Ondřej Mestek’s paintings visit skiers, and the past and future of ski resorts in the Krkonoše Mountains

Ondřej Mestek’s paintings visit skiers, and the past and future of ski resorts in the Krkonoše Mountains

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Wandering through nature, the majestic beauty of the mountains and the atmosphere of ski resorts both today and in the past are the main sources of inspiration for painter Ondrej Mestek. His heart lies in the Krkonoše Mountains, which he considers unique for both their size and dangerous nature. His work connects figures and objects in the landscape. He explores skiing as a phenomenon closely linked to the mountain environment and as one that bridges generations.

Ondřej Mestek, Untitled, 2019. Source: author’s archive

Ondřej Mestek is fascinated by mountain ridges, views down the ski slopes and distant peaks seen from the summit. Although he has hiked up many hills and mountains, he is most inspired by Krkonoše. “The Krkonoše Mountains are the first mountain range in the way of the Northern wind and currents. They are older than the Alps. Their climate is sometimes similar to that of Nordic countries," the artist describes.

The painter has known the Krkonoše Mountains since childhood and even used them in his graduation project

He has been familiar with the tallest Czech mountain range since childhood. „I’ve been tied to the Krkonoše Mountains ever since I was born. I remember being pre-school age and my first downhill rides, falls and the first joy of snow,“ Ondřej Mestek recalls. He and his family travelled not only to the Czech mountains but also to the Swiss and Austrian Alps. „I owe my love for skiing and winter sports to my parents who are great athletes and lovers of mountains, hiking and nature,“ he adds.

Ondřej Mestek, Skokani (Jumpers) I., II. and III., 2021. Source: author’s archive

The painter chose mountains and Krkonoše specifically as a topic for his graduation project at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. „My thesis started with a long stay in Horním Maršov – Temný Důl, which isn’t so swamped with tourists. It is located in a deep dark valley where the sun shows itself for only a short time during the day. I was interested in observing human ‘nature’ - the disruption in pure nature in contrast with architecture or objects in the dark, lonely landscape,” he explains.

The image of the past recalls defunct ski flying hills and once-popular Artis skis

He borrowed the project’s title from Atris, a popular ski brand in its time. "The Artis skis stuck in the snow in front of the buffet or under the hill lived together as Artis and Beta, like right and left skis cutting into the corduroy of the slope. Naming the set Artis Beta symbolised my long-term interest and the phenomenon of human intervention in the mountain landscape," he described.

Ondřej Mestek, Untitled, 2019. Source: author’s archive

The artist is drawn to skiing as a phenomenon influencing the shape of the mountain landscape, he notices skiers as well as resorts abandoned after their departure. He also looks back to the past. In one of his paintings, for example, he depicted the now-defunct ski jumps in Špindlerův Mlýn. "The existential atmosphere here is illustrated by the gloomy colour of the painting," he explained.

Ondřej Mestek, G. B. 1939, 2021. Source: author’s archive

He also created paintings inspired by Gustav Berauer, the ace of downhill skiing and a native of Pec pod Sněžkou. "His whole story is absolutely fascinating. He was an excellent skier and a pioneer in downhill skiing. In 1941, he won the Maiskirennen race, which stretched from Studniční Mountain to Obří důl," says the painter who depicted the famous skier in the painting G. B. 1939, where he is pictured as a figure biting into the slope after an avalanche.

Details complete the atmosphere of solitude

In addition to skiers, Ondřej Mestek also captures small details in his paintings to illustrate the atmosphere, such as an empty ski lift. "In my work, I try to connect the figures and objects to the landscape. The atmosphere of solitude is important to me in a painting. Whether it's a swinging cable car over a mountain cliff, an abandoned ski slope, or a solitary downhill skier or jumper on a white slope," he describes the connection of specific people or objects with landscape painting, which his project was based on, with a later addition of the figural motif.

Ondřej Mestek, Stoh, 2018. Source: author’s archive

Ondřej Mestek’s oil paintings can be admired in the Veselý výlet gallery in Pec pod Sněžkou until this June. In a joint exhibition with photographer Pepa Dvořáček, with whom Ondřej Mestek has been friends since childhood and with whom he shares his love for the mountains, you will see Krkonoše landscapes, downhill skiers and ski jumpers. Although they use different media, their work is united by the combination of landscape and figure motifs.

They exhibited together before, in 2017 at the Dix Grinding Plant in Temný Důl, and are planning another joint project this summer, also in Pec pod Sněžkou in the Krkonoše Mountains.

Ondřej Mestek. Source: author’s archive

Ondřej Mestek studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague from 2012 to 2018 in the atelier of painting under Professor Jiří Sopek and later under Robert Šalanda. He is characterized by situational painting, the theme of mountains and mountain hiking. He often depicts stories of mountain people, motifs of solitude and loneliness in the mountains, but also ski resorts or mountain huts.

Ondřej Mestek, Trojka (Three), 2022. Source: author’s archive

Ondřej Mestek, Štít (Summit). Source: author’s archive

Ondřej Mestek, Špičky k sobě, paty od sebe (Tips Together, Heels Apart), 2022. Source: author’s archive

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Published 08.03.2023

Kateřina Hubertová je redaktorka, blogerka, PRistka a psavec různých textů o tom, co ji baví a zajímá. Mezi její témata patří cestování, kterému věnuje svůj blog Kachna se kochá, památky, architektura, divadlo a výtvarné umění, o kterém má příležitost psát právě v magazínu Sport in Art. Jejím cílem je tato někdy trochu složitá témata podat tak, aby to byla hlavně zábava, ať už jde o historickou bojovku, procházku po Praze nebo povídání o málo známém umělci.

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