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An inherent mystical lyricism is immediately apparent in Míla Fürstová’s work. Much like her etchings, Míla exudes spiritually melodic sentiment, dropping into her everyday speech many of the same visual metaphors that are found in her art. Describing the circuitous path that led her from her adolescence in Bohemia, Czech Republic to art school in England, Míla terms the happy ending to this journey as the ‘silver thread in the labyrinth’—a phrase that evokes the ethereal metallic lines in her silver six-panel etching All the Rivers Flow Through Me. It is as if Míla cannot help but pour her art out of herself, even when she is far from the etching press, discussing life and the everyday.
Her artistic style, cultural background, and personal history all influence each other in myriad ways. At twenty years old, already in the midst of one non-art-related MA degree in Prague, Míla could not walk away from an opportunity to study for an MA at the Royal College of Art. The happiness of following her dream to make art made it ‘far easier to do two degrees at the same time rather than just the one in Prague alone.’ Her determination to pursue printmaking took her from her home country to a new home, one that would bring her many opportunities: from lecturing at esteemed schools and universities to creating intricate book covers and collaborating with the band Coldplay.
But Míla’s work spans far beyond the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom. She has an uncanny ability to transform situations and experiences intimately tied to her own life into images that convey a transnational, universal feeling—a feeling encapsulated by the collection of works in this new show at Eames Fine Art. Her prints are poetic images that could relate to every person’s innermost natural soul. Her etchings communicate poetry that touches on major themes relevant to the global human experience: parenthood, spirituality, femininity, and the human relationship with nature. This visual lyricism is unsurprising in the context of Míla’s upbringing and roots in the Czech Republic, which she called ‘a nation of poets’ populated with ‘forests, fields, rivers and fairytale architecture.’
Míla’s work echoes the ‘fairytale architecture’ of the Czech Republic; the structures in her etchings float on air, beyond the constraints of this earthly world. The poetry of her images floats as well: untethered and imaginative. Unhindered freedom is implicit in all of Míla’s work, even if not represented physically by fantastical architecture or intricately carved pieces of paper. Míla postulates that this may be influenced by her childhood in Communist Czech Republic.
Communism fell in 1989, when Míla was a young student, but she feels that not being able to travel freely for so many years due to closed borders instilled in every Czech ‘the soul of a dreamer.’ Míla’s dreamscapes, combined with the ‘fairytale architecture’ that she grew up with, invoke a desire to travel beyond one’s boundaries, to look out of windows, and to freely explore the spiritual unknown. Míla speaks of her own professional freedom to inhabit the roles—while primarily being an artist—of both writer and architect. When asked what career she would pursue if she could not be an artist, Míla responded that she would like to be a writer or an architect, but she then realises ‘that by being an artist I am already both, but with an even greater freedom as my “building blocks” do not need to obey rules. My narratives do not need to fit into words and my architectures do not need to respect gravity.’
Like her architectural structures, Míla’s figures are ‘timeless and borderless’, and she asserts that they are not self-portraits. Míla’s women act out particular moments—such as braiding a daughter’s hair—but these portrayals evoke the enduring and never-ending little instants that paradoxically seem to span over many years even though they are over in a second. She calls our current time the ‘Age of Woman,’ and her focus on the importance of these female-powered moments supports the use of this moniker.
Overall, Míla’s art can be compared to one of her favourite Czech activities: hunting for wild mushrooms in the forest with friends and family. This ancient tradition is one frozen in time, yet present and vibrant—much like Míla’s timeless images of buildings, landscapes, and families. The journey of hunting for mushrooms is a solitary one, yet the friends and family members are always nearby in the forest going down different but parallel paths. In her work, there’s a sense that her figures are pursuing some goal, on some mystical expedition. As in the folk tradition of mushroom hunting, there is a deeply personal seclusion embedded in Míla’s work, but one that connects you to the wider human family to create a meaning far beyond oneself.
Christy Slobogin, May 2018