Interview for “Take a deep Breath” exhibition,
R.C.: Zdenek, let's take a moment to explore your upcoming show. Previously, you explained that the "DisPlay" paintings resemble displays and screens we look into all day long. Why did you think this was an interesting concept, and could you tell us something about the process from idea to execution?
Z.K.: I see how the recent arrival of digitalisation in our life is changing the way we live and operate. The fact that we encounter the major part of our visual information through screens inevitably influences how we experience and perceive the world around us, while new photoshopped (computerised/generated/unnatural) colours, blue light, scrolling and an overload of information are all be- coming part of our daily visual impressions. With "DisPlay", my aim is to organise all these blurred impressions, to make sense of the overload and to turn these phenomena into simple meditative escapes. For me, addressing this topic is in some way a call to consider how we eventually will have to strike a balance between experiencing the physical and digital worlds.
R.C.: I can imagine the concept will not lose its actuality within the coming years or even decades. Do you have plans to continue developing this series? What comes to mind thinking about future developments?
Z.K.: I must say that in my work I react to my environment and whať's happening around me, and consequently, this makes my work evolve. For instance, the lockdown and present condition of everything taking place online urged me to look away from my screens, and made me start to look more into nature. This translated into new seies. But, absolutely, the concept of "DisPlay" is a topic that will be with us for a while. However, there are different ways to address it. So although I think it is an ongoing series, I do think "DisPlay" will evolve. For example, I have recently started turning "DisPlay" paintings inside out. The paint- ed structure of "DisPlay" suddenly became part of the canvas itself: you still see the grid, but it feels im- printed, ingrained. One might say that their appearance became more peaceful in some way. The result of this practice may be considered as a metaphor for the digital world, which is becoming more of an in- grained part of our existence.
R.C.: How does the "DisPlay series relate to your more recent concepts, for example the "Clouds" paintings?
Z.K.: The "Clouds" paintings actually came very recently as a result of the desire to get away from the digital world, especially in the recent condition during lockdown where we suddenly had to transfer our whole communication system online. I turned to the sky and clouds as a place to breathe. With the sky, I remind myself to look up more, while clouds remind me of the few constant challenges that are always present but can be dealt with and blown away.
R.C.: To me, the "Clouds" paintings seem very relevant in current times: it seems the pace of life is get- ting faster and faster. In this series, the call for reflection and evaluation in life, business and media is strongly represented and made important. Yet, it seems that these moments are easily caught up by life and forgotten. From an artistic point of view, how do you personally relate to this subject?
Z.K.: Perhaps every one of us will need to develop the particular discipline to practice being in the moment and with one's self without the constant presence of the devices we are connected to. As an artist, I want the audience to understand that something unique and special can be experienced while fully engaged and being more in the moment, connected to the present. Visiting the theatre or cinema is a good example of time you fully invest in engaging with something for a particular period of time. With the "Clouds" paintings I wanted in a way to provide people with a calming tool for their busy lives, to give the energy and permission to take a deep breath and relax.
R.C.: You graduated with a bachelors degree in performing arts from the Brno Conservatory in the Czech Republic in 1997, after which you had a prominent career as a ballet dancer. How did you experience this period? How did this period shape you as a person and how can this period be seen in the context of you as an artist today?
Z.K.: Basically, I have been thrown into the world of theatre since my early childhood. I initially trained for nine years, after which I performed around the world for a period of sixteen years. On the one hand, it's a profession that requires one hundred percent dedication and discipline, while on the other you are part of an amazing creative machine. The theatre world combines a collaboration of different art forms in one performance. Choreography, music, scenography, costume design, lighting, storytelling - every element contributes to the communication of the idea, and under-appreciating just one detail can ruin the effectiveness of the whole performance. I think this is something I definitely apply to my current work as a painter and artist. I consider each of my artworks as a potential creator of an experience, and every detail contributes to that. I also think that movement - being part of my life and language for so long - is something that stayed with me, even as I moved to such an ostensibly static medium as painting. Whether through the way I apply the paint, layers, textures or light, it is important for me that my artworks contain a sense of movement for the viewer, so that they can breathe with them as beholders. In addition to living in different countries, moving around since I was nineteen taught me something about adaptation and resilience, as well as learning about and from different cultures and how they deal with making or facilitating art. These experiences have definitely made a lasting mark that I am now drawing from as a source into this new stage.
R.C.: What motivates you to make art? What are your motives and how do they relate to what you are trying to achieve with your art?
Z.K.: For me, making artworks is a tool and a vehicle for communication. It is my way of saying something, expressing myself or perhaps searching for solutions to something that troubles me. I zero in on a subject that I identify as a concern or a problem and then use that as a starting point for a series of works. For instance, the "DisPlay" paintings resemble displays and screens we look at and into all day long. Sometimes, it can be difficult to look at them for so long, as our eyes get tired and our minds become overloaded with information. As a remedy, I reduce the thousands of images into a simple peaceful play of colours. My "Clouds" paintings are more about encouraging us to look up to the sky and take a deep breath. These are also very much created as a response to our constantly increasing digital way of living.
R.C.: In your work you make extensive use of acrylic and spray paint on canvas. Why did you choose these materials?
Z.K.: In general, I am a little bit impatient and always like to move forward fast. So acrylic suits me, as it dries faster and is quite versatile. My process is a lot about overlaying, and with acrylics I can build layers much quicker. Moreover, spray has become a very intriguing tool for me. In some ways, the smooth application of paint without seeing the brushstrokes replicates the digital world for me. Likewise, I like the contrast it creates with the brushstrokes, and also how it allows me to control the thickness of the layers and create evanescent impressions.
