Veronika Holcová

Veronika Holcová

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The Soul of Prague. On the Paintings of Veronika Holcová

Veronika Holcová’s paintings bring together and connect opposites – palpitating colour surfaces are juxtaposed with hidden figural motifs, the hollows of caves with columns of rock, the fire of the imagination with the framework of rationality.

A typical feature of her practice is that these opposites mutually enhance each other. Surfaces of ungraspable emotion expressed through the scintillation of colours are only given depth by the details present in the paintings (a figure, a flower, a geometrical shape). Veronika’s antitheses are in fact opposite poles connected by a pulsating electrical charge.

The moment we focus our attention on the figures inconspicuously present in the paintings we are transported to a world of fairytales and legends. And as tends to be the case with convincing narratives, they are likely to trigger associations with our own lives. Even though we are unable to pin down exactly what the stories in Veronika Holcová’s paintings are about, they are unsettlingly familiar. They appeal to us with the urgency of a prophecy whose interpretation is unclear, however. At the same time they have a starting point, a storyline of dramatic narrative, and multiple conclusions. It is worth noting that the figures depicted are usually heading somewhere.

If we concentrate on the natural elements in the paintings, a different dramatic structure emerges. All those caves, tree trunks and water surfaces are almost anatomical. Their vastness is perhaps a reflection of the human body explored by a sensitive mind. Besides physical anatomy they, also express a psychological anatomy, however – the depths of fear and apprehension, the mountainous heights of desires. And again the two are interconnected: the waterfall hollows out a basin, the hollow swallows the waterfall.

Veronika’s paintings do not always represent particular entities: some of them include distinct white surfaces. They signify open possibilities, invitations to dream, reminding us of the starting point of the painting – emptiness. From there the viewer progresses to the inner core of the work through something like a tunnel, traversing several illusory stages one after another, the more remote one always serving as a backdrop for the one that is closer.

Although contemporary in their very essence, Veronika Holcová’s paintings are deeply rooted in painting tradition. The backgrounds sometimes give the impression of having been prepared for traditional, renaissance or romantic paintings. It’s as if a landscape painter had popped out for a moment after preparing the base for his painting and then an avant–garde painter had taken over, his head full of motifs taken from the coloured splodges produced as part of the Rorschach inkblot test.

All the paintings have one key element in common. They are directly connected to, and build on, Prague surrealism, seeking dreams in the blotches staining the walls of the city’s buildings. In a highly individual way, Veronika’s artistic practice is linked to Prague as a spiritual city whose essence is transformed into works of art. After all, she is part of Czech art tradition of the 20th century, consisting of figures such as Josef Šíma, Toyen and Vladimír Boudník. Besides being informed in this manner, however, the power of Veronika’s paintings lies in the depth to which they can transport the viewer. It’s a vertiginous depth, but one that brings the viewer satisfaction. As with fairytales, the viewer senses that the story that has captured his or her imagination will not lead into emptiness.

The volatile landscape transforms into geometrical figures. Erupted lava becomes unbreakable ice, providing a surface to slide on. Stains and splodges become patterns. Despite their equivocal mystery, however, Veronika’s paintings remain reliable, and this is an essential characteristic of her practice. They bid viewers to grope around in the dark, unsettling and pleasing them at one and the same time. Despite all the chaos, there is order in the paintings, dissonance is juxtaposed with harmony, the individual with the community. The correlation between them provides an opportunity to create balance and equilibrium. As a result, the magic of Veronika’s painting practice is that it is salutary, imbued with the potential to heal.

Marek Toman