Judita Krivec Dragan      Marko Košan
 

        Judita Krivec Dragan

         Vlado Stjepić belongs to a generation that joined its ranks and emerged in the early 1980s, when the New Image movement clearly asserted itself in Slovene painting. Unlike most artists, he was not fascinated by explicitly narrative and symbol-packed painting; instead, he expanded the modernist experiences that he had gained at school. However, the general enthusiasm for (rediscovered) contemporary allusive painting may have secretly stolen into his increasingly sublime world of pure shapes and colours in the form of hidden symbolism that offered an explanation even for what seemed the most hermetic compositions. A series of paintings from recent years – in which the artist chose a limited, often even monochrome colour range and complete immersion of object reality into the world of abstract concepts – represents that last stage of painting, in which we can still speak about memories of motifs from objective reality, although the dimmed images increasingly obviously flirt with the imposed world that does not contain any realistic points of departure.

       Formations, as he often calls the mycelial shapes woven into the tissue of colour, are a kind of cocoon – living organic cores in which existence has come to a standstill not only to change form, but also to pass from the world of sensory perception into the realm of the transcendental. What is interesting is that Stjepić preserves the illusion of depth in his painting and even an exceptionally picturesque approach to space and shapes in it, and that he pays even greater attention to the distinct, although completely artificial, white light. He achieves special effects not only with a specific manner of painting, but above all with the special technique of applying acrylic emulsion to the canvas in order to create a dimmed appearance of an image in which a mysterious space opens up beyond endless transparent and continuously dissolving veils. It is both the end and the beginning, like the cosmic egg – the shape and possibly also the meaning of which is alluded to in many of Stjepić’s paintings.

Judita Krivec Dragan, Art historian

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        Marko Košan

        Vlado Stjepić’s recent series of paintings is dedicated to the exploration of the pure, almost exclusive expression of the artistic effect of an image liberated from linear narrativity, because it attempts to draw closer to the sources of phenomenological perceptions of the visible world, transformed through the sensitivity of the conscious and, above all, subconscious comprehension of shapes born from light. After three decades of coexistence of various forms of art, contemporary art trends are obviously favourable to conceptual and multimedia practices that are extensively supported by synthetically-generated virtual worlds; nevertheless, the noble structure of Stjepić’s subtle paintings quickly persuades us that the essence of artistic creativity is not only the desired subversive message, which is undoubtedly one of the important features of good art, but also its visual persuasiveness and understanding of the observed. Only the eye can establish contexts that cannot be presented with linguistic or conceptually-defined procedures. This paradigm was consistently and radically established by the modernist artistic experience of the last three decades, and Stjepić embraces it, at least in its initial premise. His paintings evidently communicate an enigmatically more profound message, for which they do not need words; it is enough if we sense it. This premonition is captured in the secret glowing of the plethora of lines, outlines, shapes, atrophied physiognomies and symbolic staring into depths that dizzily capture the gaze of the viewer whom Stjepić’s images attempt to enchant. If, a few years ago, the painter obsessively explored the inner structure of the real or imagined objective world that hides under the polished external appearance of the “taut skin” wrapping, the last vertebra of the skeleton hung with bare pieces of coloured “meat” has shattered under the weight of yearning after the exposure of the most distant horizons of the primeval logic of the visual and dissolved in sublime, pulsating membranes stacked in endless layers of organically shivering pictorial tissue. The thick texture of the centrifugal lines with clear trompe l’oeil effects reveals the transcendental function of illusion and its symbolic connotation. The saturated cocoon of thick, chromatically weak but refined colour emulsion, spilt in capillary streaks around the central core of every image, offers convincing proof that third-dimension illusionism in painting is not merely the domain of realistic perspective principles; on the contrary, it is an immanent property of the sublime artistic revelation that opens up the door to the metaphysical immensity of the phenomenology of the visible world and a gaze untainted by ideology.

Marko Košan
Art historian, director of the Carinthian Regional Museum
in Slovenj Gradec, Slovenia

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