Alena Kupčíková has been on the Czech art scene for many years. She was developing her style during the 90s while studying at Arts Secondary School Bechyně and at The Vaclav Hollar Secondary School of Fine Arts. Afterwards she was matriculated to Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, and before she graduated with her PhD in 2010, she undertook several internships at Teknikon Natal in Durban and at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Art in Paris.
She developed as a conceptual artist at that time – the basic theme of her work was the overlapping of art with human cultural and social life. Her essential means of expression was new media.
Initially she devoted her attention to recordings of various actions, which she then converted into music scores, which were later transformed to digital music. She noted down the movement of people monitored by GPS, her own patterns, and also the sun’s movements in the sky. From the recordings, she created photo records, videos, drawings and reports of these actions and presented them in precisely conceived installations.
Although she has deviated from this initial line, she has put all the previous experience and perceptions to good use in her work, which balances on the borders of art, science, and education.
In creating a Multimedia Interactive Alphabet book and Tests to detect dyslexia and learningdifficultiesfor children from the age of 4 upwards, she blurred the lines between art, philanthropy, and science. The alphabet book and tests are inspired by her previous multimedia works and without a doubt her own experience with dyslexia, which enabled her to connect different ways of perceiving reality and to create an interactive book. The complete title of the programme Multimedia Interactive Tests and Alphabet Book for Children From the Age of Four Upwards: To Detect and Prevent Possible Problems in Reading and Writing” combines spoken and written word with visual and musical recordings. In 2014 the Alphabet book programme was selected to win the significant price award out of 249 projects from 35 different countries and presented at 8th International Exhibition of Inventions in Kunshan.
Over the past years the author has drawn additional attention to herself with her free artwork. Since the year 2000, she has been exploring her personal fascination with the female body through her artwork, and combining the two. She has transmitted parts of her girlfriend’s bodies to the artwork in the series entitled Hairy. For this series, she asked for their pubic hairs and glued them onto paper to form delicate drawing reliefs - their portraits or nudes. She also shot videos with the donors of the pubic hairs in which she addressed the issues of personal, female, and human intimacy.
This concept (exhibited many times in significant Czech instituion‘s from 2002 to 2014) attracted attention as well as numerous critics. They most frequently mention obscenity, tabloidiziation or more cynically, the „femininity“ of the work. Due to the ingrained prudishness of critics, the author has faced a plethora of negative criticism at her exhibitions. It all culminated on an international scale when she was simultaneously awarded the Louis-Vouitton Moët-Hennesy price and censored by former president’s wife herself Bernadetet Chirac, who then revoked the award.
Within her determination, she refined the project Hairy over the years and created subsequent pieces in which she painted with a single female hair, then installed the hair as an insert in the pieces. She began to create reliefs with her donors‘ hairs which were gilded, silvered, and eventually encrusted with diamonds. She elaborated this concept into pictorial mosaics in which female bodies are assembled from cut crystal stones of Preciosa brand and then embedded into epoxy, araldit and translux; As if women and material from their bodies deserve special treatment – to be exalted and set into luxury. It boils down to the fact that Alena Kupčíková literally adores women and brings her admiration and passion to the extreme form of some kind of religious worship, in her artwork she lavishes women with wealth and fixes them for eternity.
Current exhibition Sex/m2 is a presentation of all author’s works with the united theme of woman, which were created during last four years. Along with this, Alena Kupčíková also presents a series of enamels from the series “Cabaret of woman in her natural environment.” She presents her enamel works for the first time since Ostrava’s symposium SmaltArt, where she learnt this rare technique.
In a notional peak, as well as most recent artwork, on exhibit at the exhibition, is the recent piece from the Czechoslovak Epic series. This is the first and only piece presented from this new series, predicative of the immense artistic and historical challenge that the artist has undertaken. In rich historical scenes from Czechoslovakia (as the author was born in this country and spent her childhood and part of her adolescence there) she intends to introduce ethnicities which passed through our area and left a trail in the form of their gene pool. That gene pool is represented realistically in the artwork, naturally, by the pubic hairs of donors from France, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Hungary etc. Her last work not only continues her own concept of Hairy but she also enters a dialogue with national treasure of the Slavic Epic by Alfons Mucha or with concept of the most real art as Yves Klein and artgroup Nouveaux Réalistes understood it.
It remains to mention that Alena Kupčíková crystallized within her artwork over the past years – even though her expression is fragile and subtle it is also striking example of distinctive artistic attitude which cannot be discouraged by allusions of excessive feminity or profanity worth censorship. Her artwork, until now, represents not only artistically valuable work and thought, but also an important contribution to today’s understanding of female sexuality and eroticism and thus women’s independence and freedom.
curator of exhibition: Kateřina Tučková