Terezie Zemánková (2016)

Ondřej Novotný (2016)
New Deties

Vlastimil Tetiva (2013)
Stories Playful and Unmerciful

Ivo Hucl (2012)
Reality from the depths

Jan Kříž (2008)
To Date

Terezie Zemánková (2016)


The wooden bunk beds in the Terezín Fortress still bear carved inscriptions by people who could not understand why they had become hunted animals. Those records are so powerful and authentic that all you can do is tiptoe out of there. The light and sober architecture of today’s gallery premises, which were built by the Germans during World War II, is so charged with negative energy that it permits no positive vision. Pain is embedded there, it has never evanesced.” 

Xénia Hoffmeisterová did not try to shun or confront Terezín’s genius loci with a positive message. She has never been inclined toward unfounded optimism, anyway. Although humor is often present in her art, it is always somewhat black; whether a painting, object, stage design or work for film, her art is always imbued with melancholy. It is shot through with apocalyptic visions that, despite the charming decorativeness of its execution and seeming light playfulness of her ideas – or perhaps in some decadent harmony with them – have culminated in the Shadows project. Hoffmeisterová created a site-specific installation for Terezín, rather than a traditional exhibition of a certain part of her body of work. Her artistic mode of thought and expression is theatrical, hence her scene comprising three acts symbolically responding to the history of this place. 

A carpet is spread in the gallery’s central space, like in a shrine. It is composed of a hundred wire skulls that Hoffmeisterová wove in the evenings for more than half a year. At first sight, they are uniform, like decorative elements in an ornamental pattern, like a mass-produced floor mat. Yet each is a little different, each has its own distortions and deviations – like human skulls in a mass grave. Hoffmeisterová’s work has always been characterized by distress from overcrowding. In the Terezín cycle there is an escalating dread in the amplitude whereby the tragedy of a single person becomes a statistic.

“It is not only those who have perished in the death camps – they have not brought subsequent generations into the world; these unborn are missing today. The thousands who died in Terezín would have given birth to hundreds of thousands. I think our present world would look different if natural development had not been violently disrupted. It is a lamentation for the unborn,” she says. 

The artist further polemicizes with the skull motif in the second act. Similarly-shaped skulls are hung on the side walls of the exhibition premises. They are made of different materials, which define their character. The first is made of bullet cartridges shining gold and silver, of elegant forms; when multiplied, they look like some chic reliquary. Others are assembled from small pieces of wood or stones, woven from bits of wire or thread, hammered together from nails or made of a cotter pin chain. Although all are similar in shape, some have fine features, some rough; one looks vulnerable, another vigorous, one is ornamental, another majestic and yet another is elegant. Together, they resemble a gallery of family portraits in a burgher’s salon. They are illuminated one by one by a rotating light recalling the spotlight used by guards to scan the camp at night; one skull after another rises out of the darkness, growing out of the wall in dramatic plasticity. Hoffmeisterová returns respectability to the skull. The symbol, diminished in the last decades into a mere graphic symbol applied to souvenirs or underwear, once again becomes the implacable memento mori.  

In the third and final part, the artist has five turntables – bizarre objects assembled on each – move to the sound of music. Again, surreal specimens preserved in glass bottles and fragments of day-to-day existence are illuminated by a spotlight at regular intervals. As the light moves on, their shadows mingle, layer, flash and swell to monstrous dimensions and dissolve like slowly appearing and disappearing memories. The bottle glass creates the effect of a glimmering watery surface against the wall’s background, evoking the flow of time, permitting us to forget. But as the carpet of skulls mercilessly reminds us, while forgetting may be of comfort to the individual, it is a creeping threat to society. In this dream-like space, the viewer, enchanted by playfulness and fantasy, may tend to forget that the visions, desires, dreams and memories no longer belong to anyone. Only marks and inscriptions have remained on the bunk beds. “For myself, I need to tell the story of my own feeling of guilt, as an individual who is also part of a larger whole,” adds Hoffmeisterová.

Terezie Zemánková

Printed in book „Shadows“ (2016), ISBN 978-80-90654-0-4

Ondřej Novotný (2016)

New Deties

German philosopher and psychiatrist Karl Jaspers believed religiosity to be an inseparable part of man’s fate. Knowingly or not, we rely on entities and principles that overlap and guarantee truth and meaning in the world in which we live. In a formal sense, therefore, deities are with us all the time. What changes most in the course of history is us. After all, what is the pantheon of all those diverse deities but a shrine of ever-changing human ideals and utopias, principles and values, which, through acts of devotion, have assumed their own sovereignty, and with it the sovereign power that these personified principles clutch like a sceptre? Then, ironically, they use this sceptre to guide us (their first creator): they are our superior partner in a high-level dialogue, they refine the chaos of day-to-day life, console us with their kind face, abuse and terrorize us or elicit endless desperation. Unlike our relationship to living nature, where an autonomous living entity is the subject of the relationship, our relationship with the godly is a circular relationship of humankind to itself. When we talk to Xénia Hoffmeisterová about new deities, we basically talk about ourselves and our communities.

Who are those “new deities”? If Xénia Hoffmeisterová lives the recent past and present as a work by new deities, they appear utterly hostile toward humankind. In Hoffmeisterová’s artworks, the world unfolds as a great scene of (self-) destructive madness, whose beginning is hidden somewhere in the non-specific past of failing human thought. The places at which the present was born are not subjects of the artist’s curiosity; rather, the present as a living and lived phenomenon naturally echoing the past, but only as a background for its own consequences, is the focus of her work.  
The general idea of “new deities” is inherent in the majority of the artworks covered in this book in contexts that are more or less apparent. Nevertheless, there are three main themes that Hoffmeisterová elaborates as comprehensive visions of this “new world”. First are the figures of those deities themselves and spectacular landscapes displaying, in large perspective, the effects of their will; second, the cycle of paintings and sculptures entitled “Bird Flu” reflecting nature’s place in the hierarchies of the new religiosity and, third, a series of works called “New Species”, which express the organic morbidity of this world in an abstract manner. 
The portraits of grey figures, metaphorical substitutes for the new deities, who set a fixed but empty gaze on the viewer, display that special entanglement of the human and the divine. Although in their formal qualities these figures are reminiscent of humankind, their dream-like deadliness and certain “incompleteness” render them a bloodless imitation. Their similarity is an expression of our historical alienation from ourselves, with the essence of this alienation becoming the face of this new deity. 
The fantastic landscapes in which the artist plays out her multi-layered stories are their sovereign sphere – a world behind the fog of seemingly peaceful daily routine, whose narrative figure can be compared to the situation in the Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart by John Amos Comenius, where the protagonist-pilgrim frees himself from Delusion. The structure and basic plots of the reality the pilgrim then sees reflect the world of Delusion, but converted to a moral negative explaining the essence of the plot. Such an inquisitive look around lies in the background of these spectacular scenes, too, and the depravity of a world without glasses is not shown only in the moral sense, but also in an existentialist and ecological sense. Loneliness, wandering, suffering, madness and all-embracing anxiety fall on the viewer from every corner of these “exposed” landscapes in the world of the new deities. It is interesting to compare the strong emotions of recklessly staggering figures in the artist’s landscapes, where the essence of living is talking, with the peaceful authority of the figures of the new deities. Their alienated faces are intensely peaceful and the organically driven (self-)destruction is a reaction of the living world of human corporeality and emotionality.

