Adam Jílek

“Painting totally absorbed me”

Adam Jílek, Painter and Printmaker

Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive

Adam Jílek is a young talented Czech artist whose distinctive images will affect anyone with a little bit of perception. “I paint human characteristics embedded in an animal form, I take inspiration from all around me,” he says. “It is not always about light topics or positive human qualities. Animals are often seen as fragile, and untainted by negative human qualities such as resentment, evil, or envy. Through the animal, especially its face, I can convey these topics in a much more digestible form.”

We have briefly introduced you in the introduction to this interview. Can you add some more words for those who do not know you yet?

For those who do not know me, I am a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. I paint realistic pictures, with the central motif of animals. I endow them with human qualities. It is a kind of satire, with a touch of humor and exaggeration.

What made you become an artist?

To some extent, it was more of a coincidence, or perhaps fate. I’ve always enjoyed painting, but I never planned to do it more, or even make a living out of it. I played baseball at the top level, and when I was choosing a high school I chose an art school based on the light tuition, and also to have more time for sports. After starting, painting absorbed me, and my life changed almost 180 degrees. It was a process before I„learned“ the various basics, crafts, and other procedures. But suddenly I started creating something that could be physically seen and had lasting value. And that consumed me. Creating is a basic human need, it gives a person meaning.

You say that painting absorbed you. Have you had any other life adventures besides it?

There were a lot of them, but I usually have the most intense experiences from traveling. I like to travel, and often enjoy exploring nature. I like the experience of a hike when I only have a backpack and an old phone, and I’m in the mountains for a week. One of the last intense experiences was in Iceland, when our car broke down and we had to walk several tens of kilometers to look for help in the nearest village. Or, a slightly worse moment (although thankfully with a good ending too), was when I was walking through the rocky valley and at one point a large part of the rock above me broke off and huge chunks of rock started to fall from it. I was stuck and scared, and the stones were falling everywhere and bounced off of each other. I was there alone. It only lasted a few minutes, but it felt like forever. That was probably one of the worst moments ever.

Adam Jílek, Painter and Printmaker

It looks like your life really is full of experiences. Which would you say were most significant to you?

As I said, I like to travel, explore nature, do recreational sports, and also visit historical monuments and interesting places – not only in the Czech Republic.

I really enjoy architecture and design. I keep collecting many experiences throughout my life. However, the most demanding one was the death of my professor at the university. It was very unexpected, and it hit me hard. It took me a while to process. This event also significantly influenced my further functioning at the university and in my work.

You were born in Prague. What effect does that have on your work?

I never thought about it, to be honest. But, probably due to the mindset and the fact that it is simply a bigger city, people are open to art. It is everywhere, in all spheres of life. There are also several art schools here. And, last but not least, there are contacts and opportunities here to present my work.

From left: Pavlína Prokešová, CEO, RealLocate with Adam Jílek and Jaromír Šimek from JT Banka at “Art for sharing” charity art community

Who are your biggest artistic influences?

There are many artists (who have influenced me). I love and admire the old masters. I am fascinated by classical painting, which was created without all the possible technological conveniences of today. From the preparation process, through mixing colors and stretching the canvas, to the technique itself and the precision of the painting.

As part of my studies, I changed several professors, and have tried different styles and techniques. This turbulent period of study was reflected in every phase of my work, including the current one. I was and still am close to Professor Zdeněk Beran.

Where do you find your motivation?

I wouldn’t be able to live without painting. I just enjoy the process – the peace of sitting down at the easel and being alone and painting. Since I paint human characteristics embedded in an animal form, I take inspiration from all around me – both from my personal experiences and my feelings about society (which is widely divided), and from the absurdities and senselessness of humanity, such as wars and similar events that have been repeating forever. It is not always about light topics or positive human qualities. Animals are often seen as fragile, and untainted by negative human qualities such as resentment, evil, or envy. Through the animal, especially its face, I can convey these topics in a much more digestible form, lightheartedly, often with humor and exaggeration. Thanks to this, the meaning remains somewhat hidden. It also lets me play with the double entendre. My goal is not to serve and impress upon the viewer my idea with which I painted the picture, but rather the opposite: I’m happy when everyone interprets the picture in their own way.

When is your favorite time of day to create?

I prefer to create in the evening, when there are no distractions. I love autumn and winter. It is dry and cold outside, while in the studio it is calm and warm. I play my favorite music and paint.

We met at a social charity event. Is art important to society today?

I think it is important, and very much so. Art captures the present, or at least the current social mood, of the time in which the artist lives. And although many times the current generation does not appreciate it at the time, it is very valuable in retrospect to look at the given time through individual works. And you don’t always have to be able to read between the lines to understand what the author wanted to say with the work – through it, you can absorb the atmosphere of the given period, and the feelings of its author and society. It develops human imagination and fantasy. I cannot imagine life without music, literature, and visual arts.

Dress design for Beata Rajská

You created a fashion collection with Beata Rajská. Are you planning more collaborations in the future?

Our collaboration came about completely by chance. Over time, we met at various social events until one day, while talking, we thought that we could come up with something together. Beata already had ideas for her new collection in her head. She had a certain idea, and I tried to portray it here. It succeeded, and you already know the result.

I am very happy about that. I respect Beata, not only as an excellent designer but above all as a person. I don’t have anything similar planned yet, but I’m not opposed to further collaborations. I like it when I can go beyond the boundaries of classical painting – it gives my work a completely different dimension.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Professionally, I hope to keep creating. I can‘t imagine life without painting, it is everything to me. I would like to establish myself more abroad. I often think about the future, but I would not like to fixate on specific ideas and plans.