Daniel Pitín: Key Takeaways

I've known the Czech painter Daniel Pitin since 2011, when I first interviewed him for my PhD research. We staid in touch and met several times at a variety of occasions: in his studio, at exhibition openings - all the while he became more and more involved (and succesful) in the international fine arts field. By now his work has been shown in so many places: in museums and galleries in LA (Nicodim Gallery) and Amsterdam (Grimm Gallery) - but it all started with a small artist residency in Vienna, about ten years ago. Back then, the Charim Galerie got aware of him, exhibited his work locally and on art fairs - and thus established his reputation.

Daniel Pitín: Flower
Daniel Pitín,: Sleeping Ogre

While you can read about Daniel Pitín's work in a variety of catalogs and books (here's a short text I wrote about his work, during my PhD research), these mostly contain curator statements. At one point I understood that for all the discussion's we've had over the years, the general public never really got to hear Daniel discuss his work himself. So in autumn 2017, I visited him in his Prague studio: we finally recorded a video interview, which formed the basis of this portrait.

We discussed his work and doubts, his international success, how he wanted to make movies but then went back to painting because of people stealing his film equipment - and how fate got him to Vienna and established his international reputation.

Daniel Pitín: Lost House

Key Takeaways

  • Whatever we do to solve our creative problems, the specific process we establish won't have a lasting effect: although we spend days, weeks and years to develop something, we ultimately won't be able to apply the same solution continously. By "getting used" to our problems and solutions, we canonize them - which changes their semantics: our solution from last year solved a problem that no longer exists! The solutions we choose for a problem today, won't hold up later on. That's part of the creative circle: we need to solve problems continously - even though they feel old ("this painting composition doesn't work at all!), yesterday's solutions won't solve them

  • In creative processes, you need hope - you need to believe in your capacity to navigate struggles successfully.

  • If your work is based just on how you do it, you risk creating mannerist work. Question your mannerisms!

  • In creative processes, you need to find a balance between intuition and rationality. In the interview, Daniel Pitín said: "If I start rationally, I can destroy the process [of opening a new gate]": You first need to trust your intuition and create, and only later on question why you did it that way - if you criticize your work prematurely, you might never progress at all.
    As an aside, note that trusting your intuition always is strongly influenced by the complexity of your medium's history, and your knowledge in it. This isn't a linear relationship though.

  • Ultimately, success both is and is not in your hands:  Sometimes it's down to luck, and sending an application to a foreign residency program results in kickstarting your international career. Work towards these incidents, knowing that you ultimately can't influence them.

  • Question success, and treat it cautiously: Daniel sad that a consequence of success can be that "you are never happy, you are more and more hungry". This is very often mentioned by interviewees: your work can't make you happy, because no external thing can.
    Ultimately, it all boils down to you knowing yourself, and thus understanding what DOES make you happy. Of course we often think, especially with less experience, that work DOES make us happy. That a specific deal, everything would be awesome - but humans aren't made like that. True happiness comes from within, and can be reached through reflection and introspection only.

    Happiness is like a small flower that grows in a shade, with the shade often being our adult life's childish-selfish expectations towards the world. Think about it: as a child, the most unfair situations are when we don't get what we want. When life doesn't revolve around us. That's still the same as an adult, if we don't work on transforming these expectations into something more realistic.
    You don't get a publishing deal, a gallery, the presents you want? Well, you will have to work on getting them, and/or adjust your expectation management. This will make you happy in ways that the fulfillment of these external wishes won't ever - because external things have a nasty way of swindling down into meaninglessness: there's a massive deflation, an invalidation dynamic happening with it: the happiness of a new skateboard, a new piano, of a new partner is never ultimately sustainable if we don't know what defines us and our happiness.
    Deep introspective work is the process here, and lets us understand our deficiencies, our selves.

  • "Painting, I love it - but true love.. it's like you have bad times and good times. It's a fight": accept that your passion for your work and medium is why you reach amazing results - but it's also why your expectations and struggles will be deeper than for people with a more shallow relationship to their work and medium.
    Your stakes are higher - not because you matter more, but because you hope to achieve more.
    Daniel said these amazing words: "I
    t's not easy - but the good things aren't easy".

  • "We are not doing art just to be happy": my today's definition for happiness doesn't include work or private life: it doesn't depend on success in working life ("I'd be happy if this or that milestone would emerge"), and doesn't put pressure on private life's randomness ("I'd be happy if I'd be in a relationship/married/with kids") - instead, it focuses one thing only: to me, happiness means to be without fear. Without worries or anxieties - it's a very basic feeling of "now", which can be found in many moments. It's an autonomous way of existing.

    As Valentin Hirsch said in his interview: don't let work define you completely. But also, don't let private issues do that: you'll always be changed by what happens around you - but don't let yourself depend on these for your happiness (of course you'll suffer when your family suffers - that's not my point. My point is that you shouldn't derive happiness from your kid's school performance, your salary, your partner's infidelities, etc).

  • "Now I'm struggling. but everything is growing from this struggle": While the creative circle sucks a lot when you're in the bottom end of it, and life obviously is rough when little works out, these parts stongly define you. It matters how you navigate challenging situations - whether you're whiny or self-assured, whether you're hopeful or constantly in bad moods.

The loops for this portrait were produced by Annamaria Kowalsky, who creates content in a variety of media: music (she's originally classically trained), painting, photography - and often combines these various media. Check out her work - it's unique and special.

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