Mgr. Petr Horák
In his memoirs, Jan Vízek recalled how enthusiastically you accepted the opportunity to create the official medals of the International Ice Hockey Federation IIHF for the winners of the World Championships, which took place in Prague. You also processed countless commemorative coins and medals that captured Olympic moments or football and hockey legends. Is the sports theme close to you?
I have to say, it's hard to talk about myself. But when I sometimes do so, it is very extensive. I apologize in advance for that. Because this interview begins with a commemoration of Jan Vízek, I need to mention my complete beginnings and thus thank to the three key people who helped me a lot. The first of them was Jan Vízek, the founder of the Czech Mint, with whom I started cooperating soon after the company was founded. The first realization in the competition of the Czech National Bank for a coin with the theme of Pavel Josef Šafařík helped me to do so. Jiří Dostál, the second important personality who is connected with the establishment of the Czech Mint and the then director of SUPŠ and VOŠ in Jablonec nad Nisou, encouraged me to participate in this competition. He invited me to cooperate on the medal that was intended for ČSOB, and thanks to that I was given the opportunity to meet Jana Scheybalová, the then director of the ČSOB branch in Jablonec nad Nisou. She was a very educated and classy lady who provided us with great creative freedom at the time. All three mentioned personalities taught me how to deal with the customer and how to process a specific coin relief from a technical point of view.
Now I can finally go back to the question. I have always enjoyed sports - whether as an amateur athlete or a sports fan who follows the success of top Czech athletes. I don´t think that many fellow medal makers like this theme, because it is distinctive and difficult to design. I have created a number of medals with a sports theme and the medals for the Ice Hockey World Championships in 2004 belong to the most important. On the obverse side, there are the phased movements of the hockey player during the shooting, together with the official logo of the championship. The reverse side presents the logo of the hockey federation. On other sports-themed medals, I tried to create the impression of movement in figural compositions by means of graphically-relief force lines and the simplification and exaggeration of the shapes of the figures. I was inspired by futurism. I created a number of medals for the Czech Hockey Association, the Czech Football Association and the Czech Olympic Committee. I also appreciate the processing of medals intended for the legends of Czech athletics - Emil and Dana Zátopek.
The year 2019 was marked by warfare for you. You worked on two miniseries dedicated to the events of World War II. The first commemorated monumental military operations, the second was devoted to more intimate stories of domestic resistance in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. Which series was closer to you? Do you prefer dynamic action scenes or calm symbolism?
Each work on the assigned topics is interesting and specific. You need to honestly find images and basic information data and create a number of quick composition sketches. You will then make a selection of the most artistically and thematically interesting ones. The first series of coins - the War Year 1944 - is a topic offering a number of basic materials. It was difficult to model figural compositions anatomically and artistically well, or to convincingly and faithfully depict the then war technique. The second series of war - Stories of Domestic Resistance - was more challenging in the search for more general symbols that would be characteristic and expound the events of that time. Both sets make you think a little differently artistically - and that makes it more interesting and colorful for me. I like the variety of assignments and topics. In my opinion, it is not good to go in one line and be boxed into one set of topics. Varied work will not bore or stimulate you.
While your medal with the motif of Karel Gott's 80th birthday is dominated by a master portrait of the singer supplemented with the sensual Lady Carneval, the medal dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution presents the panorama of Hradčany and protests on Wenceslas Square. What do you like to model? Portraits and figures, architecture or technology?
I remember I was fascinated by the portraits I saw at Jiří Harcuba. It's a huge success to get the opportunity to work on a portrait medal. I also enjoy figural compositions - you fancy to incorporate coins into a small space and model everything you need. Modeling of architecture and technology is specific - these two areas of topics force a person to be vigilant and humble, so that the impression of space and depicted techniques in relief is as convincing as possible. This variety suits me.
When you finished the medal of the Velvet Revolution, you continues processing the theme of Czech history and created an exceptional Ducat series, which introduced great historical figures. You also continued the tradition of St. Wenceslas ducats and prepared three ducat mintages with the patron saint of the Czech lands. Do you enjoy history? Which period is closest to you?
It is said that one should know the history of one's nation in particular, and I have been interested in history since school. Every artist has sometimes humbly relied on the legacy of previous generations of visual artists. And it is, after all, history that helps future creation, which is based on solid foundations, and everyone should know it. Czech Romanesque art remained the closest to me in the history of numismatics as I really like the original coin with its compositional simplicity and thus monumentality.
You have been cooperating with the Czech Mint since 1995 and you have sports, warfare, history, culture behind you,… Is there a specific topic that would make you happy in the future?
Perhaps it is the portraits of important personalities, which are probably the culmination of the efforts and work of most medal makers, and so I can choose some personalities. In addition, I have to thank the Czech Mint for the opportunity and long-term good cooperation, during which I was able to meet a number of important personalities of various professions. I will be happy if we continue to work together.
Since 1995, you have also been a teacher at the Higher Vocational School in Jablonec nad Nisou, where you train young medal makers. In those twenty-five years, you have influenced a number of prominent personalities. Do you observe any trend of Czech medal making?
I follow the work of my colleagues - even the younger ones. When I teach students, I am very often surprised by their view of the issue of relief. Some of them who come to our VOŠ school do not have such experience with low relief, because they have dealt with other art disciplines - such as stone sculpture, jewelry, graphics and glasswork And these students often bring a new perspective on coin relief, trying to apply new materials and technologies. But the basis will always remain diligence and openness to new ideas…