07. 01. 2022 - 13. 02. 2022
Photo: Robert Ograjenšek / © Adrijan Praznik

Painting exhibition 

7. 1.−13. 2. 2022

The Absent Presence of the Body

Adrijan Praznik plays various roles in the world of art – he is a painter, illustrator, curator, producer and artistic director of Simulaker Gallery in Novo mesto. In January 2022, he completed a two-year artist residency at MGLC Švicarija. Upon his departure, he prepared the exhibition --WHERE OUR HEARTS HAVE LED US... The spatial installation of two large-scale paintings raises questions that illustrate his work and research focus in 2021 particularly. Namely, he is concerned with the form and status of the artwork, the appropriation of the media image and the combination of pictorial means of expression (the monochromatic use of colour, the aesthetic and poetic image of words) as well as materials (fabric on canvas, objecthood of the canvas). 

The artist exhibits two large-scale canvases (250 x 177 cm) that are juxtaposed in dialogue and relation to the multi-purpose space in Švicarija, i.e., the Star Studio, where exhibiting restrictions pose a particular challenge due to cultural heritage and monument preservation requirements. At the same time, the artist draws on the history of art, painting and literature, and reflects on them philosophically. His art practice no longer culminates in the studio (e.g., like in his last two solo shows, Setup Attempt at Alkatraz Gallery and Repetition at GalerijaGallery in Ljubljana) but is expanded by the arrangement in the gallery space. It reflects on "the painting as a kind of prop, when the gaze is drawn from the artworks to the frames, pedestals, reproductions and other approaches that establish a particular piece as a work of art. /... / The painting becomes the result of media transfer, the appropriation of mass images (could be a short text, slogan...) found by the artist on the internet, in magazines or elsewhere, and captured in the painting support."1      

In addition to reflecting on the conditions of production and the position of the artist in the art world, this exhibition is characterised by the materiality of the image: format, colour (black and white) and textile collage. This time, Praznik moves away from exploring the “still life of the image”,2  as he describes in one of the explanatory texts and focuses on the materiality and absence of colour (choosing only black and white) as well as on folding and layering (textile collage). The text, which is also the title of the painting, remains captured in a comic-like speech bubble on the canvas and has no (recognisable) image. The pieces of fabric covered with thick layers of paint also merely indicate their former use. We can only speculate about their functionality; the body that wore or used the fabrics can only be guessed at. 

Here Praznik performs a formal and semantic turn − the absence of image and body becomes the presence of the same image and body. Part of this presence can be perceived immanently through the painting-as-object, whereas part is present irrationally in the mental and intuitive relationship to the image. As in his previous exhibitions, the artist has taken a new step to think beyond painting. 

Dušan Dovč 

[1] Praznik, Adrijan, Repetition, accompanying text to the exhibition in GalerijaGallery, 14. 9.−9. 10. 2021.
[2] Ibid.


The Irrational in Painting 

At the end of 2020, my creative path changed through a personal experience. A number of events conspired that I found completely unreasonable, unpredictable and downright absurd, but which led me to the themes I am currently exploring in my art practice. I describe this overarching theme of the new series of paintings best with the category "irrational". Something that cannot be explained with knowledge about the world (external or internal), something that we cannot explain with reason alone. It is the human tendency to plan and anticipate that makes us create simulations about future events and measure the accuracy of our projections... But actually, there are constant deviations, inconsistencies and absurdities in our actions. It is these "errors" that are the focus of my new series of paintings.

Philosophy and literature are important points of reference in this painting series, much more so than references in the field of painting or art theory, for example. Albert Camus and the philosophy of the absurd are essentially about the inconsistencies mentioned above, about man's search for meaning, which is inherently elusive. As a society and as individuals, we like to have coherent and consistent ideas of who and what we are. However, this idea is created day by day. We want a stable and clear identity, but we have to make the effort and maintain a certain state in order to achieve it, which is impossible in the long run. Sooner or later there is change, breakdown, transformation... I also refer to other authors like Paul Auster and his novel the New York Trilogy3,  in which he deals with human identity and the history of literature. The trilogy is a meta-history that talks about the stories themselves and how they arise. I am particularly fascinated by how "identity" is integrated into the above written. I wonder who we are and what our interpersonal dynamics are. The new series could be about intimistic portraits and in-depth exploration of human "existence" itself. In the science fiction novel Solaris4,  Stanisław Lem portrays humans as mirrors in which we can recognise ourselves. The idea of discovering the universe is not so much about the "unknown" in the cosmos, but about the desire to take what we know – life on Earth – to all parts of the world. We do this not because we like to discover the unknown, but because we want to discover ourselves again and again. 

