Alena Foustková (CZ)

 

Alena Foustková graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, Czech Republic, with a Master degree in Fine Arts in 1982, majoring in printmaking. In 1984 she and her husband decided to leave then Czechoslovakia and eventually settled in Canada, Toronto. Her Canadian and advertising experience gained in various Canadian advertising agencies became valuable after 1989 in the Czech Republic and Alena got a work offer by a well-known ad agency Saatchi&Saatchi which was just opening an office in Prague. She and her family decided to move back to the Czech Republic in 1995 and live there ever since. Alena worked until 2009 in international advertising agencies as an Art Director and Creative Director and gained numerous awards for excellence in advertising. Her work was collected also by the Neue Sammlung in Munich, Germany, for their permanent collection.

 

Since 2009, Alena has devoted her time mainly to the arts. She also teaches at international universities in Prague, namely the Anglo American University, UNYP (University of New York in Prague) and she has been a Mentor and lecturer of on-line courses for the International Program in Lebanon of the Empire State College, a New York State University.
“Alena focuses in her work for many years on social issues and the effects of mass media. She works with sign systems and symbols which function as codes of a content. She captures fragments of reality in the information chaos.” (Vladimíra Brucháčková Závodná, 2014). Alena’s visual language expresses our more and more commercialized society through bar-coded images, like the Collective bar code, 2012, which she created from second-hand, hand-knitted pieces of clothes bought by the author. Then she and her mother took them apart and Alena’s mother knitted the balls again into a colorful, collective bar-code having the energy of all those anonymous women-knitters.
Alena’s social interest manifested in a group show called Hatefree and Transgender Me in the Centre for Contemporary Art, DOX, in 2016 and 2012, in Prague. In her latest installation called Dictionary, Alena dealt with the issue of tolerance – intolerance. Visitors actively engaged in the process of the selection by tearing off papers with what they want to be and what they do not want to be like. In the other site specific project the artist wrote for four days on two large walls of the gallery one sentence “I am normal.” This work was called a Punishment and the installation was aiming at making people think about their acceptance of what they consider as normal and about the limits of tolerance. The show continued later on in Berlin with her installation of hundreds of written school notebook pages with a written text “Ich bin normal”.

Alena showed her work in a solo show in the Bohemian National Hall in New York in 2012. It was called “Where is my home” (just as the title of the Czech National Anthem). It spoke of her personal interpretation of emigration and longing for a homeland. Some of the pieces have been part of the SWAN exhibition now in Prague GUD Gallery.
In the show for the Gallery of the City Blansko, 2011, Alena worked with the visitors of the gallery asking them to participate in her project called “Do you care?”. They were asked to take part in her hand-made glued paper bags installation created from newspaper pages with selected articles focusing on social, cultural and political topics. The participants blew air into a bag of their choice, banged it and placed it back. “The artist in an almost meditative enclosure (or nearly prison-like?) cut up all types of the newspapers that surround us, into appropriate forms and glued them together creating paper bags (!!!!!) hung on hooks, again, in a sort of a minimalist structure … But here the interaction with the audience is even more important: we have also been asked to realize not only the aesthetic qualities but, primarily, the semantics of the communication sequence chosen: and then which most surprises or upsets us, properly inflated with our breath are … slammed against….” (from a catalogue, Blansko, 2011, curator Dr. Jiří Valoch)
Another show in 2014 was prepared in a partnership with a well-known conceptual Austrian artist Eva Schlegel focusing on texts again, this time her visual interpretations of poems related to a specific Moravian region written by a great Czech poet of the 20th century, Jan Skacel.

The latest shows where Alena shows her conceptual work, are in DOX, Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague, and in the Kunsthalle in Bratislava, 2016. Both shows deal with an increasingly polarized society we live in. The artists exhibiting in the HateFree? exhibition take the side of those who are stigmatized in this manner. They strive to explore the mechanisms that define certain groups as inferior or socially excluded, and show the danger inherent in the growth of hate in society. At the same time, they demonstrate faith in the symbolic power of an artistic gesture expressing solidarity, and its specific effects outside the narrowly circumscribed world of art.” (Curator’s introduction, Zuzana Štefková)