Emil Memon, Saintly Body | 4.02.2022 – 30.05.2022 | Loža Gallery, Koper | Opening: Friday, 4th of February, 2022 – h 18.00 |
Special guest: Natsumi K. Goldfish (Tokyo/ New York)
Emil Memon’s multimedia artworks can be seen as a set of fragments of some continuous reflection, experience and practice. Each project is conceptually designed and invariably linked to a reference or an idea. As such, it stands on its own, but it also merges with the broader horizon of Memon’s creative practice where painting, performativity, music, poetry, voice and moving images all materialize and associate with one another. As a complement, an upgrade or a counterpoint. So, what is the artist telling us? His own stories, we might say. Stories about what he has seen and experienced.
Inspiration can come from many places and at any given time. A bustling port, a peaceful vineyard, a pulsating metropolis, a train ride, a view of the sea, lonely nights in the streets of SoHo, an encounter, a book, a conversation, a film, a lecture … Memon does not leave the past nor does he discard it. The past is also the present. The traces remain, and when we change cultural environments or use different media, they form new layers and enter other dimensions. The depictive duality of the series of three paintings entitled Triptych ŠKUC from the early 1980s is continued and transposed into the spatial layout of the Loža Gallery. In fact, there has always been another aspect to Memon’s art, that is, the threefold nature that is context-specific and rooted in the artist’s environment, studies and experience at a particular time: “the Italian Years of Lead” in Florence in the late 1970s, “the alternative culture” in Ljubljana in the early 1980s, the New York “urban dystopia” with its spectacular art scene from the early 1980s to the present day. On the margin at all times and places: counterculture, subculture, political art, graffiti, nightclubs …
Three is also the number of spaces in the present exhibition: the Tito Square in front of the gallery, the stairway and the exhibition hall. Next to the gallery entrance stands an installation that welcomes us to the exhibition – it is related to Forma Viva in Portorož, to deposited debris, traces and chipped fragments. In addition, the very title Consolidation of the West delineates a reflection on the fictitious dominance of the West and conceptually incorporates it into the exhibition. When we enter the stairway, we are met by the piercing gaze of actress Yuko Torihara as Yukio Mishima in Memon’s film. Higher up on the side wall the Triptych ŠKUC No. 1, a painting which was lost and then found after 40 years, is installed in all the beauty of its current state and its long exhilarating story.
The exhibition halls are designed in the duality of a small intimate and a large spectacular space. Media images alternate with the scenes from Memon’s films and videos, and the concept of abstraction establishes a relation with the scenes from the artist’s own world. A world of rock ’n’ roll, nightclubs, galleries, streets, skyscrapers, cafes and bars. A world of concerts, exhibitions, installations, screenings, films, books, paintings and objects. A world of posters, graffiti, albums, film venues and house parties. Representational and performative techniques, methods, means of expression and materials are part of a broad artistic spectrum of reference: hard edge, colour field, graffiti and all-over painting; spray paint art, new image and pop art; experimental film, music videos, ready-made images, photorealism and appropriation, collage and assemblage, ambients and installations … An encounter and alternation between monochrome black and red, drip painting, the materiality and objectness of pieces, as well as the aesthetics of drawings and the glow of the screen image. There’s also the vulnerability and beauty of the body, the poetics of lines and letters, the frailty of words and faces.
Memon’s attitude to art is conceptual and reveals a broad expressive scope. Two-dimensionality blends into spaciousness and vividness, with mentality and concentrated energy lying in between. The duality of media images and the images of the artist’s own world stems from the abstraction and aesthetics of visuality, from brushstrokes and colours, from composition and proportions. Some images from before are now presented in new formats and in different constellations. Paintings and drawings, objects and moving images enjoy each other’s company. They create an atmosphere of hospitality and welcome in their midst the artworks of Natsumi K. Goldfish and the poetry of Emil’s brother Vladimir Memon, they present the artist’s poetry, films and music. They do not exclude, they are open and kind, and in that respect are quite similar to their creator. This is one way of understanding the present exhibition. Or we can understand it as a revision of and reflection on the exhibitions that the artist has seen, curated or analysed, on the events he has witnessed, the experience he has gained, the artists and musicians he has met and collaborated with, and the paintings that he has yet to bring to this side of the Atlantic.
There is one more thing to be said of Emil Memon’s first exhibition in his native town of Koper, an exhibition that jumps back and forth through the 40 years of his artistic practice: not many painters are also musicians, songwriters and singers. And even fewer have also tried their hand at filmmaking. Particularly in Slovenia. Emil Memon has collaborated with musicians from all over the world, performed music in small venues and large concert halls, and made a number of short films and video pieces that are without exception related to his music and poetic lyrics. Over the past decade, he has been working on the feature film Mishima Film. He wrote the screenplay and designed the storyboard in great detail, drew the frames and wrote the dialogues, and then invited his friend, film director Pawel Wojtasik, to collaborate on the project. Together, they shot several hours of material. As the final production of the film is on hold for the time being, a rough cut will be screened as part of the exhibition. Perhaps Emil Memon will soon be approached by a production company, just as he was by Dallas Records, the record company that released his album Saintly Body, which he will soon promote with a concert at the Monfort Gallery in Portorož.
