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AS IS | Hynek Martinec


From Broumov, Czechia

Based in London, UK

Hynek's body of work is concerned with surrealist motifs such as time, death, dreams, etc. His works combine contorted or twisted elements with realism, reinforcing their dream-likeness

A: Please, tell us a bit more about yourself. What brought you to art?

H: My road to art was rather easy to find. I used to do a lot of sports and for a while, I even thought I would become a professional athlete. Then something happened that changed me entirely. This breaking point came in 1991 or 1992 - I was nine or ten years old and our teacher signed us up for a local art competition. Around 500 kids took part. I definitely didn’t have any ambition to win back then, but I did. My drawing was quite simple, really, yet it still turned my life upside down. Since then I’ve been devoting myself to art. Vladimír Rocman, one of the judges, offered me private art classes and began pulling me into the world of art.

About a year later, another mentor entered my life - Josef Ducháč. He and Mr. Rocman had known each other and were a bit like rivals which influenced me fairly intensely: I would show my works to both of them, however, their feedback was always utterly different. Rocman preferred the traditional school and realism, Ducháč, abstraction.

I spent the next 10 years studying. At first Václav Hollar Secondary School and four years later the Academy of Fine Arts. I even managed to squeeze in internships in New York and London.

My secondary school studies were fundamental for me; it was there that I learned all the technical basics. The Academy was a little more difficult. There were strange, almost toxic dynamics present, originating from the professors themselves. In short, depending on the atelier you belonged to, you received a label it was hard to deviate from. The rule was if you were in atelier X, you had to think in an X way… I had expected more freedom from the Academy, but it was the exact opposite. All kinds of trends and biases dominated. In the end, that was one of the reasons I moved to Paris after graduating.

A: What inspires you the most?

H: I think that would be death. Everything centers around it. When we wake up in the morning, deal with our everyday problems, constantly evaluate everything, plan, think through, and calculate… and work, at least in our thoughts, keeps us further away from death.

We find ourselves in a unique, miraculous time when we can converse and exist together, we have feelings, and the opportunity to take in the world around us. That’s my most fundamental stepping stone.

Specifically, the topics are time, light, sun, sadness, joy, nature, humans, communication, and sleep… one of my greater sources of inspiration is dreams.

A: Do you have any specific rituals while working (creating)?

H: When I first arrived in the UK in 2002, I discovered that I had this strange approach to dreams here, much better than in Czechia. In the morning after waking up, my dreams would reveal themselves to me in a way that made me able to remember them.

Back then I started to increasingly communicate with my inner world. Every morning I would sketch my dreams and pay them more attention. Thanks to that I now have tens, even hundreds of sketchbooks filled with sketches of my dreams.

A: What would you recommend to someone new to art (an artist or just an admirer), what to begin with?

H: It certainly depends on the person, but the number one thing is going to galleries and communicating about art with others. I understand art as almost a language, meaning that the more you learn about it and move through its layers, the closer you get to the core of art. That’s why it pays off to start by surrounding yourself with people who know a thing or two about art, know how to talk about it, and spread the joy of it.

There will always be people more inclined to abstract feeling than others, and I’d let that be. But if you open up your mind, art can surprise and enrich you your entire life.

What fascinates me is that children who are used to going to galleries at a young age don’t judge art at all, they only understand it positively. Only once our own experiences and priorities come into the mix do we start to evaluate it. And the older we get, the more we restrain ourselves like that. That’s why when a person approaches art for the first time needs to shed this wall and communicate with art as a partner. Otherwise, it won’t sing for them.

A: Your top 3 phrases/words related to art?

H: I don’t think I have words or phrases like that, I don’t really think about how I like to “read” art, it’s more intuitive… but I’m sure there is a mechanism to it that begins with a punctum - a moment in photography or art when something about a work of art catches your attention without you consciously thinking about it. Only then do we become interested in what exactly it was that made us stop.

A: Your favorite Czech artists?

H: Since I grew up in Czechia, Czech art played an essential role for me. However, I’ve been influenced by Central European art as well. To be specific: Josef Sudek, Toyen, Adriena Šimotová, František Kupka, Bohumil Kubišta, Jan Zrzavý, Jan Preisler… this whole pleiad. Lately, it’s been Maria Bartuszová who currently has an exhibition in Tate Modern.

For example, with Adriena Šimotová, I was most impressed with our meeting in her studio by Stromovka in Prague. My then-professor at the Academy, Milena Slavická, invited me once to join her in visiting Mrs. Šimotová. It was an unforgettable experience. Back then she was already of older age and I had long known her work, and this was the climax. Seeing how she acted and hearing her speak was powerful; even her little gesture when she offered me tea was exceptional.

A: Is there a piece of art you think embodies the Czech national spirit and culture? Why?

H: No, and yes. Art tends to be abused by politics and ideologies, becoming a part of all kinds of twisted historical moments despite never attempting to do so. A lot of art is commercial or is only created because it gets financed by public funds. Therefore, no.

But I won’t lie to myself and say that art doesn’t carry in itself a strong link to specific places - culture grows from geographical roots. But I try to approach art as a whole. Art doesn’t need a translator. I may have grown up in central Europe, but I am undeniably influenced by globalization.

A: The perfect way to start any conversation about art is: …? How to connect with others through art?

H: It’s great when you can meet the artist and speak to them. I recently had an unbelievable experience in Venice where the Venice Biennale is currently happening. I visited with my family for a couple of days and one evening we found ourselves walking around the city when we met Anish Kapoor with his girlfriend and dog. I quickly whispered to my family that he is an important artist and we walked on. About fifteen minutes later we met up again by the vaporetto port, and suddenly, an entirely organic conversation transpired. We boarded the boat and continued talking, and I was fascinated by how extremely open, kind, and friendly he was. Ironically, I live in London just mere 10 minutes away from his studio. The conversation began to end and they eventually got off, but some seconds later his girlfriend came back and said that Anish would like to invite us to drinks. We quickly jumped out and walked with them to St. Mark square. At the restaurant, we talked and talked… We spoke about Kapoor’s collaboration with Kaplický and he was very interested in the Czech scene.

These are the moments that enrich you incredibly. On the artistic level, of course, but more importantly, personally. That’s what I like about art - when you come across the right soul, the more joyful it is. Especially when things happen unexpectedly and unplanned.

I recently met up with a group of collectors in relation to Frieze London, one of them being this lady who admitted that she’d never really been into art. She only started paying more attention to it after her father, an art lover, died. Thanks to art she can still communicate with him, and yet she had never enjoyed it when he was still alive, trying to get her to go to galleries with him.

That’s why I say that conversations about art are individual and motley, and everyone reflects differently… Every little flame of interest ought to be supported. Art is a silent friend for life.

A: Where can we meet you most often?

H: Definitely in my studio, that’s my number one spot, and at exhibitions and in museums.

A: Please, share your favorite quote (not necessarily related to art):

H: Ora et labora.

Thank you!

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