From Vážany nad Litavou, Czechia
Based in Prague, Czechia
Tomáš Jetela is a figural painter whose style is typically expressive and raw. He focuses on expressions of inner, psychological experiences of his subjects and how they reflect on the face and body of humans.
A: Please, tell us a bit more about yourself. What brought you to art?
T: My art beginnings happened when I was a child taking after-school art classes but a more serious interest in the artistic work came when I decided to study an art-oriented secondary school. As I was preparing for the entrance exam, I began working purposefully, with a professional preoccupation and with the goal of getting in at any cost in mind. And also with my head in the clouds, full of stories of painters from Montmartre and about bohemian life… basically with a romantic desire to become a painter. Apart from that, art has been a part of my life since childhood.
My mother is a travel guide focused on Italy so I’ve been visiting the country regularly ever since I was young. Even before I started school we’d go several times a month. Antiquity and the renaissance were possibly my first great influences that formed me at the time, whether consciously or subconsciously. Not only the fine arts but the history, historical events, and ideas of the time became the pillars to my soul. Sometime between elementary and secondary school I used to read piles of biographies of artists (not just painters but writers, philosophers, etc.) and it’s no coincidence that one of my firsts were the greats of the renaissance, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, …
A: What inspires you the most?
T: I find impulses for creative work all around me. I discover them every day, in everything that happens around me. I am visually attacked by an excess of stimuli that then transform into thoughts and ideas.
Old black and white photographies are a strong source of inspiration, with their specific lighting, odd, almost mystical atmosphere, “flaws” that open new doors for opportunities, and the people whose expressions and gestures simply need to be painted.
Another impulse can be a seemingly ordinary photo of a human whose features show some inner turmoil. I try to grasp and seize the power of those elements, whispered to me by the photograph, and transport them on the canvas. I try to amplify the expressions, expose hidden psychological processes of the subject, let play out the perfect interaction between the psychology of face, hand gestures, and other composition elements.
A: Do you have any specific rituals while working (creating)?
T: One of my habits is drinking coffee or other caffeinated drink, smoking cigarettes, and listening to music.
A: What would you recommend to someone new to art (an artist or just an admirer), what to begin with?
T: I’d recommend to go through the basics such live drawing of a model or for example still life, composed of different materials. It’s also necessary to be aware of the history of art, understand how it’s all connected, understand contemporary art in historical context. Later on, carefully choose who to work with. Have contracts for everything so galleries can’t swindle you. And don’t underestimate marketing.
A: Your top 3 phrases/words related to art?
T: Transgression… It evokes almost physical sensations in me… I don’t understand…
A: Your favorite Czech artists?
T: I have to admit I mostly admire foreign artists. From the Czech ones, I absolutely need to mention František Kupka, an amazing figural painter. And of course his significance lies in the fact he is one of the founders of (Czech) abstraction. Jiří Načeradský’s paintings are great and I like him for the variety and diversity of his work. From living artists, I like my almost-contemporary Jakub Matuška (aka Masker) and my former classmate Tomáš Němec.
A: What piece of art do you think embodies the Czech national spirit and culture? Why?
T: The first thing I thought of is Alphonse Mucha’s The Slav Epic. Though I’m not sure that we can call it a symbol of the Czech nation and culture. Another person that comes to mind is Josef Lada. It’s hard to say which of his works it would be, if we can choose any one at all.
In fact, I think there might not be one. Each work of art captures a part of our mentality, reflects only one aspect of it.
A: The perfect way to start any conversation about art is: …?
T: Probably through understanding what the person likes and if we can agree on anything. If we find mutual favorites or points of view, the conversation can be pleasant. But a discussion happens on the basis of various or contradictory opinions. That way, we can show a new perspective to one another and are able to see something from a different and new point of view.
A: Where can we meet you most often?
T: In my studio, of course, but I like spending time in castle parks. I find thinking, reading, and reminiscing comes easy to me there. Even libraries are great places full of new stimuli. And when travelling, I can attune my mind so that my imagination is influenced by the location, creating new visualisations by interacting with it. Such visualisations I try to capture in a thought which I then write down in a notebook as accurately as possible. Sometimes I use them, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes ideas lose their relevance over time and new ones come that overshadow them. It’s essential to keep sorting and carefully choosing from those concepts.
A: Please, share your favorite quote (not necessarily related to art):
T: I like this Gandhi quote: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” I also find Bruce Lee’s words speak to me, I think this is how it went: “If you don’t like something, don’t use it, instead learn it perfectly first.” And finally, Saint-Exupéry: “Make of your life a dream, and of a dream a reality.”