Acrylics and Air

Filip Černý talks to the Pill about Prague, Japan and the airbrush

Filip Černý is a member of the Czech Republic’s most famous art family. His father is a respected painter, his mother specializes in the restoration of Baroque paintings. His brother David is the country’s most internationally recognized artist, responsible for such well-known works of public art as the pink tank and the babies crawling up the Žižkov TV tower.

Filip has exhibited his work in South America and Europe, and will be taking part in a joint exhibit with his brother in Berlin this September. The Pill caught up with him on his way to Japan.

Pill: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Černý: Actually, until I was seven or so I wanted to be a policeman. But I was always drawing, because our parents were also artists and I was living in this environment. I don’t know if it’s really good to be the son of artists. My mates are also painters and usually don’t have any artists in the family - maybe there was a grandfather who was an architect or something. I think there’s something good in that because they don’t know anything and can develop all their ideas by themselves. Also they can give their art as gifts on the holidays [laughs].

Pill: Are you influenced by your family’s work?

Černý: Probably in my subconscious, but I hope that I transform it in my own way.

Pill: Is it hard being the brother of David Černý?

Černý: No, but sometimes I have a problem with my name. Because they know my brother and don’t like him. Many people don’t like him.

Pill: What are you doing right now?

Černý: Traditional format. I like the painting because it’s neutral; like a window into another world, another reality. I’m using acrylics on canvas - and airbrushes. An airbrush is usually used for shit, and I wanted to take the technique further. With the airbrush, you can’t touch the canvas, it’s impersonal. There is no material, no matter. It is almost more air than color. I use it in combination with the brush, which excites me. If I return to using only an ordinary brush, I will be changed. The combination of the personal and the impersonal can bring something new.

Pill: Do you ever depart from the canvas?

Černý: I’ve done multimedia things with nonverbal theater and slides, with the slides morphing into each other at different speeds. And I’m working on an internet project now.

Pill: Does Prague support its young artists?

Černý: There is no interest in art here. It depends on promotion in the Czech Republic, which is a small country, but so is Holland. And in Holland people are buying paintings and there is movement. You can see that it’s not dead. There are grants for 70 artists every year for 1,800 euros per month. In this country, there isn’t one grant. There are sponsors only. Another problem is space. I want to have exhibitions in this country, but where? There are maybe three galleries for younger artists.

Pill: Are you involved in setting up the Meet Factory?

Černý: It’s not finished yet. I hope when it’s finished it will be a center for underground art. I hope it will realize what this town in missing. But it’s only one project and there should be five places like this. My own idea is to find some place and make it like a community center for the arts that is also a restaurant with great food, which is also an art. It is something very similar to painting. I never use cookbooks.

Pill: Do you have any thoughts on Milan Knižak [the controversial director of the National Gallery]?

Černý: I think he’s a psychopath. He’s an intelligent man and has communication skills, but he has a problem with power and [lacks] the eye of an artist. I am sure he wanted to be Minister of Culture. If ODS had won in the last elections I am sure he would have become a minister, because he was up the ass of Vaclav Klaus, who he used to invite to exhibitions.

Pill: How would you describe your work?

Černý: It’s about colors. I love colors. I like to penetrate diverse realities, the interiors of rooms. Van Gogh’s Night Café is an influence on my recent work, which is a series about the interiors of Czech pubs. Right now I want to get a Japanese influence on my work and am applying for a grant to study there. I like modern and traditional Japanese art. It is perverse, and the Japanese still have a national style that comes from the special environment. I don’t know if they want to have [this style] but they do. Even when they try to do modern Western art, it still has this strange Japanese [feel].

Pill: Last year you had an exhibition with a lot of pictures of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe in water. Why Warhol and why Marilyn?

Černý: These are two important personalities of the 20th century, which has ended. I used an airbrush for these paintings.

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