Gabriela Kotiková: Michal, first of all I would like to ask you about your studies at the School of Ceramics in Bechyně. Am I right that you were lucky to have had good teachers there at that time, despite the communist régime… and so you were not forced to study Marxism-Leninism… Which teachers had a really big influence on you and did they let you surpass the border of applied arts or did you have to do what you were told to do?
Michal Škoda: Well, I wouldn´t say it was that perfect or ideal. I liked professor Bok and Suchánek, but they had nothing to do with practical training, they were very nice people, Mr Bok also wrote poetry. Technology was my specialization at school and so most of my „artistic activities“ took place outside of school. But there were communists at our school the same as everywhere else.. I have never mentioned studying at this school and so I think it is more appropriate to say I am a self-taught artist. The question is whether it is important at all…??
GK: You did not try to get in the Academy of Fine Arts or the Academy of Art, Achitecture and Design because under the communist régime these schools were full of strange professors (e.g. the vice-chancellor was Miloš Axman 1976 – 1987 who was also a Communist MP) or was it for some other reasons?
MŠ: For a number of reasons. When I did think of starting to study at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design it was in fact impossible, I knew I wouldn´t be accepted. On the other hand I felt I had had enough of all that communist nonsense from the school at Bechyně and then I wasn´t really that keen on studying. Moreover, at that time the head of the studio of ceramics at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design was Eckert and he was supposed to be replaced by Dobiáš who was the director of the school in Bechyně. I studied under him and I knew only too well that he had nothing more to offer me. I just wanted to do ceramics and so I decided to start working after doing my national military service. I started making ceramics and went on until the year 1993. Then I stopped because I was no longer satisfied with what I was doing. So I started anew, again from point zero, in a completely different way, as we say „starting over with a clean slate“.
GK: Despite the fact that you did not get a university degree, since 1987 you regularly displayed your work and took part in international shows for example in Italy, Canada, Germany, Japan… We may say that you were a distinctive ceramist. Did these international shows focus in the beginning on ceramics?
MŠ: Yes, mainly on ceramics, up until about 1992, I can´t remember it really well, because I tried to wipe out detailed information from that period, in fact I remember mainly things that happened in the „new period“ – I mean after 1994.
GK: I was intrigued by the material rendering of your later sculptures – objects. Magdalena Juříková said in the catalogue of your exhibition that you began using plywood and treated the surface in such a manner that it reminded her of ceramics or let´s say stoneware. Personally, I´d say my impression was that the objects were made of some heavy metal. Why did you choose that technology and was the toning meant to evoke some particular material?
MŠ: No, not at all, it was a feeling, I wanted to unify the thing, to make a kind of monolith, for it to have a structure, I didn´t want to leave it just in that material, to deny the technical condition and so on… Today I would most probably do it in a different way, but in those days it seemed to be logical and there was some sort of link with the preceeding period. Anyway, I´m sure I did not try to evoke any other material, I really hate that in general and I hated it already in those days.
GK: Your work gradually became more and more minimalist, geometrical. You were not only interested in objects and paintings but you often worked with the entire space. Apart from fine art you were interested in architecture, weren´t you? Could you tell me what you found interesting in Czech art around the year 1994? What Czech artists did you respect? Or did you appreciate more foreign art?
MŠ: Yes, perhaps minimalist and geometrical, but it was not a goal. I tend to be interested in simplicity,
ordinariness and acrimony more than in minimalism, I must say I´m almost allergic to the word „minimalism“. Geometry has never been a goal but just a means of expression. In addition I do not like classing people according to style. Of course there was art and artists that I found interesting and that I respected. Nothing has changed about that, only new artists appeared in the course of time, artists I like and whose work I can relate to. For me the most influential artist of the older generation is Adriena Šimotová, she was one of the most amazing persons I have ever met. I must also mention for example Mr Kolíbal, Cígler and the photographer Svoboda.
