At first glance, Iva Davidová’s paintings invite into a soft, ethereal dreamscape. Deeper under the surface however lies an exploration of societal paradoxes which have long prevented solidarity and compassion. Explore the Czech artist’s poetic works accompanied by unique personal insight.

In your art, you discuss the anti-feminist aspects of portraying a fragile, beautiful, and innocent persona while overlooking less aesthetically pleasing aspects. How do you address these issues through your artwork, and what messages or statements are you trying to convey regarding feminism and aesthetics?

There are various fairy tale/ethereal/core images appearing on the internet that depict romanticized nature and general living, among other things, framing everything in a kind of fairy-tale and ethereal identity, which has become a huge visual trend. I see this as not only hypocritical, but actually anti-feminist. It can have bimbo feminist traits, but I see it as anti-feminist because it creates a romanticized impression of a sort of fragile, beautiful, innocent being surrounded by all things aesthetic with a tendency to (visually) ignore and discriminate against what is “not” aesthetic (“we don’t feel empathy for things that aren’t beautiful” like insects, etc.), ignoring the climate crisis or the capitalist structures that are destroying the world. There is no longer any free nature or free creatures. And so I consciously work with the aesthetic appeal and the notion of the core as hypocritical, portraying them as an illusion of romanticism, presenting them in illusory paradises – pain, suffering, lack of care, solidarity, sensitivity and tenderness. Help me, I use my natural attunement to aesthetics to once again make moral judgments about aspects of my appearance. 

I address it through aesthetically constructed worlds/scenarios, working with aesthetic appeal, into which I slowly but surely insert the essences of suffering, exploitation and the consequences of the violence perpetrated.

You mentioned that your work involves exploring the concept of the illusory paradise and critiquing certain visual trends on the internet. Can you elaborate on how you use this exploration to challenge the romanticized and ethereal identity often presented online?

I try to question these things thanks to hypocritically participating and being in the middle of it. I think that being in the middle of something that you are constantly questioning is a very strong position to reflect the deepest feelings or actions and reactions in the sectors that interest you, especially in terms of visual trendiness or some kind of thematic trendiness. There are memes about the word “care” appearing more and more often in curatorial texts… This seems to me an unfortunate failure of reflections and questionings, because care – especially emotional, unpaid care, is one of the most overlooked labors of today. No matter how it is portrayed or how trendy that looks. I work with care also – even in the visual representation of this concept. Some of my paintings are named Peace to your wounds, which represents collective healing.

The illusory paradise you create in your work includes elements of pain, suffering, lack of care, solidarity, sensitivity, and tenderness. How do you balance these contrasting themes within your art, and what do you want viewers to take away from this position?

The grass is growing in extreme amounts this year. The cities and the people disagree on what to do with it. Some towns can’t keep up with the grass cutting. It could put drivers at risk. These are the headlines of TN.CZ articles from 2021. The same year, the same news outlet published the headline Cities want longer grass this year. There will be more parasites and dog poop, experts say. This year, 2023, was also published the headline of the article Incredible footage: in Shanghai, grass grows like in a fairy tale. So how? Who/what are cities? What do they mean by grass? What is grass? What is its voice? What color are its eyes? Is it the centralized network looking at its own reflection? These are the questions I want viewers to take from my work, as well as the awareness of hypocrisy.

So why is all my touched grass walking through the valley of the shadow of death? Grass is considered beautiful after certain human modifications. The city (the equivalent of a clump?) 

doesn’t consider grass beautiful enough to merely exist, and thus treats its freedom the same way. Mown posh grass is the most beneficial: it speaks to the social status of the person who owns the land in which it grows. But someone has heard what the grass on their land really says. They heard its cries, its testimony. We don’t even care wherher or not we care. In fairy tales, people personify on the fauna, and sometimes on the flora, the systems they have created o. How do you think fauna and flora formulate the transmission of information about humans to their offspring?

You mentioned that you are currently working on a series called “The Air Smells of Metal from the Amount of Blood and Bodies Lying Everywhere.” Can you provide more insights into this series and how it explores themes of tenderness and non-violent communication?

This series is named after the description of the news server Ukrainciaga International. Ukrainciaga is a medium that shares information about Russian terrorism (not only) and writes very heartbreaking texts about people’s emotions and experiences.

Ukrainciaga writes: The air smells of dust and metal from the amount of blood and bodies lying everywhere. Some policemen are stepping aside from time to time to avoid looking at it all. Some of them just close their eyes. Some people can’t stand it.

