Tomáš Jetela, one of the most prominent members of the contemporary art scene is currently presenting a mini series of paintings (Fešák a páv, Konzistence nevinnosti, Bez názvu) at the Na Příkopě store as a continuation of the Footshop Art Space series. The author, who’s handstyle can be described as expressive, raw and authentic, expresses another dimension of emotions and context through his work. Michal Bým, Footshop’s Retail Visual Merchandiser took advantage of the occasion and asked Tomáš a couple of questions.
Tomáš, your paintings are quite expressive and, at times, unnerving.
Yes. But in my opinion, you shouldn’t judge paintings based on whether they’re unnerving, depressive or cause people to feel negative emotins. You should judge them based on whether they’re good or bad works of art. Like Egon Shiele said: „There isn’t modern or ancient art. There’s only art. Art that’s good.“
Your paintings are quite specific, but one that we happen to have here seems to stand out. It’s a boy without a face.
That painting came to be when I painted a boy in about an hour or so and told myself it’s finished. But something kept missing – something that I wanted to add, like the last piece of the puzzle. I worked on the painting for about six more hours and then I thought, ‘fuck it’. So I smudged it up and it was finished.
So do you paint intuitively or is there some kind of premeditated process that you use to proceed?
My professor Michael Rittstein said that it’s best if you think the whole painting (or series of paintings) through. But when you start painting your mind has to be clear as a samurai’s. Get everything you thought through of your head, because you’ve already got it in you. All you have to do now is create. This approach gave me a lot.
So you thing it through and…
Of course you have to come up with some sort of theme or idea that you want your paintings to have. For example, I’ve liked kung-fu movies since a young age – that’s why the the clear mind samurai comparison. I should create in an irrational manner – without thinking about the sketches or notes I wrote down.
I remember when I was getting my degree and I was there with my friend. He had this really complicated theory about his paintings. So I was thinking to myself, I should also come up with something like that, and ended up talking nonsense. One of the professors, an art historian and theoretician told us: „What I don’t like about you painters is that you have all this stuff to say. The painting needs to make an impression by itself, you’re not supposed to talk your way around it.“
What goes through your head while you paint?
I always come up with some sort of plan. But when I work on a series of paintings, it gradually transforms into something else, which makes it more of an adventure. It’s much more entertaining then having something exactly planned out and throwing it onto the canvas. Coincidentally, that’s how I did my dissertation. The original idea was ‘I like libraries, so I’m going to paint them and their atmosphere’. But gradually, as I was working, I thought to myself, ‘I’m just going to paint the readers’. And suddenly I was painting them on metre-long canvases. It wasn’t my first intention, it changed with time.
How would you describe yourself, the painter Tomáš Jetela, in several words?
Oh man (laughter). Genius, genius, genius.
Sometimes you portray specific people – like from movie history or musicians. Do you give these people some other kind of form, do you reflect a piece of yourself in them?
It’s more like this – Warhol said that he likes money, so he made paintings and screen prints of money. I like Warhol, so I painted him. I like people with messed up faces, like a drugged out Pete Doherty. Pete Doherty looks terribly high in some photos, and I really like painting that.
What can’t you go without in the studio?
Music, of course. I need music when I work. And, naturally, all the painting neccesities – colors, canvases, quality brushes. Sometimes I feel like an animal trapped in a cave. Sometimes a friend comes by and we paint together. I like when you can talk with someone while painting.
You can check out Tomáš’s paintings till the end of October at our Na Příkopě store in Prague.