LIFE IS MY BEST FRIEND, visual installation by Gasper Jemec @ studio1.1 London, UK

13 June – 8 July

private view TUESDAY 12 June 6 – 9 pm

studio1.1 is delighted to welcome Slovenian artist Gasper Jemec to his first solo show in the UK. He will be transforming the gallery with an installation the final form of which will be determined on-site. With the gallery walls dematerialised, hung with flimsy netting into which small box-like sculptures of wood and styrofoam will be integrated, ‘the sculptures will appear’ as the artist says, ‘as if they cannot live without nets, and vice versa’; the walls change from their usual existence as neutral background, into the atmosphere in which the artworks are given life. A visit to the gallery shifts its focus, becomes a predominately sensory (even a sensual) experience.

Gasper Jemec (born in Kranj, Slovenia in 1975) currently lives and works in Ljubljana. After undergraduate and graduate degrees in painting and media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, he added postgraduate work in painting at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and in sculpture at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Jemec’s work has been presented in a variety of international institutions and galleries including the Venice Biennale in 2003.

A brochure with the essay “Into the Web; Exploring Gasper Jemec’s Life is My Best Friend” by Charles A. Riley II will accompany the exhibition.

Keran James
Michael Keenan


­­­­­Into the Web

Exploring Gasper Jemec’s Life is My Best Friend


So Summer, jangling the savagest diamonds and

Dressed in its azure-doubled crimsons,

May truly bear its heroic fortunes

For the large, the solitary figure.

--Wallace Stevens, “Examination of the Hero in a Time of War”


As you enter Gasper Jemec’s Life is My Best Friend, a phantasmagorical  Gesamtkunstwerk that surrounds you in a constellation of painted “objects” suspended in a net, you realize that the hierarchy of art and life is a special relationship. You also concede that sometimes the best guide to understanding it, rather than the philosopher and expert in aesthetics, is one who lives and breathes the studio life even to the point that he brings it wholesale to the gallery. Each gem of sculpture and painting in this joyfully choreographed ballet of color and form resides on an epistemological plane that surmounts the mere coordinates of the place and even of the time. A high-toned painting attached to a sculptural form, an “object” in the artist’s terminology, floats at an odd angle, away from you and also from the wall. The hybrid nature of the work is manifold – it is neither painting nor sculpture and this is not exactly an installation work (the pieces are too precious) nor is it a standard gallery array of paintings and sculpture. The subtext involves the elements that, light as air, still endure: “Ars longa, vita brevis.”

The curatorial approach to art history, which would consider the means of presenting the art as carefully as the art itself, has come full circle to the experience that Jemec seeks in deploying this network of beauty. After the sensory overload of the thousands of sculptures and paintings that would climb the walls and crowd the halls of the Parisian salons well into the twentieth century, museums and galleries began to train us, a la Pavlov, to experience each painting or sculpture in isolation in a pristine white cube, digested one at a time and with a certain detached focus that rendered unto the painting or sculpture its temporal and formal due. The spatial rules were simple (the painting lies flat on the wall, the flatter the better, squared by plum line to the floor and hung via certain formulae before our pupils). Once conceptual art took hold, in its often messy way, to challenge that premise, the walls and corners of galleries were put into play in a far different manner, but too often the result was a carnival, a joke, rather than a serious and rigorous meditation on art and meaning. The best recent examples of the genre take it more seriously, including the suspension of colorful blown glass vessels in the installations of Judy Pfaff or the more cerebral works of Sarah Tze. I believe that Jemec has transcended that problem, returning in a certain way to the salon-style but investing it with a flowing, dynamic kinesis. Consider the soft pencil marks of the elegant drawings (an academically trained draughtsman, his works on paper would make a great exhibition in themselves) he made to explore the way the web would hang and the objects would be deployed, including the bright blue glider that soars by one wall. They have the fluidity and lyricism of Baroque studies for paintings, shuttling between the two-dimensionality of an abstract grid and the three-dimensionality of a contour study, an important dialogue in the work of an artist who plays the planar against the sculptural. More important, he has used the net and the black sculptural supports he has designed to highlight the art rather than to divert from its weakness (one of the problems with installation was the quality issue – the aesthetic or technical level of the constituent elements was lacking not just seriousness but the intensity that art should provide).  The perfect introduction to Jemec’s thought about the way in which art can be presented is not a Whitney Biennial conceptualist but a familiar, perhaps old-fashioned masterpiece. As homework for an encounter with Jemec’s work, revisit Henri Matisse’s Red Studio. The prevailing color, that bright bath of crimson that floods the yellow and blue undertones, functions like the nets that Jemec has draped in the gallery. For Matisse, the field of strong red surrounds, like an aura, a group of paintings and sculpture that he has rendered in their “true” tones, as though they were the only real things in a Platonic realm of essences. It is not just a great painting, it is a philosophical statement about what is real and what is merely contingent. The phenomenological assertion is as bold as it is clear: Only the art works are real in the world of the studio. Jemec in a similar way has inverted the known hierarchy of the real world and the aesthetic. For him the suspended paintings take on a significance and presence that nothing in the world surrounding them can claim. The equilibrium tilts from the priority of the world and its reality to the reality of art. As Jemec himself posits, “The walls should appear more illusionistic and against them the sculptures are like the true materialization of essence, like stones or hard metal machines with gentle or tender interiors.”

