Sarka Lee who expresses profound sentiments in her acrylic work has a face which is barely recognized in her native Czech Republic. It is the same here in Guyana, where she has spent the last year and the simple reason is that her art is only sold to private collectors.
What is phenomenal about this is that exposure could do major things for her given the quality of her work, but on the flip side, the soulful pieces she has been churning out on canvas somehow deserve the quiet praise that connects with the underlying, personal stories they tell.
Her low-key profile hits you as being a tad bit stranger though when she reveals that her art is a way of communicating with people. The canvas is an instrument, which speaks to the observer in the same way that Sarka would and her language is as pellucid as it gets.
Mostly, her work involves children and often celebrates their innocence, happiness and carefree spirit. She has an obvious obsession with colours, so if you stand in a room surrounded by her work, it's a kaleidoscope. It's also the kind of setting you would not mind relaxing in for hours - sipping an espresso and biting into a luscious piece of cheesecake.
This happened on Tuesday when Sarka displayed some of her paintings at the Oasis CafÃ© in Carmichael Street and the unknown painter became the latest buzz. The serenity of the Oasis is transformed with Sarka's work; as you walk into the cafÃ© the art speaks to you. Now it is not going to be saying much to everyone and Sarka does not expect it to but some people will be drawn to the paintings.
Four of the eight paintings on display were sold on the first day and Sarka sees this as very promising. She is more interested however in whether she is communicating effectively with people who look at the paintings.
Among the most talked about pieces is one titled, 'Domino Players' which tells the story of a woman who always cheated to win by slipping her last domino under her breast. The second is called, 'A Smile' and this one is of a boy whose innocent, sweet smile represents that of every child.
Sarka sat down for an interview with The Scene on Wednesday at the Oasis and mid-way through the conversation she made it clear why she paints:
"I am interested in one's soul so I study people's feelings to show me the way. When I paint I listen to my intuition, I listen to dreams and even angels. Yeah I believe in angels. I am also inspired by young children, their spontaneity and carefree spirit."
Intuition is important to her. Sarka revealed that she used to be an art teacher several years ago, but gave up the profession after she realized there was no real feeling in what she was doing. A few years later, Sarka said, she recognised that to teach art is to develop intuition.
One of the things she often says to people who view her work is that the paintings bring her a lot of joy and it is her hope that they will bring them the same amount of joy or find a way into their hearts.
She said some of her paintings have two sides to them, which is something she believes most people can relate to. There is usually sadness and happiness and she explains this as having a good day and a bad day but still rejoicing in the fact that you were able to be around to experience the good with the bad.
As far as her art career goes, Sarka has had private showings in the Cook Islands where she lived for a number of years after leaving the Czech Republic. Many private collectors have seen her work and purchased several pieces.
She was a university Arts major in the Czech Republic and went on to teach art in New Zealand. Most of what she knows about painting people's feelings and getting various sentiments on canvas she credits to Judith Kunzle, a woman who she refers to as her mentor, friend and teacher.
Sarka said she could not see herself painting at the level she does today if she did not have the formal training, which took about six years in total. Though she has always been painting and experimenting, she said the training was integral.
Sarka lived in Australia before coming to Guyana just over a year ago with her husband who is here on a contract. She is a mother of two young children, aged two and five years old.
Since her arrival here, she has been a volunteer with Guyana Red Cross Society Children's Convalescent Home. She has also worked with UNICEF as a graphic artist designing posters among other things for the organization.
Sarka said she has about a year left in Guyana but there is a possibility she could stay on if her husband's contact is renewed. She leaves for Europe within a few months but is expected back here in August. firstname.lastname@example.org