Walking past colourful street sculptures, clinking glasses and pulsating neon signs, I turned off onto a quiet Rotterdam side street. You have reached your destination. I knocked on the door of RAW Streetphoto Gallery, and was warmly welcomed to step inside by the founder of the gallery, Alexey Shifman. I had arrived at Victory Art’s first ever exhibition.
I found myself in a small basement gallery, where my eyes were immediately drawn to the candy-coloured collages by the Slovakian artist Mima Chovancová. My gaze rested on a particular piece that depicted a matryoschka with plastic Barbie legs, titled I’m Every (Slovak) Woman. This giclée print was part of a series of works from 2017, which hung alongside a second series of works specially commissioned for the exhibition. Looking at each work in turn, I came across certain visual imagery – from cosmonauts to Eastern Bloc architecture- that would be typically associated with Central and Eastern Europe.
Victory Art aims to provide a platform for showcasing Eastern and Central European art, in order to bridge the gap between Eastern and Central European artists and the global art market. As someone who was born and brought up in the UK, I was aware that I was approaching the subject matter of Chovancová’s work – for instance, Slovakian folklore and mythology – with little knowledge. What is Slovakian art? This was the question I had in my mind as I entered the exhibition. However, by the end of my visit, I had realised the futility of this question.
Slovak identity is complex. This is reflected in Chovancová’s use of collage, where the images have been deconstructed, re-attached, modified and overlaid, to explore her national identity. Chovancová’s personal identity becomes even more faceted, more hybrid, when we consider that she currently resides in Brighton, England. Recognisable imagery from Central and Eastern Europe have been remixed in a fusion of neon colours. On closer inspection, it becomes increasingly clear that Chovancová presents us with the elements that have shaped her identity.
The medium is the message, in Mima Chovancová’s works – and both the medium, and the message, perfectly align in sync with Victory Art’s aim to showcase the work of Eastern and Central European artists. I left the exhibition knowing what it truly means to work with your own cultural heritage. Antonia Dalivalle 25th January 2019
Victory Art and RAW Streetphoto Gallery’s exhibition Mima Chovancová has been extended to the 7th February 2019.