Intermedia artist Markéta Vaňková is one of the striking representatives of the artistic generation of the 1990s, a generation in which, after a long absence, female artists have again made their mark. The gender perspective is not the key to interpreting her work, if we overlook the political connotations of the existence of a strong generation of female artists or how the next generation of (male) artists has seized on Vaňková’s work. Of more significance is that at a time when Czech art was moving away from painting and sculpture towards objects and installations, Markéta Vaňková was beginning to use painting as her form of expression (informed also however by other methods). At the Academy of Fine Art in Prague (Akademie výtvarných umění), where she studied in 1992–1999, she passed through the studios of Milan Knížák, Jiří David, Vladimír Skrepl, Jindřich Zeithamml, and Michael Bielický, ultimately returning to Knížák’s studio, where she completed her studies. In her paintings she experimented with synthetic colours, unusual foundations (e.g. an aluminium mat, corrugated iron, plastic) and painting techniques. At the end of her first year she created the action painting Bridge (Most, 1993), throwing plastic bags filled with colour off of Nusle Bridge onto a giant canvas. Slightly younger artists (Evžen Šimera, Ondřej Brody, Viktor Frešo, Jiří Skála a Marek Ther) explained this act to themselves as ‘extreme and in a masculine way strong’ (Šimera) and responded to it with their own variations, most of which were gentler in nature (they threw balloons filled with mineral water instead of colour from the bridge or made drawings out of melted caramel). Her work can be interpreted as an alignment with a certain tradition of action painting in the Czech Republic and a kind of gender polemics. She exhibited work in an exhibition titled Markéta Vaňková at NoD Gallery in Prague in 2005.
Vaňková’s paintings from the 1990s reflect the rhythm of dance music and the wildness of the transition era, when it seemed that everything was possible (e.g. the cycle Brothers / Bratři, 1995–1996, the graduation piece she created to complete her bachelor studies). The artist does not sharply distinguish between figurative and abstract painting, expressing herself one time in portraiture and another time in landscape or monochrome art. Nevertheless, in the second half of the 1990s she was one of the few artists who were revitalising the interest in abstraction in painting in this country (see, e.g., the exhibition Czech AbstraHtion / Česká abstraHce, 1996). As noted above, painting is the focal point of her work, but her portfolio also includes objects, installations, and video work. It is telling that while she profiled herself as a painter while a student, she graduated with a collection of objects made out of tyres (Formula Vagus - Gulf/ Formule Vagus / Záliv, Bonsai Bank, Nora (Lying Down) / (Ležící) Nora, all from 1999, now in the collection of the National Gallery / Národní galerie in Prague). And although her works vary in terms of the devices she employs, what she communicates through them rests within a relatively delimited sphere. Among the stories, motifs, and themes that come and go and come again a prominent place is occupied the artist’s dialogue with her own, minutely elaborated inner world, which adds a dynamism to the polarity of the male and female principles. The imaginary landscape of her mind and her personal experiences are intermixed with external references to literature or art history. Her alter ego, Dr Inframulti, is a man with the face of Marcel Duchamp, in a Warholesque wig, a Dalíesque moustache, and Leonardo da Vinci-type beard. Vaňková not only paints and draws portraits of Dr. Inframulti, she also incarnated him in her video Louvre Libre (2002). It is no accident that the interior that the camera statically captures then adorns her painting Gateway to the Mysterious Female (Brána tajemné samičky, 2002) done on a diamond-shape canvas. Complex layers and self-referring allusions run right through her body of work – for instance, in her series of architectural models, whose walls and floors are adorned with smaller-scale reproductions of her own works. Like Marcel Duchamp she does not have to wait for the ideal private collector or enlightened director of a modern art museum to come along, she can do the work for them. Another thing she has in common with Duchamp is the long periods of silence and seeming inactivity. Her most recent paintings, which were created after a long gap, pick through the mimicry of the environment in which she now partly lives. In the agricultural sheds and rural garages of her Mediterranean friends, she paints realistic still lifes, real slices of everyday reality.
Marek Pokorný, 2 x MXM, Detail, 1996, č. 8, s. 28.
Lenka Lindaurová, Markéta Vaňková, Art&Antiques, 2005, květen, s. 83.
Terezie Nekvindová, Kudy vede přímost přímky? Rozhovor s Markétou Vaňkovou, in: Pavlína Morganová (ed.), Někdy v sukni, Moravská galerie v Brně – Galerie hlavního města Prahy, 2014, s. 173–177.
13. 5. 2009: Oscilace, fluktuace a úhly pohledu, Akademie výtvarných umění v Praze
Markéta Vaňková, Louvre Libre (2002, 3 min 30 s), in: Kdo se směje. Umění o světě umění, DVD-ROM, koncepce a texty: Terezie Nekvindová a Sláva Sobotovičová, Akademie výtvarných umění v Praze, Vědecko-výzkumné pracoviště, Praha 2013.
Výstava Markéta Vaňková, vystavující: Evžen Šimera, Ondřej Brody, Viktor Frešo, Jiří Skála, Marek Ther, Praha, NoD, 2005: evzensimera.name/2005-2/marketa-vankova
Markéta Vaňková, [Poušť plná zvuků…], Detail, 1996, č. 9–10, s. 20–21.