By Memory7. 11. 2014 – 4. 1. 2015
Václav Špála Gallery, Prague
Five years ago when I asked a few Czech female artists, with whom I was preparing an exhibition for the Katzen Art Center in Washington, to write a few lines about their work, Kateřina Vincourová sent a single sentence: "I'm building ,cages' and I am trying to capture the echoes of my thoughts in them." This terse metaphorical message can be seen as one of the keys to understanding the work of an artist who had begun to affect the Czech art scene more than twenty years ago and whose art pieces still remain unmistakable thanks to their remarkable ability to combine monumentality with intimacy. Kateřina Vincourová‘s art works have in themselves always carried a strong element of building - their space formation characteristic, a dialogue with the place and the use of soft and often transparent materials (foam, polystyrene, textiles, rubber) were, actually, since the beginning, the reason why it was necessary to think about them within the frames of installation art rather than statuary. Kateřina‘s inflatable objects, often with exaggeration referring to the iconography of consumer (non) culture, in addition they cleverly made uncertain the relationship between outside and inside, and rather than objects to be looked at they became temporary structures for habitation.
Whilst at the beginning of the new millennium the works of Kateřina Vincourová still had a direct connection to the seen and real world, at the exhibition in Gallery Švestka in 2011, realised after a break of nearly five-years, there was already an evident tendency to subtler and more fragile forms and less clear meanings. (The artist, herself has explained it well in a recent interview with Terezie Nekvindová : "I do not create objects. First there is the idea and a conversation that I lead with myself or with others.") The exhibition By heart, this removal of the material aspect - at least for now - completes. In her latest works Kateřina Vincourová uses the most ordinary – banal and even waste - materials and articles (haberdashery, recycled underwear, PET bottles, wire, trash, rags) and with their help she intuitively "tells" extraordinary stories. They're stories drawn within the space, taken from memory, which despite material poverty are not without mystery, humor, exaggeration or erotic undertones and which tell about life and death, about power and helplessness. The author’s experience of motherhood and rediscovering forgotten childhood memories, spontaneity and the inevitably close end for our loved ones - friends and parents, often accompanied by memory disorders or it‘s complete loss are all imprinted in the stories. It is therefore no surprise that the generosity and monumentality found earlier Kateřina‘s works are being pushed away by the detailed manuscript that materiality is making space to temporariness, provisory and instability that the material world is turning into memories of itself (made present by mere phantoms and silhouettes), that the great social and personal themes are more often changed by fragmentary, as if in a low voice or whisper storytelling, that reason and logic are being displaced by irrationality, the prints of borderline states of the human mind and the automatic flow of images and ideas and - not least – that the main topic is becoming, by heart, the drawn human body and face, however fragmented they are.
At the exhibition By heart Kateřina Vincourová among other pieces offers an installation made out of minimalist blocks, designed for the visitors for sitting and relaxing on. Although at first glance the neat "bundles" sealed in plastic remind the viewer of construction materials, in their centre is underwear. Industrial compression of petticoats, vests, brassieres, bikinis, briefs and knickers of various qualities of materials and sizes that can remotely remind us of Caesars‘ forty years old experiments with pressing wrecks of cars, recycles by that way not only used clothes, but also snippets of intimate stories of unknown people that carry personal - and in a way - even collective memory. At a time when the memory capacity is measured largely by the capacity of virtual programs, data and information, is Kateřina Vincourová‘s interest in memory in its unmediated form, as the echoes of human experiences, knowledge and ideas, spiced up with the obvious need to rehabilitate craftworks more than necessary. The recycling of materials, techniques, procedures, and memory does not have to lead to a dead end and be the same thing as repetition and imitation; it can be an effective means of reviving what a person or society for various reasons forget, displace or overlook and yet is what usually holds the key to understand who the man was and is.