The journey from stage to stage, turning point to turning point. David Mazanec deals with the life of trams and their infinite journeys, where the finish point is also the starting point and vice versa, through a different repetitive movement - swim strokes. The mural titled Swim! in Prague Hostivař works with cycles, symbols and colour contrast. How does the author perceive its origin? What does the topic of sports mean to him?
„The idea of cyclical swimmers came quite early. I already worked with this topic in the past and now I was given an opportunity to develop it and work with the space and context. The tram turning-place clearly offered a theme of repetition. The start is the finish and the finish is the start,” the artist describes the genesis of his idea and adds: “Sport transcends its content since its task is to represent the universal human existence. Our movement is time and space. Sport, as well as life, have a direction and in their course, we learn, develop, and transfer information from place to place to gain unique experiences. I liked this similarity and executed it in various forms.“ says the artist who has intensively focused on the topic of sports before in his series Get moving! (Tak pohyb!, 2017-2018).
He adds that his own specific relationship to this water-sports activity didn’t come about easily: “I love swimming for many reasons. I’m fascinated by the element of water. Crystalline clarity, transparency, the life it gives, beauty. As a child, I was terrified of swimming because of the mandatory school lessons. Breaking down this barrier as an adult, when I decided to find my own path to swimming, led to something that brings me joy and I’m grateful for.” he comments on the mural separated into two parts: day and night, where the colour contrast of black and white references the day cycle. It’s also reminiscent of the yin-and-yang concept from Chinese philosophy in which light and darkness complete each other and form a balance.
From these and other possible connotations emerges the main topic of this monumental piece - cyclicality. We may understand this theme as absolute and through that even as a certain lack of freedom. Something that we need to rebel against and resist. But cycles can also be comforting. A certainty we can repeatedly return to, similar to getting on a tram. “I’m not a fatalist, even though I am aware of the fact that some things will come in life that are given and unavoidable. What is certain is that things have always been repeating, in a way, and are and will again. Cyclicality is often perceived negatively because of predestination, which is its defining quality, and a lack of freedom that stems from it. I try to look for hope. The hope that’s a free breath before another stroke” contemplates the author. This is not the first time he has chosen the motif of cyclicality and repetition. We can encounter it, for example, in his previous mural titled Infinity or in a series of drawings Day After Day (Den, co den): “I’m interested in universal principles and laws that you normally don’t notice. It’s those things we learn to accept in the first years of our life and then after we never consciously focus on them much. But they have the power to be the foundation for all that is happening. Thanks to them, things are as they are. They are universal and that fascinates me, inspires me and forces me to keep finding different ways to explore them artistically.”
A mural as means to create genius loci
From their historical nature, large-scale wall paintings are meant to hypnotise, inspire, and provoke. Whether we consider their prehistoric use when they possessed an almost mystical character or in later times when they served protests against social, racial or religious inequality and lack of freedom.
How does David Mazanec understand this form of communication with the viewer? What are the specific aspects of a mural as an artistic medium? “Its size. It needs to work even from a distance of a hundred metres but also has detail that works up close. These are, of course, criteria even for paintings, but the size enforces them. The wall simultaneously carries the ambition to enhance or even create genius loci” he explains the peculiarities of this type of painting work: “When making something so public in a place where hundreds of people walk by, then another specific is certainly the communication with passers-by,” he adds. Swim! certainly does create genius loci and when looking at it you can stop for a moment, breathe in and then continue your swim through the city.
DAVID MAZANEC: (*1988) studied at the Secondary School of Glassmaking in Železný Brod and later at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Ostrava University. He is a graduate of prof. Daniel Balabán’s Painting I. atelier. He took part in a year-long study programme in Granada, Spain.