Interview with Ivana Lomová 2012

You are a self-taught artist. You?ve been painting and drawing for thirty years, but you studied architecture at the Czech Technical University in Prague. What brought you to that school?

Thirty years ? that sounds awful. But I´ve actually been drawing and painting even longer, and I definitely started drawing before I could write. But my parents envisioned a "proper", "decent" profession for me. I wasn?t accepted the first time I tried to get into the School of Applied Arts, so I went to study architecture with the idea that I would transfer in the second year, like some others before me had done. But then that wasn´t possible. On that occasion, some administrative employee at the registrar´s office criticized me for taking the spot of someone who needed it more by wanting to transfer. And she was right. In the end, I graduated in architecture, but with the idea that I would finally do what I wanted. As soon as I fulfilled this "responsibility" I had. I was somehow too obedient, not free and bold enough, maybe it was also because of the times?

Has the experience you gained at the Czech Technical University ever come in handy?

One of the few things I enjoyed at that school was the study of perspective. We also had a bit of drawing, but really just a bit, and we spent a week outside in South Bohemia. Otherwise, we always spent half a year thinking up some building, which I didn´t enjoy much and wasn´t interested in, and at the end of the semester, the building had to be drafted. Today all of that is probably done on computers, but back then we traced floor plans, cross-sections, axonometric projections and perspectives with Rotring pens on huge, smooth sturdy papers. Eventually I did enjoy it a bit, even though it was an awful amount of work and we often went a week without sleeping. The teachers appreciated my drawings and closed one eye to the design itself. That´s how I staggered through the school somehow. Perhaps I have a bit better sense of space that I might not have gained at the Academy of Fine Arts or the School of Applied Arts.

So school is an advantage for artists, or does it not matter?

I think that one of the advantages of art school is that it enables you to develop in a community of like-minded peers who inspire and influence one another. I always felt like an uninformed outsider just doing some amateur work at home who doesn?t know what?s going on. Then it´s hard to catch up. Nevertheless, maybe it did have its advantages, maybe I was just different than the others. And maybe I also had a stronger drive to do something. After all, forbidden fruit tastes the best.

You started studying in 1978. At that time, VONS (The Committee for the Defence of the Unjustly Persecuted) came into being, Jan Paul II became the pope, and the jockey Váňa?s famous racehorse Železník was born. What do you remember from that time?

The school, even though it was a different one than where I wanted to study, was a great relief for me. Following the totalitarian terror that took place at the end of the 1970s at the Jan Kepler High School under Knor, the director at that time, I felt like I was in paradise at the architecture school. There was no mention of SSM (Socialist Youth Union), nobody tried to persuade us to get involved, they didn´t force us to do anything. My classmates, mostly boys, were happy and fun, and the fearful, hunched-over studious girls from the high school floated off into the past. In addition, to my amazement, it was enough to attend class only occasionally.

Who was this "totalitarian terrorist" Knor?

After 1989 I found out that it was a highly-ranked StB (State Security) agent. For many years, he made life unpleasant for his students. Graffiti like "Knor is an asshole" was always appearing on the walls of the schools, and because they were eventually painted over, the school was always covered in gray spots, a sort of street art of the 1970s. "Knor is an asshole" was supposedly even written on the Eiffel Tower.

Were you interested in the underground culture at that time? Books, music? Did you know anything about it?

Now it seems almost strange, but in the 1970s I didn´t know anything about Charter 77, about dissidents or the underground. We did go to the Malostranská beseda club to Jiří Černý´s anti-discos, and I have a hazy memory of concert by the Plastic People of the Universe, whose music didn´t impress me that much, but we believed mottos such as "With the Soviet Union forever and without change", which had accompanied us since childhood, we couldn´t imagine that things could change, that is, definitely not during our lifetime. We thought about emigration instead. To finish what our parents had not, to break through the endless circle, when children don´t run away because of their parents, themselves becoming hostages, on whose account their children won´t run away either. But around 1987, when émigrés got the opportunity to receive money to come home, my uncles from Canada started to come here. One of them was interested above all in money, another became addicted to strange costumed nationalism in Canadian heritage organizations, and transported old agriculture tools, rakes and flails from Bohemia and did other misguided things. In short, my uncles were not the most attractive of models. Emigration is a difficult thing, and it is not for everyone.

