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Klemen Zupanc: The Four Seasons, Fireman, Doctor and Mr. with Silver Mercedes-Benz

11 May 2015 > 29 May 2015 Kindly invited to the opening of the "The Four Seasons, Fireman, Doctor and Mr. with Silver Mercedes-Benz" exhibition by Klemen Zupanc on Monday, 11th May 2015, at 8 pm, at the Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova, Ljubljana.

The artist Klemen Zupanc is representing himself at the Alkatraz Gallery with – at the first sight – a traditional painterly exhibition, entitled The Four Seasons, Fireman, Doctor and Mr. with Silver Mercedes-Benz, inviting a visitor to stroll among the works and pause before the ones that speak to her/him. The images on the canvases are quite straightforward per se, and the works can be read as self-contained units.

The title itself reveals that the exhibition consists of two parts. On the one hand there is depiction of the four seasons – four pictures representing each of the four seasons through different associations. On the other hand there is a series of portraits. Even though the evidently traditional motif genres that we know from the history of art, like the portrait, self-portrait, or the landscape, represent part of the The Four Seasons, Fireman, Doctor and Mr. with Silver Mercedes-Benz, the author is playing with them, dismantling while concurrently bringing to light the tradition of “west European” painting. The author plays with the choice of formats, materials, motifs, manners of painting, and even the authorship.

At the first glance the painting representing Summer is the one ruining the image of a classic painterly exhibition most. It’s a stolen image of a surfer on the beach, where the author is introducing into the gallery space an advertisement billboard with the Facebook link for his business activity of soap-trade, Soap for Suds (Milo za žajfo). With this work the author takes us - intentionally or unintentionally – into the world we all know so well, saturated with images not there for their own sake, but to create cravings and needs in the contemporary consumer society. They invade our (sub) consciousness in the real as well as the virtual world. It seems that the author does not take a stand about this phenomenon; he places the advertisement into a gallery context in the form of a painting and leaves the visitor the decision to visit the mentioned Facebook page if she/he wishes so.

The images in the The Four Seasons are taken from various media and contexts, including those completely inartistic according to the measures of “high” art, but bearing witness about the era we live in. A small landscape covered in snow, representing Winter is therefore appropriated from a calendar, a printed matter that finds its way to our homes every New Year. A self-portrait, representing Spring is modelled upon a photograph from the author’s private life. In the painting representing Autumn, Zupanc refers to the motif of a petrol station from an Ed Ruscha’s photograph that reminds us of the Acquired by Translation (Pridobljeno s Prevodom) series. In the forefront of the painting we find depicted cars alluding to another of his series – From Conveyor Belt to a Crash/Meeting (S tekočega traku v crash/srečanje).

Due to the choice of miscellaneous materials and imagery sources The Four Seasons appear to be inhomogeneous, as if the author wished to puzzle us by his common hypernymy (all the paintings also bear their individual titles). In case of the portraits - contrary to the aforementioned series – it is easier to talk about a series in no need for a hyper-name in the exhibition’s title. The portraits are unusual, anachronistic. Because of their classic execution: traditional preparation of the canvas, the egg tempera technique, a traditional format, a lavish frame and a brass plate bearing the inscription (the author had them made-to-order), as well as the choice of the portrayed men and women, Duplo and Playmobile figurines – they appear grotesque as a whole.

If a portrayal is defined as a depiction of an individual, essentially capturing the person’s character, which does not mean that an author has to near the photographic precision of reflection/depiction, nor the other extreme of depicting the portrayed one as over-caricaturised, then Zupanc takes this role seriously. The underlying humour is in his search for the character where it is not to be found; in an industrially produced series of toys, therefore in something non-unique. There are several hundred or million copies of every figurine, whilst the choice of one figurine in a toy-shop is a unique act, like casting a character into them and their naming is a process of a creation of uniqueness from something which is part of a series.

Most of the artworks co-creating the current exhibition at the Alkatraz Gallery have already been displayed at the Celje’s Likovni Salon Gallery. The exhibition itself allows for the possibility to travel and be transformed in the way that the author adds artworks or takes them away, while its essence stays the same. Each work is somewhat replaceable, yet still unique. Replaceability may not be the right term; perhaps it is a life-cycle, it may as well be Nietzsche’s “eternal return of the same” and not the very same. Is it not that the entire art is captured exactly in this last thought?

Anabel Černohorski



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