is precisely these traits of a roos­ter, as a traditional symbol, that Pavel Hajko accentuates in his works.

In the course of time, thanks to his imagination, Pavel Hajko has managed to differentiate and narrow down the rich symbolism of a rooster. In that way he avoided a possible inter­pretation of his roosters in a wide semantic spectre and empha­sizes a rooster only as an embodiment of a male cosmic princi­ple. Hajko’s rooster is, therefore, a daemon of fertility, that is, a phallic symbol, just like as a corn ear represents this same principle in the artistic cosmos of Martin Jonáš. That is why Pavel Hajko – while channelling the rich symbolism of a roos­ter into one direction – decided to visually transform his roost­ers into monstrous rooster-phalluses. In that way, Hajko’s roosters become the embodiment of sexual lust and intolerance.

Although the dominant meaning of a rooster, as a symbol (the messenger of light, solar bird, the symbol of Jesus) is with­in the folk traditions of various nations a positive one, during the Christian Medieval period a negative connotation of this symbol appeared as well. It does not go without a reason when people say for young men that they are haunted by a rooster-daemon, and there are many well known magic rituals, in con­nection with a rooster, which have a positive sexual impact. There used to be a belief that consumption of a rooster’s semen has an erotic effect and that women, after eating it, would give birth to male babies, etc. Besides, Hajko’s roosters seem to have something in common with monstrous animals coming from the imagination of the past, like rooster-dragon or Basilisk, which came to this world after, apparently, hatching from an egg that was sat on by a poisonous toad. Basilisk was, according to the Christian tradition, a symbol of luxury, as one of the deadly sins.

It is precisely these traits of a rooster, as a traditional sym­bol, that Pavel Hajko emphasizes in his work. In the fore­ground of Hajko’s paintings there are always roosters, while the phon makes the landscape enigmatic yet idyllic with a small village and a church tower in the distance. And that is the other pole of Hajko’s artistic cosmos. It is the female principle, stat­ic and earthly.

In the lowlands landscape – as seen in Hajko’s paintings -attractive female body curves peep out from the earth. Thus, we deal here with a personification of fertile lowlands soil, which gives life thanks to the love and the male principle – the rooster.

With the development of his own authentic fine art poetry, Pavel Hajko placed himself among a small number of Kovacica’s painters who managed in their artistic opus to over­come the boundaries of pure imitation of the idealized reality and, thanks to their imagination, constructed their own artistic world, unique and unmatched.

Vladimír Valentík

Erotica and the painter Pavel Hajko's mythic village of Kovačica

There is a village, somewhere on the planet, which according to its characteristics looks like the Banat village of Kovačica, and even has the same name. That village in many of its parts possesses similar features, it almost has an identical church, surrounded by identical houses, similar fields, vegetation and trees, people and animals, but however, in many ways possesses a different atmosphere, different colors, a different rhythm. The gigantic rooster governs sovereignly over the village, the powerful bird of a bright, strong body, extremities and neck, with a bloomed strong cockscomb and more powerful voice, with which he awakens the inhabitants, calls them to celebrate the life, beauty and fertility, that are all around them. With that voice he also calls for a duel, announces his male victories, demonstrates his superiority. Sometimes the rooster, nevertheless sometimes exaggeratingly self-confident, is won by the people, women, he is being tied, killed, even crucified, but one thing is for sure: he is the main character, he is in the center of all the events and all things, everything rotates around him. That virtual village of Kovačica, according to the manner of its establishment is very similar to the mythic village of Macondo, from the imaginative novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, lives in the work of the painter Pavel Hajko, probably the best and most original living representative of the Kovačica naïve, the painter in his best years, but with sufficient life and artistic maturity, elaborated style and specific creative language  and philosophy, to represent a stable bridge between the naïve painting of  Kovačica in the past and the artistic creativity in the future.

