Exploring the Wasteland with Victor Holeček

V Holeček’s pencil drawings and acrylic paintings evoke an other-worldly realm that is earthy and engrossing. His darkly surreal landscapes are deliciously organic but filled with post apocalyptic, dystopian wrecks with outsized bones and skulls littering the environment. Death is a recurrent theme in his work, sometimes in bleak iconography, sometimes with a subversive humour such as in Bobo of Ulthar which immediately appears to be a mere portrait of a grumpy looking cat surrounded by glowing eyes but takes on a different tone when the eye falls to the bottom of the page where a flaccid and grey human hand lays. He also creates these arresting bastardisations of classic images, with targets including portraiture of a Renaissance style angelic woman who is afflicted with a pig’s snout and trotters and absence of eyes (in Das Tierdrama), George Washington with black anime-proportioned eyes and tentacles (in In His House at V’mon, Dead Washington Waits Dreaming) and American Gothic (in Amerikan Gothique, shown). His inspirations include H.R. Giger, Zdzislaw Beksinski, Darius Zawadski, Chet Zar, Lori Earley, Hieronymous Bosch, Aunia Khan, and Glenn Arthur.

 

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Dresden Airship, coloured pencil drawing.

 

Holeček recalls “I have fragmented memories of a book of Czech origin around the house when I was very young that had one particular illustration of Death coming to call at a house as this skeletal figure mounted on horseback. I couldn’t read the book but the image left an impression. [At one point] One of my older step-sisters who had a notable rebellious streak brought home a copy of H.R. Giger’s Necronomicon, and I sat and poured through the pages pretty intensely for the rest of the evening. I had seen Alien, and I’ve always been that kind of kid. I was profoundly drawn to terribly visceral elements, so to suddenly be handed an entire book of images cut from the same primal fabric as Alien was my gateway drug to a whole host of stylistically-related artists.”

“I actually didn’t learn to express myself as a child…at least not artistically. That came later. As a child I obsessed over the raw mechanics of it. I created images explicitly to create an image for its own sake; there was no much further intent beyond that. I wanted to draw things that looked like things rather than concern myself about any sort of message that might be conveyed by it. Even to this day, while I’ve become more expressive, messaging is still secondary to the mechanics of the image. I see the argument altogether too often that art is supposed to be all about expression, and honestly I think that’s asinine. Expression without some semblance of discipline is just puerile narcissism. It’s the mentality of a toddler. A three-year-old is quite capable of expressing, but lacks the order of language to make effective communication. But everyone wants to jump straight to the expressing without putting in the hours and demand to be taken just as seriously as the artist who painstakingly renders a fruit still life. This in itself wouldn’t be so bad if the former didn’t harbor such smug attitudes toward the latter. By the way some of them act you’d think that working that hard on something was some kind of social disease.”

 

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Amerikan Gothique, acrylic on canvas.

 

Of his development, he goes on to tell me “I’m largely self-taught. While I don’t have anything against art schools in theory, I don’t think they serve the purposes of fine artists anymore. Art schools are fine for people studying to become graphic designers or animators or things of that nature, but I think fine artists are really better-served in residency programs. Art school is a waste of time and money for an aspiring fine artist.”

 

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Urlaubsfotos, acrylic on canvas.

 

Holeček says that “We all have our own darkness even if we don’t all deal with it the same way.” and rejects “the idea that liking dark things mean you’re obliged to act like a morose asshole. But I know that there is some resonance in [dark artworks] for some people, each for their own reasons. Some people like anything with angry angles and drab colors. Others are looking for the symbolism, perhaps as a proxy for asserting their own identity in the world. Some people want to push it away altogether while others want to take it out for a walk.

“My clients and patrons seem to come from everywhere and every walk of life. Sometimes they even surprise me. They run the gamut of political leanings, professions, and across borders. I had a client from Boston who just wanted me to do a “ghost taco” (Ghost Taco) with no further direction than that. Another patron from Australia wanted a creepy drawing of his cat (Bobo of Ulthar), and one of my more regular patrons who is also a good friend is a former comic book shop owner who just seems to love everything that spills out of my head. About the only common thread that I can really seem to tie all my fans and patrons together with is that they are buying the art for the art, rather than as a simple decorative consideration. They’re not buying what they think will go with the drapes, but beyond that they’re all over the board. If nothing else it has taught me never to presume too much about a person.”

 

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Beyond the Wall, coloured pencil drawing.