Ondřej Novotný

Printed in book „Xénia Hoffmeisterová – Faster and more“ (2018), ISBN 978-80-7017-188-2

Vlastimil Tetiva (2013)

Stories Playful and Unmerciful

" No doubt the world is entirely an imaginary world, but it is only once removed from the true world."  Isaac Bashevis Singer

The need to provoke and elicit at least somewhat scandalous situations in the disproportionately small milieu (space) of the canvas is fundamentally linked with her explosive personality, ever ready to pull the trigger. Although a stage designer by trade, Xénia Hoffmeisterová is above all an artist and author of absurd stories capturing unusual moments in contemporary reality. Her painting, drawing and spatial realizations employ her personal experiences and observations. Contemporary art is a broad term; it is my impression that almost everyone is an “action artist”. We live in odd times, in which psychologists are television celebrities and movie stars advise like Greek philosophers. Genres have merged, and who knows where drawing or painting starts and brushwork continues? Why can’t painters, graphic artists, sculptors, or simply artists, “write” or paint interesting and unusual stories, too? Xénia Hoffmeisterová is an original, an imaginative character inspired by permanently living reality at the razor’s edge of its logical and irrational perception, with the element of mystery remaining the ever alive and rejuvenating water that sustains it. This statement does not only stem from looking at her work of the last three years; this primary quality of “being bewitched by miraculousness” and “being bitten by mysteriousness” permeates her entire body of work, which has continued to develop since the late 1980s.

In Hoffmeisterová’s work, the delimitation of expression moves primarily between sarcasm and irony. In roughly the last four years, we could find certain groups of people seeming to accept the “game” of contemporary society. Symbol, metaphor and allegory are still available and ready for individual penetrations in contemporary contexts of established interpretive possibilities. The artist uses them against spontaneously subjective statements of today’s postmodernism – which is responsibility-averse to a certain degree – for variations of her own self. A dialectic interaction of the opposing forces of disintegration and reintegration, freedom and automatism, materialism and esoterism permeates development whose firm circle adds originality to this form. “Moderation is not the opposite of rebellion, Rebellion in itself is moderation, and it demands, defends, and re-creates it throughout history and its eternal disturbances. The very origin of this value guarantees us that it can only be partially destroyed. Moderation, born of rebellion, can only live by rebellion. It is a perpetual conflict, continually created and mastered by the intelligence. It does not triumph either in the impossible or in the abyss. It finds its equilibrium through them. Whatever we may do, excess will always keep its place in the heart of man, in the place where solitude is found. We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.”  The form and content of this quote raises many questions related to Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s work, but also offers some answers. Let us start with the questions.

Can the artist’s temporally delimited development and relevance (in this case, the last four years) be defined by motifs of her subjective will? Is this development guided by an effort to provoke and cross the boundaries (limits) of conventional opinion? Can we see an experiment where art is made or a struggle is fought to capture perceptions and transform experiences? Can we speak about “laboratory” work and research in a deed whose quality is always defined by a degree of esthetic value inherent in the emotiveness of painting expression? Are we mixing two different spheres that can be compared in everyday talk but whose essence is not explained? Such is the opinion resulting from these artworks with a motif of haphazardness, unilaterally highlighting the intuitiveness of the creative process as a defining factor. And ultimately – is it not the fault of today’s aggressive society, which limits and deprives us of the chance to ask questions and search for the right answers.

At different times and for different artists, whatever it is that sparks the impulse for an artwork is strictly personal. Some focus on what is essential in an object or action and on the form of their relationships and forces. Others look to an object’s construction or are attracted by what is characteristic, individual and unique – and many more of the latter type can be found. In the paragraph above, I outlined certain groups of questions that directly refer to the oeuvre or current work of Xénia Hoffmeisterová. However, finding answers is not as easy as it may first seem. On one hand, an artwork can satisfy our desire, but on the other, inconspicuous “ruptures” in its semantic and visual structures simultaneously evoke new desires, driving us to keep looking for new objects. “Actually, we can never give anything up”, says Sigmund Freud. “We only exchange one thing for another. What appears to be a renunciation is really the formation of a substitute or surrogate.” In Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s work, this “incompleteness” is constituted by tension between traumas and pleasures evoked by the turning of our common past into objects. The artist’s “color eaters”, egg crates, tubes with paints, reliquaries, cuddly mice, hen or fish heads, stoles, wicker baskets, shoes, light bulbs, easy chairs with protruding springs as well as animal figures, plastic bottles, slugs, ants, human figures, birds and skulls are usually object forms we dismiss as uninteresting, beneath our notice. Xénia Hoffmeisterová steps into this “wilderness” of forms and substances, this jungle at and beyond the margins of society. These objects and creatures from the animal realm refer to nothing but themselves, to a certain purpose or order. They are here now, they exist. Their forms, shapes and colors stand out from imperceptibility and oblivion. We see them every day without perceiving them. Just as Kurt Schwiters collected paper garbage in the streets, Xénia Hoffmeisterová transforms these “collected” artifacts into paintings and spatial realizations. They, too, find themselves in a new magnetic field. They are assembled and placed in the “irrational” and “senseless” artwork that is the painting, responding to the artist’s hidden instructions. While polychromy turns them into fetishes at first glance, Hoffmeisterová does not offer or present them in any such straightforward or persuasive way. At first, we are “stricken” and then a long process follows – forms grow, change from one painting to another and absorb new elements based on different experiences. The artist partly applies motifs from the past.   These elements become untouchable, unattainable and, in a way, authoritative subjects on the canvas or in spatial realizations (objects, assemblages) which, among other things, pillory our frustrations. She evokes a stream of memories and associations resulting in unexpected images of life by accumulation. Xénia Hoffmeisterová becomes a poet and philosopher, but never a poet of cheap rhymes. She produces unusual metaphors, equipping them with her explosively poetic load. She is a poet of sick and abandoned things or animals lost in a realm of unreality that arouses unease. The compositions become a theater of unexpected and incredible conflicts, but are simultaneously witness to strange suggestive relationships. She is a philosopher in constant meditation over the causes and truth of phenomena and their mutual relationships while seeking out new artistic truths behind the external, established and sanctioned truth.

