Artist: Simon Kocjančič
Curator: Iza Pevec
22. 12. at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition with the artist Simon Kocjančič and the curator Iza Pevec
12. 1. at 6 pm: viewing of the exhibition with the artist Simon Kocjančič and the curator Iza Pevec
It doesn’t matter what it looks like
Last summer I watered the flowers for my upstairs neighbours. They’re a lovely couple, but we hadn’t had much contact before, apart from an amiable chat here and there on the stairs, and when I entered the unfamiliar flat, I couldn’t help but look with interest at the strange painting by the front door, the titles of the books piled up by the kitchen table, or the antique piece of furniture. After the flowers were watered, I sat on their balcony for a while and admired the view, which was so similar to the one from my balcony and yet different.
As Sophie Calle has clearly shown, we like to look for the personalities, stories and characters of other people in their material traces. But a portrait is always also a self-portrait. In my neighbours’ appartment, it is unlikely that anyone else would have noticed the same details as I did.
When I looked at Simon Kocjančič’s photographs, I first asked myself – whose home is this? It could be his grandmother’s appartment, as documented by Boštjan Pucelj or Tanja Lažetić with photos that resemble Kocjančič’s in places. It took a few images to unfold before my eyes before I understood that Kocjančič’s was not just one appartment. They were the appartments of strangers, I learned, where the artist had worked as a painter and decorator. But all these dwellings, with their different living conditions, thoughts, tastes, memories and stories of the people who live in them, are strikingly similar in his photographs. The plastic chairs and the plastic panda, the tiles with interesting patterns, the stickers with cartoon characters on the fridge and the plush bear trapped among the old brick-a-brack, perhaps belong more to the artist’s imagination than to their owners. The collection of accumulated images creates a space that favours the everyday, the bizarre and the surprising. A space that is actually close to his painting spaces. Kocjančič is known primarily as a painter, who inhabits the spacelessness of the canvas with abstracted reminiscences of objects, human body parts (especially heads and arms) and hybrid creatures. He avoids not only clarity of subject but also of colour; pure colours are rare in his work. He does not aim to please the viewer – he likes to look for colour combinations that are not considered beautiful, his stroke is seemingly incoherent and his childlike distortions are reminiscent of Art Brut’s search for an unburdened expression.
In the exhibition, Kocjančič’s paintings and photographs find themselves in a dialogue joined by the spatial set-up. Although he did not have the paintings and sculpture in mind when he took the photographs, perhaps now that he exhibits all three, we can think of a similar joy in observing, marvelling and recording the world around us. A joy that is sometimes overshadowed by professional constraints. And the snapshot, the quick point-and-shoot, is what wanted to bring that joy back to art photography.
Of course, we know that there is also a conscious decision behind this. Although the snapshot aesthetic that defines Kocjančič’s photographs is associated with realism and is hardly perceived as a style today, that is of course exactly what it is. And it is even of marketing interest, as analyses of the use of the snapshot in advertising show. It works precisely because such photos seem spontaneous, sincere, unencumbered, genuine, etc. These are probably the very reasons that have led to the popularisation of this aesthetic in American photography from the 1950s and 1960s onwards. Photographers such as Robert Frank and William Klein began to harness the energy, spontaneity and immediacy of the snapshot to enliven their images of the movement and chaos of contemporary urban life. Most photographers at the time used black and white film, but in the early 1970s, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore introduced saturated colour. The rest is history, you might say – the snapshot aesthetic is so prevalent today that it is almost no longer perceived as an aesthetic, but it is still associated with relaxed and unencumbered images. Artists like Stephen Shore and the more recent Wolfgang Tilmans and Jürgen Teller are close to Kocjančič. But while Shore, for example, depicted American environments with a predetermined goal, Kocjančič did not systematically or intentionally portray the homes where he worked as a painter and decorator. The photographs were taken without an exhibition or any other goal in mind; the artist simply collected spontaneous visual glimpses that arrested his gaze. Could these glimpses have fed into his painting and sculpture practice? Can we at least say that the same sensibility, the same eye is at work in all cases?
“You blink and look again to check what you are seeing at all; everything looks so absurd, strange, somehow different: the cat, the sign, the face, the letters, the words, the colours, the shapes, the sense, the nonsense. Everything is strange, weird, closer, new. You soak up your surroundings like a sponge, you absorb new impressions and gather new impressions, more new impressions, insights, experiences, memories, feelings. And you realise, not for the first time, that it’s not so much how it looks, but how you see it yourself that matters.” The snapshot aesthetic comes from amateur photography which captures the everyday. It can also be strange, bizarre, distorted, ugly or funny. In fact, it is moments or images like these that most encourage us to look and notice the everyday at all. This is most evident in Kocjančič’s photographs, but perhaps something similar is true of the other works in the exhibition. The spatial set-up recognises the sculptural qualities of the furniture pieces in the unconventional compositions that are the practical result of the painter-and-decorator’s work, while the motifs of his paintings are also transformed. These retain a trace of figurative origins, but approach a freely interpreted abstraction, everyday objects merge with feelings. The elements of the painting are thus primarily subject to the artist’s gaze, and he likes to throw the viewer off track a little with his composition. And to return to the snapshot – the snapshot prefers the random and spontaneous, it does not follow the rules of composition or lighting, the key is the joy of photographing and observing. “What matters is how you see it” seems to be a bridge between Kocjančič’s photography, painting and sculpture practice.
 This is how Dejan Habicht, in his translation, points to the love of photography as made possible by lomography. Source: Habicht, Dejan, 1999. Lom valov. [Breaking the Waves.] Fotografija : revija slovenskih fotografov, no. 6/7, pp. 56–58.
Simon Kocjančič (1979) graduated in Painting from the Arthouse College of Visual Arts in Ljubljana. He works in painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and art fanzines. He has exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad and participated in international art fairs such as Vienna Contemporary (Vienna, AT) and Positions Berlin Art Fair (Berlin, DE). Kocjančič builds his artistic profile at the intersection of figuration and abstraction. He is attracted to the world of contrasts, from the nuances of colour, the blurring of motifs and their meanings to the distinction between the personal and the social, the inner and the outer world. In his painting technique, he avoids routine and models, preferring to follow the spontaneous gesture to ensure that his visual language remains fresh, both in terms of motif and colour contrast.
Slovene proofreading: Inge Pangos
English translation: Arven Šakti Kralj
Cover image: Simon Kocjančič
Design: Lea Jelenko
Photos from the opening: Simao Bessa
Exhibition view: Klemen Ilovar
The Škuc Gallery programme is supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Ljubljana.