The more insane the world gets, the more interested I become in things that are orderly, organized, perhaps a little sterile. I get really into organizing the kitchen; I listen to lots and lots and lots of mainstream pop (perhaps the most formulaic art form around); I find myself getting really bent when there are traffic disruptions; and I start seeking out art that makes me feel...well, disconnected. I become drawn to pieces where the subject flat out refuses to engage the audience--I find the lack of messy human emotion comforting, and relaxing. There's a distinct pleasure in observing something that doesn't make me seize up in fits of emotion--especially right now, when it feels like everything leaves me twisted up in a seething pile of rage and disbelief.
The latest object of my adoration is Slovakian artist Maria Svarbova. A self-taught photographer with degrees in conservation, restoration, and archaeology, her pieces tend to demonstrate a stark, surreal quality, suffused with a healthy serving of dread. Emptiness is a recurring theme, as well as a sense of incredible futility; her work evokes a feeling that something dangerous lurks just out of view, though whether it's a monster, insanity, or just plain ennui remains unclear. Regardless, you get the impression that something is terribly wrong under the shining, perfect surface--and, if you're like me, you take a strange comfort in the fact that whatever it is, it has nothing to do with you, this world, or the times in which we live. Their agita exists in a completely unrelated world, one we only see in still snippets.
Her series, Swimming Pool, is no exception to this trend. An ongoing project, it is shot at socialist-era swimming pools throughout Svarbova's home country, and is rife with images that are as "smooth and cold as the pools (sic) tiles." Geometrically perfect and clean to the point of sterility, these images brilliantly evoke the sense of cold detachment that Svarbova excels at. They are emotionless, pristine, and galaxies away from the times we live in now. The monster under the surface is, in these photos, truly someone else's problem. And I find that so very, very soothing.
See more of this gorgeous series here.
All photos copyright Maria Svarbova.