GK: Over the years you made sculptures – objects, you painted pictures or painted directly on the walls of galleries, and the entire inner space of a gallery became a painting. Later on you abandoned this monumental scale and focused on smaller format photographs, collages and art books – did these different means of expression come about simultaneously?
MŠ: Luckily, I can say that everything evolves naturally and I often go back to different issues but with new experience so I tackle them i a different manner. I must admit that recently I have limited the number of „media“, I mostly do art books which often overlap to the open series „time and environment“. I started that series by using the same method of work I use for art books, however, it is an open series, without time limitation and not limited by the book media. This work is based mainly on drawing, photographs (without having ambitions of a photographer) or collage. Everything is linked by texts and work with texts. Besides this series, which I began in 2011, I dedicated myself to direct interventions into given spaces – either in the form of installations or wall paintings. I must admit that I haven´t painted a painting or done an object for a long time, I just don´t feel the need now. I like paper and a pencil the best.
GK: Since 1997 you have been working as a curator in the House of Arts in České Budějovice and since then you have invited a number of remarkable foreign artists to the Czech Republic. What is the proportion of exhibitions of Czech and foreign artists? What is your budget for exhibitions of foreign artists, is it enough to cover all the necessary needs or do foreign artists take into account that they are exhibiting in a poorer country and therefore modify their requirements?
MŠ: Exceptions were needed in the past but nowadays the conditions here are more or less the same as abroad. If there are any problems, the artists and architects understand, I know what we can or can´t afford. Of course, we do have a tight budget but as you can see we manage well. In the past we had more exhibitions displaying work by Czech artists but things have been gradually changing. I think our gallery has undergone a natural process of change and naturally so has my conception. I have been trying for some time to alter the programme of the gallery, I want it to resemble for example the “Kunsthalle” abroad or galleries which display primarily works by foreign artists. All this depends of course on our financial means but so far I´m happy to say that everything works well because the gallery has already got a good reputation abroad and thanks to this we manage to invite interesting artists.
GK: Over the years you have organized a great number of exhibitions. Personally, I found the exhibitions of Eva Koťátková and Dominik Lang really interesting. I know it´s not right to mention only two artists but I can´t resist stressing these two names because I was amazed to see how much energy they put into their exhibitions and I must say that I consider these exhibitions more relevant than those they had so far in Prague. Could you name some exhibitions that you liked…
MŠ: I agree with you, the two exhititions that you mentioned were absolutely the best but at the same time I must say it is difficult to say which one was the best. I´m sure there was a great number of really good ones, some of them were outstanding, it´s really hard to judge, each exhibition is different… So from my point of view the exhibition that I liked and that was exceptional and really successful was the exhibition of works by the Japanese architect Takeshi Hosaka last year and the exhibition of architecture of the MCA studio. I would also like to accentuate the work of Lawrence Wiener, Liam Gillick or Markéta Othová. As I have already said it is hard to choose, I´d say that most of the exhibitions from 1998 achieved success, not all of them were as good as I would have wished, but you learn by making mistakes, don´t you…
GK: Finally, I would like to ask you to tell us something about the present exhibition you prepared for the Gallery Jelení. It is a tiny space – did you have this in mind and is the exhibition designed for this space?
MŠ: Yes, every exhibition is designed for a specific space and I never repeat any exhibition. This year I happen to have an exhibition somewhere every month, in fact they all run at the same time – there´s one in Ostrava until the end of May, one at the cemetery in Volyně until the end of June and this one is the third. Each exhibition is different, using different „media“. In Ostrava you can see exhibits related to the series „time and environment“, in Volyně wall paintings and in the Gallery Jelení I have exhibited drawings. These three exhibitions show what is important for me at present, I mean my diary, spacial intervention and classical drawings. I finish here with drawings, because the space here is really small, I think the amount is just right, although I can imagine having only one large drawing in each room. I have included two slightly older series, drawings on cardboard, which are related to my perception of space. There are certain mental spaces, delimitations. The same as in case of the second series it is also somewhat connected with books, or newspapers, to things that are common in my everyday life, to issues related to emptying. However, there is also the relation to space and urban landscape. It isn´t easy to say explicitly what it is about, I´m influenced by so many aspects, there are so many layers in everything I do.
