Exhibition of works by art students and a younger generation of artists: Brina Elizabeta Blaž, Živa Božičnik Rebec, Gašper Capuder, Maria Karnar Lemesheva, Tatiana Kocmur, Toni Kovačić, Danilo Milovanović, Adrijan Praznik, Monika Slemc, Tomo Stanič, Maja Tušar, Andrea Zabric. Curated by Staš Kleindienst.
The exhibition features a very particular selection of works that have sprung from different positions and address very different contents in different languages; yet, they all adopt an active relation to the medium of painting as such. Therefore, I do not want to search for content-based connections between individual works; rather, I would like to focus on the selection motivated by four aspects of painting, among which I usually move in my own work and which I find essential for the present-day notion of painterly practice. The four aspects are: social integration, the painting’s historical context, material presence and conceptuality. I dare say that all works in this exhibition play with one of these aspects in one way or another and thus in some way refer to the issue of painting in a broader sense.
Painting is a heterogeneous medium that pre-inscribes the methodology of its conception in its own system of rules and keeps establishing a relation to these rules during the creative process, thereby opening up a space for the artwork to populate. We can consider painting in the context of contemporary art practices, which use different media and enter painting only occasionally and/or they move in its liminal space; but we also know passionate commitment to the medium, which wagers the processual nature of labour within which the artist respects or violates their own system of rules, thereby opening up the possibility of constant transformation of their own painterly self. The two extremes are not mutually exclusive, while they do reveal a certain schizophrenic nature of painting, which harbours a number of conflicts, material as well as social, which contribute to its specific position.
The very attempt to create a two-dimensional illusion of space is a unique paradox, but in painting there is an additional split, which separates painting from other two-dimensional media, for although painting is an image (of real or abstract space), it is not just an image. It is possible, to the same extent, to talk about materiality that establishes some kind of friction between the illusion of space and painting as an object. This material presence of painting not only requires the viewer to read the image or the concept, but also opens up a path to a different dimension of perception, which is based on the spatial relation between the viewer and the painting. The subject of the image can thus become completely trivial, banal, or the image even disappears, while the quality of the painting is provided exclusively by its material presence spreading out into space.
Perhaps it was precisely this mode of perception, established by the split between the image and its material dimension, that motivated different simultaneous presences of painting, for painting can appear as an aesthetic artefact or the bearer of progressive thinking, while this also makes possible its population by the discourses of power and representation of ideology. Nowadays, power and ideology manifest themselves mainly in the fact that painting exists more or less only as exchange goods within the wheels of the gallery system which, by means of canonisation, material uniqueness and the authors’ personal mythologies, builds its excess value; however, as we know, painting has always helped build the religious, political or cultural identity of a certain space on the basis of the economic and political interests of the ruling class.
Yet, painting has made space not only for the representation of power and the ruling class; it has also contributed to determining the social space of the subject. The question of who the subject of painting is and who is claiming the gaze has become key to the introduction of social relations in landscape painting in the 19th century England. Referring to the book of Turner’s landscapes titled Picturesque Views in England and Wales, which was conceived as a guidebook of sorts for tourists of that time, Elizabeth Helsinger writes: “To be the subject, and never the viewer, of these landscapes means to be fixed in place like the rural laborer, circumscribed within a social position and a locality, unable to grasp the larger entity, England, which local scenes can represent for more mobile picturesque viewers.” Painting has thus contributed to the naturalisation of class status both via the image as well as by determining the position of the gaze.
On the other hand, painting has also meant a field of reflection. It is widely known, for instance, that Velazquez and Goya successfully “smuggled” past court censors and into the representation of power a critical view of the latter. Nowadays, social critique has become an institutionalised norm, the institutions’ modus operandi of sorts, which managed to ghettoise social struggle into the field of art, and we can ask ourselves whether or not a turn had occurred: perhaps today the representation of power is being “smuggled” into the discourse of art via reflection and perhaps this representation somehow, by presenting the context and by determining the position of the gaze, naturalises social relations in the same way? Perhaps today it is better if painting does not attempt to contextualise its own content and instead focuses on its inherent quality of being present at several levels simultaneously, but never completely literally, of being able to offer a view of the world and at the same time ask itself about its own role in it. In painting, this is visible when it establishes an ironic distance to itself, where it is no longer present merely as the bearer of the artwork but also as its subject, where it inhabits the artwork through a conceptualisation of its own language and its own history. Only from here onwards we can speak about painting as a medium in a strictly conceptual sense, which is aware of its own specificities and plays with them consciously and from an external position, be it in the most traditional manner, with paint and a paintbrush, or with means that seem to have little in common with painting at first sight.
 Elizabeth Helsinger, “Turner and the Representation of England”, in: Landscape and Power, edited by W. J. T. Mitchell, The University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 105.
Curated by Staš Kleindienst
Opening: Thursday, 21. 6. 2018 at 8 pm
Guided tour of the exhibition with artists and the curator: Wednesday, 27. 6. 2018 at 6 pm
In collaboration with: ALUO – Academy of Fine arts and Design Ljubljana
Acknowledgments: Academy of Art (University of Nova Gorica, A.V. A. – Academy of Visual Arts
The programme of Škuc Gallery is supported by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Cultural Department of the City of Ljubljana.
Photo: Klemen Ilovar