In order to evade the categories that history and art history, with their oversimplifications, force me into and which grant me superior status in relation to Maria Kůsová, I will try to view her work in terms of what unites us and what makes us colleagues. We are both painters. We both use painting to tell stories. Our paintings speak to the relationships we have with those closest to us and illustrate the environments in which we live. Marie’s paintings are transformations of her language, communicating with the world through recurring symbols. They describe daily life at the center, the Studio of Joyful Art, creating a kind of journal account. They are stories full of intimacy and happiness from meetings which, thanks to painting, remain valuable even ten years later, when the artist returns to them to report again on important moments in the community. (All of the children who have been at the studio, for instance, have been captured in the artist’s paintings.)
Formally, her paintings generally have two levels. The first is an expressive underpainting that is covered by a linear narrative with symbols of figures and houses, as well as bus line numbers, names of people close to her, and more. Contrasts are created not only between the graphic top layer and the dense surface of the underpainting, but also by the distinct “frames” painted around the borders of the canvases, into which the painter embeds her tales. Though it has already been noted that Maria Kůsová’s paintings are bearers of stories, they could be officially classified as abstract neo-expressionism. It seems that working with color, combining color and putting colors alongside (or over) each other on contrasting surfaces is the painter’s domain. Although she works with dynamic, rough brushstrokes, her paintings often have an almost meditative effect. Bright blue areas paired with bold pinks can evoke the view looking through a temple mosaic and evoke an almost sacred impression.
Abstraction, a label we can use to identify the artist’s paintings, is quite an overused concept. Abstract refers to that which is not descriptive, coming from a non-material world, and therefore non-verbal and unrealistic. So can Maria Kůsová be considered a realist painter? And where does the boundary lie between seeing and representing what is seen? The artist’s paintings portray her everyday reality and how she experiences it. Perhaps that is why she is among the most realistic painters. Yet whatever term we use to comprehend her work or whatever recognized name legitimizes it, what is certain is that Marie Kůsová’s painting emancipates itself from all art history concepts, because it gives rise to language and lends itself to storytelling.
Martina Smutná, 2020