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Maria Bartuszová

  • Art
  • Tate Modern, Bankside
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Maria Bartuszová 'Untitled' (1985) Tate © Estate of Maria Bartuszova

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Maria Bartuszová did not make art for clumsy people. Her delicate plaster sculptures look impossibly fragile, a world of brittle eggshells and paper-thin surfaces. Terrifying. 

The Slovakian sculptor’s big thing was the manipulation of liquid plaster, pouring and moulding it around balloons, then letting gravity pull and twist it. The result is a body of work full of undulating bodily shapes. There are breast-like bulges, penile protrusions, vulvic curves and wobbly blobs. They look like big splooges of body fat, like the Venus of Willendorf meets Mr Creosote in gorgeous alabaster minimalism.

Other works look like stacks of eggshells, all jagged edges and thin carapaces. The best ones are bound by string and rope, knotted and folded over themselves. They’re the most narrative works here, filled with stories about human relationships, how we tie ourselves to one another and become bound and constrained in the process.

It’s personal, vulnerable and deeply emotional

She toyed with nature a lot too, finding relief from Czechoslovakia’s totalitarian regime in rivers and trees and rocks. The works made of plaster wrapped around stones are her best: collisions of soft and hard, fragile and unbreakable. They feel personal, vulnerable and deeply emotional.

The other big part of Bartuszova’s practice was public sculptures, and they look incredible. But there obviously aren’t any of them here, just photos and maquettes, so all you’re really left with in this show is her smaller sculptures and eventually the whole show just feels a little one-note. It’s a lot of unctuous blobs and fragile shells, over and over. The metal sculptures, including some neat puzzle pieces, don’t have the same impact as the plaster ones, and the canvas works are genuinely a little ugly. 

There’s just not a huge amount of depth here, so all the beauty on display ends up feeling just skin – or maybe eggshell – deep. 

Written by
Eddy Frankel


Tate Modern
Tube: Southwark/Blackfriars

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