I see the creative act of the new series of paintings as the dissolution of the irrational with the irrational since it would be senseless to explain the senseless. The painting support is the ideal medium in this case because I can use it to answer the unanswerable. And I do that with all the elation and intuition that I have. As Mark Rothko, for example, says, his works are full of anger and rage (at least during their creation), yet viewers experience his paintings as much more contemplative or even calming. Rothko is also a reference for the formal side of the paintings as they are predominantly monochrome – for now, large black and/or white surfaces covering a ground created using the technique of textile collage. The fabrics break through as highlights at the edges of the paintings giving the impression that something is hidden beneath the applications of paint. Pieces of fabric or clothing appear in a variety of hues, patterns and textures that contrast with the non-chromatic surfaces. The fabric suggests an emptiness or absence, the garments call out to the body they belonged to. The layers of material adds to the relief of the works, which comes closer to assemblage and looks more like a typical sculptural process than flat collage. Light and shadow in the pieces are outlined by intersecting shapes. Often the paintings remind me of Hard Edge Painting or the Informel period. But these terms are misleading because they belong to a different period. The paintings are also populated by found text and other symbols that give them new expressive dimensions. In this web of associations, I could also identify with concrete poetry or a kind of "dark" pop art, post-media painting... 

Even though I want to move away from the individual styles/periods with the series, I try to think out of these frames and build each painting in its own way. I try to achieve the look of the final image by condensing and layering materials, using different artistic approaches, overpainting or a palimpsest quality in the images as well as a clearly physical (material) embodiment of individual thoughts and feelings. I cannot say that the paintings are like a window when the support opens our eyes to the illusion of the real world, nor are they paintings-as-objects or screen painting. In this series, the paintings are in the function of the body. Just as, in the complete absence of sound, we hear our own heartbeat. And just as, in complete darkness, something flashes before our eyes. That is how I want to represent the body with these works, precisely with the absence of the body itself. It is the alchemy of the human condition to seek that which is known to us. And if it is not, we transform this unknown with the projection of our own selves.

Adrijan Praznik 

[3] Auster, Paul, The New York Trilogy, Faber and Faber Limited, 2004.
[4] Lem, Stanisław, Solaris, Faber and Faber Limited, 2016.


Exhibited works 

paper and textile collage, acrylic emulsion and oil on canvas, 250 x 177 cm, 2021

paper and textile collage, acrylic emulsion and oil on canvas, 250 x 177 cm, 2020–2021

Adrijan Praznik (1988, Ljubljana) graduated in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. In 2017–2018, he attended the School of Curatorial Practice and Critical Writing, World of Art (SCCA-Ljubljana). He has presented his work in numerous (90) group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad. He works as artistic director of the Simulaker Gallery in Novo mesto as part of the LokalPatriot Institute. LokalPatriot is the partner organisation of the konS project, where Adrijan Praznik works as a curator and producer. 

As a curator and producer, he has collaborated with artists and artist groups such as P L A T E AU R E S I D U E, BridA/Tom Kerševan, Sendi Mango, Jurij Pavlica, Goran Bertok, Uroš Weinberger, FaceOrFactory/Eva Smrekar and Aljaž Rudolf, Nejc Trampuž, Barbara Drev and many others. In 2015 and 2019, he was awarded an artist grant by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia. In 2019, his work was included in the group exhibition Time Without Innocence. Contemporary Painting in Slovenia curated by dr. Martina Vovk at the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana. In May 2021, he presented his work in the solo show Setup Attempt at Alkatraz Gallery in Ljubljana and the group exhibition The next 21 days will be crucial at Škuc Gallery in Ljubljana. In September, he presented himself with the solo exhibition Repetition at GalerijaGallery in Ljubljana and showcased his work in the international art fair viennacontemporary 2021 in Vienna. From January 2020 to January 2022, he had a working and living studio at MGLC Švicarija. He lives and works in Ljubljana.

Two young artists, selected through a public call for submissions, live and work at the MGLC Švicarija creative and residential centre for two years. Through exhibitions, we accompany their creative process and support them in production and promotion. 

Production: MGLC
Curator: Dušan Dovč
Installation concept: Adrijan Praznik
Special thanks: Goran Bertok, Simon Gmajner, Lara Malec, Lenart Merlin, Tomaž Pezdirc, Jan Pogorelec, Katja Vidovič, Projekt Atol