Born in Slovakia and armed with an impressive resume, Lenka Lukacovicova has just finished a Master’s in photography at Brussels’ Sint-Lukas. Suitably impressed with Lenka’s Muses series – an exploration of the themes of abandonment and abundance of space – we tracked the young graduate down and asked her about her photography and her future.
Can you tell us about your graduation project?
I developed an interest in art institutions about two years ago. Before that I was mostly drawn to libraries and other places for studying, because of the fact that these places hardly get visited anymore thanks to the Internet and other alternative ways of consulting visual information. I got the inspiration for Muses when I was visiting the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava and much like so many other galleries or museums I had been to over the past period, I didn’t meet any other people there.
Is your project in some way a critique of the static and restricted nature of art display?
When I think of museums or other art institutions that are based on a no-touching/no-speaking policy, yes. But above all else, Muses is supposed to touch upon the questions and issues related to the future of classic art display in a time when the Internet reigns supreme and off-spaces gradually become more and more popular.
Why did you go for an atmosphere of emptiness and abandonment?
Because this way you can really sense the connection between these specific rooms and the arts. In a way, making the photograph is actually equal to exhibiting the space; the lighting is often beautiful and the atmosphere you experience while all alone in a museum is extremely specific. I guess you could say that the latter is linked with the title of my choice, Muses – you can invoke them if you are open-minded and dare to dream, to search for inspiration and these bare museum spaces look like as if they were sleeping. The series includes some studio views as well, as a lot of art never leaves the four walls of the studio it was created in and they definitely play a key role in the ‘lifecycle of art’.
Concerning the choice for photography as a medium, how did that come about? Did you ever cross over to other forms of art?
It has always been a dream of mine to study and work with photography. At first I wanted to be absolutely confident about my technical know-how, to work with large-format cameras and to be able to carry out all of my ideas without any technical problems or restrictions. I made a couple of video works as well, but I have always liked the way photography can be seen as an object, or better, as a sculpture. That’s what I plan to explore further in the future – to work with photographs as objects.
It’s sometimes said that after graduating, the hard part is actually still ahead. What are your plans?
For starters, I want to make more ‘real art’ because I also finished a highly theoretical master´s degree in cultural studies. I’ve got a few ideas that I want to think through and develop further. I’m also thinking of doing a postgraduate because I want more space to study and to be able to experiment.
I’m looking for possibilities to acquire a more thorough sense of the arts and exhibiting and publishing in particular.
How do you feel about the phenomenon of self-publishing and special editions?
It’s something that has gotten so much easier, and it’s a great help to have a direct reflection of your work while exhibiting or preparing a project for a jury. I made a publication for my Together, not Together series, but I only made two copies and decided not to sell them but to send them in for a couple of exhibitions instead. To me, it implies a completely different thinking process to design some sort of printed matter than it does to compose a series on a white wall. In my opinion, it’s still an honor for an artist to be asked to exhibit at a museum.
Is self-publishing/self-promotion the way forward for you or are you more interested in the usual gallery-route?
It depends on the project I am working on and the mood I am in. When it came to Muses, I knew that I wanted tangible objects as a final product: prints in frames. On the other hand, a project can be so intimate that you really want to translate that into the form of a book that people can read by themselves whilst listening to good music.
Which photographers played a major influence on you?
I think I’ve gotten a bit influenced by the German Düsseldorf School, but personally I don’t apply the same strictness in my work, as I like to approach things more conceptually. I’m not the kind to have all-time favourite artists, I like it better to search for new names, to find out who they are, explore their works. Needless to say that you find yourself being influenced by the people and teachers who you are surrounded with on a daily base as well.
What do you do when you’re not thinking photography?
I recently returned to Slovakia and took some time to enjoy the sunny weather and to meet up with friends and family. I just started making gum prints as well because I want to equip myself with some classical technical skills. What I like about these prints is that every piece is so specific and unique. Of course it’s photography above all, but the result is always influenced by the printing process, too.