The interview took place during the exhibition of Michal Škoda „Sitting and Standing“ at the Gallery Jelení, May 13, 2014
- This time I chose drawings, I prepare every exhibition00:00:28.888
- directly for the expositional space,00:00:33.074
- whether it's recent or older work.00:00:35.733
- I always take into account my feelings about the place00:00:37.953
- and according to that I come up with the exhibition conception.00:00:41.006
- It's important to say that I also took into00:00:46.756
- consideration the time of the exhibition.00:00:49.697
- I've had three exhibitions in a row this year.00:00:56.308
- In Jelení I present two small cycles of drawings from 2009.00:01:03.065
- It's a simple technique, pencil on cardboard.00:01:08.835
- Both cycles follow my perception of00:01:14.236
- space and its relation to architecture.00:01:20.302
- One of the cycles comes out from00:01:25.172
- physical understanding and perceptiveness of space.00:01:27.684
- It shows how the space influences me,00:01:39.049
- the urban space as I am in town a lot.00:01:41.878
- Consequently a sensational and mental space00:01:45.936
- is being created on the paper.00:01:48.062
- The second cycle refers to to books and everydayness.00:01:53.034
- Also to newspapers I consider an important part of my life,00:01:57.266
- although it's a bit masochistic.00:02:02.364
- When I come to my studio in the morning,00:02:05.053
- I start my day with coffee and newspaper.00:02:06.898
- The newspapers irritate me more and more00:02:11.300
- as it's full of rubbish but despite of that00:02:13.921
- I keep buying and reading it.00:02:16.379
- I realized the emptiness and emptying I had also00:02:21.843
- been dealing with, could be more than00:02:27.756
- a misleading or stupid piece of information.00:02:33.164
- I realized the newspaper page is a kind of a map.00:02:37.846
- I worked with emptying and came out from00:02:46.720
- the newspaper page and made it empty00:02:51.050
- so that I erased the text and drew just what is around.00:02:54.585
- It's also important to say that my work00:03:01.217
- never deals with just one thing.00:03:04.614
- I am influenced by many things and00:03:06.462
- the work I create has more levels then.00:03:08.609
- This also applies to these drawings as they are00:03:14.691
- connected with the space perception I find crucial.00:03:17.091
- The drawings can be viewed as a certain urban system.00:03:22.715
- So it's two levels of drawing referring00:03:27.444
- somehow to the space perception,00:03:31.030
- although one of them is connected with paper.00:03:33.937
- But there is this map association exceeding to sensational maps.00:03:37.009
- As I have already said,00:03:57.571
- drawing is a fundamental medium for me and00:03:58.846
- the process itself I find also very important.00:04:03.214
- Another phenomenon I concern with is time00:04:07.530
- within creating something or other,00:04:11.630
- within perceiving as well as drawing itself.00:04:14.901
- Some drawings are easy and don't take00:04:19.323
- too long to be created.00:04:23.716
- They are made mainly with pencil or coloured pencil00:04:27.139
- and I work with a big area,00:04:30.398
- so the time plays an important part.00:04:33.458
- When the drawing looks austere and simple00:04:36.976
- it means there was enough time for it and00:04:40.516
- I think I also transferred some energy there.00:04:44.835
- At the same time the process means a kind of a stop for me,00:04:48.306
- I don't want to call it a meditation,00:04:50.896
- it's rather a contemplation, slowing down, calming,00:04:54.327
- a break in the run of life and days.00:05:01.038
- I find it really important as I become aware00:05:05.074
- of many helpful things.00:05:07.375