Artist Pasta Oner on Warhol and the spirit of Prague

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Last Thursday I had the privilege of attending the launch of the new special edition ‘Andy Warhol’ Absolut Vodka in the Gallery of Art Prague, surrounded by an exhibition of his stunning prints. It turns out that Andy Warhol once had a bit of an obsession with the Absolut vodka bottle. At the launch were a number of familiar faces across the happening Czech art scene including artist, Pasta Oner.

Pasta is primarily known for his colourful street art and murals which he has been flawlessly creating for some time. As the years have progressed, he has moved on to a number of other styles and presented his work regularly in Prague. As sometimes uninformed expats, we tend to notice the Czech art scene, but often ask ourselves the question: who did this? Pasta is a prime example of an artist whose humble yet remarkable talents mirror and compliment great icons of the past, including Andy Warhol. His use of colours, characters and text remind us a little of the pop art that Warhol (who has Slovakian roots) was once known for. Read on for a brief interview with Pasta and his thoughts on Andy Warhol, Prague and vodka…

In a nutshell, how did you get to this point?

I started to paint graffiti twenty years ago, I was thirteen. During those years, street art came to the Czech Republic for the first years I was only looking at the Internet and thinking about where I could move with graffiti, and this was the next step. From my childhood I had been painting and studied at a school for graphic art in Prague. In 2002 I had my first exhibition here. Now I concentrate more on studio works, canvases and sculptures. But I still mainly do mural art.
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‘Choose to be happy’ mural in Dejvice

You’ve been compared to Michelangelo and others, do you feel that famous?

It’s a local thing. It’s a really local thing – it means Prague. Most people don’t know that my art exists, they don’t know me. Sometimes similar artists around the world know my work, but it’s people who are interested in it and check it on the net.

At what point did you realize that you were becoming a bit of a big deal here?

It happened slowly. The smaller circle of friends around you never say it, they are your close friends or family and they don’t need to say it. Maybe when you are shopping sometimes people will ask for a signature, then you think ok.. somebody knows me! But it’s better for me this way.

How would you describe Andy Warhol in only a few words?

The biggest edge in the world of art, the biggest star in the world of art. He developed something that we know now – that artists can be stars. There had not been artists like this before.

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Pasta Oner with actress Anna Geislerová at the Andy Warhol Absolut Vodka Launch

How would you describe vodka in only a few words?

We call it liquid karate here in Prague. For most people I know, it makes them more… (karate gestures). It’s full of energy and usually you drink it with red bull. It makes something really change in most people. Normally I don’t drink red bull, I’m careful. But if I need it to restart or something, I’ll have one and everything is perfect (laughs).

I love vodka, but with red bull…

It’s quite dangerous.

Are you originally from Prague?

Yes, but it’s kind of difficult because I was born in Slovakia in a city called Trenčín, on the Czech border. During the time that we were one country, and no one cared about borders. My mother is Slovakian and my father is Czech. When my Mother was pregnant, she went to Slovakia and I was born there… So I’m originally from Slovakia, but moved to Prague when I was very young. My Prague-born friends still joke about that with me, they say I’m not really from Prague (laughs).

How would you describe Prague?

I travelled a lot when I was a child because my mother was an air hostess for 25 years, so I felt that this was one of the biggest schools of my life – travelling, but every time I come back to Prague I feel something that is very difficult to describe. It’s the spirit of this place, it’s really strong in Prague because it’s a really really old place and many cultural things happened over 100s of years.

Like a kind of electricity in the air?

Yeah maybe, it’s kind of magical. I really love Prague for the energy of the city. I love New York too. I could even live there but Prague has something special. I don’t know what it is. I’m glad that the bars and gastronomy are changing here too. Everything’s going up at least, because years ago it was terrible. When I came back here from London or New York it was hard falling down to Prague. I don’t have anything more that I need here now. I think everything is good now.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Because my mother was an air hostess, I wanted to work on a plane. Everyone thought I wanted to be a pilot, but I actually wanted to be a steward because of the girls (laughs). I saw a lot of really beautiful air hostesses.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Woah (laughs). Maybe, years ago I attended free techno parties here in the Czech Republic. From 1996 it started to be really huge and I still have these roots in my head and in my heart, so I would like to see Woodstock or something. Something before the travellers came to Europe and gave free techno to people.

And you used to be a DJ in the past, is that correct?

I quit because I don’t have time. Years ago we had a group called “Toys” – we were three DJs in the group and we were called this because… we were not really DJs (laughs). We were quite a famous group, we had many fans, but one day we quit. I don’t know why. I guess we were tired of it.

Which actor would play you in a film about your life?

Leonardo DiCaprio because he definitely needs an Oscar (laughs). But in a true way, not ironically. I think that The Wolf of Wall Street is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. He was totally fucking perfect. He didn’t play it, he was IN it.

Great, one last thing… Do you have a favorite piece of yours?

It’s a hard question, it’s usually the last one.

Because it’s finished I guess – and you’re relieved that it’s done?

Yes, and then in a year you look at it and think “hmm, I’m not sure” (laughs).

Check out more of Pasta’s work on Facebook or his website.

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Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photos by Petr Hricko Photography and Pasta Oner.

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