The relationship between spatial distance and time equivalency is another basic quality of these artifacts. In this case, the aspect of time can be seen as expectation, fear, anxiety, foreboding, memory, a certain form of nostalgia. The artist employs a unique system of metaphors, both holistic and fragmentary, seemingly incomplete. We are acquainted with a special kind of anthropomorphism focused on an agglomeration of subjectively conceived physiognomies of “odd” creatures of animal origin or objects-relics seemingly taken out of their “natural” milieu. In their final complex form, these two factors can achieve remarkable effects of the “present”, tending both to place and isolate the object and persons in “situations” such as enclosed rooms, factory halls, underground garages, studios etc. This affinity seeks theatrical accentuation. It is a materialization of an archetypal action or perceptive situation, which not only encompasses its own past but also anticipates future life and growth. It is based on the present, immediate perceptions and stimuli as life brings them on. 

We can speak about certain art-making in cycles, where individual artifacts  are not anonymous scenes in a compatible whole. Sometimes they depict a story fragment, at other times a sensory association. Individual segments go beyond any moderation, stand out of the bulk of the matter aggressively filling our specific space and time and pushing us out of them. Many paintings of one or another loose cycle lend an impression of intentional incompleteness.  With her typical frugality, Xénia Hoffmeisterová returns to the same eloquent positions, analogical compositions and situational patterns, as if looking for finality in apparent incompleteness. The artist also finds value in things that are generally denied it, meaning in things that are generally meaningless and even beauty where all others see only decay, doom and naught. 

Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s work in the period under review (2008–2012) can be divided into several groups according to content, material, semantics and expression. Although this text is rather theoretical, general and comprehensive, it is impossible to avoid delving into certain details or to stop at their basic delimitations and definitions. One group is a peculiar and original form of “still life”.  The dreamy as the opposite of reality and the odd and symbolic as an antipode to observed reality are basic factors in these mostly painted realizations. Dramatic clusters of forms receive an optical reflection (or image?) of reality, authentically conveying its experience. The grotesquely tuned imagination is thus fully applied; amorphous and colorfully bright structures produce weird creatures sometimes following the traditional symbolism of the past, but assuming new shapes characterized by rich, rhythmic and dynamically Baroque forms and a brutally expressive, almost caricature-like physiognomy.

These paintings offer more than just a visual experience. Hoffmeisterová descends to a more immediate level of experience, actually negating our superficial ideas of reality. Their contents do not travel their usual routes, but resemble a boomerang that returns to the viewer’s head after flying for a short time. In the end, we often move through life like marionettes – with accuracy, perfect mechanical function and in full accordance with the wishes of those who control our imaginary strings. As soon as the strings are cut, however, society collapses and only then begins slowly to understand the relativity of things and actions. Being confronted with plain truth is enough to invoke shock and laughter. But in whom, is the question.

The preface to the book of drawings by André François With Bristled Feathers includes a paragraph seeking a definition of humor, which I find interesting: “We praise humor, that poetry of the funny and a deep view of the world and people from their ridiculous point of view. It is also humor when the noble spirit which has got to know the good and the bad in man openly and honestly seeks to depict life and people in their weak, humanely fragile and comical moments. The good heart and love for his neighbor which guide him to do so make him lenient and enables him to see the falls and foolishness as expressions of weakness, not evil.”  Xénia Hoffmeisterová combines irony with a bit of nostalgic desire and wraps it all in a fine veil of the near-black humor of Mr. Grock.  It is witty and sincere. “Perhaps nothing, perhaps something almost like art...” in Jiří Kolář’s quote from Mallarmé. The contents bewitch like an auto-interpretative reflection, a sanatorium of things that seem disqualified from play. This expression includes a high degree of depth and rich spirit to highlight something seemingly subjective as truly relevant – to underline what forms an original identical substance, among the haphazard, among mere ideas.

Such is a brief description of the “story” behind Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s paintings. During the creative process, she allows herself what looks like unbiased, light and carefree wandering in a world of things and living beings, whose inconspicuousness appears, ironically, to have greater ideological depths. And since only individual things stand out from the apparent chaos and disorder, the inner context is placed even deeper to let the communicative meaning of individual things shine even brighter. The motifs are subject to strict composition, but also often step out of it. Today’s concept of the artistic vocabulary has gone beyond most limitations set by the old romantic interpretations of originality. What remains essential is the purpose that these innovative methods of “art discourse” serve. In Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s case, it grows authentically out of reality (one would like to add, out of “today’s” reality) from a familiar milieu – from a life bound by statistics and form sheets, controlled by series and programming modes, the order of the letter, digit and necessary rubber stamp, from the reality that has become a new independent “supra-reality”. 

Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s paintings, in fact all her artistic artifacts, “derail” us from established routine. They do not accept the valid train schedule, but shunt our thoughts – which are moving along the usual tracks – onto false tracks, causing an inevitable collision. The impact is so strong that verbal explanation is unnecessary. Some might opine that Hoffmeisterová’s paintings are burdened by ambiguity, but I believe such a view is distorted. The heart of the matter is the old and never-ending controversy over theme. For some, it is a need, for others a pretext. But must we return to this problem here? No right-thinking person would fail to see theme as being secondary – anyone truly wishing to assess an artwork based on what it represents will be a laughingstock or object of pity. A viewer without an artistic education is happy to choose elements from the artwork’s message, in which he or she can identify objects or a group of objects, merely “recognizing” them. The artwork is seen as a message the artist has encrypted and the viewer thinks he or she might be able to decrypt it owing to a tacit agreement between the transmitter and receiver. But this is wrong-headed; an artwork cannot be reduced to communication at this level. Art, in general, is not and cannot be a subject of mere decryption. Thus, nor is it an encrypted message. An artistic message is beyond normalization conditioned by ordinary dispatch, transfer and reception. It is restored from one end of the message to the other and invented anew for every message, with the act of renewal damaging what is established, supplementing it with original invention.

