by Zai Xu

Adam (*1996, Bratislava) is a young artist of Slovak origin, currently based in Brno. After leaving their studies of microbiology at MUNI, they continue their BA studies at VUT (Brno University of Technology). Their works, usually illustrations, focus on various social issues, including feminism and queer culture, and could be labeled as “underground anarchist zine culture, a mix of comics, queer feminist sci-fi and fantasy, street art and cartoons”.


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Before you started your art career, you studied (natural) sciences. That is an unusual transition. Why did you cancel your studies?


In highschool I focused on biology and chemistry in my studies and art was my after school hobby. So when the time came to send applications to various universities I thought I wasn't prepared enough to study art and my parents were quite vocal about their preference of biology for me. Later in school I realized I would rather study art and have science as a hobby not vice versa. But it was a hard and very big decision for me. Even now I think from time to time whether I could go and do a masters in mycology or marine botany perhaps.


What have you learned from your previous studies? Is there anything that you perceive as a personal gain, maybe even something that gives you an advantage over other artists?


Most of it was just personal growth really, finding out what I wanted to do and finding the courage to quit my studies and try a new path. The factual things, like latin names of various plants and the chemistry formulas I forgot very fast. Sometimes I remember and explain a chemical process behind a mundane everyday thing to my friends and they are all shocked, they too forgot I have this background hah. But most of the time it's actually the opposite, my imposter syndrome creeps up on me and I feel like all those years I've missed, not attending an art high school will mean I'll never get to draw how I imagine things in my head. But that's also a pattern of thinking I'm trying to shed.

I think though there are a lot of things the art practice and science practice have in common, for example developing films for photography or mixing pigments, observing things for hours, even questioning all things we've been taught. Maybe my advantage, if you want to call it that, is that I don't separate these worlds as much as others might.


Is it possible to find a call for nature in your works?


I would say yes, I think a lot about us- human animals and our relationship with the world around, other non-human animals, other beings. Also it's interesting to look into what things and spaces we call nature, how society bleeds into these spaces (queer ecology theories for example I find really inspiring), how things work, how nature is build, how ecosystems work, these things all inspire me, mentally but also visually. I like to take patterns from maybe underwater single cell organisms and use them on flowers in my drawings. I mean, drawing to me really is just observing things and rearranging them into your own “new” image. And I would like to maybe rub off some of this excitement onto others with my works too. It's natural to feel this “call for nature” whatever skewed definition of “nature” we have in mind, we are social animals and never before have we been so isolated from other animals other than our own species.


How would you describe your relationship with it?


As a queer person, I grew up knowing that the society sees me as something “unnatural” but I also had a very strong connection to the nature, which funnily enough, was nurtured by my quite homophobic parents. My mum is very much into botany and gardening and my dad had a dream of becoming a geologist when he was younger. So I have had quite a strong connection to nature since being very young. I liked watching documentaries about the “exotic” lands, I had my indoor plants and bird songs on a CD. And developing this relationship also helped me understand how wrong it is to call something unnatural. If nature is anything, it is diverse, and also pretty wild. Like really, whatever you can imagine, nature probably has already done it. So I found a great comfort in learning everything about the oddest, wildest creations of our world, maybe because it was also helping me find acceptance with my weird odd self.

At the moment my relationship to nature is still full of fondness and awe, but there's a bitter aftertaste, always the thought in the back of my head of how bad the climate change is and how little chance we have of stopping the corporate capitalist from sucking it out. There's no nudibranchs on Mars.


If I am not mistaken, your recent technique is illustration. Did you have any favourite illustration book as a child that inspired you?


Oh I did, I loved all books written by Roald Dahl and those were always accompanied by the quirky drawings of Quentin Blake. I remember at first I thought the style is nothing like I've seen before in childrens books, it's all wobbly and a tiny bit unsettling, but I grew very fond of it and I think it inspired me a lot too.


What was your favourite cartoon? Did you have any?


I had so many, too many to pick just one from, even now. From the Czechoslovak one's, my favourites were Puf a Muf, or Krtek. From international cartoons I remember I was obsessed, for a long time, with Winx. But really it's hard to pick just one. We also didn't really have access to actual children's channels, so there's plenty of cartoons for me to watch now, like Avatar, the last airbender, which is lovely.


According to you; what are the strengths of illustration as such?


To me, a big strength, or maybe an advantage of illustration, especially cartoony style is what I heard someone call the “clown nose effect”. Meaning, if you put a clown nose on, you can basically say whatever you want, whatever atrocity, without being punished for it as you would be, without the clown nose on. And the same goes for cartoons, you can be very edgy, political, gore, rude or real, but as long as you have a cutesy illustration backing up your message, you're a bit more safe than you would be without it. I think that's one of the reasons political cartoons are such a big thing and also why I incline to comics and animation so much, there's a sense of real messages in it more often than one would expect, I think.


In our store, people may find a book volume of your production. If you had to create a short annotation for yourself, what would it sound like?


Flou is a collaborative magazine, focusing on nonbinary, trans, queer artists, their works and stories. I started putting it together almost 2 years ago, under the guidance of my teacher at the time, Karol Radziszewski, and since then it changed a bit and I changed with it too. It contains plenty of works of amazing artists I admire a lot, and for me it's just a very heartwarming and comforting piece. I did my best to make the language accessible, so you can read it, no matter what background you come from, but at the same time not toning it down too much, so it's still unapologetically queer, just comes with a vocabulary as well, haha.


What can we wish you in the future?


That I'm able to finish my works, on time! hah.