Stuckism remodernising the Mainstream
an interview with Brigitta Rizutti
“Painting is about emotions, atmosphere and colour”
Career and art practice
Could you briefly tell me about your career as an artist?
My art career is not very complicated. Since the age of 15, I wanted to be an artist. After finishing secondary school, I went to Art Academy in Prague and graduated in 1998. I worked as teacher of drawing till 2006 and since then I make my living of my own work. I have had displays in Czech and international exhibitions as well. My work mainly resides in collection of Prague National gallery, Alšova Jihočeská gallery, Festung Koenigstein, etc.
What has driven you the most to be an artist?
I am not from an artistic background. My mother is a doctor and father is a geologist. Since I was 8 years old, I visited Elementary school of art (in former Czechoslovakia there was a special type of leisure time school). When I was 14, I came in contact with professor of drawing and painting Vlastimil Šik. He was very charismatic and he enthused us for making arts. We started to draw big figures, portraits, and painted oil on canvas. He taught me the history of art and he was the biggest inspiration for me in the beginning. Under his leadership I prepared myself for the exams of Art Academy in Prague when I started my studies in 1991.
Which artist influenced you the most?
Since young age, I really loved painters of Expressionism, Art Nouveau and Decadence. On one hand, I was attracted by the dark and disquieting atmosphere of their work, and on the other hand, I was a little bit afraid of their Storms, Corpses, Ill kids etc. I still like this combination of attraction and fear and it is visible in my paintings. I was mostly influenced by Edward Munch and Czech painters Zrzavý, Váchal and Kremlička.
Your work could be seen as a combination of Expressionism with symbolism. Would you label your art as expressionist/symbolist?
I would say my work is mainly expressive, not in the form but in purport. I prefer ‘cleaner’ forms of panting focused on working with colour and atmosphere.
I like when “classic topic” (such as portrait, landscape, etc.) becomes a symbol or even a “normal topic” balancing on the edge of symbol.
The majority of your paintings portray dark landscapes in evening and night atmospheres, whose leitmotif is the presence of a shy light in form of fire, fireworks, moon, meteor, comet, etc. What role the light and loneliness/anonymity play in your work?
This is connected with my childhood. I lived in a small village Líska having fifty inhabitants in the north of Bohemia, a region which is characterized by forests, mountains and lakes. The landscape is very beautiful and romantic on the first sight. But this region was hardly damaged during the II World War and Communist period, and lots of smaller cities and villages completely disappeared. As a child I remember many destroyed houses, empty factories, fallen churches, deep dark forests. The fossils of damage are less visible now, but I still feel the depressive atmosphere of my childhood having sometimes a shy light somewhere in the distance.
The second bullet point of the 1999 Stuckists Manifesto defines painting as “the medium of self-discovery”. “It engages the person fully with a process of action, emotion, thought and vision, revealing all of these with intimate and unforgiving breadth and detail”. What does painting mean for you?
This point of the Stuckists Manifesto is most important for me. It is exactly how I see it too.
You are one of the founding members of the Stuckists collectives The Prague Stuckists (2004) and Central Europe Stuckists (2012). What has driven you to create and be part of Stuckists? How?
In Czech Republic there was a very strong influence of conceptualism after the fall of Communism in 1989. The new elites grown from dissent (an opposition against Communism) were very rigid in their way of thinking. Conceptualism and postmodern were said to be new ways of making art and everything else was simply bad. Painting was considered to be something old fashion and out of date. For instance when I graduated at Prague Art Academy in 1998, I was the only one making figurative paintings among fifty graduates. It was very difficult to pass only because of making figures and landscapes. The painters were quite isolated and it was really difficult to present their work in a show, and was almost impossible to live on painting at this time.
I felt (and I still feel) that Stuckists Manifesto is a rehabilitation of painting and a perfect platform for presentation.
Who is a Stuckist?
Stuckists is an artist making paintings from inner need and who does not want to be a fashion artist only.
Does art need a movement?
Yes, I think so. If you see all masters of modern art, almost all of them were members of some movement or they were influenced by it. We could hardly find an artist totally isolated from contemporary influences in his work.
I see art movement as a presentation of new ideas or creative process. For instance, Impressionism changed the perception of colour, Expressionism started to deform figures, etc...
Is there a hierarchy within Stuckism? Would you comment on it?
I do not feel any hierarchy. The only exception is Charles. I respect his enormous work and he is a “father of Stuckism”. We all have done International Stuckists shows, books and media outputs in close cooperation. But I do not feel him as a guru. He is a partner for me.
Stuckism is democratic and wide movement, there are many painters. Some of them are more successful, some other less. But only the long time period could show the real qualities. For instance, if you see the history of Impressionists, it was very similar to this.
STUCK between Prague and London (2013), an exhibition which featured two Czech and three UK artists. If it is possible to talk about differences, what differentiates the artistic practice of Stuckists based in the UK from that of The Prague Stuckists?
