“Painting for me is the social fabric that the painter waves into images,” answers Stanislava Kovalcikova decisively when asked about her vision and perception of the artistic discipline to which she dedicates her life. In her responses, we can find a lot of interesting reflections, ranging from the feeling of an inner prison to the trial and error method that has marked her career. She is now presenting am I dead yet, her first exhibition at Peres Projects on the occasion of Gallery Weekend Berlin, where powerful feminine energy becomes the central axis. You can visit it until next May 27, don't miss out!
Through her works, the painter originally from Czechoslovakia pursues an ultimate goal: to unknow the knowable. “Presuming you’ve thoroughly thought and lived your paintings is the actual goal and then the works become by-products,” comments the creative. She’s a lover of the strange in people, and her new exhibition, am I dead yet: “was like a dark tunnel with a light at the end.” We take advantage of the fact that she is now presenting her new work at Peres Projects in Berlin to talk to her about the historical discrimination against women in art, her creative development and her future plans.
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am I dead yet April 29 – May 27, 2022. Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin - Photographed: Timo Ohler.
“I like to think of paintings like magic spells,” you commented in a previous interview, where you also recognized that painting doesn’t serve a real purpose anymore. Could you explain to us more about this? What is painting for you?
Because of its transitory realm, there is no other place on Earth where you can put truth and lies more densely together than into a painting. In good ones, fiction and whatever they call reality intertwine and mingle and create whole new worlds but at the same time, they remain very dead. In the last conversation, I said the painting was obsolete and I think this word sits perfectly – it’s from Latin, obsoletus (worn out, gone out of use). I think it always served a purpose as being a ‘useless’ or ‘used’ object. So, to put it short, painting for me is the social fabric that the painter waves into images. For me, it is a medium where we can lie by telling my truth and vice versa. Everything has to be useful these days and the paintings counteract these premises.
But to understand the present we must go back to the past. Let's talk about your childhood and adolescence. How would you define these stages in your life and what was your relationship with art at that time?
I have few strong memories from childhood, but the ones from adolescence are very faded – I was a very rebellious and self-destructive teen. I’m sure there is an inner child in me who never could or would grow up – I don’t cutely mean this but more with haunting and sad memories. This part communicates when I paint, so art is an everyday practice to forget the inner prison and purposefully serve the community.
Did you have any references in terms of art and painting? Any pictorial movement that particularly caught your attention?
Growing up, the artworks I could see in real and that have stuck with me were Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt and Francis Bacon who I adored and tried to copy in big ratio at 14. My mother still has them leaning against the wall.
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am I dead yet April 29 – May 27, 2022. Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin - Photographed: Timo Ohler.
And have you always been clear about your purpose in life, or have you been discovering it as you have explored different techniques and formats?
I’m the type of person who likes to go with the flow and work with what’s there. But, of course, I got there through plenty of trial and error.
Now you present am I dead yet, your first exhibition at Peres Projects. The powerful feminine energy is the pillar on which the exhibition that you are now unveiling is built, which we can visit until May 27. How do you feel and what does this opportunity mean for you? What can you tell us about this energy full of nuances and strength?
Working on this show was like a dark tunnel with a light at the end. My daughter turned 12 and I reflected much on myself as a mother, as a sentient being who makes space for the little ones. I felt the time was right to step out into the public space with these thoughts in order to move on in my life as well. It was sentimental but I’m glad it’s over and up the walls.
And this energy takes up space within a void of an empty notion of maleness. Is it important that there are spaces reserved for women in a society that has historically silenced female voices and relegated them to the background?
That’s an interesting way to see it… I’m not sure, a few years ago I would have agreed. I can only talk for artists and I think every artist has to fight for a place in the sun. It’s necessary because we’re not children of society but it’s mavericks/misfits.
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Last supper (part I), 2021 Drawing - Ink on paper, in 5 parts in artist frame 81 x 202 cm (32 x 79 in), framed.
And in the art scene? Is there gender discrimination or are we moving in the right direction? For centuries, women artists have signed their works under men's pseudonyms or even watched as other men stole their work and took credit for it.
That’s true, women were not allowed in the game but they still created, I am a sucker for crafts and collect fabrics/embroideries and other folklore handmade objects. I feel these objects have a very strong influence on me. Generally, I like to look at life from the shadow, hiding and from that perspective the world is full of art by nameless women – that’s the community that builds up the platform I am standing on. I see them far more as disappearing acts, figures striving to hide, to take up less space and I think often about how to do it myself.
There is no doubt that your work is visceral. What do you think is your differential factor concerning other artists, what makes you different?
The task is to process, bring into existence and inspire others. What people buy are leftovers of that precious activity. Of course, I am ambitious too and worship my works but the thing I just mentioned is becoming more dominant. I love a challenge but even more, I like to disappear in my work.
And I guess that your work is directly related to emotion and that you don't follow a specific development process, do you? How is your creative process, do you have any guidelines or rules?
Well, the problem is that when I work, I don’t want to know what I am doing in a linguistic sense – so it’s hard to talk about it. Many people perceive it as visceral –you just mentioned it too – and that’s where words just can’t keep up. Nevertheless, there is a specific goal, which is to unknow the knowable. Presuming you’ve thoroughly thought and lived your paintings is the actual goal and then the works become by-products. It’s an inner position I try to reach in my private realm and often it takes years of trying without any presentable results. But I believe in it and as long as it keeps me running… My schedule is very simple: I work all the time and rarely take time off.
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am I dead yet April 29 – May 27, 2022. Courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin - Photographed: Timo Ohler.
And what about technique? You use a lot of sfumato, green and greyish opaque colours that you blend together.
It’s about trying to see new elements in a story as old as the world. I like to reference masters not out of idolising but because I feel that’s the ways their works are talking to me. Most of the time I like my paintings worn out-obsolete-and for years I have been avoiding acrylic paints but even this is changing these days. I also picked up drawing again, something I gave up for a while because painting was so all-consuming.
What can you tell us about the women turned into the main characters of your paintings?
Women who are self trash, fragile women but also gregarious women with a real interest in others. I love the alien in people, god I love the wildness, the wit, the lightning of the other mind. My women stand for me of course not only for others and they communicate. I have had moments of communication with people, often totally unsuitable people, which had a truly unholy intensity... A sort of orgasmic meaningfulness and clarity, you know, all the old romantic stuff – two strangers stop and suddenly exchange glimpses of reality before moving on into the mists. My women have witnessed this.
And finally, I’d like to ask you about your next projects. Is there anything you can tell us?
I’m working towards my first institutional solo in September at Belvedere 21 in Vienna. As an emigrated local of that area, it’s pulling me back pre-art. As abstract as it sounds I see myself as a genreless woman painter from the East and this show is locating me somewhere near to my source. Surprise surprise.
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Those who smile will also bite, 2021 Painting - Oil, foil on canvas 80 x 80 cm (32 x 32 in).
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Dangerous business, 2022 Painting - Oil, foil and ink on linen 80 x 65 cm (32 x 26 in).
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Female Parade, 2022 Painting - Oil, foil, latex and dried orchid on canvas 145 x 100 cm (57 x 39 in).
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Smear, 2022 Painting - Oil on burlap 44 x 34 cm (17 x 13 in).
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Not dead yet, 2022 Painting - Oil, foil on linen 107 x 200 cm (42 x 79 in).
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Sad Venus, 2015-2022 Painting - Oil, foil on canvas 95 x 150 cm (37 x 59 in).
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Last supper (part Il), 2022 Wall Installation - burnt cigarettes, lipstick 108 x 312 cm (43 x 122 in), overall vary with installation.