Meet Warburg Institute Artist in Residence, Tereza Červeňová
We are pleased to have welcomed Tereza Červeňová to the Warburg as an artist in residence. Tereza will use her unique approach to photography and photomontage to capture the life of the Warburg including the process of the Warburg Renaissance building project, an important moment in history for the Institute.
Tereza's work is characterized by juxtaposing delicate imagery and soft light with political and personal references. She often photographs people who play an important role in her life as she is drawn to the connections that exist between herself and the sitter(s). Her portraits and landscapes have a painterly, other-worldly dimension which is often juxtaposed with the symbolism of her chosen subjects.
In this blog post we caught up with Tereza to find out more about her work and how she plans on spending her residency at the Warburg.
Please could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your work.
As an artist I work in a very personal autobiographical way and thus my process is often slow due to constant re-adjustments to the circumstances of my immediate environment as well as the social and political developments that I am part of at large.
I grew up in Bratislava (Slovakia) but I have been traveling on my own since I was 14 years old. I didn’t have words for what it was then, but I felt a pull and expansiveness every time I left Slovakia and understood that I wanted to move abroad. After an unpredictable and unusual time during my teenage years, when I tried to fit into a body and an environment that weren’t mine, I found myself in Holloway Road in London in autumn 2011 about to begin studying at a university and on a course I never intended to (Fine Art at Middlesex University). Then again – through chance meetings and listening to my intuition I felt I still needed to change something and when I transferred to a photography course at Middlesex suddenly something clicked and I felt for the first time in my life that I had found a language in which I can be unapologetically myself.
In terms of my work, what I think is relevant to the Warburg Institute is my ever-present interest in networks. Whether it was making collages as postcards and sending them back home from my journeys, or gathering materials from museums, leaflets, transport tickets, dried flowers and then collating them in my diaries, or creating magazine cut-outs to put up in my bedroom, I have always been drawn to making relationships and linking visual materials as well as texts. Before I diverted into visual art I was writing poetry, which in a way is a collage in itself where the materials are words.
Are there any projects you are particularly proud of?
June (2016-2018), which is an autobiographical body of work created in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, where personal, political and poetic merged into a poignant chronicle of important European events through the lens of a young woman whose sense of belonging was once again greatly challenged – alongside so many other people who have chosen to make the UK their home. I am particularly proud of June because it is a body of work which has seen me through some difficult times but also through my MA at the Royal College of Art. It had challenged me like nothing up until that point not only from the point of view of my practice and creativity, but also from the point of view of trusting my intuition in my art and persevering even through harsh criticism.
During my time at the RCA they still ran a two-year MA with a lot of interdisciplinary crits and tutorials. We met many artists from different courses and thus mediums were questioned, ideas scrutinised, methods challenged. I had to not only support my works but often also photography itself, particularly because of the way I use photography, one could say – in its essential form, diaristic, autobiographically and, perhaps a quality which has been challenged the most – beautifully.
June was something I wanted to create, yet I had no preconceived idea of what it was I wanted to achieve or how I wanted to achieve it. I was taking photographs, looking for symbols, immersing myself in the political events of the time, reading, discussing, meeting people, attending protests, discussions etc.. and always photographing, printing, collating… What came together was an artist book made of 24 booklets – one representing each month in what initially was supposed to be the period of the so called “Brexit divorce”. These booklets are collated together by an opening ring – a metaphor for the easily breakable union but also for the blurred beginning and end of the story, referencing history repeating itself.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the emotional charge and connection that happens between me and another. Another person, another object, another landscape, another movement, another shadow, another colour, another reflection, another word, page, book.. Over the years I have noticed that my responsiveness to inspiration, my openness to embrace the inspiration if you like, is in a state of flux and in a very close conversation with my inner workings. My work is so tightly interconnected with my life that it reflects in my ability to create, and more specifically – to process and contextualise the photographs I take. There is often a delay in creating the photograph and publishing it and contextualising it into an artwork.
I see inspiration as a sort of ongoing invitation between myself and the world. Daring to be there with and for each other, in dialogue. The world presenting itself in its entirety and me being attuned to it, looking at it, to be in awe of it and open myself to be touched by it and then reaching out, extending myself through the camera to honour the moment when I saw something that spoke to me of things larger and more complex than just what it shows on the surface.
As my work is so much about intimacy, about what intimacy means, what is its freedom and the ethics that surround that sacred space between people or within ourselves alone, it is a difficult thing to grasp sometimes, to speak about, to share. But it is the most raw, pulsing, charged thing that we all share. It is absolutely unique yet each and every one of us share it. The tension between those two absolutes is what inspires me and what surrounds me.
Could you tell us a bit about your plans for your residency at the Warburg?
I am very happy that my residency will extend through a long period of time so that I can first immerse myself in the Institute and then later on start to work with my findings, with my newly acquired knowledge but also embracing photographic chance in the making. As in life, chance meeting can bring about a whole new direction also in creativity. It can make one wonder where has this piece of information been until now, the missing piece of the puzzle, the piece that allows us to make sense of the rest of the things. I am planning to try and embrace what has brought me to Warburg Institute in the first place – the proximity between my work and the famous Mnemosyne Atlas of Aby Warburg. The way he connected images and ideas together without explanations but with enough blank space for people to be fascinated by it, to fill the gaps with their own ideas and imaginations, while having a rigorous discipline, scholarship and faith in what he was doing. I don’t have the structure built around my practice in the same monumental way. But I am hopeful that my presence at the institute and its vibrant yet for many still hidden treasures will be unveiled for me and I will in turn activate some of the collections’ holdings and bring them to life.
What are you looking forward to capturing as part of the Warburg Renaissance project?
I was excited about the prospect of undergoing my residency alongside the Warburg Renaissance project because I see it as an active process of growth and transformation and also interconnecting of the past with present and future. The institute will remain open for students and researchers throughout the building project which will have a big impact on the way the building has to be structured and of course also on the students and their experience of the Institute.
I have already started capturing the chance encounters in the building, as well as features which will probably be lost after the renovation. Moments of flux and parting, as well as more staged moments with architects on site.
Tereza Červeňová received her BA in Photography from Middlesex University in 2014 and her MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art, London in 2018.
Červeňová’s work is characterized by juxtaposing delicate imagery and soft light with political and personal references. The artist often photographs people who play an important role in her life as she is drawn to the connections that exist between herself and the sitter(s). Her portraits and landscapes have a painterly, other-worldly dimension which is often juxtaposed with the symbolism of her chosen subjects.
With portraiture at the heart of her photography, Tereza likes to blur the line between her personal and commissioned work.
Originally from Slovakia, she lives and works in London.