Seventy Countries to Touch An Interview with Jan Kasparec

By Alyssa Laube

About: Jan Kasparec, born in the Czech Republic, has settled in Vancouver after several years of travelling and exploring the world’s cultures. The influences of his travels can be seen in the artist’s work, which is very diverse, ranging from paintings and drawings to photography and writing. This year, he will be exhibiting some of his artwork at the Art World Expo!

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You were born in the Czech Republic but moved to Vancouver. How did the two unique cultures effect you and your art?

I would say that my art is more affected by my inner journey rather than geographical location. Nevertheless, it’s not by chance that we call Europe the “old continent”. The art scene in Europe is an essential part of society, much more than in North America. Being immersed and educated in it from the age of 8 did make an impact on my artistic path. But Vancouver was love at first sight for me; a blind date that ended up in the best possible outcome: my new home. Just the feeling of living in a place I love puts my creativity on a very good frequency.

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You’ve also travelled many other places in your life, including France, Brazil, Australia, and many more! Can you explain the effects that your travels have had on you?

Travelling opened my heart and melted the mental preconceptions that our society is so good at building inside of us. I understood that we are all the same, good in our essence, and what keeps us separate is an illusion; a clever fear-fiction created by the ruling class. I also realized that my frustration or sadness over the largely unfulfilled potential of human society and destruction of this planet doesn’t help to resolve it. Meditation and unconditional love taught me that the only possible outward change comes from within. 70 countries later, I still feel like I am at the beginning of a long journey.

Which place sticks in your mind the most, or had the greatest impression on you?

There’s no place I’d rather be than here and now of course! But if I have to name a few milestones on my journey I would mention mother India, where I took 10 days of silent Vipassana meditation and experienced an inner insight. People of the mountain plateau of Tajikistan (Pamir) touched my heart deeply. Mongolia was where I first lived in the state of no-time, some might call it Satori. Those moments shape my life in this very moment. Once you know there’s only light, you can’t be fooled by darkness anymore, regardless how “real” it seems to be.

On that note, could you share one memory or anecdote from your life that stands out or effected you as an artist?

Once, I was drawing a receptionist in Vietnam who fell asleep, while one of the most beautiful women I ever dated was patiently waiting for me to finish. It was our first date and the portrait was no good. I was late and exhausted. I thought I would never see her again, but she was actually one of the rare souls that I fell crazily in love with. I always remember the sleeping receptionist with half-open mouth when I remember her.

You’ve painted quite a few images of Buddha. Why does Buddha inspire you to create art?

I’ve had visions of Buddha in my meditations. I knew I had to paint “him” (I perceive Buddha as a quality rather than a particular person). Since that day, I’ve painted quite a few, and new visions come in the moments of silence of my mind. They’re very different from the conventional depictions of Buddha, but it’s my most successful theme so far. I’ve sold all of them without ever having a second thought of sales to taint the painting process. I am not Buddhist per say, but Buddha is my everyday teacher, encouraging me to empty myself, let desires go, and see through my attachments. Every day I fail many times and every day I come back to it in a loving way. The journey is the destination.

How would you describe your studio, and what’s most important to you in a studio?

My studio is my sanctuary. Most important is the energy of peace and belonging. I’ve charged my studio with this energy by lots of interior modifications and countless meditations, yoga practices, sittings with crystals, dances… Almost everyone who comes to spend time here tells me how good they feel here without knowing why. It always makes me smile. I spend much more time here than at home, where I only go to sleep. I love my studio dearly, including the mice and winter chill!

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To see Jan’s studio yourself, you can visit: 

#1000-420 Parker Street Studios, East Vancouver.

What fascinates you about creating portraits?

What is most fascinating about people’s faces is the truth in their eyes. You can fake a pose on a photograph. I don’t think you can do that on a painted portrait. 

What was it that drew you to Canada?

I had just finished 17 months of globetrotting when I met a buddy, who I hadn’t seen in five years, in a pub in Prague. Another trip wasn’t something I was considering, so when he said, “Go check out Vancouver, man, you’ll love it!” I didn’t think much of it. Well, a couple of beers later, the idea became more attractive. I applied for a visa the same week and moved a few months later. In a broad sense, I was just supposed to be here. Why that is I don’t need to know, but beer was a rather painless accelerator.

What is your favourite part of Vancouver to photograph or paint?

Vancouver is a rare gem. I love seaside landscapes with snowy mountains looming in the background, industrial cranes somehow in harmony with their natural surroundings, railways and factories in North Vancouver, cargo trains in Strathcona surrounded by old graffiti’d warehouses, shabby buildings in Chinatown, waterfalls in Lynn Valley….I could go on for a while. This city has so much and I’ve still only seen so little of it!

Was the first time you bought oil paints at 24 your first true experience with art?

Yes, I first bought oil paints when I was 24 but I painted as soon as I learned how to hold a pastel (around the age of 2). The first true experience of art, if this can even be described by something so limiting as words, dates to early childhood. When you become blank and create out of pure joy, you are living a true experience of art. We are all creative by definition, and we are all true artists. Most forget along the way. I was fortunate enough to remember.

To learn more about Jan, and see some of his creations, visit:

http://painting.kasparec.com/

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