Sofie Švejdová – REDFLAG
Within the context of the contemporary Czech art scene, the art of Sofie Švejdová (1990) represents the phenomenon of quick and vital painting. The struggle for expression is not tied primarily to an illusion of objectiveness, nor is it burdened by a previously declared attempt at communicating. Instead, it rests mainly in the liberating process of painting itself. At the same time, however, this should not be construed as meaning that it has been given maximum preference over a more meditative approach, but rather that in its operative motion (the painting process) it itself becomes this principle, a principle of wild reflection.
One specific characteristic of this approach is the complete presence of the subject within the movement that is developed and activated by the artist’s painterly means of expression. The painting, created immediately and elementally, is a rapid sequence of unreflected decisions. By its very nature, it thus reflects what we might call the artist’s distinctive “anthropological constant,” which here “manifests” itself.
A basic layer of uncontrolled automatism is permeated by the outlines of creative temperament that shape this red-hot magma of gushing emotions into fragments of memory, remembrances, and allusions to concrete objectiveness, figuration, and the near and distant landscape – quite simply, to everything that is spontaneously incorporated and compressed into the speed with which the painting is made.
In fact, speed would seem to be one of the basic conditions for the sustainable vitality of forms. Speed in relation to color creates a “space of mutability,” an expressive field of fruitful contradiction and erotic tension. This field can only be fixed, it seems, under the conditions of a pre-reflective state, meaning a state in which the subject experiences an unmediated detachment from the totality of objective states and is liberated from the unambiguous intentionality of phenomena because it follows one single particular phenomenon – the force of its own emotion, which, as a relational and formative force, breaks into the world of sensory certainties in order to recklessly rearrange its conventional, established foundations.
The particular phenomenon of painterly emotion here goes hand in hand with the joy of the possibility of its materialization. Rather than the spiritual dimension of art, Sofie Švejdová is interested in the “art of painterly action” in a “concrete situation” where this “action” is represented by her use of color (painting with fingers and spray paint) and the “situation” is the place in which she develops the painting and where she unconsciously and directly enters into the constitution of the painting process.
RED FLAG presents a selection of Švejdová’s paintings, with a focus on her most recent works characterized by an interest in signal red and orange tonality. The exhibition offers viewers a chance to “browse” back in time. While her most recent paintings made at this year’s Mikulov symposium (as a residue of this intense painting event) are characterized by a formal reduction and “choppy” composition, her older works can be read more as “landscapes” in the manner of a developing inner model. Švejdová’s sense for signs and colorful compression announces a new phase in her work.
RED FLAG is a metaphor for a red canvas fluttering in the wind. Without us giving it a clear meaning, it emanates a seemingly highly radical, ambiguous semantic aura. It can be understood as a sharp signal sent randomly into sensorily harmonized experience, or driven like a wedge into the duality of light and dark. The color red subjugates its surroundings. It possesses psychoanalytic, political, erotic, and purely existential connotations. It can represent vitality or it can announce mortal danger. It possesses a maximum level of internal contradictions within the color spectrum. Its visual link to a seemingly solid world of objects is, from the outset, an act of subversive will. Objects become tiny exploding and burning planets. Processes of permanent and accelerated transformations flash behind the objects’ names. As a result, the world appears as a universe devoid of reassuring (because unifying) mechanics, threatening us with the beauty of a thermonuclear party. This, too, reflects the degree of vitality stamped into Sofia Švejdová’s stunning, unrepeatable painterly expression.
Sofie Švejdová (born 1990 in Pilsen) studied painting (Stanislav Diviš, Jiří Černický) at the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in 2009–2014. In 2008, she did a foreign internship at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium. She has regularly exhibited since 2012, showing her work both in the Czech Republic and abroad, most recently at the solo exhibitions +50° (2020, Pragovka Gallery, Pop Up, Prague), Greenhouse (2021, Karpuchina Gallery, Prague), Over the Age (2022, Felix Jenewein Gallery, Kutná Hora), Three Days without Sleep (2022, Galerie Vyšehrad, Prague), and at this year’s 29th edition of the Mikulov symposium.