Clearly a polymath when it comes to art’s many media and styles, Gasper Jemec’s career has been as international as it is multidisciplinary. His father is an artist and academician and his mother a distinguished art historian. He grew up in Ljubljana, now in Slovenia (formerly Yugoslavia). After undergraduate and graduate degrees in painting and media at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, he added postgraduate work in painting at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania and in sculpture at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. His work has reached audiences in exhibitions from Slovenia to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom. He has had studios in Indiana, Los Angeles, New York, Vienna, Hamburg, Sakaide, Valencia, Moscow and London. Just as some wine travels well from its terroir, so too some art and poetry maintains its qualities no matter where it is received. As Jemec says, reflecting on the global course of his exhibition history, “Great megapolises like London and New York have progressiveness in common, the sparkling and dynamic impulse of life that I feel and create to.”

That “sparkling and dynamic impulse” is vividly felt in one of the most absorbing moments in the exhibition offers a suite of what the artist calls “little paintings” (9,4 x 7,1 inches) floating on a black sculptural support that is in turn cantilevered to the wall. Out of this ensemble, a soft white drapery billows in an elegant curve that he has drawn in long continuous strokes of his pencil, emphasizing its legato continuity. The scale of the paintings may be modest, and that of the supporting materials grander, but there is a continuity between them upon which Jemec insists: “I see all media as a installation. One happens to be two-dimensional, the other three. Because any object (imaginable element) always exists in relationship to everything else and we can refer as well to our minds/emotions/hearts.”

We have admired the scope and delicacy of the installation. For a moment, let’s pause to appreciate the individual objects caught in the web, and admire their own inner lyricism. A particularly endearing work is a boldly colored vertical painting “Michelle”, in Jemec’s signature material, viscous acrylic gelatin on canvas. It is reminiscent of a masterpiece of Symbolism. One of the major precedents for the ways in which the passages of high color interlock is a small but important painting that hangs in a side gallery of the Musee D’Orsay. Legendary in its time among a small coterie of avant-garde artists that included Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Edouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis, it was painted by one of the less-famous members of the Nabis (or “Prophets”), Paul Serusier. The little work is called The Talisman and its vivid use of gold, white and green in particular unleashed the chromatic power of those other painters in an almost magical way. Serusier would have loved the brash way that Jemec has let undulating “mountains” of silver and orange (one of his favorite top notes) interact. Another of the “objects” is a vibrant amalgam of an atmospheric painting in a range of blues and greens that interact delicately on one face of a black box, while on its top a bouncy yellow foam rectangle announces like a trumpet fanfare the jaunty, clear-edged color field painting on the verso, in many ways a counterpoint to the gestural abstraction on the other side. It is impossible not to say “aha!” as we round the corner and encounter it, a reaction that delights the artist: “I think it is important that the viewer tries to understand that dynamics has in every time (era) different shape and color (body). Surprises are to enjoy. They have, for me, the importance of miracles. Until we understand them, they represent the gravitation that holds our focus.”

Charles A. Riley II, PhD

New York, May 2012


Author bio

Charles A. Riley II, PhD is an arts journalist, curator and professor at the City University of New York. He is the author of thirty books on art, architecture and public policy, including The Jazz Age in France (Abrams), Aristocracy and the Modern Imagination, The Saints of Modern Art, and Color Codes (University Press of New England), and Sacred Sister (in collaboration with the noted avant-garde theater director Robert Wilson). He is a guest curator at the Chimei Museum in Taiwan and curator-at-large for the Nassau County Museum of Art in New York and has presented many exhibitions devoted to Rodin, Picasso, Surrealism and contemporary art.



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