interview: about painting and queen, czech radio

 


The painting of Blanka Valcharova stretches from realistic portraits through hyper realistic depictions of objects, fruit and materials to conceptual image sets, in which the beauty of painting clashes with the symbols of decay and ruin. The topics and the processing of the painter show that Zdenek Beran was her teacher at The Academy of Fine Arts in the nineties. Two conceptual canvases on which the refinement of a historical lace costume and the beauty of a pearl necklace is confronted with a radiograph of a human skull dominate the exhibition „ ... not all has yet been answered” in the Litera Gallery in Prague. Karel Oujezdsky the reporter learned from Blanka Valcharova further details;

Valcharova: I like contrasts in painting, which are either positive or negative because they amplify the content of the painting.


In the double painting there is a beautiful dress that looks like it is really made of laces in spite of the fact that it is painted and there is a moderately high relief. You have combined the picture with a black and white skull of your self-portrait. Is it a real radiograph of your head?
Yes, it is really an X-ray of my head taken when I had a head injury. When I saw it later, it fascinated me. We do not even know everything that is in the head and when an ordinary person looks at it, they can ponder on how cleverly everything in man is created.


Does the dress there play a representative role? The painting is called Esther, could it be named after the biblical queen Esther?
Yes, it is the biblical queen Esther. I put her again in contrast, because the queen was in fact the king's bride. Being in such a position she was expected to save the nation which she gladly did, the gesture in the painting was to express it. Since she was to be a queen, she needed to look beautiful and hence wore the beautiful dress.


But it is also a little bit about transience, isn't it?
Yes, it is. The painting depicts the past and the present.


What about the second painting with the beautiful pearls that has an X-ray, of the skull and the neck.
Sometimes I try to think deep and go into depth and play with details. So I asked myself: what does a person wear a necklace on? All can be seen from the outside but never from the inside, so I painted it in such a connection.


And here we are looking at a classic double portrait of a gentleman called „Seventy years of one story“. What is the story about?
It is a story of a man who met his classmate from the first and the second class after seventy years and still recognized him. He was so surprised that when they met he said Mirek from the Jewish houses (as he knew him then) had arrived. However, Mirek was an inventor and after their parting, his life went on in a completely different direction which the classmate did not know at all. But as small boys they had a very good relationship.


Here again we come across the double painting with the little girl and a fifty-crown banknote with a few coins. What does it entail?
Some things change and fall into oblivion. So I painted a fifty-crown note, which is not used as currency anymore and a little girl, who over the years will grow into adulthood with time.


Is the whole collection about time? Next to the entrance there are five paintings with shrimps and fruit. Are they about transience again or about vanitas?
Yes, it is about transience and am also interested in details which I magnify. The naked eye cannot perceive them. It is only when they are magnified, that we can ponder on the way it functions and how it looks like in reality. In the set also there are contrasts of various topics.


You studied with Zdenek Beran, who passed away last year. What did you gain by studying with him? What kind of a professor was he according to you?
He was unforgettable. Professor Beran taught me to paint and he molded me in the direction I have taken. Without meeting Zdenek Beran am convinced these paintings would not have been painted. I would not have painted them in such a way at all. He had a magnificent personality and he was able to pass to the students and my fellows, what he knew.


with Karel Oujezdsky for Czech radio,
on 12th march 2015 in Litera Gallery, Prague
 

roots & content of art

 

The roots

It is no coincidence that Blanka Valcharova’s work is closely connected with what took place in the atmosphere of the Prague Academy after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. During the first half of the century, art got drifted by the strong current of the avant-garde modernism that was brought about by the fundamental change observed since 1960. We begin to talk about a fundamental change in the whole life pattern of the second half of the Twentieth century. In this context, art begins to be understood in the scope of its multi-faceted pluralist width, where talk about the post - modern art begins. This process also brings an entirely surprising new role to a deprecated medium - painting. Rather than maintain originality, some artists look for lost continuity by intentionally turning deep into the past, after half a century of fasting, in order to get inspiration in the unique and quite specific tradition of the European art. Also, at the Academy of Fine Arts it was necessary to change the then one-directionally cultivated trend of the strongly decayed production of the late totalitarianism. That is why, after the Velvet revolution in 1989, an unprecedented number of pluralistically functioning schools were established at the Prague Academy which represented an extraordinarily wide spectrum of opinions. One of the extremes of this opinion range was represented by the school of classic painting techniques where a special studio was established with the task to integrate the forgotten processes into the current painting.

Technique

Blanka Valcharova was one of the first students who were able to orientate herself in the new situation. She quickly developed a precise system depicting paintings, whose roots can be found in the application of the Renaissance and Baroque principle or in their Manneristic offshoots. However, it is necessary to say that, Blanka Valcharova did not get stuck in the trap of old master fascination. She was able to evaluate these malleable means for the needs of contemporary art since the beginning.

Starting points and projection

Her sense of putting meaning into details brought her to the hyper realistic orientation of painting. Blanka Valcharova tries to develop this phase gradually into a new dimension just like a number of the American authors do. It happens mainly in two levels. The first cycle of portraits include the current social types. She puts emphasis on her social feeling, in the selection and in keeping a stern concept. Such an attitude, however, exceeds the framework of the cold attitude of hyperrealists. It is through this that, we notice a specific feature of Blanka Valcharova’s work, which became even more characteristic later. It is a short state of astonishment and stiffening over the shape of reality, creating a paradoxical iconographic representation of something which before did not function as a generalization. At the same time with the sense of significance of true detail in the organism of an artwork (which prevents the author from slipping into the general popular stylism of art). Blanka Valcharova displays a sense of monumetalization and pureness of form, and this is the most distinct shift from the hyper-realistic starting point.

Content

Seemingly unimportant topics of a still life – a torn bag with lentil grains, a box with decorative corals, the lost meaning of inscriptions and the detail of a wedding dress – it is a reality that does not attract much attention mostly. Blanka Valcharova can detect this discrete reality and elevate it up to the level of art work. Thus, the revealed shapes of the neglected reality become an important pretext for an artistic play of volumes and their countless light valeurs. The zooming and magnifying of the topic section does not prevent the identification of the object. This is a substantial and perhaps a characteristic feature of Blanka Valcharova. The detail of the wedding dress thus becomes a distinctive iconic sign, which provides full authenticity at the same time. Empty gesture stylization thus does not take place. The extent of the achieved equilibrium is a sign of feeling, which though not often displayed; it is a profound stream of the whole European art. The reflection on life and death is also expressed in the concept “At the Boundary of Change“. In the concept with a similar name “Beyond the Boundary of Change” the author comments on the social and spiritual values – on the act of three national heroes’ sacrifices. The topic can get linked to a trend of the current art dealing with social and political aspects. In this way she surprisingly updates the depictive painting selected to visualization of the concept in a multiplicity of expressive means. During her short career Blanka Valcharova presents in her work a distinctive artistic talent in whose range there are considerable possibilities.

Zdenek Beran, Academy of Fine Arts, Prague
at the opening of the exhibition at Castle Castolovice 1998