It was once said that the history of art is also the history of the human body. Since the dawn of civilisation it has been the most natural thing to consider the bodily form the ultimate focal point of one’s reflections – initially in existential terms, as part of magical rites, later in formally religious terms, philosophically, socially, and in the modern age politically as well. In identifying ourselves with the figurative object we are at the same time identifying with something contained within ourselves. In this exhibition, Gizela Sabóková presents us with two sculptures representing not only a significant step in her development but also a cleansing return to the core of plastic expression.
It is a well-known fact about the artist that although she graduated from the most influential Czech glassmaking studio of Professor Stanislav Libensk, she always succeeded in achieving her own expression and message, doing so with intense manual and spiritual involvement.
We see before us a human couple, the symbolic beginning of our species. We see two torsos as stark as lone-standing monoliths. In their simplicity stemming from carefulness, thoughtfulness, understanding and patience it is impossible to overlook a moral dimension in which both mortal corporeality and sublime spirituality are fully manifested. Their strongly emphasised vertical axis itself embodies a powerful range of symbolic meanings: fragility, organic growth as well as the imaginary upward stream of human contemplation.
While earlier the morphology of Gizela Sabóková’s glass sculptures was derived chiefly from the cast form with additional cutting, her latest works are, on the contrary, largely the result of carving into the glass mass. It can be said without exaggeration that the exhibited works are the outcome of a painstaking and exhausting struggle with the heavy and surprisingly unyielding material of glass. The energy that the artist invested into the creation of these works is by no means only physical; it is also to a large extent mental energy devoted to searching for the essence of artistic principles – possibly also the essence of everything.
At first glance, the grey tones of these massive glass forms seem somewhat austere, somewhat cold. Closer acquaintance with their animated outward structure and restrained inward play of light hues, however, brings with it the heartening realisation that we are, on the contrary, attracted to them, invited to participate in a dialogue about light and about dark, about our movement in time and about the relationship of one person to another. Light doesn’t pass through these sculptures easily or opulently. Their captivating presence consists not only in their translucency but also in the fact that they arrest light within them, swallowing it up as if seeking to retain some inner mystery for themselves, deep inside their bodies. In this way, similar to the human soul itself, the sculpture half-reveals and half-conceals itself.
With these ‘increasingly opaque objects standing in the view’, the artist has made an important move, perhaps transcending once and for all the glass wall of the imaginary glassmaking ghetto. She understands her material and knows how to work it as perfectly as a consummate sculptor understands and knows how to work any other material with its own unique qualities.
In their torso-like form, Gizela Sabóková’s sculptures speak all the more completely about human existence; in their silence one feels all the more expressive a statement, both at a personal and universal level. And we are glad that we can be among them.
Curator of Sculpture
The Czech Museum of Fine Arts, Prague