Irena Jůzová started off studying drawing and graphics at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU). In 1990, she joined the Aleš Veselý studio and her painting took a new direction influenced by the new freedom she was experiencing at art school and in society at large. She cast aside traditional resources and began to experiment. This resulted in Observation Tower (1990), in which the artist used light paper for the creation of model aeroplanes and rubbed offset transparent paint into it. In the same year she moved in the direction of the object, for instance in Aeroplane, in which she combined the same paper and wooden board.
A host of objects were to follow in which Jůzová began using other media and electronic components. This phase would include the works Kabina with Camera (1992) or Places I (1992–93). An element of interaction enters her output, in which the view enters into the artwork and has their photo taken, which is then projected on monitors.
Work with space also began to take on a special significance in Jůzová’s work. She created installations, for instance Strange Games at her second solo Prague exhibition at the Špála Gallery 1995. Though the exhibition comprised individual works, their installation was a well thought out spatial composition. This tendency grows and culminates in the exhibition 16599 at the Klatovy Klenová Gallery at the Klenová Chateau in 2011.
Irena Jůzová’s greatest success to date was the installation The Series Collection at the Czech-Slovak pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007. The work represented a personal confession regarding the excruciating hesitation of a person who is exposing their innermost being to the market. It was also an answer to a hyper-consumer world from which it is not possible to escape. Jůzová used castings of her own body, which became part of an extensive, sophisticated installation. The gallery space was transferred into a luxury boutique where the artist offered her goods, rubber parts of her own body, in boxes and illuminated display cases. The idea of exhibiting castings of oneself is not new in modern art. However, in this case the context in which Jůzová shows them is fundamental.
Jůzová uses castings of the body in other works. Yellow Room (2010) comprises a transparent glass show case into whose core the artist places prints of her hands in dust. Similar features are shared by the work We Love You More Than Gems, We Love You Above Gold (2010), created at a symposium in Mikulov, at which the artist asked participants to print part of their body in abrasive dust. She fixed the prints to boxes and exhibited them with the inscription Make the Most of Your Time. This slogan lent the entire exhibition a new dimension, as well as indicating other preoccupations of the artist: time as a quantity which is ever-present and which nobody can escape from. The slogan is a kind of memento mori, which reminds us of the transience of things. Each print disintegrates some day, just as the human body, and each cliff crumbles some day, though this process might last hundreds of millions of years.
In 2009 Jůzová became acquainted with the technology of nanofibre production. Nanofibre is thousands of times thinner than a human hair and invisible by the naked eye. The artist studied the technology at the Liberec Technical University, and in collaboration with the laboratories of the Faculty of Non-Woven Textiles the object Around Us Inside Us (2009) was created produced from nanofibres. It links up to the artist’s older work (the object with cells entitled Around Us, 1991) and evokes thoughts of invisible and unexplored worlds. “Nanofibre is one of these many worlds and we are beginning to touch it…,” says Jůzová.
At first sight Irena Jůzová’s work seems very delicate, unobtrusive and unspectacular. Colour, if present, is pale and the shapes do not shock. The significance of her work is often blurred, to the point of being confusing, as though the artist wanted to conceal her world. She leaves the viewer find their own meanings, which are never unambiguous but ambivalent and variable, like life itself. Her objects and installations conceal a certain secret within. This is brought alive by the artist’s considerations regarding the relativity of understanding the finality of time, the inability or impossibility of interpreting what is happening around us, her fascination with inexplicable, irrational phenomena, and yet her rejection of the dictates of fate and the futility of effort. This philosophical subtext to Irena Jůzová’s oeuvre opens the doors to other dimensions which cannot be expressed by reason or the senses, and which we can only intuit.
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