Czech-born Artist, Vasek Matousek, in the Cape

Sharon Hindle (Supplied):

I’ve just returned from Cape Town where I recently attended the “vernissage” of a most remarkable Czech-born artist, Vasek Matousek,  a wiry, unpretentious, passionate man who creates 2D and 3D magic in mixed media.

 Sipping chilled mountain-stream water in his thatched “rondavel” kitchen – the coolest place in 39.5 degree temperatures in the Winterhoek near Tulbagh,

I learn this:

Vasek Matousek was born in 1943 in Golčův Jeníkov near Kutna Hora, the youngest of five children.  His family soon moved to Chomutov near Usti-nad-Laben where his father, Karel worked as a geologist.

 “I learnt to draw, paint and sew from a very early age”  Matousek tells me, ”because my mother, Ana, was a wonderful seamstress”.  “She was always sewing for my sisters Ana, Eva, Ela and Alena – and for the ladies in the village”

 To keep her young boy busy, Ana would iron brown paper shopping bags for his art paper, and teach him to draw, cut out shapes with a pair of small, blunt scissors, and  sew.

 Little would she have known the impact that those simple childhood activities would have had on Matousek’s future.

Although he had won First Prize in a national competition run by the Prague Academy of Fine Arts, and despite several pleas to the Academy by Mr Jaroslav Hejna, his  art teacher at Gymnasium v Chomutove, Matousek was not accepted to the Prague Academy of Fine Arts.  He was instead offered a place in Jewellery Design in Jablonec, an offer he declined.

 Matousek then went to live with his sister in an apartment on Jilska Ulice near Betlemske namesti in Stare Mesto  and after a one-night stint as a security guard at the Prague Zoo, and a summer job as a life-saver at Podoli,  Matousek  secured a “real” job –  as a window dresser for Perla,  now My Narodni? (Owned by Tesco)

 Being a keen figure skater,  Matousek joined the Czech Ice Revue, partnering with Magdalena Molinari.  They later left Czechoslovakia –  as it was the time, in about 1963 to join the Deutsches Eis Theater in Munich.

 Under the directorship of a Mr Schilling, Matousek and Molinari worked with the Olympic prize-winning duo – Marika Kilius and Hans-Jurgen Baumler. (See “Eislauf 1967”)

 Having travelled all over Europe with the company, experiencing “Western style” freedoms it was really hard for Matousek to return to Czechoslovakia to again live under the oppressive Communist regime.

 “It was very, very difficult to leave my family, but I had to choose freedom”  Matousek tells me.

 Sadly it would now seem that he has lost contact with his family in Czech Republic, and that his freedom would come at a price:  Matousek endured some very tough and lonely times before he eventually found his way to South Africa.

 It was figure skating that brought Matousek to South Africa in February 1972, where he started out as the principal ice dancer for the very successful Marjorie Chase Ice Productions in Durban.  He soon went on to become the costume designer and wardrobe manager for the company, designing and cutting up to 600 costumes every year.  His mother would have been proud.

 At about the age of 35, Matousek eventually took himself off to follow his passion – Fine Art, at the Cape Technikon where he spent six years both learning and teaching art.

 The highlight of his life, he tells me, was donning his graduation gown and cap,  and walking away with his National Higher Diploma in Fine Art – cum laude

 Matousek subsequently became the costume designer and Wardrobe Manager for the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB)  – and Cape Town City Ballet, before moving to Sun City ( to create all the costumes for the opening of the  Sun City “Extravaganza”  with a cast of leggy dancers mostly imported from Las Vegas.

 Matousek now lives simply in a modest cottage on a farm at the foot of  the Winterhoek mountains near Tulbagh, with Hanka and Svetlano, his two little dogs. His deep connection to the mountain has for the past twenty years been both his solace and inspiration. He sees in the mountain the perfect face of an angel, and in the foothill orchards laden with colourful fruit, her magnificent gown.

  In an adjacent barn Vasek Matousek creates fantastical 2D & 3D art pieces using a range of media from ceramic and fabric to ink drawings and large acrylic paintings. “Magic, theatre, colour, colour, colour”  he says,  when asked to define his work.

 Matousek has been flown to Germany and France to create installations at privately owned hotels, and he continues to supply art works to private collectors.

 At the opening of the exhibition Matousek, in a jaunty red hat, was presented with a magnificent velvet cloak – a gift from his friends.  One sensed that this may well have been the second highlight of his career –  Matousek’s donning of the mantle of Master Magician – Fine Art.

 “What I dreamed of as a little boy  – it has all happened”  he says, “ For the first time in my life, I’m really, really proud of my work”

Jusitifiably, Matousek is delighted with the response to his solo retrospective exhibition at the Rust-en-Vrede Gallery in Durbanville, just north of  Cape Town.

The exhibition runs until February 22nd 2017.  Contact Rust en Vrede Gallery:

10 Wellington Road, Durbanville, Cape Town.

Image: Vasek Matousek. Photo: Marleze van der Westhuizen