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INTERVIEW WITH SLOVAK ARTIST KATARINA BALUNOVA

In this short interview artist Katarina Balunova talks about her focus on urban-ism and architecture.

Can you share a few words about the city you are living in and how is the local art scene?

Katarina:

In this time I live and work mainly in Kosice, Slovakia. It is a small but nice historic city located in the east part of the country. Its location near the Hungarian border predestined Kosice to become cosmopolitan and open city where everyone can find its place. In 2013 Kosice was a European capital of culture and that has started a big development of cultural life here. Many new independent galleries were established during this time. I can mention Sopa Gallery that provides international artist residencies, Dig Gallery focusing on multimedia art, and Kotolna Gallery.

There is a very interesting art community concentrated in Tabacka Kulturfabrik, the ex tobacco factory rebuilt to a cultural center with many art and craft studios. Artistic life in the city is also markedly affected by the presence of the Faculty of Arts. Significant personalities like professor Adam Szentpetery, Rudolf Sikora or Juraj Bartusz have had strong impact on many of their students including me.

Invisible city I, 2014, Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 60 cm

How would you describe your work and what are your main influences?

The main themes in my work are city, urban-ism and architecture. The city we can observe from a height when we can see it as some anonymous geometrical structure or from the perspective of the pedestrians, when we smell the odors, hear sounds, feel the particular atmosphere of the place, its genius loci. I try to find invisible layers of the stories inside the cities architecture, to give the city structure a symbolic form that bears different meanings in its simplicity.

The house is a typical feature in my works and it is a symbol of dwelling. The feeling of being protected and of seeking a protective casing is fundamental in human being, so dwelling becomes on one hand a shelter giving peace, while on the other hand it is something that can stop movement, a kind of sentimental cage.  So the house can represent a city-house, a family house and a cage-house.

Formally, my paintings are close to geometric abstraction. The structure of cities of nowadays is subject to a strict geometry and it is in perennial expansion. We can see the constant changes in the urban form, pattern and structure. The geometric pattern is a typical feature present in industrial society. I think geometry is a key element to understand social and industrial development in the modern landscape. The use of geometric shapes and structures could become the testimony of the industrial society marked by an existential crisis.

2014, Acrylic on Canvas, 80 x 60 cm

What made you want to become an artist?

I think to become an artist is not a decision, it’s something that you born with. Of course there could be some situations improving this sensibility inside you. Everyone has its own way of expression. For me drawing and painting was always very important to express my feelings and thinking. Later I started using also other artistic genre along with it such as installations and photography to speak with myself and others.

Are there any artists in particular that you identify with today?

Generally my work can be linked to artists who determine and work in the field of geometric abstraction. The most often it’s associated with the art of Kandinsky, Russian constructivism and suprematism. Surley enough these tendencies are related to my Slavic origin. I like the poetry inside Kandinsky’s geometry and mysticism inside Malevic suprematism. The Russian constructivists utopian dream connected to the architecture is certainly close to my concept. From the contemporary art scene I like the work of Peter Halley, Sarah Morris, John Armleder, Frank Badur, Helmut Federle, Guillermo Kuitca and David Novros.

However, I am trying to find my own way of painting, new forms connecting architecture and geometry.

The main themes in my work are city, urban-ism and architecture.

How do you feel about using online platforms to expose your works?

Online platforms bring a great possibility to show the works to a large audience. I can work away from big art centers and despite that to be in contact with them. Of course nothing is perfect and it is true with the online world as well. With a digital image it’s quite impossible to transfer all the quality of an art piece. There is always something missing, the special details, the color tones etc. This is the reason why it is necessary to see the real exhibition, not only for a technical detail but also for direct feeling. Online platforms can give us an idea about the work of others and share ours.

Grey city structure I, 2014, Acrylic on Canvas

What are you working on currently or your plans for the near future?

In this time I am working on new a painting series called Black Blocks. This work will synthesize my ongoing art research. I will vary the basic square form that symbolizes the architecture of the house – a block to obtain a new structure. I will present this series in my solo show Amidst Zone in SPP Gallery, Bratislava in 2017.

At the same time I am working on a group show 9×9/Spis-Spain for Coll Blanc Gallery in Valencia, Spain. This exhibition will present nine contemporary Slovak artists in a new concept.

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