Petr Herel

State Library Victoria is saddened by the passing of Australian artist Petr Herel.

Petr Herel was a practicing artist for over sixty years, and was best known for his printmaking and his exquisite artist books.

Born in Czechoslovakia in 1943, he studied at the Prague College of Visual Arts between 1957-1961, and the Prague Academy of Applied Arts between 1964-1969.

In 1970 he received a French government arts grant and lived in Paris before before moving to Australia in 1973. He was head of the Graphic Investigation Workshop at the Australian National University from 1979-1998, specialising in the development of artist books; and in 1992 received a Visiting Fellowship at Monash University to establish ‘The Monash University and Australian Print Workshop Artist Book Studio’.

In 1980 Petr co-founded Labyrinth Press with French poet, editor and typographic printer Thierry Bouchard; and, in 2007, established Uncollected Works Press from his home in Fitzroy, Melbourne. His work is widely held in Australian and European collections, and in 2009 he was awarded the distinguished Jean Lurçat Prize in France for his artist book Séquelle (2009), published by Librairie Nicaise in Paris.

‘Herel as an artist and as a teacher introduced a sensibility, as well as a bewildering wealth of experience in techniques and possibilities in book arts that he brought from continental Europe, and which had a profound impact on several generations of artists, particularly in Canberra and Melbourne. He was, however, a teacher who did not clone disciples, but cultivated fellow travelers and led by example.’

Art historian Sasha Grishin

In 2014-15 Petr Herel was awarded a Creative Fellowship at State Library Victoria to undertake research into a significant collection of books formerly belonging to French poet Paul Valéry (1871-1945). His project led to the creation of a series of artist books responding to Valéry’s writings.

State Library Victoria’s began collecting artist books in 1989, directly inspired by the body of work Petr Herel had created in this field.

Petr was much loved and admired by the art and printmaking community, and was an inspiration to his many students over the years.

In 2019, Petr generously donated 78 works to State Library Victoria, including artist books, proofs and mock-ups for his books, providing a rich legacy of his significant work in the field of artist books. Explore Petr Herel in the collection.

The Library extends our deep condolences to Petr’s family and friends.

This article has 1 comment

  1. It was always a memorable and exciting period of my life, being tutored by Petr Herel at the Graphic Investigation Workshop, at the CSA, ANU, from 1992 to 1996. There was a sense of mystery about what his latest book or printing seeds of inspiration would be planted in our minds…he was always a beautiful touchstone to our journeys as art students.

    I found myself writing a description (for the purpose of search engines and the visually impaired) for my current website. The artwork was a drawing on found papers (including wallpaper from my family’s home in Hunters Hill, Sydney) laid down on canvas. It struck me that in drawing a robot that looks a combination of RoboCop, Ned Kelly and an “Akira” animation cell, with quotes from George Orwell’s “1984”, I had actually struck upon a concept that Petr Herel tried to encourage my class to study, that of “Cybernetics”.

    It seems his gentle and intelligent way of communicating to his students have a way of filtering through their subconscious minds…In this way he not only was an inspiration, but a conduit for our creativity. I think I can thank him, in part for my exhibition of three of my surrealist, postmodern paintings (each inspired by Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”) in a 2022 online exhibition at “The Holy Art Gallery” in London, UK, despite his complete objection to computers!

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