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Meta Kastelic: Feed the Child

24 October 2014 > 14 November 2014 You are kindly invited to the opening of the exhibition: Feed the Child, by Meta Kastelic. The opening will take place at the Alkatraz Gallery, ACC Metelkova mesto, on Friday, 24th October 2014 at 8pm.

The world is what we perceive.

Meta Kastelic belongs to the generation of authors who has fashioned various approaches and poetics, and who comprehends sculpture as a wide medium through which contemporary approaches reflect content- or media-wise. As a sculptor, besides shaping in classic sculptural media in contemporary materials such as bronze, iron, wood, stone, sugar, and fabrics, she combines her projects with other media like video, sound, image, and performance. The artist has a pronounced feeling for the material used; she kneads clay, sews fabrics, carves wood, welds and bends iron. Her projects always incorporate concrete objects, with the main emphasis on tactility. »I still think that in sculpture the touch, moulding, stroking … represent a kind of a thread, linking everything that I create, even when an installation incorporates the presence of a video – that we cannot touch – yet we can still feel it, and are therefore able to establish the touch through our eyes.«(1), she claims.

Meta Kastelic has developed her own sculptural style relatively quickly, trying to invent the most appropriate and, above all, fresh expression to convey the content. Her sculptural creating stems from her inner experiential impulses, indirectly attracting the materials from the social impulse of the outer world, in which a subject plays the role of a prisoner. The weight of a personal experience plays a significant role, a role prior to a collective perception of contemporaneity. The sculptures represent conductors of inner aspiration, a state and recognition, as well as of a release of the utmost deeply rooted feelings. In her works, Meta Kastelic emphasises excitingness and captivity, from time to time also dramatic life experiences, in keeping experiential parallelism with our life.

»The world is not what I think, but what I see, I am accepting it … or, put differently: »Perception is not a science of the world, it is not even an act, a deliberate taking up of a position; it is the background from which all acts stand out, and is presupposed by them. The world is not an object such that I have in my possession the law of its making; it is the natural setting of, and field for, all my thoughts and all my explicit perceptions,«2 is a notion congruent with the thinking of the artist. In her sculptural expression she does not withdraw into an absolute subjectivity, because she possesses the awareness that as subjects we are not located somewhere outside time and space, but that we exist within a defined historical frame. Her sculpture is not distanced from the world, but is changing the view on the world. She simply sees things differently, so she is creating her own truth, founded on pre-existing sensation.

Already during her study she was interested in the field of the sensual in sculpture. The line of sensuous sculpture that she has been developing could be related to sensual incarnate, as Andrej Medved named the sculptural production of the eighties, linked to the sculptors Jakov Brdar and Mirsad Begić and Duba Sambolec. With her motifs Meta Kastelic does not return to the world of archetypal forms, characteristic of the aforementioned sculptors from the eighties; her images are taken from the narrative of the everyday life, and are linked together by their common feeling. The emphasis lies on the sensuality and the haptics of the content itself, and the relations, established among the sculpture, its environment, and the viewer. Meta Kastelic, like some of the sculptors of the eighties’ generation, is developing the idea of sensibility, and her works speak of her intensive experience of bodylines, the longing for a touch, and about the prohibition of the touch. Her works are building up a dialogue with a viewer, various materials, methods utilized for reshaping of the works, and sculptures affecting and co-operating with the space, and only then addressing the public. Sculptural emphases of Meta Kastelic are heading in the direction to form personal orientations that came about with synthesis and paraphrasing of various formal sources. Her images draw from the archives of the history of sculpture, while by combining them the artist creates structures bearing a new meaning.

In her M.A. thesis the author exposed the names of several artists that inspire her; it is through their artistic practices that we can recognize a certain congeniality with her works. A Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto is known of his sensual installations, where the viewer interactively enters into the world of sensorial objects, arousing all the senses. She feels close to the creative world of a British painter Richard Long, the magic world of a visual artist Ann Hamilton, and the colourful world of a sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle. Spatial pictures of a couple of artists forming a group named Painter, do you know your dues (Veš slikar svoj dolg; V.S.S.D.) have touched her with their delicate, introspective installations. Her sculptural research draws from the rich historical treasury of sculpture, but only as an inspiration, as she has, as a sculptor, early discovered her artistic interest and tried to invent the most appropriate, fresh expression. Her very subjective, sensual sculptural works gradually began to reflect socio-critical topics and impulses of an inner accompaniment of conditions, rational perceptions of space and time, as well as the pace of the urban pulsation and stimuli, which, with their dispersal, structure the contemporary existential rhythm.

A contributing fact is that the author has, already for eight years, been creating within the Autonomous Cultural Centre Metelkova City. The studio within the Garaže building that the artist gained in 2006 upon an open call, due to severe damages even lacking some walls, put her, from the very beginning of her operation in Metelkova, in a role of a builder. With hard physical labour she has won the space purposed for creation, similarly to the generation of the pioneers after the occupation of Metelkova. A battle for space, usually understood as part of the battle against a social system, at Metelkova starts with a battle against the weather.

