Bojan Kovačič's mature visual expression was formed as one of the individualized practices in Slovenian art which have been described as 'autopoetics' and are nothing but personal idiolects in which modernism persisted at the side of postmodernism well into the 1990s. The artist pursued a manner of direct expression by means tested in the automatic drawing of the 1980s. He soon realized that processuality, which appears as an obstacle to the direct expression, is inseparable from printmaking. Whatever a printmaker does to his plate, the impression is always its other. This is at the heart of Kovačič's knowledge. Where his prints do not conform to the definition of idiolects is the question of expression. The existential experience and expressivity of his work is at odds with their characteristics. These are, moreover, two features of a segment in Slovenian art production which have carried the pertinence of expressive, existentially felt painting into the new millennium.
The carriers of expressivity are those interventions that are carried out through the dry-point based procedures. Immediate physical hurting of the surface and the burr are by their character the signifiers of effort and pain. The axe blows fit within the same technique, but their printing does not carry (signify) gesture − movement across the surface. They signify by suggestion of their form and placement on the surface. In a sequence of approximately uniform parallel blows they add up into a suggestion of a scar tissue in deep black, as single shapes they seem as open wounds, and in sequences just like any other form they suggest movement or pulsation. The same purpose has the slight working on the surface with dry-point and hand etching, which does not leave behind any substantial form, but is used as a stabilizer of tonal completion. An aspect of gesturality is brought in by inking, rubbing ink into the plate with intense strokes of the palm in the same direction across the surface. It prints as surface dusted with small dots which smear in a certain direction, thus upgrading the internal dynamics of the whole composition.
If we look at the post-media period in the graphic arts, we can describe its tendency as distancing, widening the gap between the matrix and the print. We do not even know if the matrix is still a 'negative'. It is impossible to read from a CD the manner of its production. All we know is that it is the origin, the source of the image. Kovačič has no part in that. When he holds a worked on zinc plate in his hand, he talks about wars, about registration of the struggle with the material, with the medium, with the world and with himself. Classical intaglio techniques have verified means to signify precisely that. Their survival of the deluge of the new technologies and media is the proof that they can be as persuasive today as ever.
The search for identity of which he was conscious from his student years on, was realized in his mature work as an idiolect. After continuous and for him unsatisfying attempts to establish a relationship with the contemporary currents and phenomena and with the modernist canon's watered down authority, he embraced that which carried the promise of certainty: printmaking as the medium, historical achievement as the standard of quality, which do conform with the modernist canon, and subjective intimation in the mode of visual address. The existential urgency and presence, which should be expressed by an intense, gestural writing, printed on paper as an organic tension and anxiety. In particular the compositions of the last series printed on the raw edge address the viewer with an intense, uncompromising power: the unease is only the obverse of pleasure. Kovačič's prints serve both simultaneously. One has no choice but to accept or refuse both.
Bojan Kovačič, Alenka Šubic Rovan, Andrej Smrekar
Conservation and preparation
Alenka Šubic Rovan
The project was supported by
Slovenian Book Agency
Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia
5 April–29 May 2011
The exhibition is extended until 28 August 2011!
Narodni Dom Gallery