Martina Smutná: Loss

Text by Matěj Pavlík, Lucie Rosenfeldová

Aleksei Gastev developed his methodology for job performance capturing. He aimed to render a male or female worker in a particular performance with the help of a grid. To show both the body and tool in their ideal positions in order to reach the effectiveness of the performance itself. The desired ability of the pictures was to self-regulate an individual as well as to transform the work surface or place itself into a potential visual field.

Martina Smutná sees the patterns present in a household textiles as a possible visual representation of labour, which itself does not produce own images. Reproductive labour, in the comparison with the one that is productive, does not result in goods or services that have monetary value in capitalist system, and so it is not often seen, let alone evaluated. According to Marxist feminism, both private and public institutions rely on inexpensive stereotype of naturally caring woman as an option for profit. The context of a social situation as well as working conditions of a certain woman performing reproductive work becomes a kind of consciousness while working on paintings.

The very moment right before the kitchen towel gets dried features as the moment when labour transforms into the invisible one. The artist unfolds such period into a series of paintings in order to display scepticism. This can be metaphorically expressed as an inability to dissolve the interwoven pattern into the shapes of gesture by repetitiveness of wiping the dishes. In her artwork Loss Martina Smutná reacts to the contemporary zombie formalism. By conscious reproducing of the painter’s gesture, this movement becomes a conform comment to the contemporaneity. In its proliferation of gestures it exposes and multiplies abstract forms not only in painting but, at the same time, in the field of market speculation. 

The image of a magnified fruit, which is a common motif in a bed sheet or kitchen towel, is cut off from its own multiplication. From the whole fruit just petals are indicated, as if the growth itself reached the certain phase of completion, which can be now followed only by a movement within the installation.

Despite links to abstract formalism, hanging-down paintings by Martina Smutná keep the residues of representation of the real. It is not an abstraction in its very meaning, rather an abstracted scene. The artist tries to uncover the process of abstraction as socially determined process, the abstraction itself then as an image of the social. Junction of the abstraction and realism is concentrated in the act of inclusion of the paraphrase on the Chardin’s painting of working woman, Le Bénédicité, into the series, and encourage us to search for connections between historical realism and contemporary abstraction.

The installation evoking the situation of drying, which does not result in the loss of the previous work’s trace, features Martina Smutná as an author and artist. Her installation becomes a Gastev's grid, visual field of a worker. Repeatedly validating and back and forth devaluating the artist work itself.


photo © Jakub Delibalta


Martina Smutná
Installation view
Martina Smutná
Installation view
Martina Smutná
Installation view
Martina Smutná
Installation view