Faithful to the idea of monochrome and interested in a fundamental interpretation of the minimalist aesthetic, the approach of Tomas Rajlich (1940) to painting coincided with a historical moment in which the arrival of conceptual art seemed to have relegated painting to a secondary position. Setting out from a core of works characterised by an industrial look and a modular quality, Rajlich successively proceeded to explore the combination of the impersonal, the gesture and the creative force of light. The latter is combined with several variations of intensity and colour, radically modifying the surface of the painting and bringing out the two-dimensionality of the object.
In 1967 he founded the group Klub Konkretistů, which was orientated towards the international neo-avantgardes represented by Azimut in Italy, ZERO in Germany and Nul in the Netherlands. He went into exile from Czechoslovakia in 1969 after the Soviet invasion and moved to Holland, where his interest in the construction of monochrome works on geometrically regular grids was immediately viewed favourably in the climate of Dutch conceptualism.
The exhibition and the related current reappraisal focus on a cycle of works originally shown in a one-man show in the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague in 1979. Coming after a period of profound exploration of the potential of the colour black in dialogue with a geometric approach, they made Tomas Rajlich one of the leading practitioners of Fundamental Painting. The group of works that constitute Black Paintings bears witness to one of the most important moments in Rajlich’s career in the second half of the 1970s. In 1974 he held fundamental solo exhibitions in the Yvon Lambert gallery in Paris, Art & Project in Amsterdam, and Françoise Lambert in Milan, which were to represent his work for many years. In 1975 he featured with Brice Marden, Robert Ryman, Gerhard Richter and others in the crucial exhibition Fundamentele schilderkunst : Fundamental painting in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. It was a milestone in the international recognition of analytical painting. Important exhibitions of Rajlich’s work in the following years include Elementaire Vormen (travelling exhibition, 1975), Fractures du Monochrome aujourd’hui en Europe (Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1978) and Bilder ohne Bilder (Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, 1978).
Rajlich’s long career is based on a relentless and continuous exploration. After introducing gold in his compositions, in the following decades he moved towards the recovery of a full colour dimension open to symbolic and poetic suggestions, more open gestures and an irrational vitalism when he admitted a spectrum ranging from gold to pink, pale blue to yellow and even red, without altering the process of rigorous elementary structuration of monochrome. His many one-man exhibitions and retrospectives in the major art institutions of the world bear witness to the recognition of Tomas Rajlich as one of the leading figures of the international neo-avantgarde.