Artist and musician Tom Kotik: When we're able to meet again, we can lose ourselves in composing new works

Tom Kotik, photo: archive of Czech Center New York

Tom Kotik is an artist and curator whose work often explores the intersection of sound and vision, as well as a musician with the band Sportsman’s Paradise. As New York comes under terrible pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, the Prague-born, Brooklyn-based Kotik discusses his latest projects and more in this interview from the Czech Center New York series Artists That Never Give Up in the City That Never Sleeps.

Tom Kotik, photo: archive of Czech Center New York
How long have you lived in New York? How has New York influenced your work, how has it inspired you?

“I've lived in New York since I was in high school in 1983.

“My work has always been architectural in form, and I attribute that to my life in New York.

“Architecture is my landscape and I draw from this landscape in my work.”

What are you currently working on? What are your upcoming projects?

“I've been working on a series of wall pieces that present visual contexts for aural ideas.

“I've been interested in how materiality plays a part in how we see objects, and in turn, how we listen to a sound.

“For example, I've created two identical images, one mounted on a panel and one painted directly on the wall.

“Though the same imagery, we perceive them differently.

“Much like the same piece of music mediated through speakers is different than hearing it live."

You are a musician, a bass guitarist, and also a visual artist. Your band, Sportsman Paradise, which performed at our Czech Street Festival, plays dynamic but also very loud rock. Your music not only greatly moved the audience to dance, it also echoed through the streets of New York over many blocks. In your art, on the other hand, you work with topics such as silence and interval: you create images and objects that relate to music, however they reveal rather that which is between the tones, prompting the viewer to stop, to pause for a moment. Can you tell us about your creative process and how you came to materialize something as intangible as silence in space?

“Firstly, I'd say that silence to me is a theoretical state.

“Even if locked into a soundproofed chamber, our body produces sound through its natural functions.

“However, I do make works about sound that appear silent because I'm fascinated with the idea of visually transmitting sound.

“As a visual artist, I feel the need to create objects.

“As we know, sound defies the idea of objecthood through its very nature as an invisible wave picked up by our ears.

“My objects are a playful method of turning this aspect of sound on its head.”

Tom Kotik is a Prague-born artist, curator and musician based in Brooklyn, New York. He received his Masters of Fine Arts degree from Hunter College in 2004 and his Bachelor’s Degree from New York University in 1993. He has also attended the School of Applied Arts in Prague and the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. He has been an artist in residence at Art OMI (2001), Yaddo (2006), LMCC Workspace Program (2005) and the Bronx Museum AIM Program (2005). His work has been widely exhibited in New York and abroad, including shows at Smack Mellon, Socrates Sculpture Park and Sculpture Center in New York and the National Gallery in the Czech Republic.

The current coronavirus situation has affected the entire art world. Has it impacted you personally or professionally?

“Well, I just got a call from my gallerist this very morning informing me that the gallery was closing and that I need to pick up my work this week.

“In addition, all my freelance gallery work has been cancelled as well. So unfortunately I'm affected right now.”

Many people find comfort and broader perspectives in art. As an artist, what helps you find balance and support in times of uncertainty? Do you have any encouraging thoughts to share? “As John Cage used to say, have a ‘sunny disposition’.

“Luckily I have lots of interests, one of them being in bands and playing music.

“I'm blessed to play with some pretty talented people, so I take comfort knowing that when we're able to meet again, we can lose ourselves in composing new musical works together.

“Stay open minded to every possibility in your creative life and you'll be happy.”