As concerns the underground and samizdat, thus far you?ve only talked about the 1970s. What about the 1980s?

In the second half of the 1980s, things finally began to reach us properly and in context. Mejstřík´s Café A. F. F. A. and Havel´s plays, especially Audience completely fascinated me, I knew them almost by heart. The book that stuck to me the most and that clarified and explained a whole series of things for me was Tigrid´s An Intelligent Woman?s Guide to her own Fate. From the end of the 1980s, I recall the dramatic smuggling of Tigrid´s journals Svědectví and Listy from Vienna to Prague. We had several copies in the car and we stopped somewhere in the woods, thinking up various hiding places. Later, when we got across the border, sweating with fear, they didn?t search us at all. Later, our small son, when we left him unattended for a little while, ripped up this rare item into small pieces and then I laboriously and carefully put all of them back together with transparent glue. November 1989 came a few months later, and we could only laugh at this.

You said that you started drawing before you could write. Where did your drawing come from? I guess from your family?

I don´t know, actually- In our family there are some artistic genes floating around, my mom´s grandfather was the architect Jan Kotěra, my dad´s cousin was Jiří Šalamoun, but my parents, rather, held me back from the artistic track, it seemed too bold to them and they probably also didn´t believe that I could be successful. I didn´t take my dad´s statements like "Ivana, you poor thing, what are you doing drawing again, it won´t lead anywhere", too seriously, but to tell the truth, they weren´t encouraging. At the same time, my dad himself could draw quite well, he had a talent for condensing things. When I was quite small, he made me a whole album of drawn collages, almost from fairy tales, for which he thought up various stories.

You finished school in 1983. Beginning roughly at that time you worked as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines. Did you ever work in the field you studied, architecture?

After finishing school, I was employed in a drafting firm in Dejvice. I extended my lunch breaks and went around to different editors of children?s magazines to offer them my drawings and illustrations. At night I drew and painted like crazy. I didn´t sleep much, I was really worn out and often sick, but it worked. After five months I got in, sort of, I even got my first book assignment, to illustrate the book Petty Criminal from the Notary by Jiří Brázda for Práce Publishers. I also got to know Jiří Kalousek, who needed an assistant for animated film, which promised a small but regular salary. So I went to by boss and resigned. He was glad, saying that he would have had to fire me anyway, because it was no longer possible to tolerate my moonlighting. Moonlighting, that´s how they called illegal work that people took on to increase their family budget. Though I wasn´t moonlighting in the sense that he meant it, I really wasn´t spending too much time on my work for the studio.

Was it possible to be a full-time artist in the 1980s, or did you only draw things that had been ordered?

I was doing illustrations and I was entirely happy that someone wanted them from me. If I painted something for myself, I didn?t have any plans for it. It didn?t occur to me back them to try for any other type of employment.

How do you view your drawings from that time, after twenty-five years?

I´m amazed. Above all at how brilliantly I saw things, what miniatures I could draw, which now wouldn´t be possible even with the best glasses. But seriously: I think that I reached a sort of level in illustration on which I felt satisfied. Just before I left it , gradually, but for good. That means sometime at the beginning of the 1990s. After 1989, there was a swarm of publishing houses, the possibilities appeared to be endless, but almost none of the books that I had gotten into very enthusiastically were ever published. Either there was no money or the publishing house closed down before I finished the book. Those were wild times. Sometime around 1991 I came up with tarot cards for Lunarion Publishers. When they were finished, the director had a car dealership instead of a publishing house, and the cards remained in a drawer for twenty years. They were published last year by Krásná paní Publishers. I still have all sorts of things prepared at home...

What was it like working with the print media during the previous regime?