Pavel Hajko (1952) was born in the village of Kovačica, the oasis of the Slovaks in Banat, the village characteristic by many ways, but from the 1960s to today, famous around the planet by its developed and original naïve painting. He was lucky to learn the art of painting while very young from one of the best naïve painters from Kovačica Martin Jonáš, from whom he partially inherited the originality in the approach to the theme, but also took some symbols of fertility in his paintings: the corn cob and the pumpkin. He may have learnt from him the communication with the heavens. Everything else which can be seen in his paintings is original and only his own, but the insufficiently experienced observer cannot recognize other influences – since Hajko is one of the most educated naïve painters from Kovačica (he completed secondary carpentry school and has read a lot).

What distinguishes Hajko from the other naïve painters, not only from Kovačica and the territory of ex Yugoslavia, but broader, is his dedication to erotica, as one of the main themes of his work. Naïve painting, which is common for most of the painters of that orientation in the world, is characterized by a childish, almost innocent approach to life. Erotica in naïve painting, in its real sense, almost does not exist, or is well hidden. The rooster “flied” to Hajko’ s paintings in 1975, and it was then when the painter, as a young man in full power, started dealing in erotica as the manner to express his own temperament, but also to convey those universal feelings and drives that every human being possesses.  

The first reaction of the observer, accustomed to the idyllic display of life in Kovačica of Zuzana Halupova, her predecessors and successors, is for sure the wish to cover the eyes with ones hands and hide the scenes of corporeal love, even some kind of lechery and exhibitionism, in the paintings of Pavel Hajko. Even the one who may have done it (and those are probably rare), will very quickly space the fingers or completely remove the hands in order to enable their view on a completely new, imaginative artistic world, which is also so vivid and real as are the scenes of rural customs and children’s plays in other painters.

Pavel Hajko paints explicit sex scenes, seen or imagined, the world of the human often obscured life, which he brings to the center of action, to the lawn, the field, the nature. The nude female curves wherever we turn, often hidden in the layers of snow or the curvatures of the land surfaces, the country fairy, the river nymph, the maiden, in everyday work, or only on a promenade, in the most peculiar situations – represent the apotheosis of the female beauty and for what it has been created, sex as the manner of reaching the peak satisfaction, but also the manner to have fertility achieved and hence  prolong life – until eternity.

The painter shows an incredible sense for humoristic grotesque, larded with the elements of fantasy, which sometimes looks like being conveyed from the creativity of Salvador Dali, but mainly has original characteristics. The affinity towards the play, almost joke, leads the author to place the heroes of his paintings into incredible situations (watching porno films on the TV in the nature, with masturbation, or preparation for the love act; voyeurism of all kinds, in which even the animals are included), where the spry rooster as an inseparable participant is always present, being either the observer or participant in sex, real orgies, demonstrations of sexuality and male power, in which his partner may be a beautiful nude girl, but with mediation of the corn cob, as one of the symbols of the phallus, and some prodigal pumpkin. How to interpret such a relation between the rooster and the girls if not as the Kovačica version of Leda and the swan?

The erotic scenes of Pavel Hajko are by no way close to the fringe of pornography, which can be easily crossed when dealing with erotica. On the contrary, Hajko shows incredible sanity and feeling for good order, when from something from which the others would make profanity, with the help of imaginative details, he makes a demonstration of his communication with the universe. His paintings are not simple, as he has a sense for detail, for a story, and the majority of his paintings have many secondary episodes (so often in the Japanese erotic graphic shunga from the late Middle Ages), so they represent well measured compositions.

Pavel Hajko seems like deliberately demonstrating his non-affinity to idealize the past, so much present with other Kovačica painters. Mythology is present in his paintings, but somewhat in a broader sense, and the native village he shows is exactly the one in which he lives – with, off course, additions from his imagination. The  rooster, the flaunting master, the country ruffle, the super potent master of the female bodies, the symbol of everything which is male, strong, erotic, buoyant, light, clear, powerful also lives in that village. The rooster communicates with the heavens and the special divine sources of light, he communicates with the endless space, he fights with others for predominance, reaches the Moon, the peaks of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Eifel Tower in Paris. He is everywhere and nothing can be done without him, and when looked closer from many angles, it is understood that the rooster is really the symbolic self portrait of the painter himself, the part of his own self.

Dragan Milenković