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  • Eliška Konečná

    Liste Art Fair Basel 2024

    • text by Caroline Krzyszton (EN)

    We will go and quench our thirst in the garden

    “What is wrong with us,
    if our only passion consists in lying on the grass,
    tearing off all the buds,
    getting drunk till blindness.
    And when we regain sight,
    we feel sad as always, forever, as usual.

    After the climax,
    when we are ashamed of the pleasure the other gave us without knowing,
    we try to forget, we start to behave, pretending that we care,
    but still, we will go and quench our thirst in the garden, again.
    Until one bud survives our plundering.”
    Eliška Konečná

    If Eliška Konečná's early works were already focused on sensual lines and soft surfaces, drawing curves of human bodies into textile bas-reliefs with skin-like texture, she more recently masterfully broadened the limits of sensorial abstraction to embrace large format scenes including the depiction of multiple characters and their environment.

    With the garden series and the undeniable allusion to the garden of Eden, this environment introduces for the first time a clear reference to one of the traditional myths in the history of art. (Art history references have always been present in Eliška Konečná's practice, however they were never so literal. In the artist's latest solo show Thirst, some of the compositions reminded the work of Henri Matisse among others). However, if some of the artist's visual language could remind of history painting, the artist uses in fact a well-known narration and its metaphorical landscape to dive into a story of intimacy and unconscious, paving the way of a psychoanalytic perspective.

    The garden is flourishing, the fruits are ready to be picked, the atmosphere must be warm, bodies resting on the grass. However the apparent tranquility starts to be questioned when one notices the buds bending down towards the floor (Silence in the garden), broken flowers (In the end we also pluck flowers in the name of love), fruits mirroring the face of its picker (Harvest)…The characters interact with nature in a manner that seems inappropriate: nursing a torn stem but leaving the floors dry, tearing off buds and drinking wine while the garden would deserve to be taken care of. The passive hostility of the garden's visitors seems to put to the test its beauty and resistance, threatening its essential harmony.

    The disconnection between human bodies and their environment has been a repetitive motif in Eliška Konečná's works, as if her characters couldn't respond to their primary needs without endangering or neglecting their surroundings. All intentions or feelings involved in their interactions are questionable, tainted with either frivolity, indolence or absurdity. In particular, their empathy is misplaced: the woman attempting to nurse the torn flower may be put in parallel with a similar character in the Thirst series, the (same?) woman presenting her breast to a baby bird, in a useless attempt to feed it.
    If the fragile and vulnerable are very present in these scenes, even often being the centre of attention, the figures don't seem to be able to handle it other than in a childish manner.
    When a child finds an endangered animal, doesn't it often end up hurting the animal even more or playing with its dead body, whether it is the result of a failed attempt to save it or simply out of curiosity?
    Is the woman here playing the savior's game or does she act out of despair? Why do other characters seem to glaze at her in disbelief? Are the damages inflicted to nature a deliberate act of sabotage or is it the manifestation of an external influence insidiously corrupting souls as the poisonous liquid that seems to pour onto the flowers?

    If we are tempted to believe the bodies and their surroundings are all part of the same entity, as the artist continues to persistently confuse the viewer in an multi-dimensional embodiment of the self, we start to see the whole installation as an endless loop where all the pain is self-inflicted and all resolution trapped into the impossibility to break out of trauma.
    We find a similar metaphor in both objects Bowl with flowers and Cup with a butterfly. The flowers and the butterfly are both symbols of ephemeral beauty, as visually appealing as the vibrant colours and voluptuous shapes and materials used by the artist. But the mistreatment inflicted to them (petals were plucked, the butterfly is drowning) evokes a waste or an agony that cannot be escaped from: trapped inside a dish, reflected by the surface (as in other “fountains” of the artist, the immersed part of the sculpture may be interchanged with the emerged one, as if we didn't know if we are looking above or under the water), the decay seems to be displayed in its uselessness and inevitability.

    Unlike Adam and Eve's myth, the characters in the garden of Eliška Konečná don't seem to know or understand good and bad, they are both persecutors and victims of a very fragile environment, where all mistakes repeat themselves indefinitely. But in the absence of good or evil is there also hope for them to find the point of rupture that wouldn't cause their undoubted loss?