Who is Maria Svarbova? An award-winning photographer whose staged compositions mixing brutalist aesthetics with the fragility of apparently emotionless human characters have garnered international acclaim since the mid 2010s? Or one of Slovakia’s major contemporary artists, acting as her own art director to embrace the full spectrum that goes from location to editing, demonstrating a remote control over her own practice as well as a faultless work ethics at every stage? While holding a fraction of truth, such hasty statements fail to encapsulate Svarbova’s true specificities. Her sense of proportion and geometrics, and her interest for the sterile, decaying monumentality of the urban landscapes of post-socialist Slovakia where she emancipated, leaving Slepčany to pursue her creative path, could have led Maria Svarbova to embrace architecture photography. But to her, places acquire their meaning in relation to how human evolve into them, interacting with the functionality or grandeur that architectural lines intend (and usually fail) to project, often revealing instead their lack of purpose, oversize or penitentiary dimension. Through Maria Svarbova’s eye, our contemporary perception of these places is being challenged, and each of them is made the stage of dream-like, unique scenes. No longer belonging to the past, but neither to the present, they embody the sense of the artist for blurring timelines and transforming ordinary activities – a visit to the doctor, a swim training or a business meeting – into choreographed controlled experiments to imitate reality while leaving ample space for viewers’ own interpretations. Inspired from the meticulous observation of her own environment, neither purely architectural nor documentary, her work acquired a universalistic content, while revealing receptive to the Zeitgeist. Primarily revered for her sense of visual, geometrical harmony and her outstanding work with colors, praised for her dystopian vision of reality that anticipated, rather than captured the one of our times, Maria Svarbova is also and perhaps, foremost, an artist reflecting upon uniqueness. The one to which we hold firm to achieve our singularity amidst the mass, to emancipate from where we come, from what we have been trained to be or from what the world – viewers included, would like us to be. Beneath the surface of perfect images, Maria Svarbova’s practice engages with key issues discussed in contemporary art, such as the representation of female and diverse bodies, disciplinary social institutions, individuality versus reproduction, emotions, technologies and the Anthropocene. Whereas these universal questions much resonate with her diverse global audience, they acquire a specific meaning in the context of an exhibition on Slovak soil. As most of the artist’s work is set in Bratislava and Slovakia, many of the iconic places which are represented in this exhibition have a meaning of their own. In a country born exactly 30 years ago, which undergone several, simultaneous transformations, the question of what is distinctive of Slovak urban, cultural and creative landscape craves for an answer. Perhaps this exhibition is contributing to draw the response. By representing those buildings and spaces through a contemporary visual palette, the photographer-painter Maria Svarbova demonstrates they do not belong to the past, but to the people, and that reinventing them for contemporary needs and use, makes arguably greater sense than their obliteration from both urban landscape and collective memory. Remote Control reflects at once the diversity and consistency of the artistic vision delivered by a photographer barely older than her home country, whose creative journey and personal empowerment started at the age of 15 and has never stopped since, constantly enriched by new inspirations and technical experiments. In the heart of Europe, where three nations converge, Danubiana Museum will help binding together what makes Maria Svarbova’s work both genuine and universal, also offering a meaningful context reuniting post-modern architecture with her favorite elements: water and natural light. There, among older and newer series of photographs and video installations bringing the artist’s cinematic motives to life, the permanent struggle between remotely controlled experiences and unique, personal encounters and characters, will go on.
Maria Svarbova was born in Slovakia in 1988. Despite having studied restoration and archeology, her artistic medium is photography. From the first click, she knew she had found her purpose and learned what it takes to convert her vision into tangible results through methodical work. From 2014, she started to explore the themes reflected in the series “Swimming pools” or “Futuro retro” and found her visual language: It is primarily in an era she did not experience, the period of late socialism, that she found inspiration, creating unique atmospheres that distinguish from “nostalgia” by the modernity and timelessness they convey. This universality gained her an international audience marked by milestone solo exhibitions in Europe, the US, Mexico or South Asia, commissioned works (Apple, 2019, Fragile Concrete, 2021), and best-selling photo albums. Maria Svarbova has been awarded Hasselblad Master Art in 2018. Her work has been featured in international media outlets such as The Guardian, Vogue, Forbes, CNN or The New York Times.
Curator: Laura Serra Forest (Kolektiv Cité Radieuse)
Venue: Danubiana, Čunovo, Slovakia
Date: from 25.03.2023 – 04.06.2023
Opening hours: 10:00 – 18:00
Adults – 10 €
Family (2 adults and 2 students) – 20 €
Pensioners (over 62 years old) – 5 €
Students – 5 €
Children (under 6 years old) – Free
Danubiana Club Members – Free
Disabled persons, persons over 75 years of age – Free
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