Radically personal. The art of Adriena Šimotová and Maria Pinińska-Bereś
One of the important aspects of the art from the 1960s is the gradual emergence of art by women artists that dealt with the feminine experience. As Martina Pachmanova observed, the development of gender perspective in women’s art (she talked about Czech artists but I think we can extend it to refer to other artists from the Eastern Europe) has less to do with their conscious political emancipation than it does with their growing reservations toward the dominancy of the canon of modernism. It is especially true in relation to artists born around 1930 and educated shortly after the war. To them and their colleagues these were modernist tendencies that were a medium of freedom. Yet, there are a number of women artists from this generation – such as Adriena Šimotová (born 1926) or Maria Pinińska-Bereś (1931-1999) – for whom modernist frameworks turned out to be too narrow when confronted with their experience. Qualities (both formal and thematic) that are described as ‘feminine’ became a constant element of their artistic language in the 1970s and were recognized as such already by their contemporaries. What I concentrated on in this text is, however, the earlier phase of their artistic development.
In 1965 Adriena Šimotová started to create works in which everyday life was the main subject and a diary-like form dominated. This change corresponded with a turn of many artists toward the new figuration, as a result of dissatisfaction with gradual aestheticisation of informel. What made her art special was a degree of intimacy. Šimotová’s works offered a direct insight into the artist’s private world. She presented its views from the perspective that indicated being inside, experiencing not observing.
In Maria Pinińska-Bereś’s sculptures created around the mid-1960s, references to a female body and sexuality that is being controlled and enslaved started to appear. The artist’s later statements made an autobiographical dimension of these works clear. She pointed out to the necessity of confrontation with the results of her upbringing in the ultra-Catholic family as to its source. Development of this thematic was accompanied by formal experiments, e.g. introduction of such materials as linen or burlap (in Standing Corset (1966) she used her hair). Her sculptures corresponded with a critique of autonomous works of art that could be observed in her artistic milieu, yet, similarly to Šimotová, she differed from her colleagues in her interest in gendered experience of the body and intimate relationships. Their voice – expressed from the margins, as this was where women artists functioned – was radically personal in comparison with that formulated by their colleagues.