Slovakian photographer Mária Švarbová creates hauntingly still images of women in Socialist Era public swimming pools. Early on, her photographic work moved from traditional portraits to capture wider topics, generating works with unmistakably characteristic atmosphere. Addressing the loneliness and isolation of contemporary life, her work manages to be both non-sentimental and emotionally powerful. Cool stillness, striking color palette and unspoken tension of Maria’s artwork led to international recognition, including photographs published in The Guardian, or displayed on the famous Taiwanese landmark, 101 skyscraper. Mária Švarbová was born in 1988 in Slovakia. She studied conservation – restoration and archeology, however since 2010 she has been dedicated to photography as her main tool of artistic expression. She lives and works in Bratislava, Slovakia.
In the Swimming Pool is Maria’s largest series yet, originating in 2014 and continuing to develop to date. Sparked by a hunt for interesting location, her fascination with the space of public swimming pools contributed to developing her visual style. Sterile, geometric beauty of old pools set the tone for these photographs. Each of them pictures a different pool, usually built in the Socialist Era, in various locations in Slovakia. There is almost cinematographic quality to the highly controlled sceneries that Maria captures. The figures are mid-movement, but there is no joyful playfulness to them. Frozen in the composition, the swimmers are as smooth and cold as the pools tiles. The colours softly vibrate in a dream-like atmosphere. Despite the retro setting, the pictures somehow evoke a futuristic feeling as well, as if they were taken somewhere completely alien. There is no disturbing emotion, there is no individuality in their stillness. The artificial detachment, created by Maria’s visual vision, allows unique visual pleasure, unattainable in real life.
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