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catalogue essay: The Bride in the Enclosed Garden
Your exhibition - as well as the new piece of work you are showing - is entitled Bride in the Enclosed Garden. That´s a motif from the Bible, isn´t it?
The theme is inspired by the Song of Songs from the Old Testament. I have worked with the Bible before, with the Apocalypse. My concern with the Bible is not necessarily religious, but historical and cultural - it is the oldest written text in the Western world, and that fascinates me. The Song of Songs is a beautiful text, it´s a love song, it´s very erotic and it´s a mystery - you´re not quite sure what it means. The church later tried to interpret it as the relationship to God but, originally, it´s a dialogue between man and woman, two lovers. The text of the Bride in the Enclosed Garden also bears a reference to contstrongplation. Symbolically, the Enclosed Garden is the place where we go for meditation, the place where the creative process starts. So it´s a tribute to the artist´s process, to the creativity we have. The sculpture of the Bride is both male and female. It is lit from within, with this inner light, but it also is a symbol of cornucopia - horn of plenty, symbol of fertility of the fstrongale body.
You mentioned the piece being "lit from within". There is another piece in this show, where a video still forms a backdrop for transparent sculptures of Venuses in a darkened room. It occurs to me that you quite often use underground, cellar-like spaces for the presentation of your work, and that light plays quite a role in it.
That´s interesting, with the cellar spaces, I have never thought about that, it´s unconscious. The light is like a spark of creativity in life. I tend to be very monochromatic, I use a lot of white, and light works like a three-dimensional color. Light has the potential to activate the entire space - which is what installation is about. In this specific case with the Venus sculptures hanging in front of the screen, I wanted to create a moving painting - installation. The movement of the sculptures creates a play of light, or flat shadows on the backdrop of the projection.
What does the shadow mean to you? Perhaps it´s that old Platonic dilemma we´re struggling with. It´s been a theme in my work for twenty years.
Another important theme of your work has been female identity, both in terms of gender and sex; celebration of the female body, its power and capacity of bringing new life to the world.
As a female artist, I naturally have always been addressing these issues. At the beginning of my career, the work is much more about sexual energy. Now I am a middle aged artist, a mother - so the energy is different. The body is changing, It´s about being a lover, but also a mother, a wife... In the exhibition there are the Mother-Daughter drawings which originated in collaboration with my daughter, Gabriela. One of us would start drawing, the other would continue and contribute her part.
And what about the cauldron, here placed in a room which is decorated with wallpaper made of your drawings of "Melancholy Baby"?
It´s taken from Albrecht Dürer, his Melancholia graphic has inspired me for years. Melancholia was always - or at least until the Renaissance it was considered a positive quality, a symbol of contemplation and meditation, necessary for the creative process. In these photo-drawings there are different images - in the original graphic by Albrecht Dürer is an angel sitting on the millstone, which can be interpreted as muse, or inspiration, while the millstone stands for hard work. The cauldron is another symbol for the female body, the water dripping on it is the creative force. It´s about active creating - be it children or art.
In your installations, you are using the same objects again and again, only slightly altered. It´s like a way of keeping the work together when, otherwise, it´s so transitory. How did you arrive at that, at working with installations at all?
I think my first installation was in 1982 in Hawaii, at the University Gallery. I had paintings with textiles hanging in front of them into the space. It was my first attempt to get into space, but it took me a very long time to realize the importance of space. At the time I was reading a lot of philosophy- semiotics, deconstruction-and realized that for our contemporary world after modernism, it´s not important so much what one is saying, but how are you saying it. That´s what´s important for me. The re-contextualization of art was one reason why I was intrigued with installation art. The relationship of the objects in the space - that´s what produces the meaning - that´s deconstruction, that´s how we are re-writing history.
Barbara Benish in conversation with Jana Ticha, January 2004. Prague
Jana Ticha is a freelance curator, writer, and editor in chief of the magazine Zlaty Řez/publishers, Prague
catalogue essay: The Bride in the Enclosed Garden
Galerie Města Plzně/ City Gallery of Plzen, Czech Republic October-November, 2003 ISBN 80-239-2305-6