Marek Nenutil, who also uses the artistic nickname Openmindz360°, says without exaggeration that he is the kind of artist who lives through art, non-stop. Although he has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and several times a year suffers from flare-ups that can keep him from creating for months at a time, he seems level-headed, energetic and radiates good mood. We had a lovely online conversation with Marek, whose sports-dedicated paintings are for sale in the Sport in Art gallery. During our interview, Marek perfectly stood by the meaning of his surname (Nenutil = unforced). He was honest, easy-going and funny. We talked about his exhibitions in America and Poland, his new studio, taking brisk walks or about weight training, cycling and reading Umberto Eco.
Marek, tell me what’s new, what are you working on?
These days I’m trying to come up with names for a new series I call “Mexican”. It consists of fifteen works. I’ve finished it at the end of January, I even have it photographed already. The pictures should be up on my website soon. This new series is related to my recent stay in the USA when I was in New Mexico from September to November last year. I had an exhibition there and even combined my stay with a vacation since I was based in the mountains, 2000 meters above sea level. I saw the north and south of the country and all the Indigenous sites. After that, I spent two weeks in New York. In December I had an exhibition at the Academic Centre of Culture in Krakow. The atmosphere in the city is great, I love it there, partially because the family on my mother’s side is from Poland. Besides wrapping up the Mexican series, I also have some A3 lino-cuts set up in the next room. Then I have some copper plates for engraving in my studio and then there are eight objects - glass domes - those are still works in progress. I want to start working on a new canvas series that focus on nature and environmental issues and sports. I would like to make something about competitions and races, I draw a lot of ideas from historical photos that I download from the Internet. I would like to approach painting in an, let's say, impressionistic way. For me, the way I approach painting is very fluid. I would also like to mention that I published a book last year. It's called the Power of Life.
Tell us about your works depicting athletes. In the Sport in Art gallery, you have paintings of swimmers, cyclists, ski jumpers or fencers. Could you tell the readers how your paintings are created?
I use a lot of photographs downloaded from the internet when working on sports-themed paintings. When I'm painting swimmers, I'll download, say, forty photos of different swimmers in various positions, and I'll choose three that suit me the most.
The Sport in Art gallery includes a painting of yours of a ski jumper called Looking at Idols. The athlete reminds me of the legendary Czech ski jumper Jiří Raška. In the 60s and 70s they were still jumping with skis parallel to each other, that's what caught my eye. Because nowadays, ski jumpers jump "in a V". Isn't that jumper Raška?
Yeah, it’s Raška. The painting is based on a photo. But I don’t want this to sound like I just copied the subjects. That’s not how it is, I always add something of mine that’s not in the photo, whether it’s colour, composition or particular details.
Do you have any sporting idols?
No, I don’t. To get back to the topic of the painting’s names, I always make them in a way they have a double meaning. So in this case, while the name Looking at Idols fits, the viewer can also find something else in there. It’s great when they tell me stuff like this, for example: “Look, this one looks like my uncle.”
I would return to the images of the swimmers, which captivated me with their dynamic, action and lyrical reflectiveness. One of your paintings, depicting a swimmer jumping into the water, is called Because There Is No Escape. Are sports a kind of escape?
The title can be interpreted in several ways, firstly, it can be taken to mean that there is no time to jump into the water, or that there is no other option or way out than to jump in and go after some goal. Or - and this is the ambiguity of the title, the fact that the painting has, as I say, multiple levels and can be read in different ways - the painting actually relates to environmental themes, even though it may not be obvious at first glance. But there is this continuity with previous cycles and topics that I have been dealing with for a long time. The titles are puns that make you think about the painting.
Marek, how did you come by making sports topics in the first place?
This interest intersects with my personal story. It's about my weight. I was 106 kilos, which is quite a lot given my height, which is 180 cm. On top of that, I have poor posture due to scoliosis of the spine, so I started going to rehab, exercising, strengthening my abdomen and working out. For the past two years, I have been cold-water-dipping at home. Now I am around 101 - 102 kilos and I would like to get down to at least 95 kilos. My girlfriend and I have a pool card and we haven't used it yet.
And when have athletes started to make an appearance in your works?
About a year and a half ago, I started painting sports themes, the first one was of three suffragettes on bicycles. I enjoy working with sports a lot in my art. The paintings are action-packed when there is movement. If there's a car in a turn that's got smoke coming off the tires, for example, there is so much energy. It's amazing.
Do you ride a bike?
