Denisa Štefanigová “To Observe the Clouds”

Denisa Štefanigova (1995) is a Czech painter, currently living and working in Brno, who has ties to the Estonian art community established during her MA-studies at the Estonian Academy of Art. In the past, she has showcased her works in two solo exhibitions in Prague and at the Art Academy gallery in Tallinn, as well as participated in numerous group shows. The current exhibition, To Observe the Clouds, is displaying her recent paintings, which depict hybrid creatures and fantasy animals in an expressive-dynamic painting style. The viewer is presented with an imaginative, unconscious or dreamlike world where these creatures, having taken shape within an intuitive and dynamic creative process, emerge as the artist’s imaginary companions.

The influence of surrealism and its creative methods of working with unconscious and dream states is quite evident in Štefanigova’s art. This influence also evokes culturally specific historical roots: after all, Prague and Czech art have a special place in the history of international surrealist art since the 1930s when Prague became the second most important center of the surrealist movement after Paris. As a timely coincidence, the ongoing exhibition of historical Czech and Estonian surrealist artists at the Estonian National Museum in Tartu provides an interesting art historical context for the show at the Tütar Gallery. The principle of hybridity, often seen in the works of historical surrealists, takes a central place in Štefanigova’s art. It does not appear only in imaginative fantasy imagery but also in formal or technical solutions of her paintings: at times she may cut up her earlier paintings and sew pieces of old canvas into a collage or abandon the traditional painting format, a “window to nature”.

The wider meaning of her works, however, is closely related to the problems of our world today. Upcycling the old canvases into new works of art; eliminating the boundaries between craft and so-called high art; the merging of humans and other living beings – all these elements speak of the author’s ecological sensitivity and social nerve. That is why critics have associated Štefanigova with current discourses of ecofeminism and posthumanism. The artist herself does not necessarily consider these traditions of thought to be the starting point of her creative process, but their principles and ideas are not alien to her. She, too, wishes to overcome existing hierarchies and fixed boundaries between different species, sexualities or social identities. The hybrid imagery of her artworks and the painting technique, emphasizing fluidity over clear-cut borderlines, symbolize a mode of seeing and interpreting the world, where the principles of autonomous self and the dominance of the human over the non-human (other living beings, nature) gives way to the ethics of coexistence and interdependence.

“In my view, posthuman ethics urges us to endure the principle of not-One at the in-depth structures of our subjectivity by acknowledging the ties that bind us to the multiple ‘others’ in a vital web of complex interrelations. This ethical principle breaks up the fantasy of unity, totality and one-ness…What I want to emphasize instead, in a more affirmative vein, is the priority of the relation and the awareness that one is the effect of irrepressible flows of encounters, interactions, affectivity and desire, which one is not in charge of.” (Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman, 2013)

Katrin Kivimaa


Exhibition design: Johannes Luik
Graphic design: Kert Viiart
Installation: Johannes Luik, Tanel Asmer, Erkki Kadarik
Photography: Joosep Kivimäe

The exhibition is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia, DSV Estonia and Embassy of The Czech Republic