Half-soft-fields I, 2018, 40 cm (H) x 40 cm (W), Oil on Canvas
Fields XI, 2013, Oil on canvas, 35 x 25 cm (H x W)
Fields V, 2011, 40 cm (H) x 40 cm (W), Oil on Canvas
Boskages IV, 2014, 40 cm (H) x 40 cm (W), Oil on Canvas
Evening, 2016, Oil on canvas, 35 x 25 cm
Tomáš Žemla was born in 1984 in Slovakia. He has kept on working on printmaking since his graduation from Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra in 2007 and participated in many art exhibitions in Slovakia and places across the world. He grew up in a small village in the flatlands of western Slovakia and was affected by the local forest and his agronomist father. Fields series was his signature artworks. By changing his perceptive and observation method continuously while he was looking at the fields, he found his way in capturing the atmosphere with his painting method.
Tomáš talked about why he painted fields below.
Fields are an identification code for me. Fields are part of my identity, a part of how I have learned to live.
I grew up in a small village in the flatlands of western Slovakia, with few opportunities to get away, in the middle of fields that were clearly identified as a cultivated piece of land, a means of production and making a living. At that time fields did not come across to me as a source of strong visual perception.
But even though I might have been unaware of that, they have been deposited within my subconscious.
I remember the moments of my childhood, those endless hot summers that I and my friends would spend in the shadows of the bushes and trees in the boscages that divide fields from each other. We would build our bunkers to play and dams out of the mud in the draining canals.
In my family, the respect to the field as such has been part of our DNA code. My father is an agronomist by profession, and therefore fields have played an important role in his life and the life of his family.
Having said this, it is clear to see why my artworks are centred around fields. As time progressed, my view of the fields has changed, going from their physical, bread-giving importance, to the source of a significant visual impulse.
I see fields as a vast source of visual opportunities, such as their absolute horizontality, the perspective of infinity, their purity, the minimalism bordering on utility.
Beside these formal characteristics, there are deeper perceptions that fields leave with me, in their details that I came to love over the years: the wind gusts that turn the fields into a wavy sea surface, the transformation of the wheat spikelets, when within a few days the tops of the plants grow ripe and yellow while the bottom parts are still green, the whole process that makes one and the same field look very different in different moments in time: covered in snow, freshly ploughed, or just harvested. I see a great visual sense in each such moment of this process.
In my works, I try to capture this atmosphere of the fields using my own painting technique. I proceed by painting tiny lines, one next to another, almost always in many layers. The final picture is made of hundreds of thousands of tiny lines that overlap and help me convey the impression of my imagination. In the small spaces between the little lines that I call the inter-layer space, details emerge that remind me of the knowledge about the fields that I have captured and perceived throughout my life.
I preserve strict horizontality in my artworks and in the way I plan the space. That horizontality is very characteristic for me, I often change colours, because it is not just the original that is important to me but also the feeling and the perception that has changed over time and during the artistic process.
I like expressing myself through narratives: in absolute minimality, I put forward a certain naturalistic detail that shifts the perception of the image from abstract to natural. This is probably my favourite part of the artistic process, when I erase the lines between the abstract image, translate it into naturalist, and then back to abstract. It is an infinite process of creation, and of erasing the limits of my visual perception.
In the recent years I have worked my way from painting to naturalist graphic, which is simultaneous with my painting technique.
Using the aquatint technique I draw tiny lines on a copper plate. I create several matrixes that I then colour with various colours during the print. The result is printed in the form of layered print. This allows me to create an impression similar to my painting technique. That is the reason why I do not like to be labelled a painter or a printmaker. That is not how I see myself. For me, the technique does not constitute the character of the artist but merely completes and enriches it. This way, I have been able to study field forms from several angles, regarding form, content, and technique. I keep discovering new possibilities of representation.
2015 Actuel, Le magazine de “Parlons gravure” n.4
2018-2019 Pollock-Krasner Foundation 2018-19 Artist Grantees
2017 Honorable mention, International Print Biennale Jose Guadalupe Posada Museum,
José Guadalupe Posada, Aquascalientes, Mexico
2014 Third prize, International Print Biennale Bucharest, Russia
2016 International printmaking base Guanlan, China
2014 International Print-making symposium Mojmirovce, Slovakia
2018 International printmaking base Guanlan, China
2019 Discovery Art Cologne, Cologne, Germany
2019 Definition of the field, Jan Čejka Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic
2018 Fields continued, Gallery DLUL, Ljubljana, Slovakia
2018 Testimony of minimalism man touched land, Exit 11 gallery, Chateau de Petit-Leez, Belgium
2016 Čina, Terra Parna Gallery, Suchá nad parnou, Slovakia
2015 In Detail, Gallery at the Golden rooster, Prague, Czech Republic
2014 Lost in boskage, M'ART PRINT GALLERY, Veľké Zálužie, Slovakia
2013 WOF, Gallery Manziolijeva Palača, Izola, Slovakia
2013 WOF, Gallery Insula, Izola, Slovakia
2013 Fields, Gallery Fontána, Piešťany, Slovakia
2011 TZARA, Gallery UIC, Stará Bystrica, Slovakia
2011 Kontexts, Gallery of Renassaince manchor house, Galanta, Slovakia
2010 Terra Mirabilis, Gallery Klub u Luisa, Krakow, Poland
2010 Place for traditions , Gallery Guba, Bratislava, Slovakia
2009 Art of wine tasting, Terra Parna, Suchá nad parnou, Slovakia
2009 Invariants, Gallery Byzant, Bratislava, Slovakia
2007 Diplomovka, Gallery Univerzum, UKF Nitra, Slovakia
Exhibition in International Art Competitions
2018 VI Biennale International de grabado aquafuerte, Valladolid, Spain
2018 4th International small etching Biennale, Timisoara, Russia
2017 International print Biennale José Guadalupe Posada Museum J. G. Posada, Aquascalientes, Mexico
2017 The 10th Kochi International Triennial Exhibition of Prints, Ino-cho Paper Museum, Kochi, Japan
2017 Just under 100, International Print Center New York, New York, USA
2017 BIECTR, Biennale internationale d'estampe contemporaine de Trois-Rivières, Canada
2017 INTERNATIONAL PRINT BIENNALEE YEREVAN, Armenia
2017 Guanlan International Print Biennale 2017, China
2016 International Print Biennale Bucharest, Russia
2016 The First Xuyuan International Print Biennial, Peking, 2016, China
2016 V. International Printmaking Competition Istanbul, 2016, Turkey
2015 Guanlan International Print Biennale 2015, China
2015 International Biennial of Ex Libris Malbork 2015, Poland
2015 Ex Libris Expo Milano 2015, Italy
2014 Celebrating print 2014 New York, USA
2014 International Print Biennale Bucharest, Russia
2012 International Drawing Triennal Wroclaw, Poland
2012 International Biennale of Arts in Santorini, Greece