Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interview regarding -Live to Tell-*, conducted for -Finalists-; group show presenting recent acquisitions by Filip Trade collection

* Live to Tell is the work initially shown as the part of Anatomies of Caution exhibition. To see the images & more info on presented works, follow the links.


1. The painting Live to Tell is the most recent work from the exhibition Anatomies of Caution (March 2009, HDLU Croatian Association of Artists, Zagreb). How did this painting originate?

The painting was made for the exhibition and as part of the series. It is the last work from that series and the last one painted prior to the opening. But like all my works, it has a story of its own. It is a sequel to the previous work called The Last Minute. My main preoccupation in Live to Tell was to further develop the narration.

2. How often do you link paintings by using narrative?

This is the first and so far only work in which I have done this. There is no indication that I will be using this in the future. The infatuation which was greatly inspired by the specific film genre mentioned in my text about the painting, as well as by the entire theme which is quite close to me, generated the primary motivation for the decision about making a sequel. I wanted to see whether it was possible to achieve a similar effect in a static medium such as this one. In terms of genre, it would be an “adventure” and, from a wider perspective, human resourcefulness in certain situations. It was a question of how to transfer the protagonists from one work to another.

3. It is interesting that you say you wanted to continue the idea of the adventure of those protagonists even though they are not depicted?

I wanted to continue the idea in terms of narration, not as a scriptwriter with the power of guiding the development of the plot by following the principles of the sequence of events, but in terms of the complexity of the depicted scene which with its four corners does things which are at the same time ambiguous and ambivalent.

4. Why did you choose cataclysm as the central theme of your paintings?

I find it interesting that despite threats and fear, the leitmotifs of our age, we often live under the impression that our existence is somehow protected and that the threat and danger are “elsewhere”. But even a single incident, like the recent flu epidemic, can cause colossal panic, which clearly shows how vulnerable and unprotected we really are. The safety we feel is based on a fragile foundation. I believe that this glass bubble often takes us through the whole of life without ever questioning some basic facts we encounter on a daily basis.

Hypothetically, only in the depicted situation do we revaluate this kind of knowledge. It is quite sad that the best solution I could come up with was like something out of a cartoon, pulling a string to tip over a box shutting in the mouse trying to get a piece of cheese.

Leaving out only one link, one element from our everyday life, leads to complete chaos. This was the logic by which I chose the motifs in the painting. For example, the comic element in the front plane: this object should suggest aluminium foil with the purpose of collecting sunlight and charging the cell-phone lying in front of it. This, of course, is a naive idea. To the same extent it is also ironic, because the need for a cell-phone in the given context of lost, stranded people is actually absurd.

5. Do you wish to point to a certain problem with this, to pose the question: “What if this happens, would the situation really look like this?”

Of course, the work was created in order to set forth my observations, however ridiculous they might be. A number of times I have found myself having a conversation with someone about similar issues. But that is not enough. Only through the approach of systematic thinking and the attempt to transform the given problem into a visual medium – in my case, paintings – do I manage to define my outlook and, hopefully, draw attention to it.

6. The details in your paintings are worked out with great precision. Why do you depict motifs in such detail?

I needed a scene that evokes present reality. The reason why I painted the American postal service label on one of the boxes in Live to Tell is not because I see America as the best representative for some global situation, but because of a certain coincidence. I had received a package from e-Bay and the box with that very label ended up in my studio. The reference is actually quite clear and this type of specific labelling suggests a whole array of shipping companies such as Fed-Ex, DHL, etc., which are in fact part of the Western culture.

In order to achieve that, I had to adopt a more descriptive mode of explaining, which required a more emphasised and precise way of illustrating.

7. It is interesting that you use the visual identity of the same brands you own and use in your life.

Well, yes. This is quite an important fact. The production of an image, in my case, is quite a long process which requires a concentrated realization of various elements. It is quite difficult to preserve motivation or connection towards a certain motif if I don’t have an affirmative aesthetic attitude towards it. Therefore, the objects, just like the people who are present in my works, have to be emotionally important to me. Regardless of the fact that I may not know them, those are the people who I think about intensively and frequently. While I was working on the figure of Kittinger, that person was David Herman Dune.

8. Could you explain the title of the work Live to Tell? Is the role of the titles to provide an additional component or guidance for possible interpretation?

That is a phrase from the English language containing an association good enough for the context of the work. The title becomes evident from the text written for the work, which I originally write in English. And that is the reason why some of my works don’t have Croatian translations, because of the subtle changes in meaning.

9. All of your paintings and texts can be found on your blog weakersoldier.blogspot.com. What is its purpose?

I use the blog primarily as a means of communication. I use it to make my work more accessible to a greater number of people than would be possible in some other way. I also need it in order to avoid mistaken interpretations of the context of works. This is the part over which I try to have control by providing the primary information myself.

Its secondary purpose is to record my art practice chronologically, thus serving as my personal archive.

The web address weaker soldier is also the name of a song by Bonnie “Prince” Billy. However, that is just the web address; the real name of the blog carries my name. That is a minor detail that shouldn’t grab people’s attention.

10.At the exhibition the texts were shown next to the paintings. In this way you form a complete whole. Do you consider text as a constitutive part of your work?

It certainly is a part of my work. If I, for example, took the position of a silent creator who only “serves” his works for others to see and completely analyse, there is no way that anyone could conclude that, for example, Live to Tell is actually a sequel to the story in The Last Minute. I think that it is vital to provide the context in which the works are being made, at least in my case.

My big obsession, and what was important for the exhibition, was my need to take control over the final product as much as possible and in this sense I didn’t want to leave any space for any “wrong” interpretations. I saw the interview as a pretty good way to present my ideas clearly and to define my position as precisely as possible before the works were presented to the public.

But even more than my fear of criticism is my fear of wrong interpretation. This is just one of the positions, but it’s mine, the position of the author. I believe that the author/artist is the one who primarily has the responsibility towards the presentation of their work. The role of the text which accompanied the paintings was to carry that message.

11. How many works do you produce during a span of a year and what is the reason for this?

I paint a maximum of six to seven paintings a year. On average, it takes two to three months for each painting. A great deal of time goes into research on the given topic. When all required elements are ready and when my main premise is defined, I then start dealing with the visual template. This is often quite time-consuming because the research of the visual aspect of the work comes down to browsing stacks of photo libraries in search of satisfying examples which in the end serve as an archive of the elements comprising the image. Only then does the technical process of the creation of a painting follow. The process as such is long and systematic; it requires consistent work and concentration.

12.Which art collections have acquired your works so far? How do you feel about being a part of an art collection?

So far my works can be found in three collections: the Essl Collection, the Museum of Young Art in Vienna and the Filip Trade Collection. Being part of a collection is an affirmation of my artistic position. And this is a great thing so far.

There is also the question of promotion of the works, but this belongs to the sphere of curatorial practices and strategies of different museums and collections. It is a very broad question and I don’t think I’m the right person to discuss it. Basically, I think that it should be in everyone’s interest, as often as possible, to present all the works in the collections in different contexts and in as many locations as possible.


Interview conducted by Mihaela Richter. Translated from Croatian by Sanja Horvatinčić