Maria Bartuszová

I love it when galleries put on shows of artists who have perhaps been forgotten or whom deserve to be better known to the general public, rather than the rarified strata of the art world. The Tate is particularly good at highlighting artists, such as Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, and bringing their work to a whole new audience. Maria Bartuszová (1936-1996) was born in Prague, and as a working mother in Communist Czechoslovakia, she gravitated to working with plaster which was cheap and readily available.

‘Maybe because I had so little time besides working on commissions and childcare, maybe because of that I had the idea, while playing with inflatable balls, to blow liquid plaster into a balloon.’ Maria Bartuszová, after 1985.

There is a clear line from artists such as Brâncuşi who were inspired by nature through to her pieces, but the eroticism of the pieces reminded me of some of the work of Louise Bourgeoisie, though more playful compared to the darker currents in the French-American artist’s work. The white plaster has a smooth marble like surface that begs to be stroked and touched. Indeed she did create small pieces specifically for a school for the blind, to be touched, handled and tacitly experienced.

Other pieces are like explosions, shells fracturing and splintering – the uneven textured surfaces contrasting with the smooth interiors. Playing with the effects of gravity, air pressure and touch during the creative process meant she explored the outer limits of what she could achieve with this fragile material. The personal, spirituality and relationships are key to her work but as an artist in a communist state, she took on public art commissions throughout her career for fountains, monuments, playgrounds and even crematoriums.

Maria Bartuszová runs until the 16th April 2023 and sits across the hall from Yakoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms (which are currently sold out till January). Her pieces are an interesting counterpoint to those works, smaller and quieter yet equally engaging, beautiful and thought provoking.

Text and images © moderneccentrics

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