Interview with Zuzka Vaclavik

SILKZ (1).jpg
Multi-panels from Zuzka Vaclavik's installation in Surface

Multi-panels from Zuzka Vaclavik's installation in Surface

Zuzka Vaclavik's colorful work first appeared at Linda Matney Gallery in our Postcolonials exhibit in the form of small studies.  A multi-panel installation will be featured in Surface opening September 16, 2017.  Another series of small originals as well as other works in her catalog are available to gallery patrons.

 Zuzka Vaclavik is a painter who gains most of her inspiration from her international experiences. Zuzka is a dual citizen of the United States and Slovakia as her parents escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia. Vaclavik grew up in Germany where she took art lessons from a Czech painter. Her passion and curiosity for new experiences led her to pursue her development as an artist in the Far East. She lived in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia for two years before beginning her graduate school studies. While living in places like Cambodia, she took in all of the unique patterns and designs with which she came in contact, most of which had a great impact on her work, and used them to inspire her. Vaclavik’s work ranges from very bold statements, drawing some similarities to graffiti, to more fluid and meditative pieces. Furthermore, her work has a great amount of illustrative aspects, due to the fact that when she is planning and organizing creative content for a piece, she constantly analyzes what colors and patterns would create an intriguing combination. Vaclavik has exhibited her work in New York, California, Cambodia, Germany, Austria, and across the United States. Her work is featured in the collection of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. Her work can also be seen in prestigious publications such as New America Paintings.      From the artist's statement edited by Kenlontae Turner



The following is a July 2016 interview with Zuzka Vaclavik by Linda Matney Gallery's Ryan Lytle :


Though a series of emails, I had the opportunity to speak with Zuzka Vaclavik about her paintings. Zuzka utilizes elements of graffiti, textile patterns, botanical illustrations, and global influences. She uses these components in her work to beautifully blur the line between positive and negative space. She has an impressive exhibition and publication record however her works speak for themselves. Read below as we gain insight into her practice.

RL: What artists or concepts influence your work?

ZV: I am interested in and think about a vast number of artists/writers/scientists in the studio.  Lately, I have been thinking a lot about Matisse but also ‘outsider artists’ like Augustin Lesage, Henry Darger, and Nellie Mae Rowe. Ellen Gallagher’s Watery Ecstatic series and Louis Despont’s works on paper are works I return to more frequently.

Ultimately, the artists that play the biggest part in my work are the ones that I know personally and with whom I share studio visits and conversations with regularly. 


RL: Can you tell me about your process?

ZV: Right now, I go to the potter’s wheel to center clay for about an hour before I head to the studio.  Centering clears all of that ‘mind chatter’ so that I can focus on my most recent body of paintings, which are very labor intensive. 

 I once got some great advice, which was, when you’re out of the studio, be thinking about your work, and when you are in the studio, it is time for action. I try to follow this advice.  


RL: What decisions go into choosing your palette, are there colors you are drawn to more than others? Do you do drawings or sketches, or do you just start painting?

ZV: I am constantly on the lookout for interesting combinations of tones that have meaning beyond “beautiful colors”.  Sketchbooks travel with me everywhere and watercolor is used to jot down “notes” of colors.  There is so much power in finding the right color to put down on the canvas and even the slightest addition of white for example, to a tone I’m mixing can make a huge difference to not only the look of piece but also the meaning. 

 As far a drawing and sketching is concerned, yes, I am doing it constantly- working out ideas both on paper and in my mind (if I happen to be without physical drawing implements). 



RL: What effect did being exposed to so many cultures and areas have in your development as an artist?

ZV: Well, I think it had a profound effect in so many ways, especially since I lived in these places rather than just traveled there.  I would say my time in Cambodia had the strongest influence on my work.  Patterns and colors were worn in very unique combinations by people in ways I would have never thought of.  The richness and crazy visual glut of The Central Market (Psar Thmey) and the Russian Market in contrast with the still quiet of the pagodas.  It’s all still there in my work.

RL: Tell me about your Eau De series and what inspired it?

ZV: This body of work plays with the ideas of perception, painting, and memory by utilizing positive and negative shapes as well as micro and macro vantage points.  The white spaces are as much the subject of the painting as the foreground shapes. 


RL: In you Eau De series (as well as many of the others) there seems to be a floral component, is that intentional or just the nature of using organic shapes?

ZV: I have been interested in botany for a long time and have worked as a botanical illustrator for new species of plants in the past.  I garden and read extensively about plants, so of course they make appearances in my work, but the work is never about just the botanical elements I use.  It’s about those elements pushed up against the marks of a graffiti artist for example, that is compelling.


RL: Are there any works or accomplishments in your career that you would find especially significant?


ZV: I’ve had several museum shows recently and felt really good about the work that was included in those exhibitions. In particular, I would say I was pleased with the watercolor work that was purchased by the High Museum of Art and my new series of large scale acrylic paintings that were on display at the Macon Museum of Arts and Sciences and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Atlanta.  However, moments that I find significant or validating in my career will always be based more on the successes and failures in the studio practice itself than gold stars awarded by outside entities. 



zuzka 2.jpg