In the Studio with Filip Švehla

In the studio with Filip Svehla, whose works focus is on the exploration of colours in relation to urban space, architecture, and living space. We met with Filip to tell us more about growing up in Prague, what inspired them to first pursue their artistic journey, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I remember situation when I was about to apply for an artschool but I was not sure about it that time, my teacher just simply asked me: “Do you not want to be as Monet?” and than I realized “ Ou woow, these are not just stories from books, you can actually make your own story.”

 Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?

I grew up in Prague, which is beautiful city with rich history, full of historical monuments and kind of romanticism in the air. I think it had some impact on me. My grandma used to live in baroque rectory near Prague, where I spent every holiday. I still have in my mind few pictures of details of that building which had strong effect on me as a boy. I also remember specific smell of that building, changing atmosphere and humidity in rooms when you were walking through. I think this established few of my later interests as an artist. 

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice artistic work?

The most important point in my artistic journey was meeting a teacher at elementary art school. I was around 13 years old and as usuall it was all mess for me. I was more interested in music that time but I liked graffiti and I drew into my school notebooks. The teacher there was great personality, he communicated with us as we would be adult artists, he gave us really difficult questions and he approached our childish works with total respect as it would be true pieces of art. That became fascinates me and i started to fall in love with painting. It became obsession and I usually came home from school and painted even after that in the evenings. I painted actually every free time. Later on I decided to apply for the Art Academy. When I came there first I immediately saw this is what I want. That artistic mess, smell of freedom and creativity caught me, I met many interesting people there and I knew I am on the right path. 

What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from?

With more years I paint my interest in formal problems of painting increases. I would call myself a form-lover. If I should name one main message in my work it would be admiration of physical world – living through five senses – transformed to form and colors. More specifically it is admiration of space we live in, an urban space and searching for its qualities for human life. 

Who & what are your greatest influences? 

I had few influences during my art journey and it is still evolving. In the beginnings I admired Leon Golub for his tough and generous style. Later on I gained big admiration to Morandi and Balthus. But there are also historical interests like early Romanesque art and Indian miniature.  In general I focus myself on colorist traditions of painting from Giotto to Albers, from Ravenna to Hodgkin.

An unexpected source of inspiration?

I have two musical inspirations. First is gregorian chant and second evolving in last two years is islamic music, which both fascinates me. Other source of inspiration I see in architecture which I love to observe.

What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?

I do not think about audience to much, the most importantly I want to please myself, but on the other hand I expect my works to be good fellows. I want them you could live with them, see them every day and find always something interesting about them. I remember one story when Mattise recount how he had Bonnard´s painting at home and that he admired how every day with different light the painting was changing and he still was finding something new about them. This seems to me as true mastery. 

What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? 

To me was absolutely crucial my one year stay in Valencia, Spain where I moved after graduation. I heard stories from older colleagues how difficult is to continue working after leaving university and I did not want that, I did not want to stop painting. So I just moved there with my friend, we rented an old garage as a studio and apartment in one and we just do nothing else than swimming in the sea and painting. It was all pretty romantic idea to live like that, but it paid off. I am coming from country where there is not to much sun, so full experience of that wonderful light and colors all around was truly liberating. I learned a lot there and my style has changed. I stopped thinking more about literal meaning of my paintings and found huge freedom in abstract approach toward painting. That year it was really a game changer for me.


What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?

I am usually starting from unsure idea, something I saw or some idea which had appeared in previus work. I start painting but there is usually that crutial moment when it all fails and I must reconsider my vision of the painting, destroy it somehow and start again. Per Kirkeby calls it “Build upon ruins” and that is actually exactly what I feel. The paintings of mine which I like the most are usually ones which I had to destroy in some moment and recreate something new upon their ruins.

Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?

 Untitled 1 – Behind this painting there is my journey to Jordan. I admire sensual richness of middle and far east. This collection of painting was directly inspired by wondering around the city of Amman, its rectangular architecture which can resemble the hive conglomerate and in all that regular structures you can always see “hand it was made by”. It is about periodical structure which is also subversive at the same time.

Something in the future you hope to explore?

Right now I am in Miami for artist residency, so I hope it will have new impact for my work, that I will surprise myself which is always the best moment. After my coming back home I expect to do few of sculptures as well, so lets see what it will bring 😉