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Artist Focus: Slavomir Zombek | Artsia

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Artist Focus: Slavomir Zombek


For this month's Artist Focus interview, we sat down with Slovakian artist Slavomir Zombek to learn the thought process behind his minimal works. They vary from geometric to still lives, but no matter how different his artworks may seem, each adheres to a strict sense of order and straightforwardness. He focuses on tactile elements that give each work a sense of realness that any viewer can relate to. 

What's your first memory of creating art?
Like every boy I wanted to be Indian, or maybe a detective... My "art career" I started at the age of only 5 years at Primary Art School.
At the Faculty of Architecture STU at Bratislava (1983 - 1988) there was an unwritten rule - whoever wants to be a good architect, must be also a good artist. This idea was implemented in the structure of objects and the education system, where the visual component had significant part... I was working in the university as a so-called "Scientific Adjunct" in the Department of Arts, where there were a wide range of professors, both in their practice and art view: from the classic landscape through the plastic figure of constructivism, geometric abstraction, book illustration and sculpture... Practical architectural discipline focused on national production, regionalism, Soviet constructivism, purism, brutalism, Japanese metabolism... Dušan Jurkovič, Emil Belluš, Vladimir Karfík, Adolf Loos, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer, Louis Isadore Kahn, Tadao Ando...

For me as a little boy from a small, conservative town - talking about architecture, art and the aesthetics in a city full of medieval buildings and walls (the historic center of  Levoča  with the highest Gothic altar in the world has been registered in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2009), it was very decisive and different knowledge. I specified my outline of my yet foggy way and made myself sure that I really wanted to spend my time on architecture and fine arts.

How did you develop your signature minimalist style?
One can say that it happened spontaneously in response to the overcrowding of our lives and the conservative character of my hometown as well... and perhaps as the basic desire to express "our complexity."
My work is not, however, strictly classified. I like and sometimes complete works that are "full by its form" as well.
"Simplicity is the infinite perfection. Perfection is infinite simplicity. " -Leonardo da Vinci

How would you describe your work?

Art for me is not a decoration for a space, but an expression of the space itself.

Usually it differs from piece to piece, but generally I describe it like this (respectively, this is how I see my style or this is what I am attempting to achieve):
I do not wish to create an objective imitation of reality, but rather reveal the feelings that reality grants us. By form and content, reduction is the method; removing and denying every expendable detail, which complicates being and obstructs us to see... Minimal means of expression, minimal space - but maximal expression... A symbiosis of content, form and technical expression of work... Not contemporary fashion and attempting shock, but certain silence, truth and inertia...

My view of art is significantly influenced by my architectural studies and active architectural practice: composition, structure, raster, rhythm, repetition, geometry, order, 
system, variations, alternatives, rules, limits, reduction. And from every idea I try to extract what is possible; all its potential shapes and expressions - I do not mean content (that is more or less fixed in every theme), but form: turn, invert, edit "colour" scheme, disrupt structure, modify raster, ignore the system purposely, add, reduce... ...Content stays, but meaning is revealed and deepened... 

I love creating series (2,4,8,12 pieces), the pieces mutually complete each other and create closure. They are like a man and a woman (black and white, day and night) - they may be solitary, but only together they are complete. They are perfectly made for each other.... 

How has your style of painting changed to become what it is now? How long did it take you to find your own method of expression?
The path of the developments of "my" style has not been anything exceptional or dramatic, rather such a classic scheme – the first craft basics, then urban and rural country, apples, nudes, something surreal and geometric ... but always in accordance with my development at the age, knowledge, experience, desire, attitude toward life, and goals. It pleases me, that I am still not over.

Do you have any specific routines or habits necessary in the creation of your work?
I have an appreciation for structure and order, as well as some principles. However, when I am creating art I am not so strict. I work constantly. When I get the chance I like to work in a studio late into the night. It is a magical time, a time when you get to open the windows - windows full of darkness and you see the city, the night city with eyes of neon, the city full of sleeping people and you can hear that night silence. Often this work stops at dawn. I do not like loneliness in principle, but while I work I need (or even request) that feeling of uncertain soft and pleasant solitude, the calmness and the light of a table lamp. Winter and her early evenings, and conversely warm nights in May are ideal for me.

How does your culture complement or add to your artistic process?
My artistic expression has been gradually distinguished to our regional cultural environment -but its content with our culture, in the broader sense of the word, is still tightly linked. 

What do you love most about expressing through minimalism? What is your favorite part of the creation process?
Looking for, discovering and constructing the amazing, the pure and clear - the nearly ideal world...
I love both parts of the creative process, the preparation and the realization , but sometimes it does not go well as I would expect. Then for a long time I go to our mountains and draw on paper, a recording field trip -- strips of fields, mountain pastures, small villages with even smaller wooden houses, to show the smell of the flowers of the mountain meadows, see deer, feel the closeness of wolves and lynx, and feel the closeness but avoid an encounter with a bear.

Who are some of the artists you admire most, and would you say they play a role in the creation of your own work?
I like the complexity of Leonardo da Vinci, Morandi's silence, the mystery of Magritte, Delvaux and his women, the geometry and composition of the Russian constructivists, de Chirico and his space, Boštík's meditation, and the honesty of Van Gogh. I do not know how to choose who I admire the most ... each can work in a particular moment to enrich what we need, what we are looking for, or we have already long since lost.

What are you hoping to communicate to the viewer with each work? What sort of world are you setting them in?
The names of the artworks are very important for me - it is not meant to restrict the spectators, but to direct their thinking. All of my pieces have their own fixed meanings and content, but I enjoy leaving space for the spectator's own interpretation – it completes, enriches and expands my strict meaning of the work.
Life is too short and beautiful to constantly be rushing somewhere. That need to stop - to make order of the thoughts in your head, to redirect the flow of your being has always reminded me of garden of cherries, whether I am there physically or virtually by thought.

The garden generally impresses me with structure, raster, symbiosis, stability and variability, rhythm in time... and the cherry garden has even more - gentle sensuality.

My "cherry garden" is not just a particular place, in a particular time or a particular event... it is mainly a general sense of our uncertainty: day - night, man - woman, white - black, joy - sadness, love - pain, meeting - leaving, spring - winter, summer evening - autumn breeze, cherry blossoms - snowflakes, peace, harmony, subtle and indefinable tension... So this is the world that I would gladly like to offer to you.

If you had to give one piece of advice to students just graduating art school, what would it be?
Indeed, I do not feel myself to be summoned to give advice, but for today and I'll do that however. Anything factual, one can find many like these on the Internet. A summary of the advices I was given are:
... listen carefully to people in your neighborhood (family, friends, teachers, classmates, etc.), to try to understand them and know to choose what can be beneficial.
... try to find out what I want and what is essential
... go resolutely for my goals, but to remain fully human at the same time
... any work has three components – content, form and craft, their ratio is, however, variable and individual. However, I don't mind at all, if one of the components is missing.
And finally, something that worked for me and what I'm trying to keep:
My inspiration is ordinary life. Nothing more and nothing less. If you're not living with your eyes and ears shut, and if you often have an open soul, then it doesn't take a lot: a feeling, or hearing a word - recognizing the significance of an event, the significance of banality and mundane things which you can suddenly see differently; the rhythm and calmness of rain, the sound of being, meeting, or the smell of an unknown woman... Paradoxically, when I have a lot of time and time is passing slowly, I have few ideas to work on. But as time runs out, the inspiration starts flowing; I see it wherever I look, wherever I am.

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