I can´t complain. Considering the fact that I worked for children?s magazines like Mateřídouška, Ohníček or Sedmička, I didn?t feel any pressure or regulation. And the artistic editors at the Albatros publishing house seemed like an oasis of freedom in the middle of this decay. There were great people working there at that time and there was an atmosphere of friendly contentment. At least it seemed that way to me, I really liked going there. It´s a shame that Albatros had such a strange fate after 1989. I did some illustrations for them even at the beginning of the 1990s. The building Národní street had been sold, the editors moved, new people were there. I remember a tasteless ceramic ashtray in to form of an open can on the table in the art editors´ office, and how they pressured me to redo a cover, that it had to be "happy" and with action and in red, so that the book would sell. The previous regime had been, in its own way, very favourable for illustration, especially for children´s books. There was a different sense of time and many very good artists were able to make a living doing illustration. The regime evidently tried to keep the "dangerous" people in line by paying them decently. Another issue was that the print quality became worse and worse and it typically took two years for a book to come out.

Tell me more about your parents. What was your childhood like? How was your childhood? Where did you grow up?

I was born in Střešovice, in Prague, and I have lived there up to now, just one street over. My mom studied architecture at the School of Applied Arts and then worked for nearly her whole life as an architect at the Center for Arts and Crafts. My dad worked in parasitology, he studied natural sciences. In 1966 they invited him to Chicago for a year to work at the university there. Three years later he went back and the whole family followed him there. So I attended the fifth grade there in the school year 1969/1970. That year in America was of fundamental significance for me. All at once, a huge colourful world opened up to me, which was different from the gray one here. At school they didn?t call me "sleeping dummy" like they did here, but they praised me ? as they are used to doing there. Based on the motto ?kids must have fun?, America was a regular paradise for kids, and my sister and I really liked it there. The Americans then offered my dad wonderful conditions for the following years, but the Communists didn?t extend our so-called travel permission documents. So we had to make the decision of whether to stay or not. In the end, given a combination of various circumstances, we returned home. It was a very hard return. From that time, I began saving for a plane ticket so that I could go back, but the plane tickets became more and more expensive, so I was never able to save up for one?

Do you think your parents regret not having stayed in America?

That was, of course, the essential question. If the decision was the correct one. Now I think that perhaps we should have stayed. But who knows, it?s a mistake to say ?should have?.

And the uncles from Canada? When did they leave?

In 1980.

What about your sister Lucie? Together you thought up Anča and Pepík, the mice. How did you come to work together on comics?

I had been drawing with my sister since we were very young, as children each of us ?published? our own magazine full of pictures. One was called Moonshine and the other Generations. When we were a bit older, one time at our cottage in the Krkonoše Mountains we opened a bottle of wine and, as usual, drew just for fun. In the end, a story about mice came out of it. We had a lot of fun with Anča and Pepík, back then we didn?t have families and were entirely free to organize our time. I liked working a pair. Thinking up things in dialogue is more fun and more brisk. Later we decided to make a comics series out of it and try to offer it for publication somewhere. I took on that job, because I already knew the editors a bit. The first publisher I went to was Albatros, for whom I had done illustration. Some editor pulled The Great Journey of the Hair and the Chin by František Skála out of a cabinet saying that he was trying to get this established for God knows how long, and that now it would probably make it, but then all comics would have to be in the same square format. In other words, we would have to do it over. Skála?s comics were amazing to me, nevertheless we didn?t want to do ours over. I don?t remember all the places I took Anča and Pepík, but the times were not in favor of comics. Eventually, the mice caught on at Panorama, where they were published as an illustrated notebook. And we were glad, even though the original idea was, of course, a hardcover book.

The comics were published in 1989 with the title Anča and Pepík on the Trail. It was your only book together. Why didn´t you continue this collaboration?

At the time when Mr. Němeček wanted a continuation from us ? even though we previously had to ask him repeatedly before he would print anything of ours ? I was already drawing another serial, Bible Stories for the children´s magazine Mateřídouška, where they were in syndication for more than four years. On top of that, I had a small child at home and the situation was different. Anča and Pepík no longer fit into my schedule.


strong>Now you have two children, a son and a daughter. Did they open up new sources of inspiration for you in your drawing and painting?

Of course. Even pregnancy itself was an experience that I was constantly reflecting in the figures of rosy animals or creatures, which could be described as a cross between a cow, a sheep a goat and a woman. Later, this archetypal mother was joined by her similar-looking young. Topics like that lasted me two or three years. Later I delved into my own childhood, which I alternated with the childhood of my own children. During that period, the cycles Under the covers and Childhood came into being, that was around the year 2000. And most recently I painted the world of my daughter when she was around twelve years old.

