One of the signs of noticeably creative work is when works of art are inspired spontaneously. For example in photography random pictures can start to create distinct cycles. Photo series by Katarina Brunclíková take years to create, the biggest and still unfinished one, with a temporary name “Praha”, has been in the works since 2001. Don’t let the title fool you, it has nothing to do with Prague’s milieu. There is no common association connected to Prague. The meaning of the title is different; it is very personal to the artist. Her arrival to Prague years ago meant meeting an unkind world that scared her with its foreign atmosphere and, what is more important, with its apathy to people’s fate. She named not the geographical but metaphorical dimension which intent is only to steal a person’s identity, deprive one of the inner richness of one’s soul and to lock one up into loneliness.
The cycle isn’t only a message about unfriendliness. It has been created in order to present the artist’s admiration of the fact, that underneath the annoying crust, which might seem thick at first sight, there is only a small step separating us from the world where emotional intimacy is still in control and where a human doesn’t have to obey external restrictions. She shows this symbolically, for example, in pictures that were inspired by shop windows: the world in front of the window separated from the world behind by a thin layer of glass. They both reflect each other and, more importantly, they emphasize the thin layer between them and the spontaneous pictures which create stories that are being presented right on the edge. A new world is presented with implications that rules exist that are different from the earthly rules and in which there might even be unknown and improbable living species.
The discovery of those facts hasn’t surprised the author as much as it might surprise the onlooker who is unfamiliar with her work. She was ready for the fact; she just went and picked the things up with her camera. At this point we need to understand a little bit of her background. When she was 17 years old she went through a difficult trial. Stricken with a serious disease she was restricted to bed rest. She became very sensitive to the sun and had to spend many weeks in a room with limited sunlight. This room became her substitute universe. The closest objects took on the role of imaginative surrounding and the things which appeared as normal became fantasy, the mind’s eye replaced the reality of what was seen.
It was in the middle of summer, the sun was shining outside but it was only able to creep through the window blinds into her room in sparkling reflections. The light shining through the blinds left a pearl shine in the quivering hot air. As the sun moved the spot would change its color, beginning with golden brown and ending with cold dark blue. The rest of the reflected beams danced on the walls and on the electronic piano which was the only piece of “furniture” that was left in her visual field. She envisioned that even the piano changed according to the light, making it seem like the keys were moving by themselves and playing.
That is when something happened to her, she began to see things differently and started to interpret colors and light differently than she used to. She liked this change and has kept it ever since. She was basically coming back to her old self. As a little girl in kindergarten she was supposed to paint an autumn field and woods. She chose the “wrong” color: purple. The leaves were supposed to be yellow and the field brown, the teacher corrected her. She could understand her teacher’s reaction but she knew why the colors are different for her: she experienced them that way, she was introduced to her own experience of loneliness. The color became her unique view of the world. If it was up to her, everyone would have their own colors, different from everyone else's.
When she started with photography, she remembered her illness and that the reality spoke to her in more complicated and complex words than true real life. She decided to catch this ambiguity in her pictures. What is interesting is that she approaches objects as complete. Before she starts she knows only a rough emotion that the specific situation evokes in her. In that moment she is not seeking and experimenting but merely expressing her first desire. She comes with an imagination of a finished photograph and is waiting for the good light conditions that will let her say: “Now.”
The only way she changes her original idea is through the technical finishing touches. She has always enjoyed and been interested in finding new procedures by herself. Mixing triple developing bath based in varied temperatures: ice cold, hot and normal - and watching how it affects the photographs. She discovered a technique of “cross” by herself when the colored diapositives are developed with a technique for developing negatives. The finished picture has an extremely high granulation and rich colors with an extremely high contrast. Because normal colors weren’t enough for expressing emotionally charged realities she added the technique to work for her. Only after she mastered this technique it was when she learned that photographers have been experimenting with it both here and abroad.
It is interesting that despite her high demands for the technical side of the color process Katarina Brunclíková enjoys working on a whim. She doesn’t favor the professional studio with strong flash lights; her studio has always been a little table at home in the kitchen or in her room, using a lamp, flashlight and light coming through a glass prism or cleverly constructed mirror reflections. As a creator she feels the most comfortable in the intimacy of her room where she lives. She adds that she isn’t even able to work in front of other people, even the ones that are the closest to her. When she is supposed to be working in front of people, like during the “Praha” cycle, working on the dusty street, she separates herself from the outer world with the help of a walkman. Then the outer world stops bothering her and an entrance to the inner one opens.
The fact that both of these worlds, the outside and the inner one, are far apart, is indicated in the number of grids the artist is working with. She is telling us that the real world is endangered but at the same time the path there isn’t always easy. The shutter closes a lot of times between the camera and the object emphasizing the feeling of tightness of the temporary world. But even the thickest gridded picture has been created for us to discover that even behind the grid there is always something left. Not even one of the most melancholy photographs remains hopeless, no - there is no doubting the spiritual substance of the world. Despite the saying that the road to it is difficult, Katarina Brunclíková is right on that path.