The compositional structure of these artifacts looks more complex than it is. Symbols and attributes linked with human physical existence (often that of the artist) are increasingly applied, producing an original mythology that is more secular and common, void of outside pathos. Xénia Hoffmeisterová creates odd compositions (the correlation of human destinies is transformed into the life of animals, banal objects, fragments of action and vice-versa), which simultaneously become symbols of human situations and the momentary animation of archetypal forms. The mystical figures of creatures who fill the artist’s paintings – fighting, protecting, supporting, passing by, touching, loving and hating one another (such as Bearboar, 2010; Invasion, 2010; Visitors, 2011) – are allegories of humankind’s dramatic internal struggle and bond with others. It is an odd and original mythology of the present. 

The basic situation, however, might also carry the essence of existential complication as humankind is bound to, but also limited by, its coexistence with other beings. In some of her realizations, Xénia Hoffmeisterová undoubtedly touches on this aspect, but she must somehow overcome this oppressive situation to avoid creating meaning and content contradictory to non-historical time and indefinite space. While her paintings Hideout (2011) and Visitors (2011) operate at the existential level of strife and involvement, reality becomes a central prototype, a substratum of the ethereality of time and material values in the loose cycles Washing the Pan (2012) or Aliens (2011). We are confronted with many different life forms, points of view and fields of orientation, realizing the legitimate character and non-deniability of this plurality. The personal and original mythology created and brought to life by the artist finds itself in a different, more acute situation next to real objects and situations. It is a clash between two aspects of one’s riven psycho-social structure, between instincts crowded out of consciousness and an increasing dependence on the mechanically and manipulatively ordered reality in which one lives. 
Xénia Hoffmeisterová does many of her paintings in her second home (the first being Prague) in the village of Lhenice-Vodice near Prachatice, South Bohemia. She usually starts from scratch in her country house. Its space is void of artistic artifacts because completed works have been sent to Prague. Hence the importance of the first painting done there, as it is followed by other realizations that ultimately form a loose cycle.

Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s process evokes the memory of Abraham Moles’ idea  that art started as play, developed as a profession, blossomed as a cult but returns to being play. But is this play just a play on play? Hoffmeisterová’s artifacts leave a trace. And like every trace, this one, too, has the nature of a sign, structured in a double layer of image and expression. Regardless of its content, the “trace” is only a messenger. Individual paintings or drawings are fictitious stories with an open beginning and end. 
 “Despite all the effort they went to, and despite all the co-operation shown by K., his demeanor seemed very forced and hard to believe. So one of the gentlemen asked the other to grant him a short time while he put K. in position by himself, but even that did nothing to make it better. In the end they left K. in a position that was far from the best of the ones they had tried so far. Then one of the gentlemen opened his frock coat and from a sheath hanging on a belt stretched across his waistcoat he withdrew a long, thin, double-edged butcher's knife which he held up in the light to test its sharpness.” 

So what ensues from all of this? The participating viewer may take part in specific forms of artistic realization, but can change little about their basic effect, falling into the same trap as the artist. Xénia Hoffmeisterová believes she is offering a chance to choose, but does not realize she cannot provide anything the power of reality does not allow her, that she herself does not have. No matter the degree to which she devotes her attention to form and focuses on a painting’s “autonomization”, the initial impetus yields sediments of content that become the form and define the semantic message. Adorno describes it as identification with disaster (“no photograph of a disaster or false salvation”). In its diversity, Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s art has many more meanings and reflections than she wanted, planned or will even admit. Their diversity is an inherent part of the paintings, drawings, objects and assemblages. To isolate the dominant meanings or qualities at any cost would mean betraying the raison d’être of the artist’s work, for it is she who prefers this “quality of multitude”. 
This variability can be demonstrated by the example of the form-character of the “rabbit”, which has begun to appear increasingly often in Hoffmeisterová’s work. The rabbit has become one of her pivotal motifs, a symbol of her personal mythology that links ritual with playfulness. However, this form of mythology is not a return to the mythologies of various cultures, like in the case of Zorka Ságlová’s work whose references directly connect the human, natural order to ritual. Xénia Hoffmeisterová returns the “rabbit” to our present culture, to our milieu. Its different forms are a certain metaphor for the life cycle. Even here, however, we encounter an ambiguity of interpretation, an almost endless number of options. The artist basically creates a paradox of the opposite, the resulting realizations surpassing mere permutation. 

If I were to attempt to summarize what has been written about Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s work, I would have to add the term “exclusive” (derived from the Latin “ex-cludo”, i.e. not to let somebody in, to distance someone from something, to prevent) to a description of her attributes. I would also have to use the verb “to glut”, which points to two aspects in this context. First, to the full use of the surface, which demands the viewer perceive the artwork with utmost concentration – perception resulting in the discovery of central motifs and symbols and the gradual finding of an endless number of “minor” details and features. The other “glutting” aspect is the multitude of symbols, codes, characters and different socio-cultural and sociological contexts. The viewer’s perception is attacked by what he or she can see, but is also tempted to decode and interpret, to seek meaning in each detail, trying to grasp the artwork as a whole and apprehend its message. It is not always an easy task. I know from my own experience that the artist can give each of her artifacts a “content” punch line (i.e. what inspired it, how she executed it etc.). Nevertheless, she is not present in the exhibition hall to “guide” the viewer. 

Let me return to the adjective “exclusive” denoting the condition of someone being barred from entry or being distanced from something. The term “exclusive” can also be perceived or understood as “designated for the chosen”, i.e. for those who can afford it or, in our case, who know how to understand.

But who is the chosen one for Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s work? We are all chosen to become viewers. At the same time, we are pulled into the play of exclusivity and erudition – we endeavor to fulfill our desire by recognizing and interpreting each symbol and character and by capturing the meaning of the painting’s details and its overall message, at least for a moment. But that is impossible. Our goal is elusive and ever-changing, reappearing as irony, nodding its “yes” while we hear a loud “no” in our tendency to believe that the artist is joking at our expense and that no interpretation is possible, that she is only playing with the possibility of defining a meaning, leaving our desire impossible to fulfill; or the irony surfaces only when we tend to believe that anything going on in the painting can be declared and explained. This two-sided irony plays with contrasts and does not rush to take a side. The purpose is not to decide, but to arrive at harmony. Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s work aims at this harmony by successfully seeking to encompass, take over and show the potential of relationships as well as being tempted to give these rich relationships a personal perspective. She also aims at harmony with an engaged epic irony, an “irony of the heart” (Thomas Mann).

I took a rather complicated road to get to another group of Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s artworks: three-dimensional realizations, objects that appear in two-dimensional form on her canvases and her so-called reliquaries – basically assemblages with objects of different natures, mostly installed under a glass lid. These artworks are interesting for the specific materials of which they are composed. They are even more specific if used in their unaltered form. 

