Director of The Ingram Collection, Jo Baring, chose artist Miroslav Pomichal to assist in judging the Purchase Prize when it was first set up, and he has been helping to choose the winner ever since. His artwork, Mismatched Couple, has been a part of the Young Contemporary Talent branch of The Ingram Collection since before the Prize existed.

We caught up with the artist when he came to visit The Lightbox to see his painting in our Main Gallery exhibition, Young Contemporary Talent from The Ingram Collection, on display until 16 September 2018.

Miroslav Pomichal, Runic Landscape © The Artist

Mismatched Couple has been a part of the Young Contemporary Talent branch of The Ingram Collection for a long time. With new artworks and artists introduced every year, have you been able to build a strong network within this creative community?

Mismatched Couple has been in the Ingram Collection since 2015, I believe, when it was exhibited at the New Contemporaries show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The work then went on to show at Newlyn Art Gallery in Cornwall, so I think it must have ended up in the Collection by mid-2015. It is only three years but it feels like an era. In terms of the community of exhibited or collected artists, there are definitely initiatives from The Ingram Collection to bring us together; there was an artist talk this year, and the opening of your show at The Lightbox too. Unfortunately, I missed both of them as I was in Slovakia, but I would love to be more involved in coming events.

What did you think of Young Contemporary Talent from The Ingram Collection? Which artwork was your favourite?

I really enjoyed the show. The space is unusually generous, with its height and floorplan. The works were excellently put together and hung. I think it was quite a small selection of all the contemporary art in the Collection, but it still resonates with the eclecticism of a genuine collection, with disparate things brought together, not in a calculated effort to produce a homogenous image and front to the art world, but one in which there is a search for an inner movement in individual works.

I like Studwork (2008) by Alexander Hoda. It is absolutely insane, but beyond its abject subject it has perfect balance, and quite seductive surface.

Alexander Hoda, Studwork, 2008 in The Lightbox gallery and museum © The Lightbox

You’re currently exhibiting at The Lightbox – but you’ve also got an exhibition coming up in Slovakia, where you’re from. How have you prepared for this and what is the exhibition about?

The exhibition in Slovakia has been a bit of a challenge for me, as I am curating it (as well as taking part), and I am trying to bring together artists from the UK, Slovakia, and Germany. It is the first time that I have conceived and written a proper curatorial application, so I had to weigh my words carefully. It is a relatively small scale show in terms of format, but I wanted to bring together artists whose practice is marked by their enthrallment with history and their acknowledgment that the symbolisms, kabbalas, and world-meanings of the past have been dismantled. They study them with a sense of loss, an antiquarian’s relish, reflecting on folly. The works have graphic, descriptive, abstract and symbolic qualities that are hyper-aware of their historical anchorage in the medieval allegories, woodcuts of the German Kleine Meister, the tiny revolutions of the Russian Constructivists,  the metaphysical landscapes of the Surrealists or the work of Modernist artists during their ‘turn to the Classic’ in the 1920s. I am very excited about the show, since it will take place in two chambers of the Palffy Palace of the Bratislava City Gallery. The house has beautiful surviving Gothic elements, which mingle with the Baroque of later times. It fits the exhibition like a glove.

Miroslav Pomichal, Farewell to the North, 2018 © The Artist

With so much on your plate, where do you find the time for your art? How often are you painting/drawing/printing?

Time for art - the eternal quest for the philosopher's stone. In London I feel that I spend most of my time just managing daily life, like lots of my other artist colleagues. Urban life has become so complex and self-serving that the focus, space and intensity of moment that is essential to make an artwork of value is lost. London has a gift, though, of constant novelty and experience, crowding the head with ideas. The difficulty comes in trying to pin them down and turn them into a work of sufficient density.

In the countryside in Slovakia, I can fully focus on making an ambitious work, but I have had less opportunity to go there recently for longer periods of time. I need to find a way!

What is your favourite medium to work with?

My favourite medium - painting. I admire all sorts of media, and dabble in some of them, but I think like a painter so I have embraced that. I have made lots of small work recently, but I have found time to concentrate what I learnt in them in two larger paintings. I think they are relatively successful, oil on canvas paintings.

Miroslav Pomichal, Mismatched Couple in The Lightbox gallery and museum © The Lightbox

Your artworks have very intricate stories behind them. How do you come up with these?

I am an obsessive reader. It is almost a pathology that I inherited from my father. This includes book collecting, and reading about twenty books at any one time. I like to trace connections between them – stories, centuries, and people. I think that a story, or fact, from the distant past, if made with enough emotional strength, has eternal validity. It keeps milling about in my head, I am almost intoxicated for a few days or weeks with the story, with the fate of someone who left such a mark. Sometimes it just passes and sometimes it deposits another layer onto my practice, in the shape of a symbol, or object, or process that works as a talisman in my 'image-hoard'.

What have you got coming up next?

Apart from the Bratislava exhibition, I have been invited to take part in two shows this autumn that are really exciting. Both fall magically into my current area of interest that I am making new, specially conceived work for. In October I will be taking part in The Ghost Tide, a group show at Thames-Side Studios Gallery exploring ghosts as a cultural phenomenon, curated by Monika Bobinska and Sarah Sparkes. I have been delving into a 17th Century story of the Ghost of Bratislava (Pressburg), and now have the chance of working it up into something bigger. The gallery is a really cavernous space.

In November, Chris Shaw from Three Works Scarborough is putting on a show, with specially commissioned works commemorating the Great War. It is a big subject, in our often quite frivolous art world, and I salute him to take it on, and feel privileged to contribute.

Miroslav Pomichal, Landscape with Two Helmets © The Artist

See Miroslav's painting, Mismatched Couple, in Young Contemporary Talent from The Ingram Collection until 16 September 2018.

Banner image: Miroslav Pomichal, Broken Tools, Dawn, 2018 © The Artist