A Garden of Ominous Delights

“East of Eden” runs at Museum Montanelli through 28 September – 26 May 2019

Imagine yourself descending into a dimly lit yet alluring corridor, hearing Virgil’s voice guide you through the seven terraces of purgatory, and with each layer, you feel yourself connecting to a deeper existential experience than before.

Museum Montanelli’s current exhibit “East of Eden” yields an eerily similar experience to its viewers. Instead of Dante’s Virgil guiding you, it is artistic duo Richard Stipl and Josef Zlamal’s tortuously beautiful and erotic work propelling you through your own personal purgatory.

Czech painter and sculptor Richard Stipl, born in the Moravian town of Sternberk, has produced an impressive array of sculptures for the exhibit, ranging from full body pieces to discontinuous portraits to skeletal figurines.

The unifying influence between each piece that Stipl creates is that they are all self-portraitures. The exhibit contains female and male forms of Stipl. Each sculpture represents a different version that he imagines of himself.

By interacting with his varying forms of self, the viewer is compelled to inwardly observe their own changing identity. Elements of rebirth are continuously introduced within his work, acting as an inhibitor of individual growth to both the artist and the viewer.

The installations shown in “East of Eden” would not have the same achingly ominous effect without the drawings of Czech born artist Josef Zlamal, who now lives and works between Prague, London, and Chur (in Switzerland).

Zlamal’s primary materials are hand-made paper, wood, and ink. As a part of his collaboration with Stipl, he expanded his practice to drawing on Stipl’s self-portraiture, making for a medieval art-inspired tattoo effect.

Most impressive about Zlamal’s drawings is the time-intensive process he subjects himself to. He repeatedly immerses his drawings into a water bath and washes them out, then layers more ink on top, just to wash it out again. What is left are the essential and ever-present remains of his markings.

Medieval influences are apparent in Zlamal’s work. The first installation of the exhibition, Genesis, contains a diptych of a chaotic and possibly demonic scene, much like Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych of The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Together Stipl and Zlamal create an atmosphere heavy from the immense weight of their creations. It is difficult not to feel the suffering an artist must endure in order to create a space so dreadful and engaging.

“East of Eden” runs at Museum Montanelli through 28 September – 26 May 2019.


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