R.C.: What is it that you would like to transfer to the audience during your show at COVA Art Gallery?
Z.K.: ”Just take a deep breath" is a sort of a call to action to pause, reflect and be in the moment, slow down and engage with the real world.
“Between two worlds“ , Jack Jones
“Between Two Worlds” exhibition presented throughout a network of rooms of Trebic’s Renaissance period ‘Painted House’, allows an ambitious theme of reflections on digital and lived experiences to be understood through a deliberate thought-process as if in conversation with the artist himself.
In his own words, Konvalina describes his DisPlay series as “a reflection on an increasingly prevailing digital lifestyle and how we are surrounded by and validate experiences through the screens.
Unnatural “photoshopped” colours, screens, Moiré effect, glitches inadvertently affect how we perceive the world around us and all become part of our memories and overall
Konvalina had already distinguished himself in a successful artistic career in ballet reaching the highest level of principal. This exhibition marks an arrival point of a methodical and deliberate transition from one artistic space to another and nearly 6 years of full-time dedication to painting. A proverbial homecoming of sorts after a global career. But understanding this brief snapshot of Konvalina helps to frame his process as a painter and the overarching theme the exhibition spans. His work oozes a rigorous and disciplined training of perfectly choreographed movements and shapes. There are moments of what appears accidental, but as in dance, the canvas’ stave-like surfaces demonstrate an unmistakable orchestration. The ephemeral splattering of paint allows a viewer to absorb entire experiences gradually rather than a confrontation of abstracted interpretations or alien hieroglyphs. The paintings are not literal translations of experiences but of collected impressions. One can find themselves relating their own past memories, places and events. Yet then again, are we just looking for faces in the clouds?
Throughout the show, Konvalina highlights a commonality between digital imagery and abstract painting. Boldly addressing a problematic void in which abstraction has always appeared to inhabit. There is a justifiable mistrust of imagery, particularly digital imagery that often leads its validity to be questioned. Photography once was seen as captured experience or evidence. But as we have all become acclimated as digital natives we all know how an image can tell a thousand lies. It is a difficult space and topic to navigate yet Konvalina’s work commands the gallery space confident enough to meet that challenge. It is especially in Room 3 that brings this matrix of ideas together with [insert painting title here]. The Combined painting hints at Konvalina’s next momentum. A prototype of ideas and technologies that the artist is refining to further hone his creative repertoire. It hint’s at the devaluation of digital reproduction but also the potential of being assisted by artificial intelligence and its generative possibilities.
Konvalina asks the question “should we be reminded to experience more of life physically” rather than peer and observe life through a screen? At first, it appears a self-answering question, but we live life and our perspective is based on memories, which are fragile reflections of truth at best.
“Take a deep breath”, Simone Vos
….The name “Just take a deep breath” does justice to the exhibition. The paintings all consist of small colour nuances that merge into each other. One work is reminiscent of a sunset, the other of a sky in which the clouds alternate. For example in Blue Orange Clouds, a life-size painting in which you drown.
Standing still is what you do for all works. To absorb colour changes and dreamy images, you have to. “Exactly what the artist wants to achieve”, says Covalenco.
The exhibition consists of two parts: the DisPlays and the Clouds series.
“Both themes are very topical. With DisPlay artworks, the artist reflects on the complexity of the contemporary, increasingly digital world. He consciously uses relief in his work; You only experience that properly when you see the artwork in real life. Konvalina calls people with this work to be in the present,” says the gallery owner. These acrylic paintings are slightly different from each points of view: the changing colour density and play of light and shadows continue to fascinate. One work puts it in the focus: on the edges of the relief it is written: Don't fool your-self. That makes us think: are we kidding ourselves in our digital bubble? Be the moment. With your head in the clouds you can safely take it literally. The soft pastels in combination with spray paint make the clouds realistic and calming. Covalenco: ”Zdenek Konvailina was once a top ballet dancer. Taking that background into consideration I think his work is even more beautiful. In ballet everything is framed and nuanced. I think it's great that he also shows those nuances in paintings. "
2020 “Take a deep Breath”, Cova Gallery, Solo show, Eindhoven, Netherlands
2020 “Screen time is up”, Artists Positions, Group show, Berlin, Germany
2019 "Edition 1.0" AXS ART, Group Show, Berlin, Germany
2019 “Screen Paintings" MtArt&Meeri Moilanen, Solo show, London, UK
2019 "Between Two Worlds", Painted House Museum, Solo show, Trebic, Czech Republic
2019 “Transmission Readiness” Azaro Art Spaces, group show, Hamburg, Germany
2019 “Open Ealing” curated by Jack Jones, group show, London, UK
2018 “Tanzenden Stern” MtArt, solo show, London, UK
2016 “Summer exhibition" Hatch House, Group Show, Somerset, UK
2016 "It's Ok To Come In", Open Ealing gallery, Group show, London, UK
2015 "All possible realities Exist”, Open Ealing gallery, Group show, London, UK
2017 Collaboration with Guelph Symphony, Live Performance/Painting, Guelph, Canada
2017 “Drop”, Set design for the choreographic lab, Deutsche Oper, Berlin, Germany
2010 “Impermanence”, Set design, Maggio Musicale, Florence, Italy
2010 "The Landscape”, collaboration with composer Guillaume Côte, set design, Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts, Toronto, Canada