Introducing Martin Došek, Czech Republic Collagist
/DRI:M/ARTZ: So, you are from Czechia. Scanning your Instagram it’s clear that you dig beer, or pivo. The Czechs are world-renowned for their enthusiastic love of beer but what piqued my interest about the country is an Easter tradition of fertility rites— women get spanked on the backside with a willow whip and, in return, they get to throw cold water on the men. This reciprocal act seems counterproductive because in the US we use the phrase “go take a cold shower” when we want to put a damper on someone's sexual urges. Enlighten us, please.
Martin Došek: After your question, I looked at my Instagram and I was also surprised how many times beer has appeared. I like to have a beer with my friends in the pub. It's really good for enthusiastic discussion. But when I’m at home, I prefer to open a bottle of wine. Easter is one of the still preserved and popular holidays in my country. According to tradition, it is possible to "whip up" every girl or woman on Easter Monday with a pomlázka (braided willow branches). I don't think that men somehow abuse it. It's a symbolic gesture more than something unpleasant for women. According to tradition, young willow branches cut in spring rejuvenate women and helps to preserve their beauty. Men often drink some alcohol on this day, so pouring cold water on them can really mean something like a "calm down". But it's probably just a form of repaying men for slapping on the backside. It is a pagan tradition from before Christianity. I am glad that Christianity has not been able to eliminate many pagan traditions, even though the Church has worked hard to do so.
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Top Panel - Losing, 2020 / Just Say, 2016 / Under snow, 2015
Bottom Panel - Amor, 2006 / Protector of Dreams, 2016 / Beauty, 2005
DA: The Velvet Revolution in 1989 was an inspired time in the Czech Republic— according to your biography that would make you 22 at the time. Communism was abolished and democracy promoted. It was the end of a strict system of censorship that regulated news, literature, music, art, film, and pornography. How did living under Communism influence your artistic journey? Describe the cultural art scene after the revolution? I imagine it was liberating to be able to create unfettered.
MD: I have been devoting myself to art since I was 20 years old. So, communist censorship did not have an impact on my work. At that time, I hadn't even tried to exhibit my work somewhere. The beginning of democracy in my country was a wonderful time, maybe it could be comparable to the release from prison. Suddenly you begin to find out how beautiful freedom is (saying what you want, doing what you want, and traveling where you want). This change also brought a lot of opportunities to exhibit my work at home and also abroad. It would probably not be so easy otherwise.
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Hunting Season, 2021 / Deep Forest, 2019 / On the Border of a Dream, 2019
DA: You spoke of Einfühlung, which is translated as “in-feeling” or “feeling into”, and it’s equated with empathy. Einfühlung compels us to reflect on our interactions with creative expression and to understand the emotion or mood that imbues an artwork. I spent some time feasting on your lush, surrealist collages and your work is infused with many symbols and archetypes. Would you indulge your fans and provide some contextual framing with a collage of your choosing?
MD: In collages, I'm focused on feelings. It is not to be understood or explained. The world is complex. We are influenced by a lot of stimuli and information in which we are kind of lost. And we don't even know ourselves. That's why my collages are a bit more complex. Each clipping that has been glued in the collage is not what it was before, but it becomes a kind of symbol and it mixes with others. After that, they tell together what I want to express. Collage is like a poem to me. You don't have to understand it, and it can still hit you deeply. One of my favorite collages is "Black Heart". It is about the relationship between a man and a woman. How beautiful and cruel love is. How we love and how we hurt. The perceptions of men and women are not always the same, and yet we want and need each other. The man in the collage has a bird's head and holds a woman's heart in his beak. I often use the motif of a bird—it has many symbolic meanings. The word bird is also used in the Czech language as a colloquial expression for a penis. At the same time, for me, the bird is also a symbol of freedom—it can take off and fly anywhere. No fences or walls can stop him. It also means the age-old desire of people to overcome what has not been given to them—to rise to the heights. I enjoy these two meanings of one word a lot. The heart in his beak is still red, and the man got it from the woman lying in his arms. But the heart that the woman holds above her head is already black and symbolizes the pain that love and relationship bring. Even so, to everyone's admiration, she keeps holding it over her head. Love often turns into the need to own someone, and that can cost a lot of pain for both of them.
