GEOMETRIC KEYS TO GLASS AND PAINTING
Promoting young artists and supporting them at the beginning of their careers has always been one of the key roles of the Vojtech Löffler Museum in Košice. Our current ‘2B & 3B’ exhibition features two young visual artists coming from Eastern Slovakia – Katarina Balúnová, whose paintings represent 2D art and glass artist Marek Brincko, whose pieces add a 3rd dimension to the project.
Katarína Balúnová (born in 1982 in Krompachy) studied Contemporary Painting at the Technical University’s Faculty of Arts in Košice (2004-2010) and at Scuola per Artigiani Restauratori in Turin, Italy (2011-2013). The years spent in the studio of Adam Szentpétery, a major protagonist of geometric abstraction, accompanied by numerous internships and workshops abroad, have made the most decisive impact on her artist profile. Her primary interest is the exploration of the city, urbanism and its reflection in painting through geometric shapes and models.
Balúnová originally focused on the clash of the city with the nature and the country destroyed by the impact. Her pieces frequently featured detailed maps with streets, contour lines and animal shapes, where does, wolfs and birds claimed the entire surface of her paintings (‘Nekrajina’ I-II, 2009; City Cemetery, 2011), creating a strange world of civilised nature and wild urban megastructure. Gradually, her focus shifted to the structure of the city and its morphology and her interest in urbanism took on the form of blueprints, depicting stretches of land covered by black cubes representing buildings, the ‘die that had been cast’ ... (Invisible City I, 2014; Grey City Structure I, 2014; City Park, 2015).
From there, she proceeded to select fragments of larger urbanistic plans and integrate them in her paintings, which transformed these details into compositions of surfaces, lines and abstract shapes. At this point, geometry became a key that helped her unlock new possibilities of working with the urban aesthetic, structures and formulas; a basic grid that reflects modern industrial society with all its pictorial schemes. Her dense imagery offers a glimpse of the influence of the Russian avant-garde (including Kandinsky, Malevich and the Constructivists), with their radical engineering aesthetic, visionary style and mystical form. Hence, Balúnová’s most recent pieces include black and yellow canvasses, colourful and dominated by black rectangles or black, angled planes, their monolithic nature disrupted only by the interventions of thin lines and tiny dots. She has adopted black rectangle as her symbolic representation of the house, anchor and human rationality (adding a further dimension of a suprematist icon in the world of art). This applies particularly to her series of abstract acrylic paintings ‘Black Blocks’ (2016) and ‘Open Walls’ (2017). She has taken a similar approach to expanding urban structures, transforming them into dynamic diagonal or triangular forms, using white and red active planes (City Cemetery I-II, 2017, Composition – Chimney, 2016; Composition I-IV, 2017). Lately, she has been experimenting with stepping out of the predominantly monochrome plane to the space created from threads that are either woven into a net, hanging from a canvas or connecting several canvases together (Variable Composition in Space; Flowing Surface; Prison, all 2017). Sometimes the effect is not the amplification of the impression but rather the softening of the space into which the author is inviting her audience to become a part of her visual game.
The work of Marek Brincko (born in 1981 in Levoča) has always been connected directly to his materials of choice. Having graduated from a woodcarving programme at a High School in Spišská Nová Ves, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava to study glass with Juraj Gavula (2000-2006), while also working with glass artists Zora Palová and Štepán Pala in their studio (2005-2006). After the completion of his training, he returned to his hometown of Levoča to start his own art practice, pursuing his vision of sculpture in glass – fused, cut or polished. He has been communicating this vision through the material’s transparency and its ability to ‘transport’ and absorb light, frequently placing additional sources of light into his sculptures. In a relatively short time, he has been able to develop several parallel lines that represent the artistic programme and voice of this young artist.
Geometry has been a defining element in Brincko’s work, too. This has, to a certain degree, been determined by the very nature of glass, from which he sculpts basic geometric shapes such as tubes, pyramids, cubes and vertical towers with an internal rhythm created by planes or regular architecture (Cathedral, 2011; Rhythm, Cube Labyrinth I-III, 2017). He also finds inspiration directly in architecture, namely in the pointed arches and flying buttresses of the Gothic buildings of his region. This influence is dominant in his ‘Light Gates’ cycle, which presents various structures cut from glass, exhibiting sharp edges and shapes with an internal ‘eye’, which draws us into his own 3B dimension (Light Gate, 2014, Gothic Window, 2014; Red Gothic Gate, 2017). His fascination with architecture plays an even more dominant role in his ‘Uranica’ cycle, which combines shocking neon colours with precise structure of the sculpture (Wings, 2014; Harp, 2017; Spacetime 2017).
Another dominant element in Marek Brincko’s work has been the so-called ‘Organica’. The author has ‘invited’ bees to take part in the process of creation by integrating honeycombs into his objects, introducing warm, organic structure into the otherwise cold geometric framework and creating a unique combination of sharp polished surfaces and ‘melodious’ natural structures (Meander, 2014; Honey Comb II, Bee Pillar, both 2017; Bee Arcade, 2018). By juxtaposing clear, highly polished geometric order with natural girds and chaotic structures, the artist has succeeded in creating pieces of unique expression. He further explores ‘liquid’ natural shapes in his ‘Plasma’ cycle, letting his colours flow freely in glass and in doing so, applying principles that bring him close to painting (Aguarius, 2016; Violet Circle I, 2017).
The two artists whose works are presented side by side in this exhibition share more than simply being born in Eastern Slovakia or belonging to the same generation. It is their unique use of geometric means of expression that each of them employs in a distinct way that has led to their works being exhibited side by side. This juxtaposition of Katarína Balúnová’s 2D paintings and Marek Brincko’s 3D glass sculptures set the stage not only for a meeting of two completely different types of media but also for a very personal search for one’s own visual language that keeps evolving throughout an artist’s entire life.
For more information about the artists, see