An inverted Rückenfigur greets a visitor at the door: a dark bust-length silhouette, backlit by the dusk behind. It sets the tone for “Imaga,” an exhibition of the work of Stanislava Kovalcikova at 15 Orient. The paintings on view are haunted and haunting—more so in the faded gothic environs of the gallery space—imploring one to contemplate not a sublime landscape but an equally chilling vista found within.
Kovalcikova’s canvases center ashen, unreadable faces, which sit uncannily upon their bodies as if shoddily Photoshopped in. In Notre Dame (2021), for instance, a figure with stringy hair smiles cryptically before a church, bloodshot eyes unfocused, raising a butterfly to her lips as if in the next moment she might take a bite. In Illness of Morning (2020), the blackened features of a bodiless figure culminate in a large void of a mouth, poised to swallow the butterfly before it.
The backgrounds of Kovalcikova’s paintings are often equally mottled, recalling a stack of newspapers abandoned, left to bleed and fester. Imaga (2021) superimposes faces and symbols—a deer, a flower, what appear to be Chinese oracle bone inscriptions — into an infernal red background. Others imbed into their surfaces strands of hair—and even a real bird claw—like a hex.
Stanislava Kovalcikova, Tale of the two suns, 2020. Oil, foil and fried egg on linen unframed: 47 5⁄8 x 37 1⁄2 inches.