I think there is a bit difference between Czech and UK Stuckists, the UK are more linked to the Punk tradition, Czechs are more linked to Expressionism and classic figuration. With regards to art scene, we can hardly compare Czech and UK one. Especially the London scene is one of the most important all around the world. There are many artists, the most prestigious galleries, the biggest auction houses, almost everybody speak English etc.
Czech art scene is much smaller and has a limited economic and media power. This does not mean there are no good artists in Czech Republic but they are simply less visible.
The power of your paintings rests in a particular intimacy, calmness and mystery. Do they collide with the avant-garde movement of Stuckism?
They do not collide. UK Stuckism is often growing from comics and underground. Sometimes it is quite morbid and pessimistic. My work is often the same. Of course I have grew-up in different culture tradition, history and landscape so I am using a little bit different art instruments. But the atmosphere of my paintings is often similar to UK artists works. Especially with respect to Ella Guru and Joe Machine.
Stuckism: Remodernising the Mainstream exhibition
Remodernising the Mainstream. What is your reaction to this
The art mainstream is still very trendy, fancy and conceptual and it needs an “oxygenation” by authentic painting. Stuckism (and Remodernism too) has one very important moment for me: coming back to the roots of modern painting. It means giving emphasis on individual way of making painting.
Stuckism: Remodernising the Mainstream will be the first Stuckists show presented within an academic context. This groundbreaking exhibition reflects the shift of Stuckism from merely a “revolutionary, reactionary, and progressive movement” with a strong media presence to one which is recognized and accepted by art historians as a major contributor to contemporary international art production. Would you comment on it?
As many other art movements in the history, Stuckism was an underground movement having few members at the beginning. This movement had started career in small galleries and slowly moved into a higher level. This show confirms the position of Stuckism in art history.
Your paintings will be hang next to Jiří Hauschka, another representative of contemporary Czech artistic generation and actual member of Central Europe Stuckists, whose artworks are a combination of abstractism with Neo-expressionism. How would you define and differentiate your art practice from Hauschka’s work.
What is similar in my and Jiří´s work is the interest in places having a strong history. For instance we both have painted railway station from which the trains with Jewish prisoners left to concentration camp in ww2 or isolated houses so typical for Czech landscape. The way of painting and art experience is different. Jiří started his art career being an abstract painter and later moved into a figuration. He is using the abstract lines as a symbol of moving and energy. He has spent quite a long time in London and this stay influenced him a lot. I could say his work is more closed to British painting. My painting is more linked to Middle Europe tradition.
What is Stuckism today?
I believe Stuckism is the last important art movement of past millennium and the first one of this millennium in the same time.
The Darkness-Spangled Landscape
Petr Pivoda interviews Jaroslav Valečka
Why did you call your Beseda exhibition „The Darkness-Spangled Landscape“?
Because I like evening and night atmosphere, it’s my favourite theme. Actually, the name of the exhibition shortly sums up my entire work.
You received a few scholarships abroad. How did they influence and enrich you?
Most importantly, perhaps, it is a chance to see great pieces of art at close range. One can also learn a language better and find out how art business is working in different places. One can also look at his work from a distance and in a wider context.
Which artist influenced you most?
Mostly the expressionists, Edward Munch in particular. Among Czech artists I would name Zrzavý, Váchal, Kremlička, Preisler and others. As a young boy I loved „The reader of Dostoyevsky“ by Emil Filla. Generally speaking I like artists on the verge between reality and dream, so artists, who work mainly with colour and light.
What does colour mean to you?
Colour is the main and most important phenomenon in a painting. It has the power to convey expression and emotions. Colour can make even a banal theme into something more.
Would you classify yourself as an expressionist painter?
My paintings root in expressionism, but I’d say they are expressive in their form, rather than in their subject matter. I prefer purer and more precise form and dislike amorphous expression. I look for a theme which isn’t descriptive, but suggest a scent of mystery. Thus the spectator is invited to imagine the atmosphere, or reflect on his own experience.
Your favourite themes are village landscapes and figures. Are they concrete?
Mostly they are. A vast majority of my paintings have a real model: either they proceed from a concrete reminiscence, or an experience. I spent my childhood in Sudetenland, in the region of Lužické hory. I guess its rough and balladic landscape has shaped me a lot. As a child I could still experience Sudetenland in its original form as a beautiful, dark landscape, full of ruined houses, burned-out churches, with an array of uprooted people and that slightly depressive atmosphere, which is passing now. The houses are being renovated and for the third or fourth generation it has finally become a home. A majority of figural paintings are also based in reality. If you live in a village, you meet people you don’t want to meet. However, you must get on with them anyway.
Don’t you think a lot of painters today avoid painting the landscape? Why is that?
With a lot of simplification I’d say artists who come from the city tend to do figures, and those who come from the country do the landscapes. But it may also be caused by the fact that landscape painting - in contrast to figural or abstract painting - doesn’t allow too much experimenting with form.
Who would you have been, had you not become a painter?
I don’t know. Perhaps a geologist, as my father, but fortunately I have never needed to think about that.