Touch reminds us that we are human and are embodied. Touch can lead us into deepest realms of intimacy and mystery. It is not surprising that we are frightened of it. (Westland, 2011:29)
Touch as the first and most direct sense we acquire can express all human feelings and conditions. Physical intimacy is considered to be very personal, shared feelings between loved ones. The touch is physically represented in sculptural plaster forms with the traces of artist’s hands, sharing her own intense experiences with the public. Soft curves of the form exist as one’s physical and emotional experience, reminding us of the human relationships between ourselves.
Tactile experiences — an essential part of everyday human life — can have powerful emotional charges attached to them, thus becoming troublesome and traumatic in our memory.
The expression of our traumatic encounters, fears and weaknesses could be expressed through touch in a way no other sense could present, reaching our self at deeper levels than the observable. Therefore, the objects created through touch suggest physical engagement as this kind of interaction is “a multiplicity of possibilities each with the context in the specific relationship at a specific moment”. (Westland, 2011) The sensory exploration is a personal and intimate experience that evokes memories and associations came from our personal history.
Because [a sculpture] presents a human being, a fully animated body,… it seizes hold of us and penetrates our very being, awakening the full range of responsive human feeling… It possesses the power virtually to transpose our soul into the same sympathetic situation. (Herder, 2002)
Anastasia Prahova works with the concept of the Uncanny by Sigmund Freud, the touch and the body through fragile and body-like plaster forms, physically transformed and shaped by her hands or restraints, usually used as body garments. The formal representation of the touch on the body could become a cause for the uncanny feeling since according to another psychiatrist Ernst Jentsch (1906), it bears intellectual and psychological uncertainty.
The artist explores the privacy of physical touch where a tender intimacy is infused with a pure and painful sense of desire. The liquid plaster form is manipulated until it cures through tension and pain in artist’s hands. Consequently, the peak moment of pressure is represented in the actual shape that keeps all the tiniest details of the artist’s body.
The latest works are the exploration of her own traumatic and sensitive memories, mostly the ones related to the body. As the artist does not talk directly about her background but rather the feelings that were acquired due to those experiences, the viewer is encouraged to engage with the sculptural forms physically, to get a powerful empathetic sense of immediacy and intimacy, to create unique sensual and personal experience. The touch is one of our most primary senses, and the sculptures are meant to be explored by that sense since it generates the particular concept of sculptural properties, different from the visual language.
Plaster is a universal material, distinctive in its purity of formal qualities — clean in colour, smooth and fragile. It allows the gesture to be caught in time and form, keeping the emotional intensity. The smooth, impeccable surface of the plaster gives the illusion of an innocent body that could be easily broken, while the shape and solid weight of the sculpture suggests coarseness and violent tension — creating sensory and visual ambiguity. Such innocent forms, as well as personal memories which were acquired through sensual experience with something desirable and remain invulnerable, are the secret legacy of the mind, deprived of the publicity and social awareness.
As the artist shares her intimate experiences by letting the viewer feel it physically, there is a danger of ruining the inherent temporal beauty of the sculpture. The pure plaster is capable of preserving every trace of viewers’ hands, showing that the artist’s intimate experience is no more private. The shared tactile exploration of the material and form suggests the mirroring and recognition of the represented reality on our self-consciousness.
HERDER, J. (2002). Sculpture: Some Observations on Sculpture’s Shape and Form from Pygmalion’s Creative Dream. Translated by J.Geiger. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
JENTSCH, E. (1997). On the psychology of the uncanny (1906). Angelaki, 2(1), pp.7-16.
WESTLAND, G. (2011). Physical touch in psychotherapy: Why are we not touching more?. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, 6(1), pp.17-29.