Vlasta Žáková is a Slovakian artist who uses fabric to create pictures and soft sculptures that quite literally “explode at the seams” with human emotion, experience, and desire. Her technique involves hand and machine sewing, and various materials are layered and embroidered into her works until they take on a painterly, three-dimensional effect. In addition to her textile “paintings,” Žáková also creates life-size human figures, which are realistic, surreal, humorous, and saddening all at once. Her sculptures include a woman crying alone in the corner, with red threads to indicate her tear-stained face; a man straddled by a nearly naked woman in a hallway, while a dog looks bizarrely on; and a headless body slumped against a wall, its knees split open and arms frayed off.
In both her pictures and sculptures, Žáková’s main inspiring influence is the party scene, and the types of intimacy and shattered states these events often result in — hence why her work consistently depicts despair, eroticism, and/or debauchery. In one particularly striking sculpture, Žáková took the image of a crowd of people, fused it together, and created a horrifyingly exuberant and multi-limbed creature. This work was presented at the Red Gallery (London) in a performance titled Ultraviolet Movement (2013). Combined with physical animation and UV lights, the soft sculpture embodies the darkness, hedonism, and semi-lucidity of a late-night party. The video Nocturne (embedded above), which Žáková made in collaboration with Jakub Gulyás (video) and Martina Vyskupová (performer) as part of an exhibition project in the Bunker of the Nitra Gallery, features this grotesque “puppet” as it takes on an eerie life of its own.
What is beautiful and provocative about Žáková’s work is that she has brilliantly infused her textile creations with their own emotional and erotic lives; many of us can probably relate to the states of disrepair and desire she expressively depicts. Visit Žáková’s website to see more of her work. You can read about her time at the Red Gallery here and here.