Slovak caricaturist Shooty has a critically sharp pencil

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Each day Slovakia's best known caricaturist, Shooty, (Martin Sutovec) puts his pencil to work with sharp criticism of Slovak politics and society. Reactions to his caricatures on the former Pope John Paul II or other religious topics were very strong in Slovakia and led to heated debate. Though Shooty does not like to talk to the media, Ela Nahalkova managed to get wome words with the young artist.

Martin Šutovec alias Shooty is a well-known caricaturist in Slovakia. He is not afraid of religious topics like the caricatures on the former Pope John Paul II or on Slovak archbishop Sokol and the government is not happy with his caricatures either. Shooty studied graphical design and for the last five years he has been working as a political caricaturist for the daily SME.

“When you write a political commentary, you need maybe hundred words to transfer the meaning. For a caricature I need just a sentence or two and the image tells the rest. The whole information I want to communicate is transferred in just one second. I don’t think that the political caricature has some negative connotations in the public. In socialism the expression political caricature was used for something very different. The caricaturists did not make fun of the internal politics, of politicians like Husak or Klement Gottwald. If they did, they would go to jail. They only satirized those who were far away over the ocean and could do nothing to them. I hope that the times have changed. Today I think that the task of caricature is to keep politicians stressed.”

I asked Shooty if if he personally sees some limit of what can be mocked of and what is too serious for satire.

“I don’t care at all what the Islamic priests think. Here we are in Europe and we should behave like Europeans. They don’t have to do like us if they don’t like it, but they should not force us to do the same as they do. Me, when I come to their country I will respect their rules, I will wear long trousers so they don’t cut my arm off. But if they are here, they have to conform to our principles and our culture. I don’t think there are any limits of the caricature. What is more serious than death? And still death can be mocked, that’s all right. I don’t have any limitations in caricature apart from that I would never do lascivious humour.”

Shooty is a straight person who always seems to be saying what he thinks, no matter the consequences. While nobody yet tried to sue him, he receives angry reactions quite often.

“A journalist who writes a story can be sued by a politician but if somebody sued me, everybody would mock him. The political commentators talk about politics seriously and people take them as serious and relevant. Me as a caricaturist I can say whatever I want. Most of the negative reactions I get to my caricatures are ghostwritten and so I do not take them into consideration. For me the only relevant opinions come from the people who introduce themselves and whom I esteem. I suppose I’m becoming a real journalist because important people start to be interested in my opinions. It is very surprising for me that some respectable gentlemen are debating on my caricatures.”

Shooty works at deadlines as any other journalist. The caricature has to be finished at 3 pm and if a better idea comes later, it’s too late. He has to produce a caricature every day and admits that he has to draw the same politicians and situations repeatedly.

“I can’t say that I am not eager to draw [Prime Minister] Robert Fico but I draw him anyway. It is a kind of masochism that I have to draw usually people who are unsympathetic to me. On the other hand if I had to draw people who I like, I wouldn’t manage to draw them in a nice way. The political situations cycle repeats. Sometimes I have to look in the archive if I have not done this before, because the situation is very familiar to me. The situations repeat themselves all the time, the same people say the same things, but we are still surprised. I like very much the work of a political caricaturist and I will not abandon it except if Sme would decide to fire me.”