A different dimension
Accomplished Czech glass artist Josef Marek focuses on simplicity of shape, enriched with cold working techniques like cutting and polishing, on the surface and within, to create his mesmerising work that transports the viewer. Linda Banks finds out more.
What led you to start working with glass?
As a boy, I was impressed by a polished crystal Eiffel Tower sculpture, with reflections that created a 3D image inside the glass. What an illusion that was!
Later, my father sent me to study at glass school and from that point I knew this was what I wanted to do. In those days I had the great example and influence of living glass pioneers from the Czech Republic’s glass movement, such as Jan Fisar, René Roubíček and Professor Kopecký, as well as many other respected artists who were using glass as a fine art material.
What glass techniques have you used, and which do you prefer?
I use mostly remelted glass in the mould as I need to work on the shape longer without the stress of burning too much gas, as some blowers are trying successfully. However, I am familiar with all glass techniques. The method I choose depends on the effect I need for a particular artistic expression.
You have travelled widely. How has this influenced your glass work?
While living in Japan, Japanese culture shaped my aesthetics, and my work became purer and simpler. It began to reflect the serenity of the Japanese Alps, Mount Fuji, the beauty of, and principles behind, their gardens, as well as the old wooden shrines that were built without any nails.
What is your creative approach? Do you draw your ideas out or dive straight in with the materials?
First, I imagine my ideas in my head, whenever I have a bit of free time. Then I must certainly draw them out, in order to resolve any possible problems that could come up later with the material, as well as to ensure that the design is exactly what I want. Sometimes the dreams are impossible to draw. There are many unrealised drawings that have not materialised. Once I am satisfied with the drawing, I can move on to prepare the 3D model and mould for casting.
What message(s) do you want to convey through your art?
Well, this is quite a question. I do not know what I want to say through the art. I want people seeing my work to feel transported to a different world, to have their tired minds refreshed and taken away from the everyday routine of the three dimensional, non-spiritual world.
I know that through this extraordinary material I can create illusions that show reality through different eyes. This material has very special, magical characteristics. For me, it is the material form of an ideal Platonic world. There is something in it that can only be felt, not seen, or spoken.
Do you have a favourite piece you have made? Why is it your favourite?
Usually, my newest sculpture is my most favourite at the time. It is important for me to have a few works on display, so I can learn from them and develop ideas.
Where do you show and sell your work?
My work is in major galleries, museums, private art collections and foundations.
What advice would you give to someone starting out on a creative career?
if you mean a career working with glass, I think it is almost impossible. I would not be able to start my own studio now. Today the situation is completely different from 30 years ago when we were starting out. To set up a studio requires a lot of investment and the results do not pay back quickly. So, if there is no rich sponsor, it is better to have another occupation or business generating enough income to support glass as a creative hobby.
The biggest disadvantage of working with glass is the cost. This is the biggest barrier to using glass freely for fine art expression, with the exception of the Arte Povera – or ‘poor art’ – approach, of course.
I am excited to announce the launch of a new glass studio and gallery – 3MJArt – in the Czech Republic, featuring a permanent exhibition and sale of contemporary art by my partner Malvina Middleton and me. 3MJArt is at: Jablonné v Podještědí Zdislavy z Lemberka 145, Czech Republic. Open by appointment.
It is my pleasure to be member of the Contemporary Glass Society and to connect with so many creative people. I am looking forward to participating in future CGS exhibitions!
About the artist
Between 1978 and 1982 Josef Marek was educated at the Kamenický Šenov secondary school of glass art. From 1982 to 1986 he worked as a glass worker at Crystalex in Nový Bor. He was also an art and craft teacher, SOÚ sklářské, Kamenický Šenov, before joining experimental glass studio Umělecká řemesla, in Prague, as designer and director of art glass (1989-1990).
After the ‘Velvet Revolution’ of 1989, when admission to a school was not based on political views, he was accepted at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague. From 1990-1996 he studied Glass in Architecture at the University of Arts and Architecture, Prague, with a year at Alfred University in New York, US, from 1994-1995.
Between 1997 and 2000 he was visiting professor at Toyama City Institute of Glass Art, Japan.
He has exhibited around the world. His work is in international, public collections and he has won many prizes and awards.
Today, Josef splits his time between the Czech Republic and Cyprus.
Find out more via his website: www.josefmarek.com
Main feature image: This piece combines Josef’s aim of simple form with contrasting texture.
All photos: Jiri Koudelka.