Artist: Tadej Vaukman
Curator: Kristina Ferk
Tadej Vaukman remains true to a brutal aesthetic in his more recent works, in which he departs from an uncritical documentation of his narrow circle of people and his own everyday life. The shift towards the exploration of one’s own intimacy, both personal concerns and fantasies, points to a process of individuation, expressed in the visual narrative primarily through self-portraits and handwritten notes on pages torn from books.
The works on view provide a glimpse into the artist’s development to date, from older unedited and unstaged Polaroids, to meticulously directed large-scale black and white photographs. The exploration of self and identity in the creative work coincides with the exploration of other mediums such as collage and video that Vaukman uses to expand his art practice. His creative work is deeply intertwined with his private life, as can be seen in the included works, in which fragments of the private are clearly or at least implicitly expressed.
In the black and white series of self-portraits, Vaukman applies his unique approach when he uses exaggeration to achieve the effect of the bizarre and uncomfortable. The motif of a balaclava and a firearm pointed at both the viewer and the author of the photograph could allude to direct aggression, but in combination with the naked body and the blurriness and brightness of the shot, it seems deliberately contradictory and theatrical. In exploring his own identity, which includes fantasies and dreams, the artist questioned whether we can even face the fact that something considered non-conformist and taboo can give us feelings of release and happiness. Is it perhaps easier to adopt a moralising stance than to expose one’s body and reveal frivolous lewdness? A considerable portion of the photographic section of the exhibition is steeped in raw self-eroticism, responding from the author’s point of view: Yes, it is perfectly acceptable to satisfy our need and longing for a sense of comfort within the confines of morality with any kind of release – even if it is trivial or unusual, perhaps even taboo.
In the video The Hero on a Horse, Vaukman as the subject again rummages through the mundane and disorderly surroundings in search of objects of comfort. The chaotic backdrop of things all around, combined with the broadcast of the evening news, reinforces the absurdity of the whole scene of the artist’s slow, languid, but absorbed rummaging. The physical desire to acquire coveted things may illustrate in parallel the artist’s quest and tendency to adapt to changes in private life, to assume additional roles and identities. The acceptance of benevolent changes, challenges and possible internal or external conflicts may also be suggested by the short handwritten statements that the artist writes on pages torn from books. The notes partly reveal the artist’s playful and self-deprecating examination of his own provocations, to a certain extent they disclose a self-critical acuity as well as a subtle explanation of the creative process and fantasy. On the pages torn from books appear corrections of both the already printed text and the artist’s subsequently added notations. Vaukman’s handwriting is broken and incomplete, and the purpose of the crossed-out words may be to create deliberate ambiguity or to potentiate the content of the message.
The artist understands his creative activity as inseparable from the emotional and rational process. For example, as in the piece captioned “set of problems”, where he can identify with the many dilemmas that surround him, but also accepts them and consciously admits possible personal shortcomings. The caption “ordinary man” may seem self-accusatory at first glance, but the primary text, obscured by corrective fluid, through which the word “pornography” seeps, suggests the artist’s unencumberedness with it. And this unencumberedness may stem from the artist’s consideration of inadequacy in his personal and professional life. Reflection is also reinforced by another one of Vaukman’s captions, “everyone was – has had, a finger, – up the ass”. The direct teasing may reflect the artist’s unencumbered and witty attitude towards everyday problems or his uncompromising standpoint in understanding the erotic.
The exhibition But don’t show this to my kid presents a continuation of Vaukman’s signature work in the medium of photography, but at the same time points out that the artist expresses his raw and direct visual language in other media as well. Collage, video and linguistic signs are not a deviation but an enhancement and further development of his art practice, which remains the same in its essence of brutal exaggeration and the explicit representation of elements.
The works on view are a creative contemplation of the artist’s self-reflections in the past year, which refer to the acceptance of oneself as a whole of more and perhaps also less socially acceptable qualities and practices. In this way, Tadej Vaukman strives to further explore and document the self with both the naked body and the revealed stream of thoughts that can be traced in his short notes. But more than anything, he encourages the principal acceptance of all aspects of oneself, from the self-erotic and raw, to the reflective and almost parental.
Tadej Vaukman (1984) is an independent artist, photographer and publisher based in Ljubljana. He attracted attention with the project Dick Skinners, which he presented in 2015 in a book edition (published by Rostfrei Publishing) and subsequently in a series of photographs in several exhibitions. The solo presentations that followed included Spaghetti Boys at the P74 Centre and Gallery (2016), Larry at Hiša kulture in Pivka (2016) and Grandheroes at the Ravnikar Gallery Space in Ljubljana (2018) as well as at the Daeppen Gallery in Basel (2018). In 2020, he presented a three-part exhibition series Ritual Purification (P74 Centre and Gallery, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Koroška and Center for Contemporary Arts Celje).
His group shows include Precarious Environments: 17 Cases of Contemporary Photography in Slovenia at MSUM (2019), Triennial of Contemporary Art in Koroška at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Koroška (2018), Viennacontemporary: NSK State in Time in Vienna (2019) and Just Paper, agnes b. in New York (2019).
His works are included in Slovenian and foreign collections (Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Koroška, Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc., Pratt Institute NYC USA and Daeppen Gallery, Basel). He is the recipient of the OHO Group Award (2019).
 Slo: “komplet težav”.
 Slo: “mali človek”.
 Slo: “čisto vsak je že bil, imel prst, v riti”.
The exhibition is dedicated to Vincent Emerik Vaukman.
Design: Lea Jelenko
Title Image: Tadej Vaukman
Slovene Proofreading: Inge Pangos
English Translation: Arven Šakti Kralj Szomi
Exhibition installation photos: Simao Bessa
Exhibition view: Klemen Ilovar
The Škuc Gallery programme is supported by the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Ljubljana.