 

In U.S. society (where “the most American thing I can think of is exercising an unrealistically-idealized vision of what being an American means.”) he detects diverse enemies to freedom of expression, “The binding thread is moral authoritarianism. Some days it’s the religious right. Other days its radical feminists or social justice warriors. They all want a lot of the same things; which is to be able to tell you what you’re allowed to say, do, or enjoy. The person who wants to rule the world and the person who wants to save it are altogether too often one-in-the-same. They both employ divisive messaging and cultivate a binary society where everything that isn’t in line with their own message is the work of the enemy, whether that enemy is the Devil, Muslims, the Patriarchy, Big Pharma, immigrants, homosexuals, et al…the practice and methodology are the same. They’re all subscribers to their own flavour of moral absolutism. There is no alternative viewpoint or middle ground. They rely entirely upon appeals to emotion and are undeterred even in the face of any evidence you care to present them with. They are the drones of their respective collectives.

 

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Medico della Peste, acrylic on canvas.

 

“I think that any time two or more cultures become intermingled, a certain amount of assimilation is necessary for both sides in order to establish equilibrium. That’s never an easy process and frequently gets messy in the turbulence that ensues as everyone tries to figure out where everyone else’s boundaries are and what boundaries they should set accordingly. Of course it never actually plays out with that level of self-aware civility, but the process is still running regardless. Like with all processes in nature, it’s not always pretty or idyllic, and sometimes it gets pretty fucking ugly before it gets sorted.”

 

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Landscape VII, coloured pencil drawing.

 

Politically, “I don’t lean reliably in any particular direction. I take each issue as a standalone and decide for myself how I think and feel about it, rather than let some sort of group affiliation make that decision for me. The consequence of that is that people on both sides tend to hate people like me while at the same time maintain a constant effort to get us to either fit into their peg hole or force us into the other. They’re like the cable companies of politics; they want you to buy their bundle package rather than make your own opinions a la carte. To me, that is the greatest act of resistance against the powers that be. That which is amorphous is harder to predict and therefore harder to control.”

Where Presidential candidates are concerned “On the left I’m in the Bernie Sanders camp because of the demonstrable history that he’s always put his money where his mouth has been. The fact that the bulk of the media has been actively trying to ignore him or spin the situation in Clinton’s favour has pushed me further into the Sanders camp. I’ve already voted for him in my state’s primary (Missouri). The fact that he didn’t challenge Missouri being called for Clinton despite a razor-thin margin that could have easily been within the margin for error because he didn’t want to waste the taxpayer’s money on it speaks volumes, although, pragmatically-speaking Missouri already splits the delegates so it’s likely he already knew the outcome would not have been significantly different. At any rate, I like a person who knows how to pick his battles intelligently. On the right, I had my hat in the ring for Kasich or Rubio, respectively, because while I didn’t agree with all their stances, they seemed like the lesser of the crazies and actually seemed like they could hold their own in the general election. Its unfortunate that first they had to survive the primaries, but so far Kasich is still in the game, but I can’t see him making any further significant headway, mostly because of Trump. I’m not a believer in American Exceptionalism, but rather think that it will be our undoing as a nation, so while I think Trump would pair well with our current congress in being all bluster and no substance, I cannot in good conscience put my support behind such a person.”

 

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Drahousek, coloured pencil drawing.

 

Holeček takes an active role in the art scene, moderating the Reddit Artstore (http://www.reddit.com/r/artstore) , where he works to “make the community easy not just for artists, but also for patrons. Getting artists there is the easy part. Artists are usually over abundant in these types of communities, so while do our best to make sure the artists are not being preyed upon in our community (we don’t allow things like spec work posts), we also take a lot of trouble to make it nice for buyers and patrons to browse, otherwise what’s the point?” He also has an impressive resume of collaborative works, having been exhibited widely, contributed to a book called Creepy Romance and designed a band logo and album cover, as well as having “done a couple of projects for an independent filmmaker out of NYC by the name of Omar Iturriaga who I met through one of the Reddit art communities. The first of which was a poster for his film The Rotten Monk (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3767054/). Omar has this lovely dark kind of post-Catholic sensibility. Often-times I’m given very little direction to start with, which is typically how I prefer to operate. The more vague your idea is, the more room I have to expand or explore it from a creative standpoint. But anyone who has worked with me will tell you that I’m very involved and I involve the client in the process a lot because I hate making a lot of progress on something only to find out that I’m headed in a direction that the client hates, so I do tons of progress updates back and forth.”

V Holeček’s atmospheric body of work is a divine nightmare made all the more mysterious by being crafted by such a grounded man. Originals and prints can be purchased here http://schamballah.com/ where you can also pore over his gallery and find out about events.

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