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June 2012: Katarina Hruskova & Lucia Scerankova @ the Slovak Embassy

Installation View, Cloak the Moon, 2012. Courtesy of Katarina Hruskova & Lucia Scerankova.

Katarina Hruskova & Lucia Scerankova: Cloak the Moon
The Slovak Embassy, London

The exhibition of these two young London-based, Slovak photographers sets out to remove us from the chaotic clutter and frustrations of the urban experience, re-orienting us towards a decidedly Slavic, neo-Pagan inquisition into the mythical potentialities of nature.

Katarina Hruskova’s Green Marble series focuses on nine Slovak towns and villages occupied by less than two thousand inhabitants. The images are bereft of human subjects; the series comprises snatches of townscape with only the merest traces of human touch, giving rise to a richly melancholic sense of abandonment. The series is accompanied by a book of short stories inspired, not by the photos, the artist insists, but by the scenes captured in the photos.

In Soft (2008), the frozen image of a yawning cat morphs into a tree. When you examine the photographs in the series up close, you realize that foreign substances have been edited into the cats’ mouths – stones and leather, cotton or vomit – substances that ephemerally shift the longer one inspects them, until it seems that we are evaluating a sort of ghost image. What’s being recorded is no longer clear; photography’s traditional project of seduction has been replaced by the no less desirous force of confusion.

Hruskova’s other big interest is hair. In Slovakia, the mothers of young girls will often save a long strand the first time their daughters get it cut as a memento. The Three (2011) positions a trinity of strands next to one another: the artist’s mother and sister alongside her own. Hair is nature, death too; something dead that grows on all of us.  The photos in the Virgin Hair series, (2010) – big shiny perfect mops shot from behind – are pure porn for the balding and frustrated. They were inspired by a banner ad the artist found online, from whence the title was taken. Hruskova clicked on it to discover the meaning of the term “virgin” in this context, and learned that it referred to the "perfect" hair for sale, hair that had never been dyed, blow-dried, or chemically treated in any way. Hair so natural that the only way to get it is to buy it.

Hole and Pile. Courtesy of the artist. 

Lucia Scerankova shares a similar fascination with nature and its inherent mysteries, yet with a formal tendency that is even more pronouncedly oriented towards juxtaposition. Her occasional bluntness in this regard doesn’t detract from the ultimacy of the completed image, nor is it a mere commentary on the pervasiveness of visual cliché: The Moon (2010) for instance, is a retouched photograph, projecting the moon's titular entity onto the tree branches it is technically illuminating from behind. Elsewhere, domesticity comes crashing in to prevent any stab at visual logic: Krivan, Slovakia’s most beloved mountain peak, is all crinkly in The Mountain, (2010); it’s actually a photograph of a photograph printed on a shopping bag. 

Perhaps this is all meant to suggest that nature is as potentially manipulative as the photographic medium itself—both Hruskova and Scerankova freely move back and forth between appropriative and “authentic” modes of authorship without feeling the need to align themselves with either. Imbued with a new life within the frame, the perceiving eye becomes the author of the many tales these poems-in-images evoke.

 Sunset. Courtesy of the artist.

Cloak and Moon, Installation View, 2012. Courtesy of the artists.

 

 

Travis Jeppesen for Whitehot London

Travis Jeppesen's novels include The Suiciders, Wolf at the Door, and Victims. He is the recipient of a 2013 Arts Writers grant from Creative Capital/the Warhol Foundation. In 2014, his object-oriented writing will be featured in the Whitney Biennial and in a solo exhibition at Wilkinson Gallery in London. A collection of novellas, All Fall, is forthcoming from Publication Studio. 

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