Ondrej Mares

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Ondrej Mares 1991

Ondrej Mares (11 February 1949 – 19 March 2008) was a Czech-Australian artist and furniture designer who lived in Macclesfield, South Australia. His work has been exhibited in Adelaide, Sydney and Prague. Mares is most famous for his Kachina pieces.[1] In 2002, he was diagnosed with cancer, which had the effect of shifting his focus from larger pieces to smaller more compact pieces. Also, clues to his sickness manifested in later works, such as his Kachina titled 'Stem Cells'.[2] Mares' work has been described as "jamming as much experience, humour and detail into each of his arte povera pieces, usually about 50 cm (20 in) high, as is aesthetically possible."[3]

Early life[edit]

Mares started his working life as a toolmaker in Prague, and was exceptionally skilled in this area, reaching the rank of Toolmaker First Class prior to the Prague Spring of 1968. Mares recalled going to work one morning during this time to find several tanks parked outside the factory at which he worked.[citation needed] It was during this time that Mares' tools were stolen, leaving him with a debt to the state that had to be paid off. Mares and another toolmaker worked nights until the debt was paid, and he then decided to leave Czechoslovakia and emigrate.

Early Life in Australia[edit]

Once in Australia, Mares worked in several different locations, including Darwin and Broome. Mares worked in his own workshop at Macclesfield, South Australia producing furniture and sculpture from 1975 onwards. In 1979, Mares completed a Diploma in Art and Craft in South Australia. He was a skilled carpenter, and in addition to building his house in Macclesfield he also built a house in Goolwa. During this time through personal travels and experiences, Mares developed his own unique style of work, which was manifested in several furniture designs and some sculptures. His rate of work was prolific, and his daughter recalled that he was always working in his workshop from early morning to dusk.[citation needed]

Study Travels[edit]

Mares travelled extensively early in his career, and the inspiration from his travels is evident in his styles of work. Between 1973 and 1974, Mares did a formative study trip through Europe and Asia, including Indonesia (Flores), India, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. In 1990, Mares traveled to Europe to undertake a study of furniture design in Prague and Paris. Mares travelled back to Prague in 2004 and in 2007.

Solo exhibitions[edit]

During his life, Mares exhibited a total of 17 times between 1984 and 2006. In addition to this, Mares' work was exhibited after he lost his battle to lymphoma in March 2008.

Year Gallery and Location
2009 Stephen Sinclair Gallery, Adelaide "Ondrej Mares - A Lifetime" [Posthumous]
2006 BMG Art, Adelaide
2005 One Off Gallery, Macclesfield, Sala Festival
2003 Soho Gallery, Sydney
2003 BMG Art, Adelaide
2000 Galerie Gambit, Prague "Kaciny"
1999 Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide "Postcards from B.H."
1999 Framed Gallery, Darwin "Stitched"
1998 One Off Gallery, Macclesfield "New Work"
1997 Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide "Mere Sketches"
1996 One Off Gallery, Macclesfield "Gulas" (Festival Exhibition)
1995 D'Lux Gallery Adelaide, "Czech Connection"
1994 One Off Gallery, Macclesfield "Old New" (Festival Exhibition)
1991 Foyer Exhibition, Crafts Council of SA Aptos Cruz Galleries, Stirling, South Australia
1988 L'Unique Gallery, Adelaide, South Australia
1986 Elmswood Gallery, Adelaide, South Australia
1984 Greensleave Gallery, South Australia

Group exhibitions[edit]

In addition to his solo exhibitions, Mares' work was exhibited as part of over 25 group exhibitions both in South Australia and Melbourne.

Final Years[edit]

Despite being diagnosed with cancer in 2002, Mares continued to produce a large amount of sculptures, tables and Kachinas. A large amount of his work remains unseen by the public.

Ondrej Mares died in hospital on 19 March 2008. He was cremated shortly after his death.

Further Reading and Examples[edit]

Publications Featuring Ondrej Mares' Work[edit]

  • Masters of Their Craft, Dr Noris Ioannou, 1997
  • Monument Magazine Number 16, 1997
  • Modern Australian Furniture, M. Bofle and P. Landman 1994


  1. ^ Galerie Gambit Panphlet, Drury, Richard
  2. ^ "Stem cells". Bmgart.com.au. Retrieved 2013-11-10. 
  3. ^ Dutkiewicz, Adam 'Silent fury and humour', The Adelaide Advertiser August 2004.