The garden as a symbol of life and death, a cycle that is taking on increasingly gloomy contours in the context of the environmental crisis. Slovak artist Kristína Bukovčáková paints the reality she experiences every day in her real and imaginary garden. It is hard not to sympathise with the protagonists of her toxic paintings, which will appear at the Livebid Originals contemporary art auction in November. How will it all turn out in Christina's garden in the end?

Where did the garden you create and inhabit come from? Did it appear overnight or did you have to discover it bit by bit?

My family comes from the countryside and I spent a lot of time there as a child. I had a warm relationship with nature and always considered it a natural part of my life. I drifted away from it as a teenager and only rediscovered it with illustrated books and atlases about fruit, vegetables, gardening and pests. Gradually, I began to seek out these books on purpose. It got to the point where I moved from the capital to the country, where I have my own garden. I’m now at the stage where I’m learning a lot about it, reading and watching what’s going on around me. I then apply these experiences to my artistic work. Through the garden, I can better empathise with other people but also with myself. I like the space in the work where an idea is constructed through personal thought to a global experience.

Your work intuitively turned to the theme of the garden and the climate crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. Were you looking for kindred spirits in the main characters of plants, fruits and insects? Did you want to share a collective fate at a time when no one else was around?

The pandemic helped me a lot with creative concentration. Nothing distracted me and life literally stopped. I was able to devote myself fully to painting. Gradually, I empathised with the objects I was depicting, from a tattered leaf to a mouldy tomato, and began to give them human characters. Along with the situation, I found it indicative – the arrival of an unknown virus, a climate crisis and vegetables that are infested by a pest and dying. And now I’m experiencing it first-hand in my own garden. The trees have completely lost their resistance and are all infested. Without chemical treatments, the fruit yield is literally zero. That’s why I view them, along with the flora, as the most precious thing we have. I see plants as an indicator of the fragile biodiversity that will not accommodate us forever.

However, the pandemic period is also inevitably linked to an excessive presence in the digital environment, the effects of which you yourself do not deny. How do natural and online enviroments work together in your conception?

 certainly don’t deny it. I use the internet to compose my works. For example, sometimes I lack an element that I want to incorporate into a painting and I have to go to an online database to find it.  As far as the internet aesthetic is concerned, it is completely natural for me because I grew up in it and it also captures the atmosphere I want to achieve in my works quite well. I don’t depict pure, untouched nature but anthropocenic, slightly dystopian scenes, which the internet aesthetic works well with, whether as a symbol of good or evil.

You depict critical environmental moments through naive, lovable characters. Are the protagonists supposed to inspire sympathy? Do you want the audience to identify with them?

Unfortunately, sympathy doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. They’re more like silent observers who seem to know something that we don’t know yet. I’d say they’re a step ahead of us and they just feel a little sorry for us. Nowadays, more and more insects and plants are joining the party, and they are often very fragile and easy to miss. They are, for me, a kind of symbol of the fragility of biodiversity.

What about you? Do you identify with your own scenes? And if so, isn’t it too emotionally demanding?

It certainly is. Information about the ecological crisis and the unpleasant future is very challenging for me. I try to only touch on this subject in a very broad context because I’ve found that I’m not able to live a fulfilling life otherwise. Anyone who is a little bit more sensitive can easily be consumed by this and driven to anxiety and environmental sadness, so I try to let this topic into my life in small doses.

I filter out a lot of that heaviness through the actual process of painting. A few years ago, I went from expressive, fast painting to the complete opposite principle of creating. I am currently working in a way that is very slow, deliberate and lengthy. I consider it a kind of therapy.

The hues of your paintings are toxic and unnatural, which works well with the depiction of a certain poisoning of natural resources. Did you use this colour palette before you started working with the themes of the environmental crisis or did it sort of naturally evolve?

I don’t think the colour palette has changed much for me. Even in college, I was doing a lot of wild figurative motifs. I intuitively work with a fairly rich and bold palette that is so close to me that I just can’t eliminate it. Perhaps acrylic contributes to this as well, which I can’t get enough of due to its quick drying time. So you could say that the garden theme gradually found its way into my colour palette and then it was just a matter of creating a harmony between them.

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Kristína Bukovčáková’s profile on Livebid Originals



Artist / Kristína Bukovčáková



Interview / Barbora Čápová

Translation / Františka Blažková

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