The material’s inflexible identity is treated objectively, presenting this “material inflexible identity” as integrity of form. But let me be specific. The cut-off top of a plastic barrel has the identity of a human face – mask (Mask, 2012). However, it is only seemingly a “mask” as its identity is inherent in the invariable character of the material used. The same can be applied to the discarded motorcycle gas tanks used to form human heads (Head, 2008) or animals (Ducks, 2001). At the same time, these material structures confront the observer-viewer with the literality of form objectivity. Xénia Hoffmeisterová is interested in the inscrutability of these everyday things (objects). Anything obvious is no longer interesting as concerns the reality of the thing in terms of the form of its content. What counts is visuality focused on the essence of expression.

In this context, let me return to the visual symbol of the “rabbit” made of different material structures. The material component is one of the main defining elements. These subtle objects, generous of form, lend a general impression of substance and generosity; they are calm and calming. These qualities go beyond mere utilitarianism. They persistently call for our attention. There is something absurd about the fact that we can return to the beginning of the process in the same way.

Let me compare this aspect to Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s realizations or endless variations of “shoes” depicted in her cycle Shoes. “The brightly-colored women’s shoes (usually depicted in pairs) pretend at pop-art consumer emptiness as successfully as some of Warhol’s works – of course, only until we discover, and are affected by, their multilayered symbolism and specific ‘psychology.’”  One feels that this process does not end and is inexhaustible – not because of its fullness, as inexhaustibility is inherent in art – but because there is nothing to exhaust. Endlessness, the capacity, or even the need, to continue without end plays a central role in the concept of curiosity and “objectness”. 
Let us return to the original object of our curiosity – material high reliefs, found object forms and their configurations, namely the “reliquaries”. Some may see them as neo-Dadaist, but they differ in their emphasis on artistic and material poetry. The vocabulary of structures is even stronger than in surrealism. Xénia Hoffmeisterová truncates the process of depiction, makes it “briefer”. The objectively-operating variation principle has receded, giving way to the subjective need to offer a message. Extroverted attitudes become introverted and Hoffmeisterová identifies with them (object forms) almost physically. She also abandons direct reproduction, i.e. depiction and any reminder of the phenomenon outside the given subject – this is inherent in her paintings and drawings. She assumes the task of producing, i.e. creating a new reality, objectifying an idea in material form with the help of elements often bearing a trace of her direct influence. In fact, she does not create them, but assembles and works with them. 

For example, when she was a child she found a human skull. She kept it as a curiosity (as seen from a child’s point of view) and still has it. Having been restored and glued together during its “postmortem existence”, it has lost its original appearance. Is it therefore a symbol? This term means a “remembrance shard” in Greek. The host gives his guest a shard called a tessera hospitalis.  The host breaks the shard, saving one half for himself and giving the other to his guest so that the two halves may be put together and identify the guest in some thirty or fifty years when his offspring visit the house. The “skull” is a dead thing for us but something relatively self-sufficient for Xénia Hoffmeisterová. It is placed in the space of an artwork and its uselessness (for us – the others) is the basis of its new meaning. These artifacts do not for the most part require the viewer’s experience; the artist does not work with the principle of re-recognition, but offers something original that recalls – in a mediated way – things that are familiar and once seen, or even those that were used in different contexts and meanings.

Many of her artifacts also evoke stories, but do not hide their material character. These include Smell from the Pan, Little Boy Peeing and Laboratory Mice. Despite their simplicity, these objects have a complex visual and semantic structure. Each is an open artwork allowing a number of explanations. Objects that appear banal at first glance are “arrayed” either on canvas or as three-dimensional “relics” with an irreplaceable rhythm of form. We are offered the illusion of how something is happening rather than an illusion of things. The motorcycle components (used in Head, 2008; Duck, 2101) or parts of metal frames (Little Dragon, 2010); Ski Jumper. 2010) do not represent apocalyptic visions (like some of Jean Tinguely’s objects, for example), but express a trusting relationship towards the world and its people. Direct connection with the viewer is a constant feature of these artifacts. However sophisticated some of the elements may appear, they are, in essence, the opposite of a rational approach. They are outcomes of spontaneous esthetic play, in which disparate “sculpture” material is put together. In spite of their precision and perfect forms, these exhibits look familiar, transmit signals and communicate with us. They are made to human measure – man is, after all, the measure of all things. Surprisingly, we realize that as long as Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s formally non-conventional and semantically authentic artworks correspond with this ancient value, they become a logical part of tradition understood not as a risk-free imitation of verified values, but conceived as an incorruptible search for expression corresponding to one’s own will, feelings and ideas. 

The artist is the prime mover behind the self-formation of these compositions, which grow, boil over and spill out. Hoffmeisterová’s assemblages are constant metamorphoses of form (this can also be said about her paintings and drawings). If man (and his work) is barred by common sense from entering nature, then Xénia Hoffmeisterová fights common sense. We find a beauty in these (at the first glance) simple structures the sense of which is lost to today’s man. The term “beauty” acquires a living meaning again. Beauty has changed in every century, not becoming lost in the course of time, but in delusions. What is the image of beauty that gushed from the spring of the original painting? It is the naked physicality of the Greeks, it is shrouding, the theater of the Renaissance, it is the Gothic yearning for dematerialization, it is the box and ball, love and harmony, about which Empedocles says: “Two branches do not spring from his back, he has no feet, no swift knees, no fruitful parts; but he was spherical and equal on every side.”   Today more than ever, man has lost the sense of beauty. He has become unreal. Instead of pyramids, temples and houses, he allows delusion to be built, mere illusions of artwork. These works are not a specific artistic program but a “mere” result. An unrepeatable instinctive capacity has given it exact dimensions and proportions. Xénia Hoffmeisterová does not create concepts, but applies a sensitivity that moves with her artistic instinct into a realm of her own.

The character of these artifacts-reliquaries forces us to face another problem stemming from their position among other types of artworks. Their mere physical appearance goes beyond existing artworks. They are not sculptures, not high-reliefs, not a combination of the two genres. The difficulty in categorizing them creates problems in the established system of defining and presenting art. It also raises many questions. Is it better to place these artworks in a private home or a public gallery? Or are there other possibilities? The objects contain a certain iconic character – a genuinely profane artwork turns “sacred”. They suggest that art’s mission is more than to be merely the dessert after a good lunch, or a casual and minor entertainment. Every artwork – and this is especially true of these artifacts – has constitutive conditions enabling its full existence, and these do not only exist within the artwork itself, but also outside it. 

