Painter, graphic artist
From Třebíč, Vysočina region, Czechia
Based in Třebíč, Vysočina region, Czechia
We interviewed fascinating Zdeněk Šplíchal about his art journey, views on the Czech art scene, favorite masters, ways to talk about art, and much more. Not many Czech artists have been creating as long and with as much zeal as Zdeněk - enjoy!
From the Studies of Space cycle, 2019, acrylic paint and pencil on carton, 70 x 50 cm
A: Please, tell us a bit more about yourself. What brought you to art?
Z: I was born in 1948 in the small Moravian town of Třebíč. My mother, Libuše, was a housewife and took care of me and my two older sisters. My father was an intellectual before WW2, and after the communist coup of 1948, he was demoted to a factory worker. I spent my childhood playing with other kids on the playground near our house, at my grandma’s house where my grandfather had a magical clock shop, and at my uncle and aunt’s countryside house.
I studied at the Třebíč grammar school and applied to Jan Smetana’s studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. However, due to the great competition and low acceptance rates (2 students per year), I didn’t get in. I was told to try again next year. Before I could do that, my first son David was born, and I started working as a warehouse worker, then as an economist, and finally as the Deputy Director at a local secondary school. In the 70s, I managed to finish my long-distance studies at a school of economics. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, I studied Ethics and pedagogy and Art Culture at a university, and an art course on “art thinking” under the brilliant Igor Zhoř. I have four children with my wife Marie: David, Veronika, Alžběta, and Jan. I live and work in Třebíč.
My first encounter with art was during Christmas time when I watched my father paint a 2-meters-big nativity scene from my cot. He was helped by Adolf Jelínek, a great local nativity scene maker. My father was also an amateur painter and purchased some paintings from academic painters for cheap. He was a lover of art and history and he tried to pass that passion on to me. When I started painting around the age of 10, he did his best to support and teach me, for example by taking me to art galleries in Prague. As a little boy, I joined a club of amateur painters, all grown-ups. It was led by professional artists such as Ludvík Báhner, Zdeněkt Novotný, and Antonín Kybal. I eventually met my friends Miroslav Pálka, Milan Nestrojil, and Zdeněk Štajnc there, and we formed the legendary Group 4, mentored by Ladislav Novák.
A: What inspires you the most?
Z: The greatest source of inspiration is life, especially the intuition which draws from a multitude of information and impulses stored in the human brain as if it were a computer. One part of it is the gained experience, the other potential for technical abilities we can realize through creating art. As a result, I create whatever I feel I need to express at any given moment. I don’t like to create from prompts, that’s limiting to the freedom of imagination. I believe that a big majority of artistic expression is connected to spiritualism and humanism. I consider myself a seeker - of answers to the questions my mind is drawn to.
A: Do you have any specific rituals while working (creating)?
Z: I am a fairly lazy person. Freedom of expression has played a big role in my work. Since I’ve never been financially dependent on my artistic endeavors, I’ve been able to explore my imagination from different perspectives, explore new mediums, such as drawing, graphic design, painting, ceramics, sculpture, working with textiles, and even experimenting with other techniques.
I don’t have any rituals or habits that help me create, but I switch between phases of quiet and meditation, and intense work when I transform accrued inspiration into works of art.
A: What would you recommend to someone new to art (an artist or just an admirer), what to begin with?
Z: Since I am a pedagogue, I would recommend beginners to be patient and keep their eyes open. “Real” art is an expression of our mind and soul. It’s important to learn the basics of techniques such as sketching and painting, study what has been created before us, and follow up with new ideas. I’ve found new technology and programs helpful with this, although we mustn’t let technology take over human craftsmanship. An artist’s work should be a genuine expression of who they are. I recommend observing the world around you, visiting galleries and exhibitions, churches and historical sites, and watching the nature around us.
A: Your top 3 adjectives or phrases related to art?
Z: Perfect, wonderful, beautiful…
A: Your favorite Czech artists?
Z: I have many favorites among Czech artists. The artists who have caught my attention tend to be innovative and strong, unique personalities. Let’s play a game - I wouldn’t want to offend anyone, so let’s say I can only pick 10 artists: Jan Bauch, Jan Zrzavý, Bohuslav Reynek, Zdeněk Sýkora, Mikuláš Medek, Eduard Ovčáček, Jakub Španěl, Ladislav Novák, Jiří Jun and the Czech concrete artists.
A: What piece of art do you think embodies the Czech national spirit and culture? Why?
Z: Oh, what a difficult question! From the more classical periods, I’d choose the gothic and baroque. Josef Lada comes to mind as a more modern example. I believe that’s an acceptable answer for everyone.
A: The perfect way to start any conversation about art is: ..?
Z: Good people are united by art. Experiencing art with others creates a lovely joyful atmosphere, a feeling of warm excitement. I am most aware of this feeling when visiting exhibitions, for example at the Albertina in Vienna. It’s like a spiritual catharsis that erases differences between humans and cultivates them instead. I’d say that before we can converse with art it converses with us.
A: Where can we meet you?
Z: You could meet me in Třebíč, walking my dog Lady, or perhaps at my cabin, gardening. For years I organized summer art symposia for my artist friends there. I have also curated several exhibitions in Třebíč, where I create in my studio, too.
A: Please, share your favorite quote or idea (not necessarily related to art):
Z: Only one quote comes to mind: “Time flows differently depending on who we spend it with.”