Anna Hulačová was born in 1984 in Sušice, Czechoslovakia and studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague from 2006-2012. They are a sculptor whose work revives traditional crafts, translating the inspiration found in ancient mythologies, eastern cultures as well as in Czech folk traditions and original Christian symbolism into the language of contemporary art. Hulačová had two recent solo exhibitions at the Liberec Regional Gallery and the East Slovakian Regional Gallery in Košice. They have also taken part in group exhibitions at the Prague City Gallery; the Prague National Gallery; the Biennale Giardini, Italy; and Gdansk City Gallery.
For Anna Hulačová, the theme of the Baltic Triennial 13 becomes somewhat surreal and mutated: a riff on how our imagination plays with the idea of containers and containment, of the upside down and what’s under the ground, and what we would offer as a sacrifice to the God of electronics.
Perhaps ghosts have given up their bodies as containers; perhaps they simply cannot be contained. An upside down swimming pool – a container without water – forms the bluest of bases for the installation, toward which all the other elements gravitate: an imagined shrine for the symbolic containers on the shoulders and heads of the figures surrounding it.
The stylised figures approach the centre of the piece, bearing gifts like ancient worshippers sacrificing or offering commodities to the Gods; yet in contrast to ancient times the offerings are not liquids, animals or artefacts, originally bestowed on humanity from the Gods but electronic gadgets and kitchen appliances. Of course, it is equally difficult to avoid associating the figures carrying containers on their heads, with images of women in the third world, who carry water for miles. The physical and economic disparity between the third world and western Europe is evidently on the artist’s mind: they question how far the conveniences which serve us have to travel – such as household or kitchen appliances – yet how easy they are for us to attain.
The act of turning the swimming pool upside down is a symbolic gesture that is meant to re-focus our attention on the ground and consider what might be underneath. It plays along with the surreal yet common idea that many of us have as children; that it’s possible to reach the antipodes if only you dig far enough. Simultaneously, the swimming pool’s shape is almost like a grave, casting suspicion that the figures symbolise morbidity and death. Only one figure makes it to the centre of this tableaux – to what Hulačová describes as ‘the bottom’ of the swimming pool – the figure of Dionysus, the Greek God of fruitfulness and vegetation; of wine and ecstasy.
Alongside the God is a mutated organic shape; snake-like, fluid and even a little bit sexy, but with barbs and mutations that warn of danger and something being out of place. The hand-formed concrete seems like a microorganism but in macro – a glitch among these human-like figures, something sci-fi or alien, metamorphosed into a hard material.
Drawing parallels between folk art, brutalism and modernism, Hulačová directly references a tradition in Czech art, of depicting the human figure in connection to themes such as factories, social relationships, communication, machines and technological progress. Hulačová expresses this optimism and trust in technology through stylised forms that could almost be read naively – although the paradox in the optimistic expression of sculptures carrying household appliances is evident in the critical way she works with materials, forms and figures.