Secret Walls, the world’s premiere live-art battle, began back in 2006 in a small, swelteringly hot bar in East London’s trendy Shoreditch district. (I spent many nights working as the event’s host and occasional DJ.) A creation of the award-winning, multi-disciplinary design boutique Monorex, whose head Terry Guy is responsible for the event’s global expansion, it is currently being held in over 20 different countries, now including the Czech Republic.
“It’s a simple concept and that’s why I think it spread so quickly,” Guy said in an April 2013 interview with website Creative Social. Indeed the concept is just that: Talented sketch artists compete in a series of knock-out rounds (think Fight Club, but with pen and ink standing in for fists). Battles are set up and promoted through word of mouth and social media. Eight artists participate in total, with two artists going head-to-head in each event. The goal? To out-draw, outshine, outwit, or even completely undo your opponent using only black ink and on a vast white wall (walls range from 8-by-16 ft up to about 25 ft high) in 90 minute’s time.
To lend an even more frenetic pace to the proceedings, illustrations are inked live in front of an audience with the crowd selecting its preferred artist via enthusiasm and sheer noise—the crowd’s champion is decided with a decibel reader. The artist with the loudest endorsement from the crowd wins the audience vote, leaving two votes for the two guest judges.
Secret Walls arrived here roughly three years ago. The event is currently enjoying a second season in Prague with Czech artists joining the ever-growing ranks of the country’s Secret Walls network. Promoter and main organizer for the Czech Republic’s Secret Walls, 33 year-old Viktor Rosinsky, has been part of the Monorex/Secret Walls team for almost three years. Viktor, originally from Slovakia, has spent the majority of that time in the Czech capital recruiting some of the most vibrant and captivating artists in the country to produce the second season of Secret Walls Czech Republic.
“I was running Eurocultured Festival in Manchester, Dublin, and Bratislava,” says Rosinky. I became involved in Secret Walls Sydney edition. I returned back to Europe and moved to London where I met Terry [Guy]. I asked him to organize Secret Walls in Eastern Europe and the rest is history. We’ve been up and running for three years now!”
Secret Walls has had a cult-like following since its London days. It quickly became that city’s high-profile event with the monthly battles attracting large numbers of cool-kids who gathered to spur on the hugely talented artists competing for the £1000 prize money and the coveted SW battle champion trophy. I asked Rosinky what his aims have been while preparing each of the visually stimulating Prague nights.
“We try to keep it self-efficient without damaging influences from sponsors,” he says. It’s been tough but things are getting better slowly. I really want to organize these events to give global reach to local talents. We want a Czech superstar illustrator that will be known around the world.”
Rosinky points out that Secret Walls X Czech Republic is always on the hunt for “new and interesting locations”. The most recent competition was held at Prague’s legendary art space/cafe/bar NoD, with DJs Wosa & Hlavolam providing the musical backdrop to the visual entertainment. Two artists, Plumm and Distingo tied and will move on to the semi-finals.
Personally, I’m pleased to see the event mature from its early East London days while holding onto the spontaneous feel that captured my own, and other’s, imagination in 2006. Rest assured, it’s still Secret Walls…and paint will be spilled!
Future events are typically announced six weeks in advance; check the Secret Walls x Czech Republic Facebook page for further information.