Exhibition by Gasper Jemec


Gasper Jemec conceived his most recent project, Latitudes / Sirjave, as a precisely premeditated visual trap for the viewer. Jemec knows very well who he is dealing with, and that the modern observer is not a naïve, inexperienced individual who can easily be enchanted by objective illusionism, the pure sensuality of a rough, thick stroke of the painter’s brush, or by visionary images created by the painter’s imagination. The eye of today’s observer has acquired mastery while viewing and selecting visible impulses, which we receive in diverse forms and from all sides, from screens in our homes and at work, when taking books, magazines and newspapers into our hands, visiting multiplex theatres or driving past advertisement areas and illuminated billboards.

Jemec’s project is created for today, yet at the same time carries within itself a history. Latitudes originated in New York in 1999, when Jemec began to paint the large diptych Latitudes (121 x 370 cm) in acrylic colours, but failed to complete it. The new colours he discovered at the time, acrylic gelatins, fascinated him to such a degree with their viscosity, transparency, synthetic appearance, sticky tactility and glittering quality that he used only these for the next six years. Not only did he employ a new painting technique, but compared to his previous works, also radically reduced the use of colours to various tones ranging from black to white.

This past winter (2005/06), Jemec decided to complete his New York painting and return to classic acrylic paints and the rich range of colours used in his early phase. This was not only a formal return, but also a change of content, a reminiscence of all that New York with its fabulous modernistic and postmodernistic painting tradition, heroic sizes of paintings, as well as astounding city dimensions, size of the ocean and feverish tempo of living represents to a young painter.

Yet in present-day art, the beginning and completion of a painting is not necessarily the final phase of the artist’s realization of an idea. For Jemec, Latitudes, though complete as a painting, is not merely an object for display, but the initiator of a new act. While continuing to preserve the status of an exclusive work of art (artistic specimen or creation) existing for itself alone, it can also serve as a printing matrix in the project-thinking structure of the modern artist.

It was this kind of procedure that Gasper Jemec followed for this project exhibition. He used the painting as the central image in the transformation process and reproduced it as a print on Plexiglass, capturing the “authenticity” of the transfer together with all details preserving the appearance of the painter’s strokes on canvas. The image on the screen, illuminated by light from the background, clearly shows and exposes the printed colour surfaces and the process of their formation. The original integrity and completeness of the painting is currently the subject of new debates. The painting may be optionally disassembled and assembled, a fragment (of the painting) can become a new whole, a detail may be enlarged and brought closer to the viewer, and the presently conceived three-part structure is only one of several possibilities.

The blending shapes, their overlappings, layerings, collaged cutouts and geometrical shapes allude to the actual appearance of spatial formations in a distant landscape, as if observed from a bird’s-eye view. Gasper Jemec does not avoid allusive details and in his painting does not conceal associative shapes which, in the interweaving of diverse colour surfaces and lines in varying projections, can represent: a port with a ship, clouds, sea, platforms. Our view is only able to capture the powerful spatial dimension of the painting, traveling from the space formations of the underwater world through the earthly layers towards the sky. The colour distribution is elementary: the sky is blue, the hills are green, and the white-grey clouds appear fossilized and sculpted. “My borderless landscape”, the painter calls it. Appearing before him and ourselves is a world that is civilized, arranged from a chaos of shapes. This is a symbolic paysage of the artist’s idealized vision of the world as he would like to see it. Discovering in the known is still possible, and those who are curious and open can perceive a new broadening of the world.

Though it is true that, in the artist’s vision, the world is a limited expanse, for it involves a display that is always limited, the enrichment of a painting with radiating light is what adds a new dimension to a series of old media sensations. The previous, passive painting has been replaced with a new, active one that no longer depends on the light falling on it, for it has its own source of light which it radiates. Active light gives the image greater visibility, which is independent of external conditions. It allows the painting to broaden its effective presence in time, expanding through its setup in a publicly accessible passageway the threshold of its accessibility to the public.

The question of light is emphasized by the arrangement of coloured surfaces in contrast to black. We are therefore entering into a painting dialogue between darkness and light, between the invisible and the visible, between the monochromatism of a pure colour block in blackness, proclamatorily calling attention to the absence of colour, and the plurality of lively traces of coloured paint. The contrast between black and the luminous, rich and colourful surface is reminiscent of viewing a picture at the cinema; a hundred years back this could have been the effect of a stained-glass window in a gothic cathedral, and still farther back it could have been the apparition of animals illuminated by the light of torches on a cave wall. In remembering how we experienced works of art in the past, we are confronted with the dimension of time extending from the present into the past. As our eye travels amidst the colour surfaces and blackness, it passes from a defined and known space into the unknown dimensions of the universe, which is symbolically represented by two large black planes on the top and bottom.

The stroke of a painter who simultaneously reveals his fascination with the light radiated by modern lighting without denying his fetishist attachment to painting fills us with enthusiasm. Confronted with a painter’s ambitious desire to create the illusion of an enormous space without borders and, despite feeling lost, to find a place in this space for the viewer, we gladly surrender ourselves to such art while realizing the idealistic nature of such concepts. Another thing one shouldn’t forget is that this is the view of an individual looking on the world from a distance. Now we, too, have been included in the broadness of this expanse where, removed from reality, we float, observe and contemplate.


Nadja Zgonik, PhD

Ljubljana, 2006


Author bio

Nadja Zgonik, born in 1964, is an art historian and art critic. She received PhD from the Department of Art History at the Faculty of Arts, University in Ljubljana in 1997. Since 1989, she is a lecturer of art history at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana. She was one of the founders and the first editor of M'ars, the magazine of the Museum of Modern Art Ljubljana. She has been the curator of several exhibition, some of them were projects for specific places (1995 – Gustav Gnamus at Spital's Chapel, Celje; 1997 – Wise Hand: Art – Science – Technology, Rihard Jakopic Gallery, Ljubljana; 1997 – The Cabinet of Found Objects – Exhibition of Artist's Personal Fetishes, Obalne galerije, Koper). She also curated exhibitions of contemporary Slovene art abroad (TAIEX, Bruxelles; Kunstforum, Bonn; MIB, Trieste). In 1994 she published a book Marij Pregelj. A Drawing into a Painting (M'ars Series, Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana), in 2001 a book about Slovene painter Zdenko Huzjan (Pomurska zalozba, Murska Sobota) and Images of the Slovene national identity (Nova revija, Ljubljana).