Martin Vála

*1984, Prague

A fundamental quality of my work is the need for intensity, fullness and a complex variety of details in which I perceive a small independent world full of minor points of fascination.  I have a whole collection of such points of fascination, which is constantly changing, and I attach multilayered interpretive significance to them. They include details in nature, car grills, railings, water, bicycles and many more. Each image should have a cohesive physical energy that carries a certain vision. It could also be something like a giant, larger-than-life cow wallowing in the mud in a corner of an overgrown garden (this is one of the nightmares that informs my work).

Wheels constitute a personal mythology in my work, as do various features on mostly older types of cars. I am fascinated by the ingenious banality of the wheel. I also refer to the text of the first chapter of Ezekiel: The Vision of God’s Glory. The prophet sees four beings with wheels beneath them (there are even wheels within wheels, so that they can move in all directions). The wheels are synergistically connected to each being, but not part of it. The main point here is that the spirits of these beings are in the wheels (Ez 1:15-16). I find the trivial functionality of the wheel fascinating, as if it were a prank that the universe is permitted to nearly break its own rules when we drive through the countryside.

I would like to convey and describe to the spectator the awe, or horror, that, in a fairly positive sense, these fascinations of the ordinary world evoke in me. It is like the face of a huge, visually intangible being without facial features but with a thousand eyes. I perceive some ordinary items or elements in a similar terror to that experienced by my friend’s disabled cousin, who is not allowed to watch cartoons and animated series. My aim is to bring the viewer into an illusory landscape where these elements can be found.

For me, the process of creation is not so important. The technique usually emerges quite intuitively during the process and sometimes a new one is created, which I then use in the next image. But this is not significant for me in any way. I’m more concerned with the result. I don’t think in layers, or anything like that. But what is important is the particular color I choose, which often makes a breakthrough in the development of the whole painting. Sometimes I paint the canvas upside down to be sure of its overall functionality, or I turn it in different ways, move it to different places and wait for the moment when it is already filled up enough to start surprising me. Another powerful tool is the magnifying glasses which help me look at the image with double sets of eyes during the process, using both healthy and blurred vision. Without glasses, which I don’t normally wear, I can see more surface area, light and dark spots in the image. With them, I then look at the canvas as others might see it and focus on the detail.

Martin Vála, 2022