Štefan Papčo — The Ninth Wave

Štefan Papčo’s work is based on classic figurative principles of sculpture that include meticulous craftsmanship and timeless materials...

Inventory No.: P 458

Artist: Štefan Papčo
Title: The Ninth Wave

Year: 2012
Technique: mixed media
Material: wood
Dimensions: height 40 cm; width 65 cm; depth 48 cm
Signature: none

Štefan Papčo’s work is based on classic figurative principles of sculpture that include meticulous craftsmanship and timeless materials (mostly wood) which he then moves up to a conceptual level with minimal, abstract means of expression. His pieces are enriched with various other media (video, the internet, digital technologies) and performative elements. He also works with not so standard materials like concrete, silicone, fibreglass, wax, resin and others. The themes he is interested in include time and its passing, forces of nature and their movement and also natural courses – he sometimes leaves his artworks exposed to the natural elements of harsh mountain weather. His work is linked with mountain climbing which has been a long-term interest of his. He often works with monumental scales – his sculptures and installations are able to fill the whole gallery space which enables him to bring (not just) the physical experience of alpine landscape into the mundane gallery interior. He tries to transfer his own mountain climbing experience onto the viewer with all of the accompanying feelings of fear, euphoria, sweat, pain, danger, but also total freedom, exploration of both nature and the inner selves, overcoming our physical and mental limits. However, sometimes the borderline (even life threatening) situations he captures also lead to more universal themes of humanism, spirituality and the relationship of man and nature.

The object in Nitra Gellery’s collection titled The Ninth Wave belongs to Štefan Papčo’s smaller sized works. Its visual part is based on a specific type of signs used in mountain climbing that include various arrows, lines, markings and cyphers. The artist has also incorporated this graphic language in some of his other works whose titles are based on specific trail names (e.g. Psycho-Vertical, Passage of the Hungry, Restless Souls, Pious) which highlight the unique poetic creativity of mountain climbers. The markings are transferred from their original, drawn (two-dimensional) representation into space. Papčo combines verticality (of climbing to the top, fighting gravity), which is essential when climbing, with the horizontality of our movement in time and space. The journey becomes the destination. Papčo utilises this distinctive sign language that describes specific parts of trails (rock walls, overhangs, corners, platforms, etc.) in his sculpture in order to create a dematerialised, transparent structure made of softwood. The abstract object clearly employs the element of time and contains a hint of a narrative, but also leaves the viewer enough space for their own imagination.

It is interesting to note that in 2014, Papčo created another piece with the same title and visual composition, but whose dimensions (130 x 240 x 140 cm) and material (iron) make it a more monumental interpretation of the same idea. The artist has once said during an interview: “I use smaller pieces to test my capabilities, but it is more natural to me to think on a larger scale. I admire artists who are able to use big ideas on a small scale.” [1] We think he has succeeded in using one of his big ideas even on the smaller scale in the object that is a part of Nitra Gallery’s collection.

Štefan Papčo was born in Ružomberok in 1983. Between 2001 – 2007 he studied under prof. Jozef Jankovič at the Studio of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. In 2014, he received the ArtD. title at AFAD where he works as a special assistant at the Department of Sculpture, Object, Installation. In 2010, he was a finalist of the Oskár Čepan Award. In 2014, he received the Novum Foundation Award and in 2013, he received the Tatra Bank Foundation Art Award for Young Creative Artist. He took residencies in Norway and New York. He exhibits internationally (more often that other artists of his generation). He lives and works in Bratislava.

Omar Mirza
December 2019

[1] Štefan Papčo. „I look at many other things through the mountains, even love.“ Štefan Papčo in an interview with Daniel Grúň. In: Profil Contemporary Art Magazine, XXII, 2015, Vol. 2, p. 70-109.

This acquisition has been supported using public funds provided by the Slovak Arts Council.