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blog. 18.07.2016

blog. 18.07.2016

In her provocative tableaus, Katarina Janeckova eroticizes cactuses of all shapes and sizes

Katarina Janeckova’s paintings bring to life imagery that is both playful and complex, almost like modern-day fairy tales — if those tales were populated by naked figures and animals in intimate settings. A topless woman fishing, a bear nuzzling a woman in a field, a woman and a bear bathing in a river. The paintings show provocative tableaus of passion and pleasure, and their unexpected subject matter is meant to surprise people.

Janeckova might surprise you in other ways too. She’s a Slovakian expat living in South Texas. She’s also a world-champion wakeboarder, who at one point was ranked the best woman in the world. “I’m the type of person that when I start something, I want to do my best at it,” Janeckova explains. “When I realized I was good on the water, I started to compete and I ended up winning the world championship. But then I realized that if I want to be a really good artist I had to be fully committed to it. So now I only wakeboard for fun.”

In 2013, Janeckova graduated from the Academy of Fine Art in Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava, and has shown her work in Amsterdam, Berlin, Budapest and Prague. Recently, she was chosen as an emerging artist by Saatchi Art’s Chief Curator Rebecca Wilson as part of their Invest in Art series.

Janeckova’s work has always been filled with symbols (the bears, for example, are guardians, voyeurs and sometimes lovers), but since her move to Texas last year, it is even more filled with cactuses, palm trees and exotic flowers. Here, she speaks about her work, her relationship to plants, and how they keep her company in her new homeland.

What inspires you to make a painting?
The light, stories in my head, strange relationships, provocative shapes of cactuses, flowers, a gaze and loneliness.

Do you paint from observation or imagination?
Both. I love to paint or draw from observation. It’s a completely different feeling to experience the object live, especially when it’s a person sitting there as a model. It’s definitely challenging and more personal, but on the other hand, it can take the spontaneity out of the strokes when I focus too much on reality. Painting from the imagination is more intuitive, wild, and sometimes it’s almost like a psychological self-test, and even I can surprise myself with the way I depict things.

You said that you bring plants to your new house to make it feel more like home. Is this why plants have started to appear more and more in your work or are there other reasons too?
I find it very freeing to express myself through abstract strokes when I am painting plants and structures. They don’t have to have a certain shape, so they give me plenty of space to play with the composition and colors. Last year, I visited New York for the first time and it was such a big thing for me. I met artists who I had read about in books in high school — Misaki Kawai, Taylor McKimens and others. Meeting Taylor influenced me a lot — in the way he works, things he knows and experiences, and the knowledge he was willing to share with me. That was also the summer when I traveled to Malta and moved to Texas, and all the cactuses started to appear in my life daily as some kind of nice coincidence. I used to be surrounded by people all the time and didn’t have any problem finding a model to paint, and now, far from home, I have plants instead.

Read the full interview in Strange Plants II.