Alzbeta Jaresova’s practice incorporates both sculpture and drawing, creating work reminiscent of architecture proposals. We talk to her about these imagined, utopian/dystopian structures and discuss physical spaces that exert power over those who inhabit them.
In your work you explore the way in which architecture is influenced by political ideology. Were there any specific structures or locations that triggered this thought process?
In my home city of Prague, Gothic churches rub shoulders with Art Nouveau hotels and concrete communist-era housing estates. Growing up in such a diverse architectural environment has triggered my interest in exploring how time, trends and political ideologies have shaped the structural cladding of the city’s walls. Inevitably, certain architectural styles, like that of the communist era and modern builds, have influenced me more than others given their recent time of construction and their empowering stature in the urban landscape. Their cold, minimal and questionable functionality has undoubtedly informed the structures that appear in my work.
How do you feel the pairing of both sculpture and drawing affects your audience's engagement with your work?
The inclusion of both two-dimensional and three-dimensional elements introduces an added layer of reading to the work and creates a dialogue between the two that can either bring clarity or further obscurity to the piece. One form informs the other as the viewer attempts to decipher the work. The small-scale models allow the viewer to engage with the work in a more physical way, though without a reference to scale, the forms remain enigmatic. The drawings on the other hand, give the viewer a hint of the structures’ function, as the figure that inhabits the space demonstrates its use.
What is the intended effect of making architecture proposals that are merely hypothetical and will never be realised?
The architectural proposals remain hypothetical in order for the viewer to remain a mere spectator of a subconscious thought process. If the structures were to be realised, the viewer would suddenly attain an active role in the work and would be able to interact with it directly, ultimately perturbing on the intimate world I have constructed. With the form of a model, I can sustain the work’s metaphysical quality, while the viewer actively interprets the work without a full sensory affinity.
You have stated that you are influenced by memories of Soviet-era Czechoslovakia, both on a personal and collective level. Can you separate the two, or do you encourage their intersection?
I think personal and collective memories are often difficult to separate and their intersection is in fact what interests me most. Personal memories are fragile and often subject to a subconscious selective process; of which we have little or no control. As an involuntary response to our forgetful nature, we seal mental gaps with recollections that have been shaped by our society; by the way our history is represented in the media, film, literature etc. As time goes on our personal recollections become more and more obscure and we become increasingly dependent on the established social memory to create an image of the past.
There is no specific reference to time or place in your work. What impact does this have on the audience's interpretation of the piece?
By eliminating a specific reference to time and place, I hope to provide the viewer with a glimpse into the state of limbo where memories and thoughts merge and their fragmented quality becomes apparent. The figures remain unidentifiable and the spaces undefined, in order for there to be a communication of meaning on a more basic and universal level through the language of gesture and structure. I believe this makes the work more open to its viewers, while at the same time calling for their inquisitive nature to decipher the intricacies within it.
Despite the way in which your models and drawings fulfil a diagrammatic and functional role, it is hard not to feel empathy with the protagonists in the drawings. What is your personal relationship with these characters?
The protagonists of my works mostly take on a symbolic role for me, and act as carriers of memory. They are manipulated like figurines, or toys, and placed into enclosed spaces that essentially act as a reflection of their own psychological state. Rather than trying to express their specific personalities, I am interested in exploring the figures’ gestures and using the positioning of their bodies to present a solemn moment of desolation and constraint.
Your work appears to be very considered, successfully exploring your desired themes. Can you tell us a bit about your development in investigating these ideas? Have you examined these concepts in previous work?
I have always had a keen interest in history and its impact on our perception of time and place. In my earlier works I explored history quite literally, using concrete symbols and references to specific events and places to communicate my concerns. As time passed, these particular symbols became less and less important and a wider context took over the work. I realised I was able to explore the connection between history, memory and the functioning of social structures by allowing the work to communicate on a more subconscious level. I grew interested in the figure-space relationship. As I explored the significance of architecture as a record of history and social development I began to use it as a primary vessel for my concerns. A significant development in my work took place with the introduction of a three-dimensional element, which allowed me to reconsider my interests through a new medium.
You have been awarded a six-month residency at the Griffin Gallery. Do you intend to continue with this project, or are you hoping to move in a different direction?
I plan on continuing with this project for now. During the residency, I will be playing around with the scale of my work and will investigate alternative methods of display and how these can alter the reading of the work as a result. I plan on creating a series of large detailed drawings, and possibly integrating a video piece alongside newly conceived three-dimensional models. Six months is a significant amount of time, during which I will undoubtedly be able to elaborate on the themes explored in my work, as it starts to take new forms.