Solid and dominating shapes or mysterious cloths, always as if about to move. The artist Zuzana Kubelková works with these and many other contrasts in her latest exhibition Heads ’n Tails at Galerie Kuzebauch. Kubelková, who was born in 1987, was awarded the prestigious YOUNG GLASS Ebeltoft Award of 2017. The works showcased at Galerie Kuzebauch work with this event, further proving Kubelková’s craftsmanship.

Aesthetics of Contrast: Zuzana Kubelková’s exhibition at Galerie Kuzebauch
Interview by: Marek Torčík • Photo: Filip Švácha, Zuzana Kubelková

Glass is a material full of contradictions. Its use in arts and crafts rests on a combination of improvisation and precise planning. It is simultaneously both art and exact science, both alchemy and sculpture. However, its contradictions do not end here: it is a material that is extremely fragile, yet bears enormous weights, whole cities were built with the combination of glass and metal. Visual properties of glass are the basis of many optical illusions and the material itself can deny its very own existence: it serves as a transparent window, a vista through which we perceive and interpret the world. Its function is often to simultaneously exist while concealing its presence. It is a magical substance, one that allows for the creation of breathtaking pieces. 

Zuzana Kubelková, Tremors, 2019
Kiln-cast, cut glass, grindstone. 15 x 85 x 6 cm

Zuzana Kubelková’s exhibition works with this notion of a material as something that can be both denied and reaffirmed, consisting of both the heads and the tails of the proverbial coin, as PhDr. Petr Nový, the curator of the exhibition, mentions in its accompanying text. The exhibition introduces two aspects of Kubelková’s work: kiln-cast pieces, combining glass with grindstone together with objects from melted fiber glass. The artist studied in the Glass studio lead by professor Ilja Bílek at the University of J. E. Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem. In her work, she is adamant on trying to move the very possibilities of glassmaking – the material is not a limitation to her, but rather a challenge to be dealt with. 

While the whole world is currently more and more immersing into self-isolation, Zuzana Kubelková’s exhibition is, for the time being, accessible only in its virtual form – on the web pages of Galerie Kuzebauch or their Artsy profile. One could almost say that this way, the metaphorical immateriality of glass becomes literal. 

Zuzana Kubelková, Dark Threat, 2019
Kiln-cast, cut glass, grindstone. 25 x 35 x 4 cm

One of the main aspects of your work is the ever present experiment – a kind of eclectic ability to collect impulses from all kinds of areas and melt them into a coherent artistic expression. What are you currently interested in? Was there ever a path that you discovered was incompatible with glassmaking?

I can’t say I have encountered materials or paths that would be incompatible with glassmaking. At least up until now. Of course, there are materials that are impossible to combine with glass, but that is exactly what I like: finding new ways of processing materials, ways of combining them. The whole process of creation, exploring and realising how this thing works and that one does’t, finding out the impulses behind individual reactions. One feels often like a child playing happily with their “Kids First Chemistry Set”. I’m happy whenever I stumble upon something new, or at least new for me. Or even when something doesn’t work at all. That may be one of the reasons why I’m thinking of coming back to an older project of mine, one that I stopped working on because I didn’t have enough time and couldn’t find a way of accessing it. I don’t want to reveal what it is yet… But it has to do with the sudden changes of weather, the ones that kept happening during this year’s winter – I don’t really think they are a one-time thing… But who knows, perhaps I will  yet again work on something more pressing instead. 

Zuzana Kubelková, Shrimp, 2019
Kiln-cast, cut glass, grindstone. 30 x 30 x 6 cm

“I always think of the properties of a particular material, of concrete chemical compounds or crystalline materials and how they work on their own, what is given and unchanging for them.”

In your current exhibition, one can sense a certain polarity. The proverbial heads and tails of a single coin. On the one side, there are your kiln-cast pieces that dominate the whole space, on the other, there are ephemeral and fragile objects made of fiber glass. You also work heavily with industrial materials, creating expressive shapes with potent narratives. I’m interested in how you perceive these contrasts? Is it something that you see as inherent to glass making?
These contrast are really important to me, they keep me cautious of what is going on. Materials that are seemingly unrelated and ever changing are the things making me aware of my own fantasy, my own creativity. I always think of the properties of a particular material, of concrete chemical compounds or crystalline materials and how they work on their own, what is given and unchanging for them. Moreover, glass has certain unchangeable properties  too, they are set and no one can change them. Even though glass can bear a lot of things, there are technological processes one needs to follow, otherwise there is no way of  successfully casting it. I try to work my way around this, combining the various properties of materials to create an object that works, that has an impact on its audience.
Plus, I also like to watch the reaction of people who see my works for the first, or even second time. 

Zuzana Kubelková, Medrana I, 2019

Combined technique. 50 x 30 x 15 cm

In a series of death masks entitled Medrana, one can, similar to your other works, sense a certain approaching threat. Whether it is your use of metal sawdust or various parts protruding into space, even the titles of the works themselves – what is the story behind them? And how real is this threat?
In this case, the threats are not something that could happen. Rather, they are materialised events from the past year; events that gave rise to these masks, these death masks, are personally important to me. Medrana is a term from Spanish, it means fear – fear from the unknown, fear from the future, or even fear from life itself. All this is present in the works. They portray a face “responding” to a concrete moment, or in this case moments, that already happened, or are still happening, still having an impact.

Medrana is a term from Spanish, it means fear – fear from the unknown, fear from the future, or even fear from life itself.”

In 2017, Zuzana Kubelková won the prestigious YOUNG GLASS Award of the Danish Glasmuseet Ebeltoft. The Prague based Galerie Kuzebauch introduces works from her 2019 exhibition in Ebeltoft as well as some brand new pieces

For the time being, your exhibition is accessible exclusively online due to the current government restriction. I feel like in the context of your works, in contrast to other creative areas, the physical contact is often hugely important. How do you feel about this tendency of the world towards an increasingly online presence?
These days, it is crucial to be online. People who are not on FacebookInstagram or other networks are often almost non-existent. In areas where one needs to represent oneself, online presence is becoming indispensable. Nevertheless, I’m only on Facebook, and share things related exclusively to my work and not even all of it. I value my privacy and thanks to that I’m pleased whenever somebody notices me during my exhibition, when they see my works in real life and want to talk about them, or simply share them with others. That is why physical contact of people with my works is important for me, because I can meet many interesting people that can lead me to new ideas, while simultaneously, my works can inspire them too.
On the other hand, one can reach a much wider audience and different groups of people on the internet. Those, who are not physically able to see the exhibition, who live only online or are afraid to socialise or just plain lazy… Everything has its pros and cons – that is why I’m happy even for this online exhibition. However, I still hope we will all be able to meet soon in Galerie Kuzebauch to see it live. 

© Zuzana Kubelkova 2021