Let us recall that many of the basic visual elements mentioned above appear both in painting and spatial realizations. Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s installations and paintings with the central theme of a “nest” move in the dimensions of time, space and man. She grasps time conceptually, directly linking it with the realization of the concept of recycling specific elements or revitalizing something from the past. The artist does not employ just one artistic tool – in this respect, she identifies with post-modernity. Acrylic painting here, intertwined wires there – the visual tool is the same. Here, too, three levels are clearly discernible – the real, the fantastic and the symbolic. The structure of the surface of her “wire nests” evokes direct associations with the structure of painted surfaces. Xénia Hoffmeisterová reveals a parallel sense of lapidary stylization and original brushwork to us. The real and art worlds merge, reality becomes abstract, a pictograph or character that often loses its original meaning. It is not a changed shift in the semantic component, but its removal, its characters separating from their denotations, independently entering new situations. The “nests” present rhythm as a state of being that is regularly renewed, imagination in relation to infinity, a way of being in relation to nothingness. 

Tension, a contrast based on the clashing of a dramatic motif and its artistic ridicule, is very appealing in Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s work. It excludes the level of pure tragedy and nostalgia and rejects the pathos of borderline situations nearing reality and combining different genres or conditions. Bitter comedy seems to be more suitable to highlight the danger of man’s easy manipulability because – unlike tragedy’s intransigence – Hoffmeisterová seeks to outline a solution, find a way out in self-reflection, in critical conciliation with a methodical and intentional lack of respect for oneself as a way out. Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s art thus represents a great dilemma for everyone who is interested in this field. 
In agreement with Lyotard, my study is based on the non-reducible plurality of intertwined artistic creations. Systematic self-expression is not built only on presentational spontaneity as an absolute moment but also – to the same degree – on the intellectually meditative moment. The act is interrupted and time is expressed by sudden leaps and sudden stops. In this context, discontinuity and continuity find their expression and are enclosed in the eternity of human existence and its continuous survival.

Let me end by briefly pausing at the group of paintings the artist situates in the thematic category of “aliens”. They are composed of fragments of raw object elements, such as used plastic bottles. In paintings, this material structure loses its functional identity. In fact, Xénia Hoffmeisterová reconstructs or fixes the conventional form of the material (such as plastic bottles or coffee can lids), translating it to the canvas. The moment of translation is important – whatever was part of a certain milieu, was taken out of it and placed in a new context that made it special. The result is perceived differently in the new context. In this way, the artist interprets the world at many levels seen from many angles and with variations disclosing diverse aspects of reality. She does so in a way that is not modest or public, political or poetic, beautiful or ugly, common or absurd, naked or symbolic, but that works within a sphere where the private and the public, the political and the poetic, the beautiful and the ugly, the common and the absurd, the naked and the symbolic, beauty and death, history and nature, fantasy and reality, dream and memory cannot be separated. The result in its complexity evokes a ghostly world of mannerist anamorphoses by combining fragments or shapes of real objects and spaces with new shapes and space perceptible only by the senses. The whole is disconnected. The real elements forming the knotted points of the composition become individual symbols of diverse realities.

The art of Xénia Hoffmeisterová is extremely entertaining and witty. Her “slapstick” has always embraced playful and unbridled humor or surprising cruelty. Her compositions emit a kind of total anxiety and seriousness with which she queries human reality. This current phase of Hoffmeisterová’s work also shows her wish to continue painting an “integral” picture and discovering and verifying the possibilities of its implementation, which always connected her spontaneous action with rational construction in the spontaneous symbolism of man’s overlapping material and spiritual aspects, to continue re-living her creation in her paintings and surprising herself by painting and enjoying it. She works without inhibitions and with something that rational thinking rejects, namely the sudden insight that seems to result from a psychedelic “trip”. We arrive at sudden and easy conclusions, sudden discoveries of the complexity as well as the simplicity of questions and answers. The artist, among all people, can “easily” express something like this. The scientist and philosopher cannot proceed in the same manner, but the artist can – especially when dead objects come to life or fantastical creatures appear in her paintings. It is on one hand attractive, and on the other very difficult, to write about Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s work. 

When I re-read this essay, I am seized by a feeling that it is about something other than originally planned. It may be a small consolation that this text was written in the face of a specific body of work and may help someone perceive it more attentively or understand the need to respect an artwork’s mysteriousness and complexity, which may lead back to an understanding of, and respect for, one’s own self. That is why I have chosen the form of a written collage. Let me leave it to the reader and the artist to say whether this “compositional” scheme was a wise choice. 

Vlastimil Tetiva

Printed in book „Xénia Hoffmeisterová – Příběhy hravé a dravé“ (2013), Kalich, ISBN 978-80-7017-188-2

Ivo Hucl (2012)

Reality from the depths

In every man there is a hidden child, an artistic instinct... He wants to be able to participate and co-create art, rather than being simply an admiring viewer. For this „child in man“ is the immortal creator within him.

Christian Morgenstern’s transcription of Nietsche’s quote is not only a reminder of Xénia Hoffmeisterová’s fundamental creative quality, her virtual obsession with creating and learning through art, but a reminder, too,of the absurd and grotesque contexts that have become her natural mode of expression since the beginningof her artistic career and, like for Christian Morgenstern, also a “mental paradise of relaxation”.This makes us wonder all the more at how an oeuvre of such creative intensity, which for nearly two decades has been so salient in the context of Czech art, has continued to „resist” gaining its due acknowledgementby the professional and lay public. Xénia Hoffmeisterová did not start with free work(in painting, graphic art, ceramics and peculiar „objets trouvés” – found objects) until 1989. Before that,she worked as a scenographer and costume designer in theaters in České Budějovice, Ústí nad Labem and Prague. She found the theater too limiting and after five years traded it for the „stage set” of the real world. She had acquired unusual craftsmanship and erudition during her studies with Professor Rudolf Fila at the Secondary School of Decorative Arts in Bratislava (today’s Slovakia) and later with Professor Oldřich Smutný at the Theater Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, with whom she studied painting. However, Hoffmeisterová has never been part of any art group or movement. Her affinity to Michael Rittstein, Boris Jirků and Jiří Sozanský, among others, is manifest in her admiration for their energy and intensity rather than a search for support through shared artistic principles. Although she has always absorbed a huge number of creative impulses, she has remained essentially „unaffected”. When she faces one of her occasional „crises”, she does not create new forms, but increases the intensity of her existing artistic orientation. After 1989, when the edges of contemporary grotesqueness and absurdity grew duller, quieter and clearer under the influence of generally shared optimism and enthusiasm in Czech art, Hoffmeisterová focused on her inner „Beckettian” themes – a sense of alienation, vanity and incomprehensibility (Searchers, 1991; Sheltered, 1992; Bird Eaters, 1992; Future, 1992; Sandcastle, 1993 etc.) “I feel no affinity, maybe loneliness,” she has said of herself. That may be the reason for her straightforward manner of expression and resistance to the lure of traps like the loss of „intensity of feeling and power of testimony” to which almost the entire contemporary conceptual „world” succumbed. Sometimes the world does, however, at the cost of excessive emotion and displays of passion.

