Anna Ročňová: Taking a Bath and Moisturizing
4. 2. – 26. 2. 2015
opening: 3. 2. 2015
curator: Gabriela Kotiková
Interview by curator Gabriela Kotiková with artist Anna Ročňová
Gabriela Kotíková: Anna, I would like to ask you – you studied at the University of West Bohemia in Plzeň (Faculty of Design and Arts) during 2009-2010. Who was your professor there? Was Dušan Záhoranský or Michal Pěchouček teaching there at that time? How would you describe this period? Was it productive for you?
Anna Ročňová: I studied in the studio of sculpture led by Professor Beránek. It was a world of its own and one could say that as a whole it separated itself from the intermedia and other studios. I only heard stories about Michal Pěchouček, he was no longer at the school at that time and neither was Dušan Záhoranský. Our studio was located in the industrial zone and there was a forest nearby where I enjoyed going. In my opinion, the teaching was comparable to secondary schools – in short, it was important to model a portrait and only later work with it in a creative way. After half a year I went to work in the artistic foundry, at that time I already knew that I was accepted at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague.
GK: Plzeň is kind of a strange city – not very nice, I would say. But maybe, on the contrary, it was interesting to spend time there and have this experience. Were you born in Prague or did you grow up in a different city?
A.R: I used to spend the most of my time on the periphery between TESCO, the woods and all sorts of factories. It was definitely something different then I’m experiencing now. I come from Trutnov, which is a nice place close to the Krkonoše Mountains, but I have gotten used to living in Prague now.
GK: Since 2010 you have been studying at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design first in the studio of Krištof Kintera (?) and now in the studio of Dominik Lang and Edith Jeřábková. Can you compare these two experiences? How would you characterize the way of working with students in both studios? Was there a significant difference?
A.R: I was accepted at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design by Professor Gebauer and I’m very grateful to him for that. After a year, however, Dominik and Edith came there and that was very fundamental for me. I had the feeling that they understand my work and support me. Their approach is very important for me since they allow me to have a “free hand”. They never told me: “Don’t do this, that’s silly...” The students then learn to make their own decisions. During my first year, still under the guidance of Kurt Gebauer I was rather battling with my work and I was convinced that I was worthless and that I was accepted there by accident. Edith and Dominik are very active in organizing various workshops with artists or, for example, with the Vienna Academy, with the secondary school in Bechyne, etc. I think it’s important to see international exhibition and find feedback that way. For the summer semester I am planning to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in the Studio of Vladimír Skrepl, I’m really looking forward to that.
GK: You also spent a year in Vienna. What school was that at? Can you say that the schools there are “ahead” of our schools in any way – the way of teaching, technical equipment, etc.? Are there more workshops, is it a completely different way of working with students?
A.R: I spent one semester in Vienna at the Angewante (Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien), which is similar to the Czech Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design. I was in the studio TransArts, which was located in a separate building practically in the Prater. Part of it was a garden that I have to mention. With respect to the teaching style, it was a similar model with respect to organizing workshops, group consultations, etc. The technical background was very good but I must admit that I didn’t use it very much.
GK: Vienna itself does not have as much contemporary art such as Berlin or London, if I’m not mistaken. What was your impression of this city? Is it more conservative, or am I wrong? Maybe it has changed a lot since I was there the last time...
A.R. I was lucky that I didn’t get stuck only at the Angewante. Thanks to the fact I went to Vienna together with Jan Boháč who was working with the art group Gelitin, I was exposed to a different art community and that was a great experience.
GK: You have recently been on a school study trip to London. Did any exhibitions captivate you there? What was your experience from this city? Were there any interesting exhibitions there at the time?
A.R: It was my second time in London and it left a strong impression on me. It is a city with great atmosphere and I must admit that I liked most of the exhibitions. I was most captivated by the works of Richard Tuttle and then by the Mirror city in Hayward Gallery. I also visited the swimming pool by Zaha Hadid where we paid for a diving lesson. That was an untraditional experience.
GK: In 2012 you put together Situation 25 for the Gallery Pavilon in Prague. It was a joint project with Jan Boháč, whose presentation in the gallery was a performance. Could you tell me something about the topic of this exhibition? The performance testified about a certain physical effort that is very exhausting, but at the same time senseless, never-ending... How would you describe the object that you created for this exhibition? Part of it was some text...
A.R: We strove for a balance between the male and female worlds, between the poetics of lyrical objects all the way to a cave like act of hammering with a rock. As you wrote – an endless and pointless age-old battle. I had two objects in the gallery – a pan with a lamp which reflected the moon with the help of motor oil, and a glass vase holding a little branch with a page from a magazine and a hummingbird sitting on it. Honza’s nearly one hour performance with the rocks created a sound that as if set the rhythm for this battle.
GK: You yourself primarily work with sculpture, object. But you have also done a performance called “Situation 2 - dog“ , where you perform with your dog. This work captivated me – it’s done in a sensitive way and in a certain sense it’s sculpture-like. At the same time it possesses a sense of humour. Is it the only work that you created in this style, or is it possible that performance will continue to be a part of your artistic expression?
A.R: To be honest I have had several attempts at performance/video-art, but it’s very hard to appear natural and not artificial. This video came about accidently between filming something else when the camera was running and my dog who was watching me could not take it anymore and came up to play with me. All of the sudden it came to me that I should imitate him. I think that’s the only reason it looks believable. Later I tried to do something similar but it never worked again. I like to work with coincidence; it’s just too bad that it can’t be simply evoked. I would certainly like to include performances in my future artistic expressions. It just depends on the fact whether it will be the best way to express my intention...
GK: At the Academy of Fine Arts I liked the school exhibitions where you exhibited several objects made from used materials, natural materials, etc. This installation was surrounded from both sides by walls; therefore it was not possible to view the objects from up close. This created a certain tension and a strange feeling where one was not sure whether it was intentional or just some element of the installation that happened accidentally. I’d like to ask you whether these objects that you create are a unified installation or whether they are individual pieces of work that can be exhibited independently as well...
A.R: I based the installation on the place where the things originated – it was a small, cramped studio and I thought it would be interesting to make a sort of protective environment for a collection of objects that were, on their own, quite fragile. The feeling of untouchableness and a certain dictated angle was supposed to evoke tension and curiosity. I perceived individual objects rather as a whole in one already closed installation. At the same time I tried to come to terms with the environment of the studio and a certain intimacy, which is bound up with the work process.
GK: At your current exhibition in the Jeleni Gallery you have prepared an installation part of which are also “wall paintings” that are very atypical, however. You have used, for example, plaster on fabric, several layers of paper, as if a collage, etc. I know that it’s never possible to exactly describe what “an exhibition is about” in text and it’s necessary to let the works make a visual impression right in the space of the gallery. But I would just like to ask if you had defined some specific topic for yourself for this exhibition, whether the exhibition originated on the basis of some concrete experience, etc.?
A.R: The theme of the exhibition is a woman who is taking a bath and then puts cream on her body.. The installation contains nudity, tiles with a soapy object, an undershirt partly lying down as if covered with a coat made of water, drawings on glass that were done with an imprint of hand cream, clothesline, portraits of a woman and a man. Some objects are kind of lying around, others are levitating, leaving the scene. The portraits contain an element of irony. The woman has become a mad bride whose portrait is layered from various materials. There is also the motif of an eye of an observer but also of a butterfly that are mutually based on one another. Thanks to the installation, there are new stories and encounters entangled in the story. I placed the emphasis mainly on the materiality of the objects. Moisturizing, soaping, scattering and primarily layering, which evokes the feeling before a bath all the way to the complete exposure of the body and a feeling of cleanliness.