“During the communist regime, Conceptual art was rather active in Slovakia. We would show the concepts, photos, and papers in cafés, ideally under the tables, because even in such places we were under the constant surveillance of secret agents”.
Nina Gažovičová: in your opinion, what are the particularities of Slovak (Conceptual) art?
Vlado Havrilla: Conceptual art, like graffiti, has an international form. However, it seems to me that artists like Július Koller or Peter Bartoš are much more lyrical than the “official”, international canon. It is interesting that there is a Czech Cubism, but Slovak painters like Galanda and Fulla, who both produced several Cubist paintings in the 1930s, are much more lyrical and “melodic” than our Czech brothers.
NG: What was the life of a Slovak Conceptual artist like under communism?
VH: During the communist regime, Conceptual art was rather active in Slovakia. We would show the concepts, photos, and papers in cafés, ideally under the tables, because even in such places we were under the constant surveillance of secret agents. We were not allowed to exhibit in the official galleries, so to maintain our freedom and independence we kept on exchanging works of small formats—drawings, cards, or concepts—by post or exchanged them in underground cafés.
NG: How did you get information, when contacts with Western artists were practically impossible?
VH: There were several important Western and US theoreticians who used to come to Slovakia and also to Bratislava. A significant supporter, fan, and friend of artists was the theoretician Etienne Cornevin, from Paris.
NG: You used to play tennis with Július Koller, didn’t you?
VH: Koller, the Conceptual artist and performer, was in his youth a successful Slovak tennis player. Yes, we used to play together in the eighties. We played with wooden Artis racquets. And it was a performance of a kind. Because when a Conceptual artist drinks a glass of water and declares this drinking a concept, it becomes a concept, a piece of art. Even if he does not declare it, even if he apparently fails to remember. Even then, it becomes a concept.
NG: What should a visitor keen on seeing contemporary art not miss in Bratislava?
VH: I would send him to the New Bridge, to see the graffiti and tags. It isn’t as demanding as Renaissance painting, but it’s authentic.
- Vlado Havrila, 1963
- Vlado Havrila, Portrait
- Vlado Havrilla, Zamyslená, 1989