In Angular, Visually Arresting New Paintings, a Czech Artist Explores Her Own Sense of Space

In his 1958 book The Poetics of Space, French philosopher Gaston Bachelard investigated symbolism in architecture and the relationship between a person and space, particularly at home. His “topography of our intimate being” surveyed interior details, from quiet corners in the attic to the inside of desk drawers.

That concept of personal topography is a useful framework for viewing the latest work by Czech artist Ira Svobodová. The title of her new exhibition, “Inner Matter,” now showing at CES Gallery in Los Angeles, is a reference to those interior spaces. However, as Bachelard outlined in his book, personal space is not a container for one’s things; it is an expression of the self. Therefore, in viewing Svobodová’s latest work, we learn something about her sense of space and, by extension, herself.

Her boldly hued acrylics on linen look like crisp sheets of paper folded by the wind or an invisible hand. Their creases and crevices reveal calm shadows and luminous gradients rendered in a palette of black, stark white, royal blue, turquoise, pastel pink, and earthy copper.

  • Image courtesy of CES Gallery.

Svobodová bases these paintings on paper models she hand-folds, creating playful shapes inspired by her adventures in home decoration. Of course, in an origami-like paper model, there are no practical restrictions. These aren’t blueprints for home construction or interior design; they’re more like meditations on architecture or imagined experiments with space, light, and color that allow the artist to play with big ideas on a smaller scale.

All things considered, it comes as no surprise that Svobodová references her “nesting instincts,” since the nest was one of Bachelard’s favorite symbols, too. They’re both deeply interested in that emotional sense of comfort in a personalized space.

“The well-being that I feel, seated in front of my fire, while bad weather rages out-of-doors, is entirely animal,” Bachelard wrote. “A rat in its hole, a rabbit in its burrow, cows in the stable, must all feel the same contentment that I feel.” If her latest paintings are any indication, Svobodová’s own home is a good deal more elegant than a stable, but her primal nesting instinct transcends time, place, even species.


—Bridget Gleeson


Ira Svobodová: Inner Matter” is on view at CES Gallery, Los Angeles, May 21–Jun. 25, 2016.

Follow CES Gallery on Artsy.

Share article