solo show, Gallery 1. patro, Prague


QUARTZ is the title of one out of three exhibitions by Alena Kotzmannová is currently preparing. The exhibition title hints at the common motif of selected works – crystal as a material, object of desire and mammon, metaphor of trying to understand the whole, to preserve purity and direction toward an ideal form. And particularly as a reference to inanimate nature that thanks to the stability of its shape and substance significantly transcends man’s doing as an individual as well as animal species on our planet.

Alena Kotzmannová personally experienced the disproportion of power between man and inanimate nature at a residency in the area of Finnmark in 2015 while crisscrossing and photographing the endless northern landscape with occasional brutal industry interventions. The theme of Anthropocene was omnipresent there, a hulk of landscape turned upside down as a result of mineral mining was imposing. As usual, Kotzmannová chose a few details indicating a possible way to uncover the secret relationship between man and his surroundings. Stone guardians of landscape played a central role at the core of her solo exhibition The Rabbit and the Queen at the dancing hall of the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace (Prague City Gallery) last year.

Photography with the main motif of stone, mountain and/or a worked piece of mineral transferred into an artificial environment is the key topic Alena Kotzmannová regularly returns to; in particular crystal as one of the main geometric formations and matter cut into jewellery and used as decoration of valuable objects endowed with symbols of power and attributes of beauty (and death at the same time). In the course of the past twenty years Kotzmannová’s fascination with crystals and its derivates gave way to commentaries on various social, natural and cultural phenomena. The exhibition QUARTZ presents one of her earliest works in the series Display from 1997: a photograph of crystal skull displayed somewhere in a museum vitrine. At that time, Kotzmannová was developing her photographs on a canvas poured over with photosensitive emulsion and consequently as a reaction on the packaging and consumerist mania she wrapped her photographs in plastic cases. In this way, she highlighted the phenomenon of fetishization with a motif (death symbol rendered in a luxury material), material (emulsion manually poured on a canvas goes against the main “advantage” of photographic medium, multiplication) and its presentation (plastic cases are often used to make banal products “inviolable”, thus more attractive). It is important to point out that the famous Hirst’s diamond skull based on similar principles was made only ten years later.

The title QUARTZ stems from the most recent work, a photography additionally edited by physical intervention into the paper surface and printing, a kind of collage or assemblage made with coloured sand. The black and white photographs are bestowed with a certain spatial and physical rupture, break into another dimension and simultaneously allow the look to slide on the glittering surface of miniature crystals. Kotzmannová has been developing this technique since last year, the displayed works Quartz, Magma, Collection and Mirror from this year are installed in a dialogue with a series Batlike that is ten years older. The installation mirrors Kotzmannová’s permanent interest in the above-mentioned topic as well as the material, technical and emotional progress of her work.

In the series Attempt at Regaining Reality VIII. from 2017 we can find symbols of a cross, star, starry sky, be it in the form of stone mosaic on the floor made of carefully cut fragments of colourful stones or bed of flowers captured against floating clouds. They point at an order, searching for the perfect shape in its symmetry, this time with a clear reference to ephemerality and mortality accentuating the chimeric search for perfection. “The ideal crystal is a theoretical idea of shape with a completely regular structure, without any flaws and spread in all directions to endless distance.” Longing for grasping the whole while being aware of such foolish behaviour necessarily leads Kotzmannová to turn to a subjective experience, to the universe as an abstract idea only in an individual’s mind. It is not by accident that the main tool of perception of the Attempts at Regaining Reality is the mind and associative thinking, thinking about a whole through relations of particularities and a play with time as a non-linear item.

In the final tenth set of this long-term series Kotzmannová has been developing since 2011 we can find - apart from the crystals glitter - also other various social situations, references to the world of forgotten attributes of luxury and completely lapidary scenes in nature. Culmination of the ten issues suggests only one hypothetical answer: Kotzmannová no longer continues in recovering the once lost reality. Eighteen black and white manually coloured photographs that “as if in retrospect” search for the reason and meaning of a small, found two-sided magazine clipping represent in itself a complex sum of reports about the world surrounding the author in the past two decades.

The combination of found motives, photographs from her own archive and work with current shots represent Alena Kotzmannová’s primary method. The imagined whole is never made from the here and now, it always comes from the present moment for years or whole decades back as if she wanted to capture something we call historical time or collective memory even in one single diptych. Thinking about a whole through relations of fragments also presents a method, with which Kotzmannová puts together her exhibition presentations. The QUARTZ exhibition ends her continuous presentation of individual sets from the series Attempts at Regaining Reality and at the same time opens the exhibition triptych dedicated to three states of matter. QUARTZ is devoted to solid, other two solo exhibitions planned for 2020 and 2021 will present liquid and gas in the galleries Fotograf and hunt kastner in Prague.