However, I knew that if I came any closer I would not endure all the beauty.
Carne by Evelyn Bencicova
Evelyn Bencicova is a young photographer from Slovakia whose work is best described as an encounter…..
This is a meeting with polished lush texture, iridescent skin, pearly eyes, stark theatrical moments suggestive of death, birth, and even the supernatural. A cast of mist seems ever present, and one comes face to face with the fantastic mythologies of science, medicine, and religion.
Organic Still Life
While Evelyn’s images are of course visually sumptuous (whether they evoke pleasure or repulsion), the artist’s purposeful use of esoteric motifs is central to her practice. These are stories told to ignite one’s imagination; each picture containing complex, mutable imagery that can be interpreted a variety of ways.
For example, the work Ecce Homo for many is evocative of war photography of memories the Holocaust of WW II.
However, while the artist acknowledges this is a common interpretation, she also intends the work to point to a larger and contemporary problem of dehumanization, as an expression of the tragedy of genocide, wartime trauma and more. The mundane and grotesque come to together to illicit feelings of loss and terror. For my part, these morbid pallid images send chills through my heart, and evoke a sense of horror at humankind’s cruelty to those they consider their enemy or somehow lesser, a tragedy repeated over and over.
This confrontational approach forces the viewer to contemplate the plight of others, rather than turning away.
As well, images of Catholicism are resplendently handled, within theatrical scenery, populated by otherworldly creatures, emblematic of the mystic vocabulary of stories of the passion and Mary.
RB: I see in many of the photos particularly ICON a reflection of northern Mary imagery, as one sees in altarpieces, the lactating Virgin etc. The themes of fertility, womanhood, and bodily processes seem important. Is the case? If so, why are these devices so central to your work?
EB: I am engaged in presenting and rethinking the idea of female beauty, questioning and challenging such beauty and gendered standards. In my work, you will see parallels between historic and contemporary ideals through the placement of religious imagery next to contemporary fashion concepts.
RB: And so, it makes sense that the pictorial language of Catholicism and the cult of Mary is a perfect way to bring about this dialogue.
EB: The Catholic aesthetic influenced me from my very early childhood. I spent hours in the Roman Catholic Church observing art such as paintings and statues. This began with childish boredom and quickly grew into an absolute fascination. I still remember one corner, with an altar dedicated to Virgin Mary. It was full of silver stars and had a fence covered with fake flowers. It was possible to view her statue only behind the glass and from the distance.
RB: This strengthened its allure I imagine, this kind of reliquary framework, adding to the mystery.
EB: I knew that if I came any closer I would not endure all the beauty. I have not been there for ages and I will never go there again in order to preserve such a beautifully childish vision, so far from reality. Nevertheless, this experience still represents for me all the purity of a sacred object, obviously quite idealized but also incredibly potent.
RB: Can you describe the genesis of CLOSE, and how it brought you to work with regular people, rather than models? Much of the work physically expresses emotional relationships; I am particularly interested in the picture of the women with their hair woven together, an ode to the ties of motherhood perhaps.
EB: Close is one of my first photographic projects, and focuses on human relationships, as completely communicated through body language, gesture, and touch. These images are meant to depict ideas of compassion, support, sacrifice etc. To achieve naturalness I used non-models, who could react naturally to situations and communicated these phenomena –e.g. physical communication in a believable way. My role was to stage the studio, and allow the interaction to play out with all the incumbent emotions, confusion and imperfections.
RB: Please tell me more about the work L.O.V.E.? Many find the image quite shocking, first because it seems gruesome perhaps, but also because it refers to life cycles, and womanly bodily processes, and there is no sublimation of such things here.
EB: L.O.V.E. consists of two simple images showing heart-shapes, e.g. the woman’s pelvis, and the heart. The images are intended to be visually powerful and as such trespass the border between appealing and disgusting.
RB: You have told me that the work is meant to be open to interpretation, and it is for the viewer rather than the artist to create or decide upon the work’s meaning.
EB: Yes, it is an open work, I have found that people look at the same picture and see very different things or ideas. Some might interpret the images as symbolic of life, whereas others describe the images as reminiscent of death, birth, miscarriage etc. In the end, they always see themselves.
RB: Certain colors reign in your work: white, red, black, and many of the photos of a gray frost?
Asymptote by Evelyn Bencicova and Adam Csoka Keller
EB: I use colors mostly to drive attention a certain focal point or subject. Tonality and lighting sound like technical terms, however these choices really influences visual and emotional reception.
While gray tones are definitely part of my artistic aesthetic, the red color in Asymptote is a clear reference to socialism as many other details in this project.