Do you think that your American experience at the end of the 1960s, your encountering comics, animated film, the "huge colourful world" that you talked about are all responsible for Anča and Pepík?

They probably are, quite a bit, in America we were buried in comics. On the one hand, we liked them, on the other hand, they were one of the few types of printed material that we were able to read in English.

What is your current relationship to comics? Some of your paintings are like comics to a certain degree: your work is realistic, it has a story, striking colours, simplified forms?

Certain aspects of action and stories are truly close to me. This probably isn?t only because I used to be involved with animated film. Rather, on the contrary: that?s the reason I started doing film. When I started with lithographs, one of my first works was called "Scenes from the life of danglers", which was essentially a graphic in the form of comics. The cycle of pictures called Night is conceived as a dreamlike film. I occasionally work with my picture series as if they were film frames.

You eventually did actually get into film. In 1990 your animated film Party came into being. How did that happen?

Jiří Kalousek, whom we mentioned above, got me into animated film. It was by coincidence that I met him that time, through a neighbor who sewed dresses for his wife. One of those "coincidences" that look like they´re not even coincidences, given how important they are. Kalousek offered me that I would help him with cartoons for Slovak television. In the end I painted almost the whole thing instead of him, because he had a lot of other work. I admired him very much, he was an interesting and charming person, he painted with ease, without the slightest bit of hesitation, truly like when ?a pilgrim plays the flute to his love?, as he wrote in the foreword to his book Around the World with a Painter, a painted atlas of the countries of the world that come out in 1984. And when I was already working on somebody else?s film, I felt like making my own. I started out with great enthusiasm, but it didn?t turn out too well.


The script wasn´t badly written, I was even able to find support for it, but then they gave me a team of animators from the Barrandov Studios who were used to cartoons with round figures that have cute four-fingered paws. But my film was for adults and it suffered quite a lot from the cartoon stylization that the animators couldn?t remove in the drawing phase. In addition, they made things easier for themselves, whenever something seemed complicated to them, they simply left it out. I was completely inexperienced, more than a generation younger than they were, and somehow I wasn?t able to lead them properly. Eventually, out of desperation, I drew the second half of the film myself. It dawned on me that if I wanted continue devoting myself to animated film, I would have to set up my own team of collaborators and somehow get it going, and that this small excursion of mine probably wasn?t what I was looking for. So I backed out of the film. I wanted to do other things as well.

After the experiences with comics and animated film it is not surprising that as an illustrator in the 1980s and 1990s, you were close to the so-called Czech grotesque, represented in art, for example, by Rittstein, Róna, Sopko. Did you know them at that time? Did they have any influence on you?

I remember Michael Rittstein and Jiří Sopko very well from my younger days. I really enjoyed Rittstein´s household scenes from the housing projects. I liked Sopko a lot as well. Jaroslav Róna is younger and he appeared a bit later, but even today I remember my amazement at his picture "Drinking stars".

What prompted you to move from drawing to painting? The need for a bigger space, distance from the emerging work?

I had been used to drawing from school and from working on illustrations, and I also painted, with water colors or gouache. So I naturally began to express myself in a manner that was familiar to me. During the first half of the 1990s I did a lot of pastel work, first drawings, then I smeared them onto the surface, which was even closer to painting. I had been attracted to oil paints for a long time, occasionally I tried working with them, but somehow it didn?t work, I didn?t know how to understand the technique, and then all at once, it worked. Like when you´re learning to ride a bike, you keep falling, and all at once, you start riding. Ever since I´ve been painting with oil, I haven´t done anything else, except for small graphics excursions. I usually even do my sketches with oil. I should probably occasionally brush up on another technique, but oil, beside the fact that it smells beautiful, gives me complete freedom of expression ? I can do whatever I want with it. Whereas before I had to think of what technique would go best with the selected topic?

You were grotesque in your drawings, in your paintings you?re serious, perhaps a bit nostalgic. Is this due to your age, your life experience?

Probably as well. But I think that it?s mainly due to the fact that the world around me changes. Why were there so many artists dealing with the grotesque here? For many years, we lived in a Czech grotesque here. By that I don?t mean to say that we?re not living in a grotesque anymore, but after all, there?s no comparison between the two. I grew up during a time when it wasn?t possible to take anything from the public life seriously, and we learned how to make fun of everything so that we could tolerate it better, we learned how to be ironic, sometimes even cynical. Humor was our main weapon and the feeling of tragicomedy accompanied it.