After reading this, I immediately realized how deeply it speaks to my paintings and objects. Not only that, but this phrase touched me so much that I visualized it as a metaphor for everything that the human hand touches and destroys, or irreversibly remakes; then you see some people trying to make it better, to correct it and heal it. I don’t just want to metaphorize these sentences, I also want to leave them to what they were describing. They also make me visualize, for example, freshly mowed grass and avoiding encounters with insects and biodiversity in general. They make me feel the grass and other plants bleed. But humans only see grass (or other plants) as beautiful under certain circumstances, after its modification by human hands.

You mentioned working with text, turning it into speech, and incorporating it into your art. How does this interplay between text, speech, and visual art enhance the messages and emotions you want to convey to the audience?

I think that when the spoken texts in my work guide the audience through the installation of paintings and objects/sculptures, a certain so-called melancholy, or also a brooding that the viewer can feel, is very effective. Usually the viewer is drawn to that overused dreaminess that these audios break up a bit, despite being formulated into poeticizing, engaged essays. The melancholy is felt by the viewer after they have deciphered the painter’s thought process through the phrases they have listened to. And I emphasize with the painter, because in the end I don’t care so much that the viewer interprets it exactly as it is said in the audio. I also use metaphorical phrases in the audio that can be translated into things that don’t necessarily make melancholy present at all.

I like to work with dreaminess, which is often a romanticized and escapist tool, also in texts that I formulate poetically, yet their meaning is mostly a very gloomy clash with reality, or léps – with the artist’s perception of reality. Lately, I’ve been adding more and more red liquid to my paintings, evoking blood – but it can be more than just blood, it’s also sap. The sap is a wonderful metaphor for rebirth, healing, and showing that there has been damage to the plant from an outside influence. It contains water, sugars, organic acids, minerals and enzymes that allow the plant to grow. After the surface of the plant is disturbed by external influence, it becomes lymph, which is the yellowish fluid of some animals, including humans, that circulates in the lymphatic system. It has a composition similar to blood plasma. It is a part of the immune system and plays an important role in defending the body against infectious and cancerous diseases. Resin has a protective function, lymph forms a resin, the one we see in wounds. I find it both fascinating and important to use these things in audio so that it doesn’t have just one side. So the other side is the audio in which I’m talking about the reason why I used sap and resin as a metaphor, for example. And the viewer can also get pleasure from that, from how complex everything is, how everything works at once to heal and rebirth – right after the wound is made. But unfortunately this applies mostly to plants.

Finally, what would you like viewers to take away from your art? What emotions, thoughts, or actions do you hope your work inspires in its audience?

I don’t think it’s entirely within my power to want the viewer to take away only a few specific things. Interpretation is a free thing, although I create audios to open up the illusion. And what would I like? Most of all, hope and vigor to participate in change, in collective healing, in the rectification of that which endlessly exploits. I would like the viewer to take away an experience of empathy and solidarity. This can later be transformed in favor of protecting/helping nature and those who are denied help or solidarity. Grasses form clumps… In a severe drought, the inside of the cane always remains the wettest, in a fire the cane only smolders and the center does not burn, the seeds of aggressive plants cannot take root in the cane, the cane is trapped in the ground by many roots and cannot be dug up or washed out so easily. All these straws with their roots separate, start to buddy up, stick together and know that like this, they have more strength to survive in the conditions they need and the roots intertwine and so they talk.

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Iva is an intermedia artist, studying at FaVU, video, in Brno. They work across media, and have recently been writing texts and storytelling in music, narrating their frustration with capitalism and its exploitation, discrimination and privilege through a collection of existential meme phrases that they transform, poeticize and reimagine. They also photograph and illustrate. Their main medium is painting. They paint on wood and focus on illusory paradises. Their work includes a study of privilege personified on plants, an approach to beauty and also the phenomenon of the “catfish”. They observe social events and project their experiences onto vegetation that seemingly lacks selfhood. Vegetation is also a metaphor for the patterns that emerge in civilization and its relationship to the wild… At @bublinamagazine, she is involved in visual and curatorial work and is part of the artistic duo @unbelievabledawn PAINTING + DIGITAL MEDIA = TECHNOMALBA – also dedicated to illusory paradises in photography.


Artist / Iva Davidová

Interview / Markéta Kosinová

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