Painting: Houses and the Abstract
Interview with Marketa Sivek by Linda Wilson
See more of Sivek’s work in The Woven Tale Press Vol. IV #5
Your series of house paintings produces powerful emotions in the viewer. I experienced strong feelings of danger and isolation, a sense of imminent catastrophe. Peaceful houses rest on foundations which could collapse at any time. How intentional is this emotional evocation? Does it perhaps arise out of personal experiences?
I don’t think it was intentional at first. I’ve always loved houses and structures, and the image of a house has always represented a symbol of a shelter for me. But I grew up in communism, and there was no real sense of security in my country. You don’t think about it too much when you are a child, but the awareness is there, instinctively, from very early on–the awareness of the fact that things are not what they seem to be. As a child you don’t have enough information and understanding of what is going on besides a few tidbits overheard here and there. I knew not to trust a police officer, for example, but I wasn’t quite sure why. After all, a police officer should be the person to trust.
So when your parents tell you not to repeat things they talk about at home at school, you better listen, because you know that there is some hidden danger lurking, that this seeming security we live in can be broken, that actions have circumstances. In my work, it took me a while to put two and two together. Originally, I was working on peaceful and solitary houses but the cliffs and thin ledges with ladders and ropes kept creeping in… And then I realized the connection. But rather than imminent catastrophe, the house on a cliff image represents awareness of the circumstances that can change but also, or most of all, hope.
The houses and their settings can produce feelings of anxiety related to their unpredictable futures. Was this your intention?
The process of painting is so fluid. It’s an exercise of a brain and body in unison. Sort of like dancing. I don’t think there is any clear intention at those moments. That comes later for me, when I look back and contemplate and connect the dots. It’s a personal thing and I don’t expect the viewer to think about it the way I do. We all have different experiences in life and therefore relate to what we are exposed to differently. Still, I hope my paintings produce feelings of peaceful serenity rather than anxiety. It’s not just about the past experiences but about the future. And that’s how I see the future, in a positive and hopeful way.
Many of your house paintings are set against a starless sky, but a full moon plays a prominent role. Could you speak to that?
I love to feel grounded. I think it’s wonderful to have the moon hovering in the sky…. it makes me feel humble and aware of the larger picture.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about this remarkable house series?
In the beginning of the first grade, we were supposed to pick an image for our coat racks so we would remember which one was ours. I chose the picture of a house. The attraction was always there! I think I was always afraid of abandonment, and a house represented a relatively safe place in an otherwise austere and somewhat paranoid society where people mostly kept to themselves. In winter, my dad would pull me in the sled around our neighborhood before bedtime. It was immensely comforting to look at houses and the lit up windows of apartment buildings. There was a sense of security in that.
Your series of abstract works are painted in a completely different style. Can you tell us about that?
I am interested in many different ways of painting. I love color and texture. I love to experiment. It’s about constant curiosity, the unknown possibilities. It’s so exhilarating. An ‘accident’ can produce a wonderful thing, and then you just have to take it on another level.
Your use of color is particularly exciting. Can you tell us what draws you to featuring specific color families in your abstract works? I noticed that many of your paintings feature intense shades of blue. Does that color represent specific emotional states?
I am fond of every color. The blue–color of the sky that I can make so perfectly vast and infinite–is also very meditative for me. It’s like taking a break outside and feeling the crisp air.
You have said that your “Dress series was created out of the innocence and purity of childhood.” Can you expand on that?
I was talking about the ability to look at something–anything–without analyzing it or seeing its purpose. As children, we have that ability. To feel a clear emotion of wonder, to see pure beauty in something that we later come to perceive as common and ordinary.
Butterflies and boots play prominent roles in your Dress paintings. What do those things signify for you?
Beauty. I think these were sort of “objects of desire” of my childhood. Where I grew up, not much was available. I have never seen cowboy boots in person and often wondered how it felt to touch them and put them on. As a child I spent considerable time in my room going through the shopping catalogs my aunt sent from America. I marveled at the toys, sneakers, food, tools–you name it–all so exotic and out of reach. When I got a Barbie doll for my birthday it was as if an alien landed in my room. I thought “do people really look like this?! Is it possible?”
Can you tell us what you are working on right now–another offering in your series paintings or something brand new?
I have been doing a lot of splashes recently. It has become quite an obsession. I haven’t bothered to cover anything up when it started so now my workspace is covered in drips–the walls, the computer…and me.
What happens during a typical day in your studio?
I go to the studio in a morning. I walk around and look at the work in progress and at what’s hanging on the walls. I think about what I am looking at. You could call it studying your own work. I pace around. I do my bills. I rearrange things. I think about what I want to work on. I ponder until something clicks and I get really excited. Then I get to work. Lately I have been working in silence, but I don’t mind to turn on NPR or some classical music. I break for lunch, often watch a British mystery to clear my head. Then I have a cup of green tea and go back to work. I love routine.
Are there other artists who have influenced your work?
The influence lies in literally everything around us. In everything that has been done so far. Art is a lifestyle. It’s the way I live and think. My partner and I can stare at the shadow cast by a chair or a tree or a flicker of light for minutes on and discuss how fabulous it look,s and take numerous pictures of it from various angles. It’s not something you ever turn off.
Where will your art lead us in the future?
I would like to revisit my Interiors and Silhouettes series. It’s always exciting to go back to what I’ve started and where I left off, and take it a step further, each time with a little bit more wisdom and deeper understanding.
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