Iva Tratnik’s artistic language is distinguished by already from afar recognisable visual saturation, the lively, stimuli full pool of juicy organic activity which combines diverse images and references in wild combinations, from totemic masks, that are metamorphosed to insects, paradoxical microscopic organisms with flexible spines, to unrealistic flora and landscapes in the fluctuation between the primeval forest and the face of Mars. The mark of magical realism, which is often given by the interpreters in the absence of more appropriate classification, is therefore to a certain extent not suitable, especially given the fact that its reality often has a surreal connotation, which is a sphere in which the artist does not feel completely at home. In the spirit of neologisms, inaugurated by the title, perhaps we could describe Iva Tratnik’s artistic practice – with a bit of humour so dear to her – as a transgressive realism.
This is especially true of the recent corpus of works, which is the core of the exhibition Kun above, Xun below: Anatomic Transbestiary. The exhibition consists of works of great dimensions, monumental paintings and drawings, which are intentionally presented in the space in a scenographic manner, as the changing sceneries accompanying the exchange of various scenes of some drama. Here a newer series of the artist’s drawings puts the problem of the body in the forefront, the farcical anatomy of incompleteness, eclectically composed of disparate and diverse parts, which are held together by some awkward anthropomorphism, crossed with animal extremities and inanimate mechanical pieces. However, this is not about thinking on human connectedness to some animal roots, to primordiality, or the reduction of human to extra-human. First of all, in Iva Tratnik’s work, I do not see the fashionable mixture of science and art (although one such news motivated the creation of the work The Birth of Homo Porcus), on the contrary, it is explicitly about the artistic reflection on human as the ultimate disharmony. This is evidenced already by the sound titles of her drawings, Rubens Chick-En, Barbie Cuts, The Birth of Homo Porcus, Rubens Chick-En Negativ, which predict the direct reference to the iconic works of Renaissance and Baroque painting, to the time of canonization of artistic treatment of the human body. The very drawings actually cross the contours of Botticelli’s and Rubens’s characters with an illustrative and dynamic drawing which resembles the animated film, and all of them are pervaded by somewhat scary lined markings that are difficult to determine if they predict a visit of a surgical scalpel, butcher’s knife or just a children’s scissor in a play of paper cutting and modelling. The lines of cuts drawn from the tailors’ magazines are turning into the battle lines of prosthetic human extremities and into a vision that fluctuates between the horror and the cartoon. The commanding sign of the human hand with a pointed forefinger, the iconic image of the direction ordered, appears as an ambiguous, disorienting command, yet it represents the authority that we must surrender to.
A series of psychoanalytic associations continues in the triptych Blanche, don’t get mad, which takes as the starting point the story of Blanche Wittmann, “the queen of women hysterics” who at the end of the 19th century weekly performed the attacks of hysteria under hypnosis conducted by Dr. Charcot. Blanche, don’t get mad consists of a wild choreography of movements and light, of tiny women bodies in compulsions, which animate the composition of gaming figures, insects and threatening non-vertebrates. In addition, two drawings on black paper, Human Ouroborus and False God, are mastered by the archetypal, mythological and pseudo-religious symbolism. A snake that bites its own tail has been replaced by the garland of devouring human figures in an enigmatic heraldic composition between Rorschach’s designs and Masonic symbols. False God in a pose that alludes to the iconography of the Shiva’s destructive dance undoubtedly represents a male pole and leads the interpretation in the direction of destructive and oppressive patriarchalism that controls the field of the symbolic.
In its excessive visual (and also tactile) stimulativity, the exhibition Kun above, Xun below: Anatomic Transbestiary is almost an synesthetic staging of the topics of physicality, gender difference, sexuality, and above all the human incompleteness, non-centrality and the lack of a unified core. The eclectic compound of references shows the human as a deeply torn creature, and rather than the fashionable themes of the hybridity of species, it shows the inhuman inside the human itself, the strangeness that we regularly find where we would expect the maximum homeliness. This recognition of the strangeness of the most inner, the awkward composition without solid foundations of essence and identity, is something that, with the utmost power and consciousness of the loss, pervades the present exhibition, but at the same time, this recognition, in spite of its menacing presence, does not drag Tratnik’s work into defeatism or moralization. In experiencing her work, the feeling of discomfort is mixed with a distinctly affirmative, vitalistic view on the potentiality of humanity (humour!), maybe even through its surpassing. Maybe that is why the neologism transbestiary is offered as an appropriate title, which sums up the tension between the discomfort of losing and the enthusiasm at the potentials, the tension that is rapturously showed in Iva Tratnik’s works.
Curated by: Vladimir Vidmar
Iva Tratnik – In 2012 she received her master’s degree at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She is researching various artistic practices, including textile collages, oil and acrylic canvases, sculpture, drawing, installations and other site-specific interventions. At the same time, she also deals with performance, experimenting with voice, motion, mask. She works independently or in temporary collectives.