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AS IS | Simona Blahutová


From Zlín, Zlín region, Czechia

Based in Prague, Czechia

Simona Blahutová mostly produces paintings, although she sometimes dips into art in public space and other objects. The themes she tackles in her works are always associated with modern history and politics, namely the inner workings of Western politics and totalitarian regimes. Each of her pieces is a result of extensive research during which the artist collects a large amount of data and then extracts its key elements onto the canvas.

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

S: I was brought into art entirely by coincidence. My classmates were considering applying to an art school inUherskéHradiště and I just had to jump on the bandwagon too. But then they changed their mind and didn't want to go anymore and I was too embarrassed to copy them again, so I had to do it. :) You don't really know what to do at 14anyway... I was more intrigued by journalism at the time. Back then, there wasn't such an outpour of news and information so in hindsight, I am glad to have chosen what I did. Though sadly I didn't dare choose the specialization I was truly interested in - graphic design - and instead chose shoe design, so secondary school was a struggle for me. Although looking back, I do feel good about being able to design and make a shoe.

In university, I was finally sure what I wanted to do - fine art. I applied to the sculpture program, purely for practical reasons - I was significantly better at it. Only later did I move on to painting. But journalism and graphics still pop up in my work; I enjoy doing research for my projects.

A: What inspires you the most?

S: I am inspired by various political events of modern history, I enjoy examining their hidden mechanisms. Western politics with its dark sides and totalitarian regimes, aka the same themes I wanted to write about as a journalist. These days it's impossible in journalism to work on something long-term or spend several months on an article. That's why I'm glad I can realize this need through art. The public is not very interested in it but I am free in my expression.

The events I am inspired by always come to me by themselves. Today I know I can't pressure it. For example, what happens instead is that I meet someone and they mention something interesting. I look it up later and in the end, I become completely immersed in it for a year or even longer...

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

S: In my work, I seek to access the kind of childish unconstraint and freedom of expression. That is why I work in the evening or at night when I'm not disturbed by anything. This way I manage to calm my mind and enter my inner world, connect to something elevated. In such a state, you don't perceive time passing and you know that whatever you create will be right. :)

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

S: I teach at a secondary art school and my main goal is to make it so that the students don't have to suffer and experience some of the things that were common in the previous regime. Warning them to not let anyone take their creative freedom and directness and those who feel they've already lost them to get it back. I'm referring to influences from their surroundings and the system, from family members to the school, etc. The system has taken our spontaneity from most of us because we wanted to conform to it and gave up our ability to express ourselves freely. Getting that ability back is not very easy.

When it comes to formal education, such as different techniques, sketching basics, etc., those will come naturally. Older and grown-up beginners I'd recommend not looking for a specific style that would make their art recognizable. You can't find style, it comes to you by itself...

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

S: I don't like describing art. Naturally, everyone always talked about art in university, but looking back, I feel as if they fostered an over-the-top criticism, although that probably depended on your supervisor and the people around you. I used to be very critical. These days, I am averse to it, I don't like to judge artworks or artists.

I visit exhibitions often and I love taking my students to them. It's best to just introduce the artist and place them in a context. We do discuss the art, but I am more interested in my students' impressions, feelings, and conclusions. In fact, I often find myself enjoying conversations about art with young people. They're open, unprejudiced, and unbiased. At least those in my bubble.

A: Your favorite Czech artists?

S: I have so many I don't even know who to mention. I enjoy different forms of expression. From my former classmates, I appreciate Adéla Babanová. I enjoy the themes she tackles and her precision of execution. She always presents some strange event in her videos and works with certain ambiguity and concealment. Another peer of mine I like is Jakub Nepraš, whose form is, in my opinion, surprisingly monumental, original, and self-assured. Jiří Příhoda of the older generation is similarly grand, which is probably also because he's been working in the USA long-term. I find it intriguing that a person's art not only reflects their personality but outer influences as well, such as the place they live.

I'd also like to mention one of my former teachers, Karel Nepraš, who is a level above the rest of his generation... I cant put it into words, it's like there is something spiritual about him that elevates him above everyone else. Among painters, my favourites are Denisa Krausová, Jakub Hubálek. A sculptor I like is Benedikt Tolar.

A: What piece of art do you think embodies the Czech national spirit and culture? Why?

S: Something that never ceases to captivate me and that I find very fitting for your question is David Černý's upside-down horse, located in Lucerna. I guess it depends on your current mindset - when I used to walk past the sculpture some ten years ago, I was remarkably strongly impressed by it. Despite the author being more of a pop star of Czech art, I saw something more than just effectivity in it. A horse hung upside down, hidden under a roof. Right on Wenceslaus Square, yet hidden. And Wenceslaus is sitting on it, just like that. There's irony and something purely Czech about it. That's how I feel about that piece.

Similarly, I enjoy Karel Nepraš's Karel Hašek Memorial. They're both equestrian memorials, the sculptures treated originally and funnily. It's accessible both for the laic and for the knowledgeable. It's incredibly difficult to create a sculpture that can speak to the masses and is smart, yet those two artists managed it.

Apart from fine art, some films come to mind... for example Zelenka's brilliant Buttoners. I could also say Loners, which is more legendary. In Buttoners, I find, there isn't just a lot of absurdity but also a mystery.

A: How do you like to connect with others through art?

S: I am a little split about this. I often visit exhibitions and openings as well, but I can't really say I always feel good there. Most of my friends-artists agree that forming connections at such events isn't at all easy, even though they're designated to. Many of my fellow artists straight-up dislike them and don't go to openings. The setting pushes you into the small talk little. Openings may be meant for forming connections, but I'm not sure if it really works. We just haven't come up with anything better yet.

A: Where can we meet you?

S: I like to go to art and culture events, I like cafés, I'm a city person. But perhaps because I spent so much time with people, I need just as much alone time. I like swimming and love traveling. I seek out countries in the Far and the Middle East and the world of Islam. Countries of various cultures, different from ours. I would love to visit Iceland and Iran, though I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to.

A: Is there any quote or idea that has guided you in your work and/or life?

S: A long time ago, I opened a book - I believe it was the Egyptian Book of the Dead - and found this sentence: "Everything has its right pace and comes at the right time." I find this sentence (and some more that followed which I'd rather not cite)incredibly helpful. I often remember them. I am one of those people who need to consciously work on slowing down. I think many of us have this problem at this age and time. It's good to remind ourselves that we don't need to rush, that we don't need to do anything at all, and that everything will happen exactly when and how it needs to.

Thank you!

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