For Meta Kastelic the challenges an artist has to face in Metelkova (e.g. construction of one's own studio) are somewhat more familiar. Her artworks are often created by hard work, physical labour that has become a kind of a brand for the artist. It is that much more interesting to see the contrast between the method creating her works, and the content that they conceal. The artist uses traditional sculptural techniques; frequently starting by working on heavy, hard trunks of wood, or some other sculptural material, followed by phases drawing the inspiration from other sources; from the world of painting (the use of colours and their contrasts), or the everyday life (the use of materials like sugar and water). Her works help her speak about the feelings brought about by colours, about perception communicated by the senses, and the comprehension of wider social phenomena through her own feelings. The topics that she used to be interested in particularly at the beginning of her career were over-saturation with daily chores, and the question of human happiness. Her vision seems to be based on a simple idea of the world as a place governed by explicit moral principles, beauty, and emotions that could serve as signposts for dilemmas of our time.

It is interesting to follow the shift that occurred during her residence in Metelkova. In the past, the artist would focus on the world of emotions as an answer to the happenings around her. In the recent years of her creativity, issues like social inequality and social crisis in Slovenian society, corruptibility and a generally poor position of an individual in the society have emerged into the forefront. Her work can be understood as a personal reaction to the changes in the society, or to the wrongs felt by a commoner on his/her own skin. This is quite obvious in her work Pushed into… (Pahnjeni v ..., 2012), where its symbolic figure is – meaningfully - turned upside down, as if heading into a precipice. The artist's longing for a change is embodied by a cat, entitled the Evil Catcher (Lovilec zla, 2011), possessing a magical power of instantly changing the societal spirit by spell-casting look. The artist admits that the reasons for the revival of her critical view were the altered living conditions, as well as the environment she operates in.

Meta Kastelic is a Metelkovian artist. It is not of vital importance that in her creative practice she – contrary to many artists from Metelkova - does not use the technique of recycling, or that she finds the aesthetics of the underground somewhat strange. The question of Metelkovian art, and if it exists at all, has not found a convincing answer yet. It is, undoubtedly, linked not only to the aesthetic aspect, but also to the common values of the space. Meta Kastelic, regularly collaborating with others on the principle of mutual exchanging of the skills, Do-It-With-Others, in her discussions keeps mentioning a woman's anger and a social sense as the driving forces of her creativity, which points to her commitment to the ethos of Metelkova.

The work of Meta Kastelic is primarily dedicated to the exploration of the sensual in sculpture, in both, her undergraduate as well as her masters' study that she completed in 2013 at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. The sensual in her works always comes in big physical dimensions. Her works like Give me a Break! (Dejte mi mir!, 2009), and At the Bottom (Na dnu, 2007), are two of the works of a strongly emphasized sensual component. The installation Give Me a Break! is an answer to overloading of the senses as a consequence of the stress we experience in our current lifestyle. The installation consists of transparent elements hanging from the ceiling, a blue spotlight, a triptych entitled A Blue Picture with a Golden Line (Modra slika z zlato črto, 2009), a sound, composed of whale singing, and the refrain of Another Brick in the Wall, a Pink Floyd's track, and a big blue cushion, that a visitor can sink into. The merging of all these elements offers a real anti-stress programme of relaxation and tender feelings in the blueness of a dream world. In the At the Bottom installation, the author uses sound as the means for arousing emotional reactions of the viewers. The sound is part of the Help (2007) video, and represents an edit of Help, a The Beatles' track, blended with recordings of a heart beat we can hear during the moments when overwhelmed with anxiety. This is exactly what the autobiographic artwork talks about. Jadranka Ljubičič (3) wrote, in 2007, at a students' exhibition entitled The Fourth (Četrti), at the Kresija Gallery (4), about a figure representing the point of gravity of a multi-media installation, symbolising a Medusa, a mythological monster, petrifying everyone who dares look at her. The figure, lying on a bed, with a head from baked clay in raku technique, and mighty white tentacles stretching out from her body, in its standstill really evokes awe. The stillness of the lying “monster” that petrified itself by looking at the video projection above her, speaks about despair and anxiety, bound to the inability to move that the artist experienced after an accident. She was lying still in a hospital bed for a lengthy period of time with fractured spine, her only focus being the red button, able to call a nurse, or an analgesic. In the same manner is the lying figure petrifying (itself), looking at the video of a red hospital-bed button.

