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Fast confession - Ira Svobodová: Love for abstraction steamrollered everything else

Tereza Janatová
19.Dec 2016
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4 minutes
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Geometry captivated her with its simplicity and emptiness, which is meditative for her. Sometimes she creates every day, other time she is unable to paint a single thing all month. She carefully hides away the pictures she doesn’t want to sell and refuses to create them to order. The young painter, photographer, designer and sculptor talks about her love of painting.

I don’t think I have found any paintings without geometric shapes. Are there any?

Yes, there are of course more than one of those. At the start, I painted in figural way, but my love for abstraction steamrollered everything as time went by.

Why in fact geometric abstraction?

I have had an affinity with the world of architecture since I was little. I painted it for a long time and it was precisely this which allowed me to abstract reality into geometric shapes. 

How do you work and how are your works created?

I go to the studio every day just like a normal job. There are times when I am so absorbed by painting that I work almost nonstop, several months in a row for example. In the same way, it does sometimes happen that I am not able to create anything at all for several months. It all depends on the cocktail of emotions and inspiration. 

Luxusní byt na prodej, Praha 5 - 232m
Luxusní byt na prodej, Praha 5 - 232m, Praha 5

Painting, digital creation and video. That is quite a wide range for school. In the end, you prioritised painting. What captivated you about it so much that it took precedence over video? Video does after all sort of rule the world of today.

I needed to be in contact with the material – the paints, the canvas, to create something with my very own hands and to have a tangible result in the end. Not a file in a computer. I am relatively conservative as far as art is concerned. I have always most admired painting and sculpture, i.e. the old tried and tested media.

I read that you went on an internship in Rio de Janeiro. A different place, a different culture. How distinctively did your stay influence your work?

Fatally. I realised there that I really did want to fully devote my efforts to painting. I mainly went to Rio to familiarise myself in person with the work of the legendary architect Oscar Niemeyer and to draw inspiration from this. 

Did you have the feeling that you work differently in a different place?

Definitely. My work there was more in the form of a record of ideas and experiences. I didn’t start to process the internship, the impact of the different country and in particular my personal experiences until after I returned.

Did anything surprise you there?

I knew that Rio is one of the most dangerous cities in the world – something which did in fact attract me, the idea of proving to myself that I could survive. I did experience a few gunfights in the street, a police attack by helicopter on a favela behind the house, a few chases... I had to learn to be watchful when walking about the streets, you can’t act as carefree as you can for example on the streets of Prague. 

Czechs often say that when they come back from “holiday” to the Czech Republic, a slight depression hits them due to the frowning, unpleasant people around them. Rio comes across as a place full of optimism to me, so was that return home from your internship hard or were you already looking forward to coming home?

Brazilians are an extremely friendly and positive people. I didn’t really want to come back, I had more of a feeling of having been uprooted. I didn’t know where home was for me for a long time.

You work with acrylic colours. Why acrylic? Does it have anything to do with impatience? :) Acrylic dries faster compared to oil paints and you don’t have to wait a long time until the picture is completely finished. 

Yes, quick drying is one of the reasons. I use special transparent glazing gels which allow me to use painting techniques which would not be possible with oil paints. 

Have you ever thought about other materials?

Not yet as far as painting is concerned. I like spatial creation and my favourites there are stainless steel and metals.

How long does a regular picture take to paint? And if you paint it over a longer period of time, how often do you return to it to add more and more features?

It depends on the format. A picture 200 x 200 cm does of course require more time and work than a canvas 40 x 40 cm. I always paint several paintings at a time and move between them. But it is 2 – 6 weeks on average depending on the size and how demanding the project is.

Apparently, you are a perfectionist. At which moment do you say that a painting is ready? 

Yes, I am a perfectionist. I always feel that moment without any really difficulty.

Do you say goodbye to your works with a heavy heart?

I do of course like some pictures more than others, but that isn’t a problem for me.

And has there ever been a picture which you absolutely didn’t want to sell and the person who wanted to buy it had to persuade you to sell?

No. I carefully hide the pictures I don’t want to sell!

Each person gravitates to a certain style when looking at art. And some people aren’t really attracted by abstract works. Would you be able to somehow persuade that person to fall in love with abstract art? 

You can’t persuade someone to do that. Either you like a work straight away thanks to its first impression, or not at all and there is no point thinking about it any longer.

Luxusní vila na prodej Praha-západ - 255m
Luxusní vila na prodej Praha-západ - 255m, Okolí Prahy

And what in fact seems so irresistible about geometric abstraction to you? 

Logic. Purity. Precision. A certain form of simplicity and emptiness which his very meditative for me.

When somebody wants to buy a picture from you. Do they come and make their choice or can they “task” you with creating a work of art to order?

I don’t do pictures to order. The choice is always made from the paintings on display in galleries or the studio.

Has it ever happened that somebody said that your art is terrible? And how do you usually react?

Yes. I absolutely respect that. Everybody has their own taste and their own opinion. If it is not said in the heat of emotion, I don’t think about it.

How well do you take criticism? Is it able to enrich you or do you only set store by your own opinion?

Constructive criticism is, I think, very beneficial. Negative criticism in particular of course. It can move you on to new horizons. 

Where can we see your pictures at the moment?

At the group exhibition Artefakt at the Chemistry Design Store until 22 December. Also until 22 December within the framework of the Squat iD23 project in a flat designed by the architect Lenka Míková. My pictures are also permanently on display at the Praguekabinet gallery.


Fast confession:

Your favourite painter?

Kazimir Malevič.

Coffee or tea?

First tea, then coffee.

Oil paints or tempera?


Introvert or extrovert?


What do you regard as an architectural gem?

I could take up two pages with an answer to that, but for example the German pavilion in Barcelona by Miese Van der Rohe from 1929.

Do you have a favourite place in Prague?

The functionalist Baba settlement.

Big city or village?

Both. I can’t live for long in either of them.

Black or white?


Are you able to characterise yourself in three words? Which ones?

Unfortunately, I am not.

Your life’s dream?

To never lose my joy of life.

What makes you angry when creating your work?

If I spoil something and it is my fault.

What was the last thing to make you laugh?

Something is always making me laugh. It is hard to choose one!

Your role model?

I don’t have one.

What is your favourite picture called?

Again, I could fill at least two pages with an answer to that. Guernica by Pablo Picasso for example.
Question by the interviewee to the editor:

What type of music do you like?

As you say: I could fill at least two pages with an answer to that ;)
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