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PROFILE | Marketa Sivek

by Allison Kerrigan on Next | After | This

Marketa Sivek, SOMEWHERE, Oil on Canvas 48" x 36"

Born under communist rule, Marketa Sivek is a self taught artist who began her post-collegiate career with a rite-of-passage atypical than that of most students.  Her graduation to adulthood included witnessing the Velvet Revolution in Prague; and took her from a recently liberated Czechoslovakia to the United States, where she pursued her passion for painting and left her studies of Archival Science behind.  Though Sivek is inspired by Icelandic landscapes, classical music, graphic design, and the relationship of the past to the present, one cannot help but question the influence her formal education and the sociopolitical landscape of her youth have had on her art.   

Similar to the opposing philosophies of government Sivek has lived under,  her paintings are a totality of complex opposites. Her works appear to be less about literal subjects and more about abstraction and the emotion it evokes within the viewer. Sivek's abstractions exploit the tension of opposites and call forth an emotional pattern of conflicting (and simultaneous) feelings reminiscent of the the coolness of lonely solitude, the warmth of trusting company, of relaxation and anxiety, of peace and turmoil, of hope and despair, and the known vs. the unknown. Her medium is an archive of how dissonance can co-exist on canvas and mirror that which lives within ourselves. She accomplishes the irony, the complexity, the stillness and movement, and the conflicting emotional experience of her work through (ironically) a consistent palate of muted backgrounds and contrasting, complimentary foregrounds.  This technique is consistent across the multiple series of her work, all of which are oil on canvas. 

Sivek's technique is harmonizing, and the underlying message she wishes to communicate hums the same tune. In the picture above, the subject matter is a study in contrasts: a town situated on a top heavy, eroding cliff with a single lighthouse in the center foreground (representing a beacon of hope and guidance in an otherwise grim situation); a perimeter of gloom framing a halo of light which encapsulates the town; an eroding mountain painted as if it were a trunk of strength; and the wind which clearly blows to the East, and a mountain which erodes from the West (assuming directional orientation as that on a map).   Intellectually, the situation is dire; however, the unified whole connotes peace and promise. 

Upon further investigation, though, what does this all mean? Why all the contrast? Where is Sivek trying to guide us? Shall one conclude that she is attempting to convey a political message or communicate feelings about her youth, her country of origin, and life under two opposing philosophies of government? Is this Sivek's way of archiving a poignant moment in our global history, which is also a moment she personally witnessed? How shall we interpret the title of the work? Is this work commentary about Communism as it exists today?  

A second series of work is described in her own words:   Red Balls. This series is about stillness and movement coexisting. The vastness of space in which the red balls interact, lends this piece many possibilities. Something is going to happen if you wait and look long enough. Perhaps these red "circles of life" will change positions unexpectedly. Perhaps one will fall from the canvas on to the room floor, allowing you to pick it up and feel its velvet touch. The inevitability of the painting's drive for unity will force the circle back into its canvas however, as one circle cannot function without the other.

Marketa Sivek, RED BALLS, Oil on Canvas, 48" x 48"


In the photo above, the study of opposites continues, along with an expressive theme of unity.  Should her choice of red and her description of the balls be metaphorically interpreted? Is her work intentionally didactic? Is it fair to draw the conclusion that there are political references and/or references to her past in her work?

In a third series, Dress, Sivek strives to unite the past with the present by recalling the familiar of our past, reminding us:  . . . [O]f objects and experiences we have been attached to. In experiecing this series, we will continue to remember who we were then, while retaining who we are now.

One could conclude that there are overwhelming political and archival themes present throughout her work. However, based upon the limited writing about this artist (most of what is available is authored by herself and found on her website), her intended messages seem to be unrelated to any political motivations, absolutely benevolent and overwhelmingly hopeful as a sense of positivity exists throughout her all of her series.  One may safely conclude that her work is expressive of the experiences of her life, whether intentionally communicating sociopolitical and archival undertones or not.  

Ironically, as her message is intended to be uniquely interpreted by her viewer through a personal, abstract experience with her art, because of its forum, the experience of her work is communal. It is with this additional juxtaposition that an archival snapshot of one's present moment - and how the past and present can co-exist in time, emotionally, is captured.