Artists: Antonie Stanová (with Bohumila Grögerová)
Exhibition title: I Tried to Tell Ya Something Through the Phone
Curated by: Monika Čejková
Venue: Kvalitar Gallery, Prague, The Czech Republic
Date: September 17 – November 12, 2021
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Kvalitar Gallery, Prague
The exhibition I Tried to Tell Ya Something Through the Phone presents the artistic output of Czech painter Antonie Stanová, accompanied by the auditory work of Bohumila Grögerová, a writer, translator, and creative figure from an earlier Czech generation, who was connected with the experimental poetry movement.
Although the two artists never met and several generations separate their work, close parallels can be found in their methods of working with language and writing, particularly in their temptation to rearrange them. Stanová’s paintings are more written than painted, created as poetic diaries, and Grögerová constantly pushed the boundaries of literature in order to create visual or auditory works. This exhibition presents the canvases and poetry of Antonie Stanová, accompanied by Bohumila Grögerová’s radio play Just Breathe Now… Or, Dum Spero, Spiro, an almost Kafkaesque drama from 1975 in which a caller harasses and extorts the person on the other end of the phone line.
“The visual language I am currently working with originates in my first paintings from the period around 2015. At that time, I didn’t have a studio, and I had my stretched canvases at home. For about one month, I wrote various notes on them, so it was basically a form of diary entry. With my new paintings, I’m returning to my work with writing and pursuing connections with visual poetry. The difference is that whereas before I was working with writing’s concrete meanings and it was more legible overall, now I am focusing more on its visuality, asemantic position, and gestural qualities. So now it’s more about the act of writing itself and leaving marks than about their actual meaning as such. Thus, these characters and marks don’t necessarily have to resemble writing as we usually perceive it, but rather the principle of the “written image,” says Stanová.
Antonie Stanová’s paintings give a subconsciously pleasant impression. As the artist herself describes them, they are a kind of diary entry in which symbols and writing don’t necessarily create meaning. The images emerge from the recording of letters, short slogans, graphic symbols, typographic work, loosely incorporated pictograms, and mere fingerprints or palmprints. Rather, she touches and draws on the canvas in a way that is often reminiscent of automatic drawing or meaningless doodling. Stanová’s paintings evoke the works of Cy Twombly or some younger artists born in the 1950s (Albert Oehlen, Christopher Wool, Jonathan Lasker, Clem Crosby) as well as more contemporary artists such as those associated with Zombie Formalism, including Kerstin Brätsch, Florian Meisenberg, and David Ostrowski. In the works of some of the aforementioned artists, the asemantic writing or symbols are closely linked with drawing, becoming a key element in the hierarchy of the painting, and Stanová attaches a similar importance to drawing in her work.
Antonie Stanová (*1995) adopted her own creative style during her studies at the Academy of Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague in the Studio of Intermedia Art headed by Jiří David. At that time, she had already established a successful collaboration with the Kvalitář Gallery, where she prepared her first solo exhibition It’s Oh So Quiet in 2019. Her drawings from this period, which were created on light-weight canvas and displayed the bones, eyes, and other morphology of the human body, were accompanied in the installation by other objects and statuettes. Stanová prepared her second extensive solo exhibition – Maculata at NoD Gallery in 2020 – during her time spent in quarantine in the spring of that year. The canvases she presented there were larger than her usual works and showed a clear shift from more figuratively focused work toward abstraction. She presents her newest approaches to painting in the company of Bohumila Grögerová’s auditory works in the exhibition entitled I Tried to Tell Ya Something Through the Phone at the Kvalitář Gallery. Stanová’s works have also been presented in the group exhibitions Aligned to the Bottom Edge of the Painting (Jelení Gallery, 2021), New Selection (Kvalitář Gallery, 2020–2021), The Hills Have Eyes (Hot Dock project space, Bratislava, 2019), Extra Care (DOX+, ARCHIP, Prague, 2018), and 8/8 (ARCHIP, Prague, 2017).
Bohumila Grögerová (1921–2014) was a writer and translator. The golden age of her work was in the 1960s, when she and her life partner Josef Hiršal joined the international experimental poetry movement. Grögerová lived under a certain oppression during the normalization period, and until 1989, her works were published only as samizdat or through exile publishing houses. Yet she and Hiršal both devoted themselves to writing and translating or to composing their joint memoirs, in which the female and male voices alternate. The pinnacle of Grögerová’s work is her book Manuscript, for which she was awarded the Magnesia Litera Prize in 2009. In the text, the then eighty-seven-year-old author attempts to come to terms with the fact that she is gradually losing her sight. Bohumila Grögerová died in August 2014 in Prague.