Even her earliest major works are characterized by a distinct, absurdly literary narrativity, which at times knowingly and at times „prophetically” touches on the deep, even archetypal, themes of European civilization. Her painting Tower (1989) is an updated imagining of the Old Testament story of human pride and the construction of the Tower of Babel, while the figures in the paintings Naked in the Thornbush (1998) or Little Water Sprites (1999) seem to step out of Samuel Beckett’s last novel How It Is. Her nonsense „film stories”, however, do not seek to suggest the fashionably misused notion of the contemporary world heading for doom or apocalyptic chaos, the result, in particular, of self-centered anthropocentric endeavor. In the artist’s rendition, the world is not a maelstrom of evil and suffering – it is too fragile, precious and beautiful to be so. Hoffmeisterová has a deep respect for life and man, without declaring it publicly. Above all else, her pictorial „stories” are courageous personal testimonies of the journey (there and back ) to the ambiguous nature of the world and the ambivalence of life and death (Still Life with Skull, 2010). She undertakes this journey repeatedly to rescue our dreams, which have been jeopardized by contemporary civilization.

Last but not least, the narrative character of Hoffmeisterová’s paintings is linked with her perception of time and memory as „recalling means of creation”. Some of her canvases clearly show her fear of the parasitic bond of time with our corporality, especially time’s exorbitant, always sticky kindness of clinging, ephemerality and decay (On the Waves of Time, 1999). Its cycling, layering and permeating frighten her, too (Time Roll, 1992). That may be why the device in the emotive painting Time (1989) is reminiscent of the bizarre killing machine from Franz Kafka’s short story In the Penal Colony rather than a harmless clockwork. That is why strange ahistorical sea creatures, mysterious shells, wild plants and seeds scattered in fantastic landscapes and astral plains sometimes emerge in some of her paintings. It is no coincidence – the word „plain” is derived from the Greek term „plané” – wander. It is very difficult to discern in these paintings whether their theme relates to past, present or future. Time is perceived as an endless spiral or the gnostic Ouroboros made of the hairy tails of unspecified animals. Linear time is compressed into a single point, a kind of timeless gap (Hole, 2002), which can liberate us from burning corporality (Unquenchable Thirst, 2000) but also deprive us of the experience of beauty. You will not hear birds sing or see snow fall or the sun shine in these landscapes. There is only the utter motionlessness of the netherworld and a kind of post-evolutionary aesthetics of bizarre biological mechanisms. Everything resides here in cool monochrome blue and alienating brown.

What Tasov was for Jakub Deml, the Šumava Mountains for Alfréd Kubín and Petrkov for Bohuslav Reynek, Lhenice-Vodice near Prachatice is for Xénia Hoffmeisterová. She found a “home” in this inconspicuous, still idyllic South Bohemian landscape, and balance, naturalness and, above all, an inner grounding found their way into her work. After coming to Lhenice-Vodice, Alberto Caeiro’s poem seemed to brighten inside her: „I lie down on the grass. And forget all that I was taught. ” Summer haymaking, the scattering of mowed grass and its stacking in the evening became a distinct, virtually transpersonal experience. Her memories of the time brightened by summer inspired the cycles Grasses (2005–2007), Dream in Hay (2006) and frequent motifs of bird nests, all done later in her Prague studio. All these artworks emit childhood nostalgia, summer passion and the shelter of home, even in the ontological sense. In the themes of nests and grasses, Hoffmeisterová touched the naturalness of her own heart. How else could she have done paintings with Rilkesque names such as The Soul of a Rose (1999) or The Rose of the Hay (2007)? Intimately abstract paintings of grasses are created side by side with childishly playful objects, assemblages and object boxes of randomly found objects. These objects do not emerge from the excessive pressure of her subconscious imagination, as was the case in surrealism, or as an extravagant starting point for lived social shocks, as in dadaism. Still, I find the dadaist exclamation „c’est mon dada” (it’s my hobby) fitting for these artworks. The objects come exclusively from reality and have the nature of three-dimensional „photographs” gathered during the artist’s expeditions into the forest or junk shops or flea markets. Some look like the spoils of a mad mushroom picker, others like products of a special kind of automatic zoological cinematograph. In any case, an interesting story becomes part of each object. Although individual „finds” are meant to be thrown into new contexts in a creative gesture, they do not lose their original continuity or memory. In the same way, „film stories” do not create individual exposed frames, our consciousness does. Nevertheless, „anything strange is beautiful”, is it not? The cycle Shoes (2007) occupies a very special place in Hoffmeisterová’s work. At first sight, it seems that after years of deep existentialist questioning, she simply wanted to enjoy and treat herself to some much-deserved „shopping” therapy. The brightly-colored women’s shoes (usually depicted in pairs) pretend at pop-art consumer emptiness as successfully as some of Warhol’s works – of course, only until we discover, and are affected by, their multilayered symbolism and specific „psychology”. It is up to us, however, to decide whether the shoes on display are a challenge to step into the conflict-free world of the consumer and superficial fun or whether they were taken off before their owner stepped on sacred ground, leaving us to expect a mysterious voice from a burning bush, a beckoning call.

