Míla Fürstová – Part 1

Míla Fürstová, photo: Miroslav Krupička

Last year, Czech-British artist Míla Fürstová made international headlines for her design of the cover of Coldplay’s newest album, Ghost Stories – an etching of an angel’s wings over starry waters. Recently, the artist opened a new exhibition in the Czech Republic and was interviewed by Radio Prague’s editor-in-chief, Mirek Krupička. He began by asking when she last exhibited in Prague.

Míla Fürstová, photo: Miroslav Krupička
“My last exhibition in the Czech Republic was seven or eight years ago. It was at the Villa Anderle in Prague a long time ago.”

What does it feel like to be back in your homeland after all that time, to have a new exhibition here now?

“Yeah, it does feel amazing and a lot has happened in that time. Professionally, what was very important for me was that I was given the chance to design the cover for Coldplay’s last album, Ghost Stories, as well as all the singles covers. The whole thing really propelled my work in the media and that has been a great experience.”

How did your current show in Prague come about? Were you approached by the Miro Gallery, was it by coincidence?

“That’s an interesting question. I have lived in England for almost 17 years and I have exhibited in galleries there… but I have always been a little bit shy about approaching Czech galleries. In all truth, Gallery Miro has known my work even a little bit longer than Coldplay, I think six years ago they discovered it, we exhibited a few things together, and after Coldplay I haven’t really had time for anything else. So this is kind of my first ‘big comeback’ to the Czech Republic.”

You mentioned the Coldplay album, which made you famous… somewhere you said that work on that was a long process, that it took more than a year from the first idea, let’s say, to the final design of the record cover. How did it develop? What did you do throughout this time? Did you produce more and more variations of the angel’s wings, did you discuss everything with the band?

Photo: Miroslav Krupička
“It was a very, very unique process for me. Um, I think I might be a difficult artist to work with. To be honest, I don’t typically work with anyone else but just work for myself. And when Coldplay came – because I love them as artists and people – I really wanted to be involved in this cooperation, so I said ‘yes’ and we started this dialogue about what the album cover could be. And Chris Martin had an idea and I kind of tried to work with that. But it took a long time for me to arrive at something artistically honest.

“What actually happened was that after about three months of meeting with the band, the band decided to fill the entire recording studio with my artwork and kind of made it into a bit of a gallery. And, they responded to the work and eventually Chris chose a piece which I had done in 2005 – an angel with woven wings – and he felt that wings should be the main icon for the album. After that, they gave me the album in the making to be able to listen to all the songs and I had absolute freedom to make and draw the images the way I wanted, so that was great.”

Was it a tough discussion at times?

“They are so amazingly ‘human’ and I never had cooperation like this. I kind of… as a fine artist I don’t know exactly how musicians work but cooperation with Coldplay sort of taught me if one is an artist, one is an artist. You know that what you have to do has to be honest and true to what you are trying to say. And they really embraced that and gave me the space to create so that what I produce rings true in the end. So it wasn’t tough in that sense, it was very beautiful actually.”

Ghost Stories was a very successful album… I like it very much personally… specifically the song A Sky Full of Stars…

“I really love that song as well. A Sky Full of Stars was actually the last song added to the album. There is a part of my work which is exactly what Chris is singing about. I kind of felt hat maybe the inspiration for this song could have been mutual. Although it hasn’t been said and I don’t want to say that that is the case, but it definitely is a song which resonates with me and with work I have always done. So I love that one.”

You already suggested that your life after Coldplay changed: how is it different now?

Míla Fürstová's exhibition at Galerie Miro, photo: Miroslav Krupička
“Well, I think that one’s life always changes through an experience and this was a huge one for me. My love is to draw and basically I draw sometimes in quite cramped conditions. I studied at the Royal College of Art, which was a great school, but even after finishing that there are obviously no guarantees one will have a great studio. So the path is often… you know, it can be hard to be an artist, if one wants to make a living just through art.”

That was my next question: it must be very difficult to make a living as an artist in the UK.

“Well, yeah, it is very, very gradual. It’s just like any journey: if you are climbing uphill, there is really no point in looking up and thinking ‘Wow, I can’t manage this!’. It really is step-by-step and in my case listening to my intuition and being brave.”

“What happened with me was that I was, for a very long time and artist in residence at Cheltenham Ladies’ College which is a lovely, lovely school in Britain. Very prestigious. And I was able to build an etching studio for the girls who study there, so I was partially working and partially being an artist. And when I met my husband, he is a photographer and he is a brave man and he kind of said ‘Look, are you a teacher or are you an artist? And the answer was clear: I am an artist.

“And he said, well, therefore take the step and be brave. So I decided I would leave the ladies’ college and try and make a living from my art. You know, I am a Czech woman, I can make a good mushroom soup, I am resourceful! (laughs) I thought, even if we are poor, at least I am listening to my intuition and I will be something I love! So that is how it started. And quite frankly, the Coldplay commission came at a time when I least expected it. I had a five-month-old baby, I was kind of off work, living from savings…”

So you must be busy now?

“I am beyond busy!” (laughs)

And Coldplay? Are you still in touch?

Míla Fürstová's exhibition at Galerie Miro, photo: Miroslav Krupička
“We are in touch. They are now working very intensively on a new album which is going to be very different from Ghost Stories. And, you know, there is a part of me that is thinking that I so loved the cooperation which took up almost two years of my life, intimate, lovely work, and I would like to work like this again. On the other hand, I feel like I gave them all and I feel like it is time for me to work again on my own. That’s from my side.

“From their side, of course, I think they will be looking for a completely different artist. their albums are all very, very different in terms of design.”

Part 2 airs on Saturday, June 27.

Authors: Jan Velinger , Miroslav Krupička
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