Black Heart, 2018
DA: Collage is the perfect medium for expressing the dream world, and the unconscious. According to Jungian theory the collective unconscious is a collection of knowledge and stored images shared by all humans via our ancestors. That would suggest that artists are storytellers disseminating ancient wisdom through their creative expression. How has the role of the artist in contemporary society changed since the advent of higher technology? Do you think we need new myths to re-imagine humanity and keep up with our increasingly digitized world?
MD: I don't think that myths and principles change much. The base is perhaps genetically encoded in us—just because we are human and the only thing that changes is the form, not the essence. Our desire is the same as the desire of our ancestors was. Our current thinking is influenced by their past, their faith, their stories. And I will be happy to tell stories about all of that.
DA: Ok so let’s go back to basics and talk about you and your craft. Did you have an artistic background growing up? How much of it is what you’ve been taught? What have you learned on your own and what tools have guided you?
MD: I didn't grow up in an artistic environment. We had only one original painting at home, and I used it as a target for darts. I didn't perceive or understand art very well. Probably that's why I got to my own artwork when I was 20 years old. During this life period, one searches a lot for one's own path. I studied art on my own and discovered collage without realizing that it was a regular art technique. I fell under the spell of composing and gluing freely to create whatever I can think of. Then I started to discover more about the art form and the thing that hit me the most was Surrealism. It showed me that there is no need to control my fantasy.
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Top Panel - Dressing song, 2020 / Sacrifice, 2018 / Lost space, 2012
Bottom Panel - I Used to Like, 2018 / Search Unicorn, 1994 / Kiss, 2019
DA: You work in analogue and embellish your collages with paint and textural drawings. This adds a dimension of mystery to your work, which is just gorgeous. Could you tell us your approach to collage making? Where do you source your materials? What’s your studio space like? Are you tidy and organized or do the paper scraps spill over the edges of your table?
MD: Actually, collages bring me to what I'm doing now for a living, my profession I mean. With my colleagues, I started an advertising agency that has been operating for 25 years. And my job at this agency is mainly about sitting in front of the computer. This agency is my second home. But despite that, I always do analog collages. Finding pictures in newspapers and magazines inspires me amazingly. Discovering them, cutting them with scissors, and gluing them is an essential part of the creative process for me. I couldn't do these collages on a computer or they would be completely different. And what is not possible to cut, I finish by drawing. I make collages on the floor in my office on the weekends, and clippings, papers, and paints are everywhere. I almost have a problem cleaning it up on Sunday night. I throw everything into big drawing boards and boxes—no system at all. And the following Saturday I'll pour everything on the floor again. Above all, it's a lot of fun and joy, but also a kind of break for me from working on a computer.
Girl with a cage, 2021
DA: Martina Vítková, referenced your work as filmic, saying that “each collage gives the impression of a cut from a music video, a film screened just once in time, or an exceptionally precise memory of a midnight dream.” How does film inform your artistic practice? Would you share with us a movie that has deeply affected you?
MD: There is probably no film I can highlight above the others. I like many of them. But when I watch TV, I switch between programs until some action captures my interest. I do not know how it began. And because I switch again to another channel, I can only imagine how it will end. Sometimes those short scenes stay in my head. I think Martina meant something in that way. As for music, I really like the French band Pale. Their melancholy resonates beautifully with my feelings. I also love to play them while working on collages.
DA: 2020 presented the world with a lot of challenges. How has creativity helped you during this time? What is most inspiring to you through all of this? How do you look to the future when planning seems to be a thing of the past?
MD: What happened in 2020 and still persists would be unthinkable for me before. At least I devote much more time to work on my collages. It is impossible to do anything else, so I have some extra time. Without this creative activity, I would certainly suffer a situation much worse. A big help is also a possibility to share my work on social networks and thus be in contact with friends, colleagues, and everyone I meet there virtually. I am looking forward to this year's return to face-to-face meetings, opportunity to travel, exhibit my artwork and go for a beer again. I'm an optimist.
DA: Last question! Do you have any big projects in the works that you would like to share with us? What can your fans look forward to in 2021 and beyond?
MD: I'd rather not plan anything now. Last year I had arranged 3 exhibitions, which had to be postponed, so I will be more than happy if any of them would take place this year. I was also preparing the second year of the Dance in Collages Exhibition, which is part of the Jazz Dance Open International Festival. Unfortunately, it also had to be postponed for a year. I will definitely continue with creating new collages—it brings me great joy and fun. And I will be glad if those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram also like them. Last but not least, I look forward to seeing the work of colleagues from all over the world. There are so many great collage artists, and I admire their work!
Website | Martin Došek
Instagram | martindosek