10 June 2014 > 27 June 2014 Kindly invited to the opening and guided tour of the "Interzone" exhibition by Patricija Stepanović, on Tuesday, 10th June, at 8 pm, at Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova mesto. The exhibition is a part of Photonic Moments - Month of Photography Festival in cooperation with Photon Gallery.
Domestic public hasn't had much opportunity to get acquainted with the works of Patricija Stepanović, for she has only exhibited in Slovenia once so far. Last year she presented her photographs at the Ceramics Workshop, Village Museum and Laze Gallery, in Laze pri Logatcu. Looking for possibilities for her artistic development she left for London very early, and there she finished her study of fine art photography at the London Metropolitan University. Currently she lives and works in Göteborg, Sweden.
Her primary source of inspiration stems from the surrealism of the 20’s and 30’s of the 20th century, and its interest for artistic approaches for deconstruction of the understanding of the well-rooted notions like beauty and aesthetics, the search for extraordinary connections, exploration of foreign cultures, and ways of expression. Putting the artist’s quest for beauty side by side to the contemporary, wider social understanding of the ideal of beauty generates a strong contrast. In the view of the artist, provocative semi-naked photo-models in the advertisements, constantly at service of product sales, are not the beauty that would interest her, but something prosaic and boring. She prefers to show the naked male and female models in her photographs in a diametrically opposite way; by employing analogue photography and surrealistic procedures, making common situations more complex and interesting. By placing the commonplace in a new, surprising context, the artist presents the world of her experiences, where the images of mundane life serve only as an outset for her own explorations, not tied to the time and space. Her camera lens not capturing the objects alluding to the present time, she breathes the taste of timelessness into her works, making it another reason why her models are naked most of the time. The photographs of Patricija Stepanović indicate that the beauty and its questioning is still a current artistic topic. It actually represents the basic category of her artistic creativity that she employs for her exploration of the world.
In the foreground of her b/w photographs we see nature: water, wind, trees, grass, leaves, and rocks. The wind is blowing, the water flowing, the landscape is fading in the fog in the strongly emphasized contrast between the lightness and darkness. The scenes we see are nothing unusual for the central-European climate. However, this is no tamed nature that brings us relief and repose. Sometimes its image lulls in the reflection of water, but always it escorts us into the inter- time and zone, where the contours are familiar, whilst the fantasy contents retreat, inculcating the feeling of alienation. We follow the feelings showing daily life in nature as a vast and unamiable time and space that is, paradoxically, claustrophobic. Hence it is not surprising that the only person present in the photographs is a naked woman who, not seeking contact with the viewer, and not exposing herself to his/her looks, but living her mysterious life directed somewhere else, and actually representing another element of alienated nature.
The body in the photographs of Patricija Stepanović is often dismembered. It’s the intervention the author utilizes to to strip it of the usual contexts imposed on it by the culture, in order to be able to focus on its purely aesthetic effect. This procedure of fetishization, as understood by the author, is a hymn to differentness, a tool, similarly to a microscope, enabling the recognition of subjective beauty that will change the world (F. Dostojevski). It seems that the author is not only looking for the beauty of the body, but by intertwining the bodies into the landscape as its inseparable part, she adds to the contents the quest for the beauty of the image. The beauty, as shown by the author is, in spite of its poetics, slightly shuddering and unapproachable. The aesthetics of Patricija Stepanović has an existential undertone: the search for the meaning in the confrontation with an unfamiliar world leads into the logic of the irrational and mystical with no added meanings, apart from perhaps the ones created from subjective impulses, and purposed for one’s own identification. Also in the sense of the process of the making of the photographs it’s the mistakes that represent a kind of author’s signature; the scratches on the negatives, manipulation with the chemicals during the development of the negatives, and other, intentional and unintentional interventions, are there quite deliberately.
Opposite the mentioned photographs, we find the author’s photo collages. In the series the traces are quite clear; an image of young women with a pot plant, a train window, or an aeroplane propeller in place of the face, a man from a b/w photograph (with a torso of another man from a colour photograph) that we see during a ride on pram wheels, and numerous other extraordinary combinations. The compiling of heterogeneous images and objects indicates an intense longing for a simultaneous existence in two different worlds; it speaks about their merging, or at least a search for their common cross-section, and the inevitable slip into the interzone (1) , the interzones where the socially acceptable laws of the daily logical conclusion retract to another perspective. There mistakes bear a creative potential and represent more an indication of individual activity than a mere defect in the system.
Ana Grobler and Sebastijan Krawczyk