Emil Memon is a visual artist and musician living in New York and Koper. He studied at art academies in Florence at the Academia di Belle Arti (BA in Painting), Ljubljana at the Academy of Fine Arts (MA in Spatial Design and Printmaking) and New York as a Fulbright scholar at the Pratt Institute (MFA in New Forms). He has also been active as a critic and as a curator of international group exhibitions. His works are featured in the collections of the Free Tibet House in NYC, ICC (International Criminal Court) in The Hague, DIVA Station video archive (SCCA Ljubljana) and in (American) private collections.
For Memon, creation is a conceptual act by which he encourages social awareness and critical judgement; at the same time, it is also an aesthetic practice that works in relation to a certain context. He has always been known for connecting media and artistic languages. With his diverse, multi-media artistic practice, he thematizes modernism and popular culture, and he also uses pop aesthetics to paint the logic of capitalism.
Memon has designed installations and ambients, played concerts and held performances in the nightclubs and galleries of New York (Club 34, Club USA, Super Club, Limelight, The Tunnel, The Roxy, Danceteria etc.). In addition to installations, paintings and prints, he has also created films (Super8), videos and music. He released several CD albums and music videos both individually and in collaboration with New York musicians. His first feature film entitled Mishima Film, which he has been working on in collaboration with artist, film director and director of photography Pawel Wojtasik, is still in production. The trailer is available at https://vimeo.com/216625964.
Since his return to Slovenia, Memon has held four individual exhibitions in Ljubljana between 2019 in 2021. Three Steps to Madness. Social Sculpture and Other Short Stories in Project Room SCCA was a multi-media presentation of his diverse creative work and encompassed spatial installations, screenings, sculptures, posters, prints and objects. Mishima Film A Killer Show was presented at the GalerijaGallery and featured a screening of the trailer for the project Mishima Film as well as still frames, drawings and paintings that were created during the filmmaking process. A rough cut of the film was screened at the gallery when the exhibition ended. In the next exhibition Once upon a time in NYC, which was also presented at the GalerijaGallery and included a discussion, Memon collaborated with the internationally renowned artist Colette Lumiere. In 2021 he held an exhibition at the Cirkulacija 2 gallery entitled Graffiti that featured a spatial presentation on the subject of graffiti and a solo concert.
Selected projects/ Exhibitions
In the 1980s, Memon held several individual exhibitions in Yugoslavia (for instance at the Škuc Gallery, Ljubljana; Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb; SKC Gallery, Belgrade – 1981, 1982). Later on, he participated in group exhibitions all over the world (New York, Berlin, Miami, Bogota, München, Ljubljana, Washington DC, Belgrade, The Hague, Manchester, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Lugano), including exhibitions at the Duke University, NC; Manchester Community College, CT; Museum School, Boston; Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NYC; Museum School, Boston; Civilian Warfare Gallery, East Village, NYC; First East Village Film Festival, Limbo Lounge; Kenny Schachter’s Flamingo East Shows, NYC; Escape from Alcatraz, Williamsburg Art and Historical Center Gallery, Brooklyn, NYC; Tribes Gallery, NYC; The Nippon Club Gallery, NYC; Lace Gallery, Los Angeles; UnionDocs, Brooklyn, NYC; Bushwick Open Studios, Brooklyn, NYC; TrashArt und XXL (curated by ADLER A.F.), Neurotitan, Berlin–München; DUMBO ART Happening, NYC.
He was a member of the ATW group of artists whose work was presented at the MoMA PS1 gallery in New York (1990) and at the Venice Biennale (the project Inbetween, 1994).
He collaborated with artist Tobias Putrih in creating the DC/Project that is presented as a permanent installation at the Slovenian Embassy in Washington (2009).
Group exhibitions in Slovenia (2015-2019)
In the last few years, Memon has participated in the international photography exhibition Živeti / 2 Live (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Koroška, Slovenj Gradec, 2015) and the exhibition Multimedia Practices and Venues of Production (curated by B. Borčič and Igor Španjol, Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, Ljubljana, 2017). He was also part of several SCCA-Ljubljana programmes of Slovenian video art, including: Feedback Loop (curated by Ida Hiršenfelder), which was presented on the media facade of the Museum of Contemporary Art (Zagreb, 2014); DIVA Station Presents III (curated by Barbara Borčić), which was screened at the Lace Gallery (Los Angeles, 2016), UnionDocs (New York, 2016) and the Slovenian Cinematheque (Ljubljana, 2017); and At Some Point, In Some Place (a selection of works from the DIVA Station archive by Peter Cerovšek,) as part of the Short Film Night at the Slovenian Cinematheque (Ljubljana, 2017); VideoGarden.2, Škuc Gallery (Ljubljana, 2020).
