On one of the first days of summer this year, the rays of light shining down on Prague’s Old Town make for a beautiful sight. Only a few kilometers away, stands a large house next to the Klučov train station, which was once a classic Czech restaurant—but is now the home and studio of sculptor Martin Žák, who was born in the former Czecho-Slovakia, and his girlfriend Dana.
Stepping into their spacious home, a journey back in time begins: in the foyer, missing elements from the original tiles mark the former bar and beer taps in the restaurant, which closed less than two years ago, and a few steps away, in the former ballroom, a huge studio filled with Martin’s works takes us even further back in time. Drawing on motifs from the figurative representations of antiquity, the Renaissance and the 18th century, the figures and portraits created by Martin suggest both meticulous elaboration and strong intuitive movements. It’s what characterizes Martin’s work best—he doesn’t merely copy reality without spirit, but is determined to capture the magic of moments. In his work light plays an important role, painting emotions on the almost vibrating materials and loosened forms.
This article was published in print in Hype&Hyper 2022/2.
Photos by Dániel Gaál
What’s your favorite part of your home?
Our house where we live is also my studio where I create, so it’s hard to single out one specific spot I like the best. The building was once a classic Czech restaurant built nearly a hundred years ago, and it was one the cultural meeting points in the area. Some details still remind us of its original state, but lots of things have changed since. Our kitchen and the old stone staircase leading to our bedroom still preserve the soul of the place, so they’re really close to my heart.
Salty or sweet for breakfast?
Both! One of my favorites is eggs on toast with lots of cheese, but if we’re talking about Sundays, pancakes are the best.
What’s your ultimate day starter pro tip?
A hearty breakfast and a really good, freshly-ground coffee.
Staying in a hotel or going camping?
I like both and I did a lot of crazy stuff when I was younger at camping parties and festivals, but now that I’m getting older having a proper rest before going back to work has become a priority, and the same goes for comfort. With this in mind, nowadays I’d choose a hotel.
What’s your favorite sculpture you’ve ever made?
I’m very critical of my work so that’s a difficult question. I know that for most people it might seem like a small and not so special piece, but for now my favorite is the Faun Woman in bronze, and it has a spiritual strength too. Even after a long time, it’s a sculpture I’m still satisfied with.
Who inspires you the most?
The founder of modern Czech sculpture, Josef Václav Myslbek had a huge influence on me, as well as another great Czech scultpor, Ladislav Šaloun. Of course, I’m also inspired by the work of Auguste Rodin, and although so far, I’ve only mentioned sculptors and their work, painters have also provided me with endless inspiration.
What do you keep on your bedside table for a good read?
Unfortunately, I rarely have time to read these days. The last book I started was Cathedrals of France by Auguste Rodin—I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I definitely will!
Are you a spiritual person?
Yes. Spirituality means a lot to me…It’s part of how I think about life and how I live, and it’s present in my sculptures as well—I don’t think I’d be able to create without spirituality.
What do you like the most about Prague?
The feelings and energy that flow through the city. It’s a city rich in architecture, culture, art, and history…and together they all add to that special feeling you get in Prague.
Martin’s Hot Spots in Prague
The Prague Market
Bubenské nábř. 306, 170 00 Praha 7-Holešovice, Czechia
2, Anny Letenské 1240, Vinohrady, 120 00, Czechia
35, Římská 1199, Vinohrady, 120 00 Praha, Czechia
Národní 2, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
National Gallery – Trade Fair Palace
Dukelských Hrdinů 47, 170 00 Praha 7-Holešovice, Czechia
DOX Center of Contemporary Art
Poupětova 1, 170 00 Praha 7-Holešovice, Czechia
TRADITIONAL CZECH CUISINE
Valentinská 52, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia
Dlouhá 33, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia
Restaurance Obecní Dům
Náměstí Republiky 1090, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia
TOP HOTELS TO STAY IN PRAGUE
Andaz Prague – a concept by Hyatt
Senovážné nám. 976/31, 110 00 Nové Město, Czechia
Grand Hotel Europa
Nové Město, 110 00 Praha 1
Mamaison Riverside Hotel Prague
15, Janáčkovo nábř. 1115, Anděl, 150 00 Praha 5, Czechia
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