My attention was caught by a striking and graphic artwork in the printmaking room at the 2018 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It was hung right at the top of the wall towards the high ceiling, amongst many other artworks, but still it commanded the room.
I discovered the artist was Míla Fürstová, one of the most exciting print makers. It was the strong female silhouette I was drawn to, but when it arrived at Ham Yard Hotel, where it remains now, I was enchanted by the intricate and detailed figures that reveal so much more than I had first expected.
The piece is entitled ‘All the Rivers that Flow Through Me’ and is pictured here with a cushion in my ‘Travellers Tales’ cool charcoal fabric I designed for Andrew Martin. It is a deeply personal and poetic image, but with meaning the viewer can relate to. It is so fulfilling to indulge in a piece where the artist has let her imagination run wild. The more you look, the more you discover. It is both contemporary and timeless. To appreciate this piece, you will find it between the entrance to The Dive Bar and The Croc Bowling Alley at Ham Yard Hotel.
Her exquisitely detailed etching depicts dreamlike subjects, indicating her desire to explore beyond her boundaries and dreams to escape. Her art is a way she could be herself, someone who she really wanted to be.
Mila uses a traditional method of etching, using a needle to intricately scratch her designs onto a zinc plate covered in brown wax. The surface is then smoked with a candle to produce a black finish. I love the paradox that her work is so strong, graphic and contemporary, but that it is created by using this old-fashioned process allowing a lightness of touch. She believes the method itself contributes to the mystery of thinking in layers.
Mila is quick to credit the strong tradition of craft and folk art in Eastern Europe, being aware of the relevance that craft has in contemporary art. She uses the traditional technique, but experiments with it on more contemporary surfaces, such as Perspex. She also cuts, folds and overlays her works. The effect of the artwork can often be altered in different lighting.
Growing up in a communist country has had an undeniable impact on Mila Fustova’s artwork. Entering the magical world of Mila Fustovas’s art feels like being enveloped in the dark forests, flowing rivers and the dramatic and austere architecture of her Czech Republic childhood roots. Her art is a vessel to portray these things without the constraints of the real world. As a child in a communist country, religion was forbidden, but she remembers going to church with her grandmother and be inspired by looking up at the ornate baroque interiors. Communism fell in 1989 when she was a young impressionable student.
Mila favours etching as opposed to dry point, where you scratch onto metal to make a pronounced mark because it has a lightness of touch and you can be very gentle, similar to embroidery. I think this is one of the reasons why I was drawn to the piece in Ham Yard Hotel. She believes that when you ‘doodle’, it is a direct connection with the subconscious.
You can see this in her mark-making and how she lets her image form, grow and flow. By looking and admiring her work, Mila is giving us a glimpse into her mind and her thoughts. She is taking you on a journey of discovery. It is truly amazing to think that she does not plan or prepare her work and did not know what they were going to be when she started. Although it is 2-D, the depth of the imagery gives it a three-dimensional effect.
In 2014, Mila’s work reached over 400 million people when she was commissioned to make the artwork for the Coldplay Ghost Stories album and 4 singles.
Come and experience Mila Fustova’s enchanting work at Ham Yard Hotel and discover what journey it evokes for you.