This retrospective exhibition presents a selection of works by the Czech printmaker and painter Šárka Trčková (1965–2015), whose life and career were prematurely cut short. Her delicate and natural watercolours, small paintings and large prints testify to her obsession with work, her elemental relationship with colour and her mastery of a broad range of artistic techniques.

Trčková began her studies in the painting studio at Prague’s Academy of Fine Arts (AVU), but she later switched to the school’s printmaking studio led by Dalibor Chatrný. While still a student, she garnered attention for her large-format colour woodcuts. As a printmaker, she began with small painted sketches for which she sought an expression and corresponding scale in printmaking. She always created several versions of the themes that were important to her, using various techniques. She mastered large formats in printmaking just as well as she did in watercolour, combining graphic techniques and experimenting with them. Her focus on works on paper sprang from her almost physical relationship to it – she made her own paper for her works, and generally viewed paper as a more sensitive material than canvas. She had faith in it, saying that ‘it better captures and retains the soul’.

In her expressive and highly stylised works from the mid-1990s, Trčková often explored the mystery of life and death and the symbols related to this subject in a universal as well as specifically personal sense. Around the turn of the millennium, nature became a prominent setting for her works – forests with the popular theme of mushroom hunting, and later also gardens and playing in the treetops. For Trčková, the most inspirational state of human existence was childhood as an image of learning and encountering the world and as an observed and co-experienced reality. The two themes were often intertwined in her work and took on distinctive forms after the birth of her son.

Though realistic, her works are not narrative. The colourful background of her watercolours creates a symbolic ‘non-space’ in which a story or scene taken from a real environment plays out in the ‘here and now’ as well as in a realm beyond time. They feel like records of the simple observation of everyday situations, captured poetically and with an uncommon sensitivity and passion, seriously but also with a sense for playfulness and detail. The silence of childlike wonder, the dynamic movement of playing tag, concentration, encounter and conspiracy, but also solitude and melancholy. Trčková’s seemingly simple yet monumental compositions are a personal and unsentimental testament to the role of mystery and the ability to see miracles in everyday life.

Šárka Trčková was a founding member of the Svárov art group, which was founded during her time at AVU in the second half of the 1980s. She began teaching in the 1990s and in 1995 began working as an assistant to Vladimír Kokolia in AVU’s Printmaking Studio 2. Her personal approach, professionalism, openness and kindness significantly influenced two generations of students.