A year and a half ago I bought a second-hand bike for about two thousand, plus a helmet, gloves and all the necessary equipment because bike riding is also good for strengthening muscles, but I only rode it four times. Last year I didn't ride it at all because I was working on a studio renovation that took three months, and then I had health problems over the summer. Then the fall came and I was in America, so I didn't use the bike. But now I've been saying to myself that when I'm feeling well and when it gets warmer, I'm going to grease up the chain and get out there. I know you have to make time to ride the bike for at least an hour and a half to Ostrava Landek and back, but time is short. I'm kind of a full-time entrepreneur, I manage myself and handle all the emails and administration. I do that on weekends. On Sundays, I sit at my computer for maybe five hours. My girlfriend and I at least go for walks to the Komenské Gardens, which is about an eight-minute walk from where we live. Even if it's ugly outside or even if it looks like rain, we go out. We go to Ostrava Castle and do a little lap and walk for maybe five kilometres at a brisk pace.
Did your parents encourage you to play sports?
My mother supported me in the arts as much as she could from an early age. She was divorced, on her own with two boys, but she did everything she could to make sure we had as much support as she could manage. Since first grade, I wanted to be an artist and was very clear about it. My room was one big experimental workshop. Otherwise, in my youth, it was pretty standard, I rode bikes, and I wanted a Super BMX with white tires from Poland. I got it one Christmas. I wanted to learn how to jump but then that excitement fizzled out, then I did skateboarding for a while but that was just because of the trend that came in the 90s.
Are you competitive – in sports or art?
Not really. I'd call it single-minded - maybe. I have certain goals, ways to keep moving forward and a drive - almost obsessive in fact - to paint, to invent, to improve, to go. In my youth, I mentally set in my head that I would be active until I was ninety and nothing would stop me, not even my multiple sclerosis, and I recently upped that to ninety-five.
You've mentioned that you're working in a new space. Tell us a bit about your new studio.
I've had my new studio for about a year. It's quite spacious, 200 square meters, and it's located right in the centre of Ostrava in a historic building owned by the city, which offered me a lease. The studio is magnificent, it has 4-5 meter high ceilings and the climate is suitable for painting. It suits me incredibly well. It's a huge difference from my previous studio, which had tropical temperatures that were not good for the paintings or my health. Those who would like to have a look inside can visit during the second edition of the Open Studios Ostrava festival, held on 21 and 22 April.
I‘d like to know what you're reading. You told me you have a large library and you talked about literature as an important source of creative inspiration. Do you own any sports books?
No, I don't. Eighty per cent of my library is literature about art, mainly catalogues and books, and twenty per cent is various theories, and then books on environmental issues. I order books in English from abroad. I don't read during the day, but usually in the evenings. When the TV is on, I read in English, so it doesn’t disturb me. I read books in Czech when I'm on the tram. I also read philosophy books and listen to philosophy podcasts by Marek Pocestný - they are very interesting. Recently someone sent me a book by Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness. It's such a large book, I'm going to have to put it to the side and hope I’ll get to it one day. I've recently been reading books by František Mikš about the artistic avant-garde and the existentialists and I was amazed at some of that stuff, it's very interesting. Now I'm reading Umberto Eco's essays From Stupidity to Madness. I have several books by him at home. I'm also reading Ernst Gombrich.
What interesting exhibition projects are you looking forward to in the near future?
On the fifth of April, I will be in Prague at the Bethlehem Chapel for the opening of the exhibition Graphics of 2022, where I am exhibiting two works (editor's note - the exhibition runs from 6 April to 5 May 2023). At the end of May, I will be exhibiting in a group show at the Atlantic Gallery in New York. A catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition. I should also have a solo show at this gallery next year. In mid-July, my solo major exhibition at the Ostrava Museum will open. I am also negotiating exhibits with the Austrian Parcus Gallery.
Thanks a lot for the interview.
Marek Nenutil alias Openmindz360° (*1978) is a personality once inexorably linked to the street art and graffiti scene (1993-2011), but he has always been dedicated to painting and various artistic techniques and expressions. He went through a number of art schools, studying, for example, under the graphic artist Jozef Odráška in Ostrava and Miroslav Bravenec in Brno. He also attended the painting studio of Prof. Daniel Balabán at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ostrava. He has illustrated books, magazines, and posters and painted dozens of interiors and exteriors with visualizations across the Czech Republic. He has created designs for T-shirts and collaborated on several art projects. Today, he freely moves on the intersection of contemporary dynamic figurative painting, object and installation. He also creates collages and works with ceramics and graphic techniques. His works are represented in Czech and international collections in the USA, Poland, Germany, Taiwan, Austria, etc.
Check out more of Mark's works under this link.