That´s how you explain why the grotesque element disappeard from your pictures. And where did the nostalgia, the dark, existential subtext, come from? Is that a print of age, life experience?

I received our "Velvet Revolution" almost exactly for my thirtieth birthday. I think that it was exactly on November 22 that it became clear that things would turn out well. It was the most beautiful gift I had ever received. And at the same time, thirty is the age when it is really time to stop delimiting oneself in relation to the world in a youthful way and to sort of take it as one?s own, to begin to take it ?seriously?. The joking and ironic whippings just gradually stopped being important to me. To paint the world as I see it, just a simple statement of reality, without grimaces, fables or other flourishes ? it?s what interests me most momentarily. Of course, it?s my eyes, my selection, so it?s necessarily my subjective view. But from my perspective it?s just the naked ?truth?. And as concerns existential anxiety, I´ve had that in my drawings the whole time, I occasionally surprise myself when I discover some old thing and I find out that I´m basically doing the same thing over and over. That was, for instance, the case of the cycle Cafés, which came into being based on a twenty-year old picture of the interior of one pub. I wanted to do the same topic twenty years later. Eventually it turned into a series of Prague cafés.

Who are your relatives in painting? Whose pictures do you like looking at?

Of the contemporary painters, my favorites include, for example Vija Celmins, an American painter born in Lithuania, who is a generation older than me and is rather unknown in the Czech Republic. She?s a sort of minimalist photo-realist. For example her paintings or drawings of the stars, they´re very precise depictions of the Milky Way or various constellations that she does based on photographs from astronomers, telescopes. Or her stones in the desert and surfaces of the sea. Her pictures are usually monochrome or black and white. Then there´s John Currin, my contemporary, whose humorous provocations, sense of humor and painting techniques I admire very much. He is inspired quite a lot by American commercials, popular magazines, he plays with kitsch. His most recent pornographic period, though, is at the very limit. I´m also fascinated by the recently deceased Lucian Freud, whose early works and recent paintings which are absolutely exploding with energy. A phenomenal painter. And of course I love Edward Hopper, whose pictures were considered similar to mine even before I got to know them properly. In this country I like, for example, František Matoušek, Josef Bolf, the large canvases by Jan Hísek, and others.

You usually paint according to the photographs. Don?t you trust your imagination? Didn?t realism go out of style long ago?

The real world around us, when you take a good look at it, is so interesting, exciting, and stimulating, that it seems more noteworthy than anything anyone could think up. Take, for example, abstract art. Most abstractions in galleries bore me, but recently I saw amazing abstract pictures from an airplane over the desert and mountains in Afghanistan, breathtaking ones. Nature simply knows how to do this better than we do. In this context, you can then pose the question of why we should create anything at all. But what would we then do with our creative instinct? People simply have the desire to grasp the world around them, to somehow take it over. It´s also true that there are lots of things that people only notice when they see them in a picture, in real life they pass them by. I´m more interested in the content, in its depth, than in booming acrobatic gestures. I´ve somehow ceased to enjoy a significant portion of modern art. I?m disturbed by the arbitrariness with which the avant-garde artist turned everything upside down, enchanted by their own exceptionality , art for art´s sake. Back then it was maybe good for things to move forward. But now it seems to me that it was perhaps one of the dead ends that was somewhat overrated and is hard to take any further. Of course, I could be mistaken, but I guess I?m not a proper ?progressive? person. I?m probably hopelessly conservative. That?s a very difficult position, especially for an artist?

Why should conservatism be a burden in art? Tradition, order, myth ? what?s bad about that? You can still easily find certain elements of conservatism even in the most radical artistic activities. Never mind the fact that without tradition, there would be no avant- garde. Everything that is relevant at a given time hopelessly reacts to what there was in the past?.

