Renowned wood carver Frederic Zavadil has been commissioned by CRCC to create a sculpture of the Crucifixion for the main altar at the Conference Centre.
When did you come to Canada?
My wife and I came to Canada as political refugees from former Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) in August 1989, three months before the “Velvet Revolution” when the socialist system changed to a democracy. If we had come after the revolution, we would most likely not have been allowed to stay in Canada.
What is your own religious background?
The former Czechoslovakia was a socialist country governed by the Communist Party at the time we were growing up. The political system did not acknowledge the existence of God, and still today the Czech Republic is one of the least religious countries in the world. We were brought up as atheists. We were not baptized and were never taught anything about religion. Our first ever encounter with “church” was actually when we came to Canada as refugees and stayed in a Catholic Church shelter for the first six weeks. I know that it sounds strange, but we really didn’t understand at that time that the Church is not just about prayer and liturgy. Over the years in Canada, we have seen a lot of good coming from religious organizations and have made friends with many people who are devoted Catholics and, of course, it all makes us think. We have a lot of questions – one of them about my sculpting, because it clearly is a gift – and we keep searching for answers. I am very much influenced by my religious work and my thinking has changed a lot with knowledge and understanding. I can definitely say about both of us that for a long time we have not been atheists, and we are both open to what time will bring.
Where did you study art?
I didn’t study art. I am self-taught. I started painting when I was a child and sculpting in my early forties. I just had the desire to create.
Is teaching an important aspect of your art?
Teaching is a very important part of what I do. It helps me to improve my own sculpting skills and gives me different perspectives on art and other things. I also very much enjoy sharing my skills with other sculptors and carvers and as a bonus I create a friendship with each of them.
You appear to prefer wood carving to other carving mediums. Why?
I always liked working with wood. It is a living material. It has warmth and feeling to it, unlike marble, bronze, or plaster. It offers challenges that other mediums don’t – grain, different hardness, density – and I really like the natural feeling of a finished carving.
A significant number of your commissions have been for churches. Is your approach to religious subjects any different than your approach to secular subject matter?
I am an artist and my approach to any subject matter depends on what the project is – what it represents and what feelings it should evoke. I probably spend much more time researching and reading about religious subjects than about secular ones because they require me to have knowledge and understanding. With religious subjects there is also more respect, humility, and emotions.
More work of the artist may be viewed at https://www.fredzavadilwoodcarving.com/
See June CRCC Newsletter for continuation of interview with Fred Zavadil, Part 2