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"Dumb" (self portrait by the artist Jesse Littell)
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Prague over the years has been known for producing some very inspired artists, and from the pool of expats that have resided here since the Velvet Revolution, two painters have really stood out for the work they've produced, inspired by the city of a thousand spires... Jesse Littell and Holly Spuck.

Think is happy to offer you some insights into the minds of these two talented artists... in words and with examples of their fine art.

The Eye of the Storm

"Jesse looks at the world in pieces; and then one piece at a time." - Holly

Crouched before the canvas, in the bleak light of dawn, he applies a meticulous stroke, precariously balancing the full weight of his hand on his pinky. His hand comes away. His head pulls back. He squints.

His brush dips in oil. His brush pulls at a lump of color. 

He emerges at a different corner of the painting, randomly selected, it might seem to the casual observer. The pattern repeats throughout the afternoon. A steady stream of visitors lounge, converse, and carry on amidst the flickering detritus amassed on the walls and the shelves and the tables around him. Jesse is the eye of the storm. 

CIRCUS, oil on canvas, 110 x 100 cm, 1999 (collection of Scott Johnson)CIRCUS, oil on canvas, 110 x 100 cm, 1999 (collection of Scott Johnson)

The sun goes down. He stands. He changes the CD that has been on finite replay for hours. He turns on the light. He smokes a cigarette at the far end of the room. His eyes rarely leave the canvas.

He crouches. He hums and doesn't know he's humming. He talks. To it, to the brush, to the paint. Conversation lingers in the air around him as if he were insulated from it, but he hears. He chimes in. He is not in a trance, but he is not altogether here either. The effect is what we have come to call "chicken bone, chicken bone, chicken bone."

The reference is to Pink Floyd's movie, The Wall. In it, Bob Geldoff's character has just gone completely ape-sh*t, and in the aftermath finds himself peacefully on the floor arranging the fragments of his destroyed hotel room, chicken carcass and all, into a meticulous collage. ENDGAME, oil on burlap, 120 x 80 cm, 1997 (collection of A. & S.Heberger)ENDGAME, oil on burlap, 120 x 80 cm, 1997 (collection of A. & S.Heberger)

Aside from "The End Game," (above, oil on burlap, 160 x 80 cm, commission, 1994) on permanent display at U Malého Glena, you won't be seeing any of Jesse Littell's work at any of the cafes, bars or clubs around town. But you might run into Jesse if he's in town.

To see more of his work on the World Wide Web,visit his site No Such Paintings.


The Shame TrainThe Shame Train

Where Angels Fear to Tread

"I wish I were half the man Holly is." - Jesse

If you ever get the chance to meet Holly Spruck, you will not be surprised to find that she was an elementary art school teacher at the International School of Prague, but since 2002 has been living and working in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Her love for scatology and the ridiculousness of reality are childish qualities she expends no effort hiding.

And when confronted with her work, you find yourself, sink or swim, in swirling pools of emotional ambiguity. 

SHADOW, oil on prepared paper, 82 x 61 cm, 1999SHADOW, oil on prepared paper, 82 x 61 cm, 1999

Her first of four exhibitions in Prague was at the Radost FX Gallery which left patrons unsatisfied. Invariably, when they decided on the painting that must be had, it was already spoken for. All but one painting were sold by the end of the opening. 

Another show, at Hairline Studios, was more of the same. The paintings had nearly doubled in price, but nary a complaint was to be heard regarding cost.

Instead, the grumbles ran to the tune of "but I had my heart set on that one..."

Her success is hardly questionable. Her colors are bold, her stroke is unambiguous, her line is alive, her figures are characters you know all too well; the result? Cages, plush with story. An aesthetic fullness that is inescapable.

At the show, one of her colleagues from the school remarked, "I had no idea..."

Hardly an uncommon reaction. It is difficult to resist the empathy that rises in you, to protect yourself from the undeniable poignancy so playfully depicted.

A selection of Holly's work was later displayed at the Malá Šárka Gallery. The Malá Šárka Gallery is a project very close to the heart of it's founder and curator, Jana Ježková. In fact, it is in her home.

The Gallery operated as a not-for-profit organization, but Ms. Ježková gave a 5% commission of sales to a worthy charity.

EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL, oil on prepared paper, 71 x 54 cm, 1998EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL, oil on prepared paper, 71 x 54 cm, 1998

For more information about Holly Spruck and her work, and to view her latest creations, check out her website www.hollyspruck.com. For more information about the Malá Šárka Gallery, please contact Ms. Jana Ježková at cell: +420 602 780 579 or +420 220 960 496. 

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