The proper artist tears down the old and brings in the new, right? He doubts, overturns, throws things off kilter, he?s progressive and innovative, he produces thus far unseen things and draws attention to himself through all kinds of scandals. In this day and age, he also has a good market sense, is always running off somewhere, and organizes huge and crazy, best of all virtual things with a political impact. He often doesn´t work alone, but in a team, doesn´t waste time sitting around in some studio, and when it happens to be necessary to do a little work, he has people to do it. In addition, he is still very young. One of our new galleries writes on its web page that it represents "emerging artists". That´s quite funny, isn´t it? And I´m sitting at home alone admiring the Italian Renaissance, looking at the Dutch masters, and not caring about marketing.

You take photographs and you paint. What actually keeps you painting, when taking photographs is easier, quicker, more precise and even more popular with viewers?

I don?t know if photography is more popular than painting. In any case, it seems to me, that there is more and more of it everywhere, it probably corresponds better to the quick, visual times we?re living in. Among others, what I really enjoy about painting is how it goes against the contemporary speed, transformation, flash. It stands opposition to this. It?s actually completely anachronistic and absurd to sit alone in a studio and slowly and carefully paint with your own hand ? and what?s more, to paint realistic pictures. But a picture is of a different character than a photograph, I wouldn?t get so many things, so many feelings that can be inserted into a picture, into a photograph. The time you spend on a picture pays off in it, as energy cast into it, in the ideas which would not likely emerge quickly. The colour applied to the canvas is much more intense than the colour in photography, it creates a different light, it models the content and form of objects differently. For me, the resulting picture is more than photography. It is a sort of ?enhanced? photography. In the photograph, we usually see only some things, parts of the picture are lost in the shadows, others are blurred in the distance. In this context, I recall the exhibition by the American photographer Gregory Crewdson a few years ago in the Rudolfinum. His photos were just what seemed to me as this ?enhanced? reality. He composes his photographic scenes the way a director composes film images. In addition, he composes the picture from several shots, so everything is sharp in his photos. In his scenes from interiors, the small details of in the background are outlined just as much as those in the front. In this way, his work gains an atypical urgency, sometimes even a horror-like quality. In addition, he works with light in a cunning way. There are very few photography exhibitions I have liked so much. This approach to imitating reality is close to mine, I myself work in a similar way ? I tend toward perfectionism and have a fondness for details, which, of course, I often struggle with greatly. I usually "compose" my paintings from many photographic templates, I choose, simplify, and think up various things. I´m not a proper photo-realist, I´m not concerned with a precise transfer of the photograph, I only use it as an aid, in the same way that people used to use sketches. On top of that, sometimes it also serves as an unexpected inspiration. But usually it?s the first idea and then I look for a place to photograph it.

So you think through and compose every shot, considering how the picture will look in painted form, or to you take photographs spontaneously?

When taking photographs, I feel like I?m on a hunt, I usually have to act very quickly, when the prey suddenly appears, there´s no time to think the shot through. That happens later, in front of the computer. I basically take photographs intuitively, I have a more or less precise idea, and I go in the direction of it. But occasionally it happened that the material I shoot leads me in another direction than what I originally wanted. This is the rather interesting thing about taking photographs: I often don?t know what I?m shooting, I don?t notice lots of details while doing it and usually the first glance at the photographed material doesn?t reveal much. It happens later, when I?m looking at the pictures, I enlarge them on the computer screen and I discover things that I hadn?t noticed on site.

You occasionally comment on your pictures in the accompanying texts. Do the pictures need explanations in order to work "correctly"?

Pictures, of course, don?t need any sort of "instructions". I am not too interested in art where the viewer is forced to begin by studying the accompanying text. (But when a work of art interests me, I do like reading about it.) But people constantly want some kind of talk around it, journalists request it and various people ask about it. When you write something yourself, you can avoid misinterpretation and inappropriate questions. That?s how I rid myself of the necessity to explain things over and over again. And as concerns my texts in the catalogue, I had the feeling that I want to give the viewer or the reader something more. In other people´s catalogues, I´m always interested in the text by the author, who usually knows the most about ?what the pictures are about?. And who will occasionally reveal something.

You collect topics for your pictures all around the world: in Ireland, Mexico, Italy, Vietnam, the US. Does this movement around the world motivate you to work?