Meta Kastelic received a Student Prešeren Award at the Department of Sculpture, at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubjana, in 2008, for her diploma thesis and the accompanying artworks, including a four-metre long, a good one-and-a-half-metre wide, and almost two metres high installation entitled Too Much! (Preveč!, 2007) representing one of her works at the retrospective exhibition at the Alkatraz Gallery. Shinny yellow, put together of steel construction frame and coated with aluminium plates, a “submarine” has, in its interior, a playing video loop. Inducible for the creation of this particular artwork was a tune of the group The Beatles, Yellow Submarine, that had crawled into the author's consciousness, resonating there for a long time. Contrary to the feelings evoked by a romantic idyll of living together under the sunny sky and green waves, as in the track, the artist's version seems entertaining and wonderful only from the outside. Inside the submarine, the smallness of the space causes the feelings of uneasiness. The video, showing water bubbles heading towards the sea surface, and into tinkling changed the refrain of the mentioned track, mixed with people's cries and shouts, additionally intensifies the feeling of claustrophobia. The work talks about a life's ups and downs that we are all trapped in, because we lack the will, the energy and the means to break this evil circle and step out. So we just go with the flow that leads us sometimes deeper down, and other times closer to the surface; just like in case of a submarine.

At the time of her masters study Meta Kastelic took part in the call for arrangement of a town square in Mozirje, when her proposal for a statue shared the first place. In 2012 she received an important commission for a public space statue. A bust of Adolf Jenko is located in the very centre of Ljubljana, in front of the Kazina building, at Kongresni trg. After an anonymous assessment of the works at the 16th Slovenian Sculptural Exhibition of the Sculpture Association, in 2012, according to the selection by the expert committee (dr. Petja Grafenauer, vice-mayor MOL prof. Janez Koželj, director MGML Blaž Peršin, Lena Jevnik of the Cultural department, and M.F.A. Zora Stančič), she received the first prize for the work Pushed into, representing part of her masters’ opus. At the bottom of a ladder of a warm brown colour there is a contracted, wooden, tinted blue, and turned-upside-down figure. It seems to have - head down - just plunged on a hard ground, completely squashing her head. The contracted body, as if stiff and numb from horror, emphasized by the cold blue colour - from old days used in art to demonstrate the death and passing. The installation shows the no-way-out position of an individual in the contemporary society, where employment and education hardly ensure bare survival, let alone promotion on the social ladder, while neoliberalism is unstoppably devouring the rights acquired at the time of the socialism. With regards to the sculpture the author has, about the conditions in culture, for Mladina magazine, stated: “To summarize my current conditions, I could say that the sculpture that should speak about a commoner in our society, heading downhill, is a self-portrait.”(5) The installation Fly, or Stay Lying (Leteti ali (ob)ležati, 2013), represents a kind of a pre-stage of the previous one, content-wise. It represents a figure with glass wings, looking like a chiselled out gem, partly still captured in the bearing stone, surrounded by prints on waxcloth, and a video An Angel (Angel, 2005). One of the statue’s wings is broken and tied to the other by thread; however, regardless of that, still in a position ready to fly, indicating its interest to fight for survival, even though already half lost.

In the most recent period, the artist has been engaged in primarily socio-critical projects, exposing people’s situations, ethical values of our society, yet not renouncing the sensual in her works. In her work Sugar Castle (Sladkorni grad, 2010), she offers a view on the situation from a different angle. The installation is a comment on greed and accumulation of material goods, of no value when compared with one’s health, contentment, and happiness. A wonderful castle, constructed from sugar cubes with gelatine roofs, with a backdrop projection of a moment of happiness from a life of a child, with water dripping on it, ruining it, like the tooth of time biting into everything perishable.

Her most recent work, Feed the Child (Nahrani otroka), 2014, is a statue of a pregnant women, in dark clay, behind which there is a dim projection of a video of national country flags, waving in the wind, interwoven with a picture of a baby, and the roaring of the Ljubljanica under the Triple Bridge, in the background. It speaks about how difficult it is to take care of one’s child, physically as well as psychologically, in such times when people are not able to take a decent care of their own selves. It is a reflection of the artist’s own life, and the problems parents encounter when bringing up their children. The overview exhibition at the Alkatraz gallery, bearing the title after this most recent artwork, establishes Meta Kastelic as a sensible and sensitive sculptor, tackling various topics through a reflection of her own position, and experience in the social milieu.

Ana Grobler, Sebastian Krawczyk, Jadranka Plut




(1) Meta Kastelic, Sensual in Sculpting (Čutno v kiparstvu), diploma thesis, the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, 2008, p. 6

(2)Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception, Student publishing house, Ljubljana, 2006, p. 12

(3) Now Jadranka Plut

(4)Maja Smrekar, Art_Area: 87, Radio Student, at: http://old.radiostudent.si/article.php?sid=11360&newlang=english, 14 March 2007

(5) Petja Grafenauer, Cultural Workers in Crisis. How do Slovenian artists and cultural workers really live? A promising artist working at a building site to survive; a translator working for culture for free; a curator and an art critic seriously contemplating a change of profession (Kulturniki v krizi. Kako v resnici živijo slovenski umetniki in kulturniki? Obetaven umetnik za preživetje dela na gradbišču, prevajalec za kulturo dela zastonj, kustos in kritik pa resno razmišlja o menjavi poklica), Mladina, at: http://www.mladina.si/117213/kulturniki-v-krizi/, 26 Oct. 2012

Meta Kastelic, Pahnjeni v..., 2011 Meta Kastelic, Nahrani otroka, 2014