Memon has also been active as a writer and as a curator of international group exhibitions:
42 23rd, 1994, at the 23 St. Townhouse, NYC;
The Von Show, 2021, at Armory Week, NYC, http://vonshowart.blogspot.com/;
HyperAbstraction, 2013, at Armory Week, NYC, 2013, http://hyperabstraction.blogspot.com/.
As a curator, he has also collaborated with Kyoko Sato Ono:
Japanese and Contemporary Art, 2014, at The Nippon Gallery, NYC, http://japonismcontemporaryart.blogspot.com/;
The History of the World Vol. 2, 2015, at The Week of Frieze Art Fair, NYC, 2015, http://how2artshow.blogspot.com/.
Selection of published texts:
Emil Memon, “Diamantna serija”, Likovne besede, no. 89–90 (2009).
Emil Memon, “Nice text and review by Emil Memon on COME CLOSER2 at Nässjö Konsthall, Sweden”, Jårg Geismar (blog), March 26, 2018, http://blog.geismar.net/2018/03/nice-text-and-review-by-emil-memon-on.html.
Emil Memon, “Wang Qingsong – Past, Present, Future”, Wang QingSong Studio (blog), August, 2004
Emil Memon, “Richard Prince at the Guggenheim Museum”, Tribes (blog), https://www.tribes.org/web/2008/06/21/richard-prince-at-the-guggenheim-museum-by-emil-memon.
Barbara Borčić, M'Zin, Likovna umetnost (Indok), Ljubljana, 1991, št. 6
Matej Mljač, Umetnost je matematika. Emil Memon, Slovenec v New Yorku, Mladina, 12. 3. 2001 https://www.mladina.si/104251/umetnost-je-matematika/
Meta Česnik, Portret: Emil Memom v New Yorku, TV Slovenija 1, Osmi dan, 26. 2. 2009 https://4d.rtvslo.si/arhiv/osmi-dan/29233089
Miha Colner, pogovor z Emilom Memonom, Radio Študent, Art-Area 162, 22. 12. 2010 http://old.radiostudent.si/article.php?sid=26009 SLOVENCI PO SVETU
Sebastijan Kopušar, Emil Memon. Nima sreče s svojimi deli, Slovenske novice, Slovenci po svetu, 26. 6. 2012 https://www.slovenskenovice.si/bulvar/domaci-trac/nima-srece-s-svojimi-deli
Slovenian artists Tobias Putrih and Emil Memon display their innovative work, Washington Life Magazine, June 2007 http://washingtonlife.com/issues/june-007/diplomatic_dance/page124.php
J. Š. A., Med Japonci tudi Slovenci, Delo, 5. 2. 2014 https://www.delo.si/kultura/razstave/med-japonci-tudi-slovenci.html
Making History Bushwick, NYC: Independent Publisher, 2016
Blaž Maljevec, Emil Memon: “New York je bil včasih drugačen", Radio Koper, Primorci po svetu, 20. 9. 2018 https://www.rtvslo.si/radiokoper/zgodbe/emil-memon-new-york-je-bil-vcasih-drugacen/466478
Urška Savič, Memon in Molier, Radio Študent, Kulturne novice, 1. 3. 2019 https://radiostudent.si/kultura/kulturne-novice/memon-in-moliere
Meta Česnik, Emil Memon v Projektni sobi SCCA, RTV Slovenija, Kultura, 1. 3. 2019 https://4d.rtvslo.si/arhiv/kultura/174599114
Damjana Kolar, Deset kulturnih dogodkov od četrtka do nedelje, Mladina – Kultura, 28. 2. 2019 https://www.mladina.si/189764/deset-kulturnih-dogodkov-od-cetrtka-do-nedelje/
Antonio Saccone, Parliamo di graffiti, intervista l'artista capodistriano Emil Memon a proposito dei graffiti (Radio Capodistria, Calle degli orti grandi, 3.1.2021)
Natsumi K Goldfish: Bio
Natsumi K Goldfish is a New York-based Japanese artist born and raised on the outskirts of Tokyo Japan. Where she grew up in her childhood was a place of between, both urban and suburban, where nature and urban culture and many different elements coexisted. The environment made her grow up naturally believing in pluralism, or something close to the idea of being in-between and both as a truth of the universe.
Natsumi’s creations are part of the pathway to her seeking of differences/borders between human and other creatures. In her work, she often incorporates everyday life artificial objects and spaces such as bath tubs, fish tanks, specimens, and windows that are to her symbols of human being.