But I don´t collect topics. The pictures are the secondary product of my travels. I belong to the generation that couldn´t travel, we were shut up in here. Perhaps that?s the reason I like travelling. It brings me a view from above, removal from the futile running around in Prague, and the opportunity to see myself and my country in a broader context. Which has served me well. Among others, travelling also sharpens the senses and prolongs life, at least in a relative sense. Occasionally it happened that something cast such a spell on me that I began to paint it. Which was, for example, the case of the pictures from the jungle that I did after the trip to Guatemala. In the jungle for the first time. I felt completely that there it is, the cradle, the womb of life on earth. It was impossible to not react to such concentrated sensuality. Or the pictures from the English seaside full of old people, which actually came into being because I missed a place I had liked so much. I had originally gone there on vacation, not to paint.

You´ve actually just described your relationship to art quite nicely: a picture comes into being when something from outside touches you in a strong emotional way. I?ve already asked about it in connection with your drawings from the end of the 1980s and I?ll ask again, regarding the paintings: would you be able to do commissioned paintings?

I´ve done them several times. But I have to like the job, best is when I can come up with it myself, or better said, when I hint a bit to the client what he actually wants. Which isn´t such a problem, because people often don´t have such precise ideas.

You mentioned emigration. Did you ever want to stay abroad even after 1989?

Moving abroad and staying there was an old plan from my childhood. But then I somehow never realized it, and I probably won?t do so. Nevertheless, I still have it somewhere in the back of my head, as one of the possibilities in life that I haven?t taken advantage of. But that?s probably another reason why I like residencies, especially in English-speaking countries. It´s like pretending that the plan worked out, at least for a little while.

When did you have your first solo exhibition?

It took me a very long time before I felt brave enough to exhibit my work. This was evidently due to my nearly anxious self-critical nature. The feeling that it?s still not good enough for me to bother people with in public partially came from my family, in which artists were considered somewhat suspicious characters, partially it was the complex that I had´t studied at the right school. In any case, moving from illustration, which was regular paid work that somebody assigned to me, to such a defiant activity as making one´s own art, was a rather long process for me. At some point in 1994 I was offered an exhibition in the small gallery of the Paseka publishing house at Náměstí Míru, and that same year I had an even slightly bigger exhibition at the Mladá fronta publishers on Spálená street. Both of these exhibition venues were connected to books, I exhibited illustrations and my original artwork, mostly pastels. After these exhibitions, surprisingly, there were other offers, so it took off and I sort of believed that it could work. I had my first really important exhibitions at the end of the 1990s in the Václav Špála Gallery, thanks to Jaroslav Krbůšek, the curator at the time. First there was Life is good in 1997 in the "Malá Špálovka", that was just pastels. And then, two years later Men and women in the "Velká Špálovka", by then, there were also picture. When Krbůšek was the curator, the gallery was divided into two: the small one was in the basement, and the big one was on the ground floor and the first floor. Both exhibitions were successful overall and they enabled me to come into contact with the local art scene. And it was mutual: I began to understand who was who and I got to know a lot of colleagues who later became my friends, and the experts started to become aware of me and consider me, for exhibitions and other things.

Do you see art as therapy, as a form of confession?

Over ten years ago, I went to psychoanalysis for nine months, and shortly after that I was cleaning out my drawers with old drawings. Of course, I remembered exactly what I had painted and what I had been thinking about while painting, and what I thought I was doing, what it was about, but now I was suddenly seeing it entirely differently. It was all about me, not about my surroundings. It was a very interesting experience that proves that we put much more of ourselves into our work than we think. Even when you?re painting a seaside landscape or the portrait of a classmate. So consciously using art as therapy would probably be too much, the pictures would be so overburdened by the author that it wouldn?t be possible to look at them. I try, rather, to push things away, to be on the general level, to be "objective". Even though it is impossible, of course. When I look back at my pictures, I can perceive them as a certain type of diary for those who know me. They are prints of the soul, into which we can only put what is inside us. But sometimes it happens that, suddenly and spontaneously, something comes into being that is clever than I am, that I couldn´t even make up , as if it just flew into the picture. And that´s the best moment in painting, when it suddenly begins to live a life of its own and I´m just looking on in astonishment. That?s my reward. Then I have the feeling that I might be really making art.

[Interview by Radim Kopáč]

Radim Kopáč
(text into a monography; 2013/01/29)