Paul Zika was born at Albury NSW in July 1949, within two months of his parents and two brothers’ arrival at Bonegilla Migrant Camp as refugees from postwar Czechoslovakia. He grew up in North Blackburn in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. His father (in partnership with Jim Armstrong) established San Damiano Religious Art Studios in Box Hill in 1959, and as a teenager Paul often assisted his father in the preparation of designs and cartoons for stained glass window commissions.
As a teenager he was interested in historical and contemporary architecture, and following his Matriculation he gained a student place in the Architecture Faculty at Melbourne University. On repeating the final year of secondary school in 1967 in order to gain a Tertiary Scholarship, he ‘experienced’ the Two Decades of American Painting Exhibition at the former National Gallery of Victoria – a fantastic survey of the breadth of sixties American painting. The show totally changed his vision and ambitions and he successfully applied for a place in the School of ART at RMIT, commencing a Diploma of Fine Art with a major in Painting in 1968. He subsequently went on to do a Fellowship Diploma (1971) – one of the few Graduate Diplomas available at the time; a Trained Technical Teachers Certificate (1972); and a Certificate of Advanced Studies at St Martins School of Art, London (1773-4). He also travelled extensively in Europe.
Two Decades of American Painting, former National Gallery of Victoria, 1967
On returning to Australia in 1975, he took up sessional teaching in the Painting Department at RMIT, as well as part-time teaching at Footscray Technical School. In 1979 he moved to Tasmania to take up a Lectureship position at the Tasmanian School of Art in Hobart, then part of the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education on Mt. Nelson. Soon after, the School became part of the University of Tasmania and moved to its present site at the Centre for the Arts on Sullivans Cove. In 1990 he took on the leadership of the Painting Studio and has held various other positions of responsibility in the School ever since. Soon after arriving, Zika became actively involved in the School of Art’s exhibition program and curated his first exhibition in 1981. He has been active as a curator ever since; in addition to his ongoing studio based practice.
Over the last twenty years, series of artworks have emerged in direct response to field trips and residencies overseas. The Post Italy series (1990-94) followed a residency in Tuscany and Rome; the Monstrance series (1995-98) developed in response to time spent in Prague; the Cornucopia series (1998-2003) post Barcelona; the Niscemi series (2003-6) post Sicily; the Tarabuco/Jalq’a series (2007-9) post Bolivia and Peru; the Terme series post Rome and Naples (2010–16); and most recently the Stellar series.