Petr Pastrňák

* 1962

"It is up to each and every one of us what life we will decide to live. Such a decision, however, does not have to be permanent, precise or timely, and it may come whenever it wants and gradually as well as it may leave; the man will eventually end up dying anyway. The painter Petr Pastrňák came down to his painting gradually, later than usual. The question is whether he actually wanted to be a painter. He himself used to claim that he would be surprised by anyone ever being interested in his paintings. He graduated from the Prague Academy only after the Velvet Revolution, and attended the ateliers of Milan Knížák (1990—1992), Michal Bielický (1992—1994) and Jiří David (1994—1996). Due to the fact the he was born in February 1962, he was a relatively old student since Jiří David, before whom he finally defended his Diploma Thesis, came into the world only six years earlier. In mid 1990s Petr exhibited, besides his paintings, also slide installations, ready–made series of educational slides designed for school education in 1970s. Petr made them into a series projected onto a wall at a pleasant rhythm. It was unimportant that the scenes had social connotations; they were beautiful for Petr. He claimed that the art takes place inside the person who is watching. I believe this to be a key motto which can be used for getting closer to Petr’s decision to be a painter, to make paintings in his life and to have his paintings come to him and into him.

However, it would be erroneous to think that Pastrňák’s paintings come into existence with little conscious effort, easily and randomly despite the fact that their visual transparency and masterful aesthetic gesturing may induce such an impression. However, the creation of his paintings is not a difficult process; they do not have a programmed composition and are not preceded by studies, sketches, or complicated messages. Pastrňák’s paintings appear matter–of–factly in the space of the painter’s past and present existence, in an exact but undelimitable field open to proper living experience and search for the meaning of life. Petr Pastrňák himself wrote that is seems to him that his paintings form some sort of a diary. A diary in the sense of themes which are transformed into clear abstractions, serial stamps, forest landscapes or Czech literary panoramas, still lifes with aquarium fish, saint picture of Madonna and Buddha, portraits of wellknown and unknown people, nude pictures, butterflies … but also as a diary record of his own physical energy and state of mind, whose only trace is an image recording. The thing is that an artist as such is worthless, and the story of his life, no matter how interesting, nostalgic, tragic, happy and negligible it may be, is non–transferable, as any other life. Through his paintings, Peter might be communicating this experience of the substantial.

Lately he has been going to India to spend a couple of months each time, where he simply exists. He reduces his activity to the minimum and even in Prague, where he lives and creates, he cuts down on the external. Five or six years ago I wrote that, besides the influences of Eastern Asian thinking, the fascination by TV series was also playing its role; this does not hold true now. The television has disappeared and the sense of experience and living in time and space is emphasized. Petr makes his paintings at the time when he himself does not know what will be next. The only corrective elements is his own spectatorship and his viewing of a painting being created in spite of the fact that aesthetic experience gives a sound guarantee of his painting. He himself is also a grateful viewer and, while painting, he uses a method not dissimilar to Eastern Asian with its intuition of an indefinitely varied tradition and the memory of the history of painting as such, drawing his inspiration equally from Matisse (with his fish) and Gerhard Richter, badly framed school reproductions of the Czech landscape paintings of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the reactions to his colleague painters. However, the presence of motifs and principles is latent; substantial is the element of vibrant and exciting coincidence, which is limited or, on the other hand, animated by the technical possibilities of painting, colour, canvas or paper surface, splashing, roller coating, wash–drawing, or paint creeping. The result is always different and, at the same time, Pastrňák–like, unmistakable due to its exciting lightness bordering with the unbearable necessity to follow the brush–strokes on his paintings with one’s eyes over and over again.

Abstract creations, with which Petr successfully entered the Czech scene around 1995, is a leitmotif of his painting. After the initial density of lines, strokes and colours, the paintings become increasingly lighter and reduced, featuring a scale combination of a monochromatic scale of two or three colours. The Taoist experience is not picking out of the ink reality; it is a convinced and convincing attempt at transforming it into Western European image dispositions. The self–contained looseness is strengthened by cyclical series of more realistic paintings, in the past years especially by landscape painting, this including the Forests cycle (2003—2004) and, in the past two years, a series of transpositions of the already painted Czech landscape (summer landscapes by Adolf Kosárek, Junction of the Elbe and the Vltava by Chittussi and Filla’s landscapes from the Czech Highlands — created in late 1940s and early 1950s under the conscious and admiring influence of the Asian ink painting). Also in these cases, the same as in portraits, created by splashing especially at the end of the old millennium and the beginning of the new millennium, the loose balefulness of his brushwork soaks through into his paintings, masterful, ever–changing and experienced. Distractibility bordering with abstraction, obscured form and shapes, concealing and revealing of the depicted and depictable … all of these possibilities are only offered by painting. Petr’s choice to exist as a painter was correct."


Martin Dostál


Solo Exhibitions (selection)

1992 Linz, Austria, HIKG
1993 Frýdek-Místek, Gallery Fiducia
1996 Prague, Gallery Velryba
1997 Ostrava, Gallery Sokolovská 26
1997 Prague, Gallery MXM
1997 Ostrava, Gallery Černý pavouk
1999 Ostrava, Gallery Cigi, together with J. Špaňhel
2000 Prague, Gallery MXM
2001 Prague, Gallery Malá Špálovka
2001 Šternberk, Městská Gallery
2001 Prague, MXM, together with J. Špaňhel
2001 Prague, Credite Anstalt, together with J. Špaňhel
2003 Brno, Na Bidýlku
2004 Wien, Gallery Chobot
2004 Brno, Gallery ARS
2005 Prague, Gallery Louvre, LESY
2006 Prague, Gallery Česka pojišťovna, „Krajiny“
2007 Ostrava, Gallery Beseda, „Lesy a krajiny“
2007 Prague, VOXART, „Obrazy malované válečkem“
2007 Blansko City Gallery, „Obrazy 1996–2006“
2007 Kutná Hora, Gallery Felix Jenewein, „Ve větru“
2008 Prague, Gallery Senzor, „Petr Pastrňák Obrazy“
2008 Prague, Gallery ad astra , „Obrazy“
2008 Prague, Prinz Prager Gallery, „Z ateliéru“
2009 Jihlava, Oblastní Galerie Vysočiny, „Obrazy a krajiny“
2011 Prague, Václav Špála Gallery, „Hořící lesy“

Group exhibitions (selection)

1999 Linz, Austria, NETZ Europa
1994 Copenhagen, Denmark, Project for Europe
1995 Prague, Mánes
1995 Sarajevo, Bosna–Hercegovina, Project for Europe
1997 Konstanz, Germany, Neue tschechische Kunst
2000 Venezia, Italy, Bienále architektury
2000 Berlin, Germany, ÜberlebensKunst
2000 Kyjev, Ukraine, NO FLASH!
2004 Neuen Nachbarn, Baden Austria
2009 Berlin, Liste 09



National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic
Aleš South-Bohemian gallery in Hluboká nad Vltavou
Gallery of Modern Art Roudnice nad Labem
Ludwig Sammlung, Aachen
East Bohemian Gallery of Fine Arts, Pardubice
Wannieck gallery, Brno
Gallery of fine Arts, Ostrava
Oblastní galerie Vysočiny, Jihlava


Petre Pastrnak