The artist’s last creative phase is characterized by a certain reconciliation, relaxation, palette change and playfulness. Some of her artistic visions, such as the fall of the „proud tower” built by mankind’s sons in Europe, have already been fulfilled. The absurd atmosphere of her paintings changed, too. The chiaroscuro wandering of her Beckettian heroes was replaced by the sly „boudoir” atmosphere of The Bald Soprano by Eugčne Ionesco (e. g. the cycle Symposium Helfenberg, 2007; Unpacked, 2010) – relaxed, playfully expressive paintings full of varied objects, upon which the night bestows a new identity charged with energy and tension, like in Jiří Barta’s animated film In the Attic. Sandwich bags are „recycled” into hares, plastic bottles change into aliens, a vacuum cleaner sucks up the colors in a studio at night, a magpie-thief composes fascinating objects from stolen items. Things change without purpose, creating a new original world. Simultaneously, a kind of double mirroring effect occurs. The image reflects a dream, which in turn mirrors ongoing creativity and day-to-day life. Grotesquely lyrical visual stories vivify the ancient Heraclitian and Zhuangian themes of the nature of reality. Such questions may create anxiety in many of us, but baseless anxiety is most alarming. Xénia Hoffmeisterová stubbornly clings to traditional processes and techniques in her work. She is an artist whose inspiration is based on work, not concept. Despite all outer „fortifications”, her work maintains an inner fragility, is nearly liquid, floats. In her case this is not a sign of superficiality, but a consequence of creative freedom and the inner courage to throw herself again and again at the absurdities of the time and inner insecurity. All doubts about the contemporary world, all the distress and cruelty that civilization encompasses are present; nevertheless, the world is not challenged by Hoffmeisterová’s artistic testimony. She is well aware that there is no outside relief for the „desert of the world” – and that a truly free man rises from the depths, where he continues to live like both child and immortal leader. This is not negligible at a time when the „objectivity” of European civilization is endangered and subject to a creeping decomposition. Such „childishly” real, intensively creative work seems today to be the only vehicle for our much-sought-after and anticipated transcendence.

Ivo Hucl
Skelná Huť, March 7, 2012

Printed in book „Xénia Hoffmeisterová - Color Eater“ (2012), ISBN 978-80-87013-40-3

Jan Kříž (2008)

To Date

Xenia Hoffmeisterova's Prague exhibitions in 1999 at the Litera Gallery (Records), at the Czech Museum of Fine Arts (Evil Tongues) and at the Millennium Gallery (The Big and the Small), as well as the 1998 exhibition in Příbram have undoubtedly demonstrated that over the past ten years an outstanding personality has emerged in Czech painting, printmaking and sculpture. In addition to her own shows, Xenia Hoffmeisterová has also participated in important group exhibitions, e.g. in the 1996 exhibition Open Dialogue at the Church of the Annunciation in Litoměřice, the 1998 exhibition On Nature at the Czech Museum of Fine Arts or the exhibition at the Hollar Gallery in Prague Eros in European Graphic Art over the Centuries. Every new exhibition simply confirmed that with her work Xenia Hoffmeisterová brought some new, broadly valid ideas to Czech and, in fact, to international art.

From her studio come not only paintings, but also prints and sculptures, for which we should thank her versatile talent, great artistic responsibility and an ever more clearly defined programme. Xenia Hoffmeisterova's work belongs to Fantastic Expressionism, with roots in the profound symbolism of allegorical images, mostly elaborated into narrative events. Her work is a valid contribution to the growing interest in figurative motifs, a salient trait of today's painting and sculpture. With Xenia Hoffmeisterová, figurative imagination is fully in line with her specific kind of imaginativeness, its impetus on the one hand the deep symbolism of dreams and on the other her clearly critical attitude towards our contemporary world. Nature has become an inexhaustible source of her fancifully metamorphosed images, chiefly thanks to her profound understanding of nature. This understanding goes hand in hand with the historical heritage of symbolic imagination, which as an updated cultural tradition participates in the creation of her symbolic configurations. Profound symbolism, its roots the area of intimate experiences of the world and of the artist herself, merges with allegorically expressed ideas about the meaning of human existence and its contemporary problems. This results in allegorical scenes with several layers of meaning. When considering the content of most of Xenia's work, we could speak of metaphysical sarcasm. This is so, because a significant component of her message is based, although not exclusively, in elements of a satire whose targets are for the most part everywhere. This satire resembles thorns, which symbolize the violence that affects in the first place the artist herself, but which could also express critical human activities in relation to a dangerous world. The sarcasm of Xenia's expressive arrangement of pictures indicates a special tense relationship between the subject of congition and the object of the world, although it is somewhat uncertain whether in the metaphysical synthesis of a picture the two can in fact be separated. Another significant component of Xenia Hoffmeisterova's art consists in genre and even humorous elements. They participate in the creation of an ironically constructed attitude to the world and to art; at one and the same time they endow somewhat abstract ideas with human dimensions and thus they substantially help the general intelligibility of these works. Only a small step separates humour from absurd satire and, naturally, also from metaphysical sarcasm; this establishes a correlation of Xenia Hoffmeisterova's work with bizarre existential fanciful visions of the past, something the artist mentioned at her exhibition Evil Tongues, claiming quite rightly a close affinity with the work of Francois Villon, the "damned" poet of the late Middle Ages. Her Evil Tongues, personified by various motifs from her paintings and sculptures, seem like the quintessence of all the dangers, of all the mysterious and destructive components of the world, yet at the same time they assert a passionate desire for renewal, for purification and for a new life, as is often the case with the symbolism of the tongues of fiery flames. The inner contradictions of the significance of symbolic images lend these works considerable force. Because of its head the fantastic fish is alive, yet simultaneously it is dead, all the other parts of its body being a mere skeleton. The message, which relies on a dramatic clash of inner contradictions, is highly convincing and, in consequence, alluring.

An intimate relationship to the realities of nature gradually changes into a myth of nature, this sole, yet from our point of view somewhat contradictory foundation of the world. Pictures and sculptures work with various references to nature — from minute details of the plant and animal kingdoms to symbols of the dynamic processes governing processes in nature. Without a shadow of doubt in this instance art goes hand in hand with the instinctive components of the mind, the erotic charge assuming a significant role, although not infrequently ironically interpreted by a fantastic image. The productive force of nature is, after all, seen as the active component, decisive for the dynamism of the creative process. This attitude is in many ways reminiscent of the feminine element of Surrealist traditions. In her book Women in the Surrealist Movement (Paris 1986), Whitney Chadwick writes: "When women artists combined the subconscious with nature, believed to be and often actually undoubtedly feminine, they found in the mysterious burgeoning of the natural world a powerful metaphor for artistic creation." Much from the traditions of Surrealist irrationality and from the spontaneity of subconscious motivations flows into the stormy waters of the fantastic metaphors and images in Xenia Hoffmeisterova's pictures. To establish a balance with the irrationally fantastic component of her work, she turns to genre stories about nature and to mercilessly serious statements about the fateful generalities of life; as a result, her art aims at a somewhat different, and possibly more rational level of a symbolic message. We may, therefore, say that Xenia Hoffmeisterova's work to date has already yielded original results of lasting validity.

Jan Kříž

Printed in book „Xénia Hoffmeisterová – Monograph“ (2008), ISBN 978-80-7017-078-6