Vojko Tominc: Boxsis |
Medusa Gallery, Koper |
Opening: Friday, 3rd of December 2021, from 18:00 to 20:00 |
Exhibition: 3rd of December 2021 – 28th of January 2022
It will be possible to visit the exhibition in observation of all anti-covid measures in force.
In the field of Slovene graphic design, Vojko Tominc (1953), is recognisable for designing posters, trademarks, logos and corporate graphics, catalogues, invitations, brochures and other printed products. As a graphic designer, he has worked for a long time with the Piran Coastal Galleries, designing invitations, catalogues and posters for occasional exhibitions. Several of his exhibitions have been held at the Piran Coastal Galleries: in 1978 at the Medusa 2 Gallery in Piran, at the Medusa and Loggia Galleries in Koper, at the A+A Gallery in Venice and in 2011 at the Banka Koper Gallery in Koper. His works have been exhibited at more than thirty group exhibitions in Slovenia and abroad, and he has received numerous prizes and awards. His works have been published in professional magazines (Graphis, Zoom, Marketing Magazin), and his posters have been recognised by specialists in the field as works of superior quality that have found their way into anthologies of Slovenian posters over the last few decades.
After a break of several years, this time he returns with the exhibition BOXSIS, which presents a selection of paintings from the last three cycles of Black, White & Blue, Cans and Looking through the Window, created between 2015 and 2020.
The exhibition will be on view until 28 January 2022.
Politics of Painting: The intertwining of painting and graphics
The intellectuals of the 1960s had defined socially critical thinking by using Marxist philosophy to define the materialistic and ideological contexts underlying the basis of all human activity. They thus defined political, economic and cultural practices as the implementation and interweaving of different ideologies.
Vojko Tominc started as a graphic designer and developed engravings, then painting and multimedia practices, always together with his main activity – graphic design. We will try to define his artistic activity as the implementation of left-wing practices of rebellion in opposition to the dominant capitalist ideology after the Second World War. In Yugoslavia, Marxist intellectuals turned their criticism against the socialist system in favour of democracy. It seems that the most important thing for Tominc was the aspiration for freedom, democracy and human rights achieved by using culture as a weapon for the class struggle. His artistic tendencies descended from the autonomous sphere of the liberal aesthetic ideology of the authentic individual (art for art's sake), constructed in an over-class sphere of the common and the universal. It is only in this overdetermined sphere that Tominc's supposedly critical left-wing ideological position, which wants the democratisation of institutions and seeks an alliance between cultural workers and the public, can be found.
When the working class was again betrayed in the new nation (in socialism, due to party bureaucratisation, true democratisation of institutions and companies failed), Tominc put his commitment into practice through political (trade union) posters that called for rebellion and class struggle through photography and formal colour interventions. Tominc's cultural posters are also part of this emancipatory line because they are also cleaned up and construct, through clear typography, an effective direct and multi-layered message that can be understood by anyone, and yet convey the essence and idea of the exhibition or performance. Perhaps it was the precipitous flight of neo-liberal ideology (and the gradual weakening of trade union movements) that prompted Tominc to put his critical and committed thinking into practice through painting and multimedia practices. He began with the Overstep trilogy in the Insula Gallery (2003-2006), where he addressed the public with painted fragments of the human body – “blue-collar" palms and feet, continuing with the apparent aestheticization, hiding the barcode motif beneath this candour. These highly aestheticised images can be seen as a critique of the objectification of art, emphasised through the technique of computer printing, creating a product that is no longer a human work, but a product of technology.
In the last of the three exhibitions entitled Overstep, Tominc reacted even more diligently to the socio-economic situation of delusional capitalism. He exhibited 36 cans on which bar codes are highlighted next to portraits of people, as if to indicate that there is no longer any difference between products and human beings, and that we are all repressed and trapped in the grip of capital. This was followed by a return to pure painting with the stylistic and expressive pluralism typical of contemporary art in a combination of “working" objects, “commodified" stars, quotations from rebellious left-wing rockers and pop characters combined with ironic action painting along the lines of Pollock (the abstract expressionists of the 1950s were radical leftists and rejected capitalism so they painted abstractly). He presented these paintings at the Palazzo Pretorio (2009) as a committed manifesto on ubiquitous consumerism, which also absorbed the more radical appeals of the 1960s generation. His response to the financial crisis was presented in a provocative exhibition Bang, Bank, Bang shown in the hub of sin – Banka Koper (2011) announcing, with the theme of barcodes in the interweaving of the (own) figure and the “rebellious" technique of graffiti, that the class struggle is not over and has even received a new impetus. Needless to say, the bank did not buy any of his paintings – and that should be taken as a compliment.
Today, when post-capitalism has stretched its tentacles directly into our bodies and we find ourselves in an even more compressed system, defined by the left as techno-feudalism, the crisis has touched entirely new areas. Tominc has therefore strengthened the narrative force of his images. For him, painting means taking a stand.
In his latest paintings exhibited at Galleria Medusa, Tominc constructs visual rebuses in which he conveys his critical thoughts on the conditions of techno-feudalism through a variety of topics: indifference to refugees, the pressure to get rich and the lust for celebrity, the pitfalls of virtual reality, the persistent indifference and thoughtlessness of most people, loneliness, exaggerated consumerism, disregard for workers' rights and statements on gender differences. The added value of these paintings lies in the fact that the artist tackles these dark themes in a humorous, empathetic way and with Mediterranean warmth, while keeping their critical charge intact. The images are diverse in format and content, the compositions are masterfully constructed with the help of cut-outs, angles, rotations, evocative abstract strokes and symbolic colours, as only a trained graphic artist who masters the art of typography and optical means can do, thus provoking feelings and conveying the intended messages.
In spite of the fact that the paintings are incredibly heterogeneous, we nevertheless notice a common denominator with the works, especially with regard to the portraits of (sad) people crammed into old cans and inside jars, thus radically questioning the value of today's human being. The author combines portraits with action painting and dripping (pouring), which breaks down and merges the expressive and colourful symbolic image, as if to tell us that human existence as seen by today's system is just an insignificant illusion that is about to disappear. At the same time, however, these images can also be read as an aesthetic statement about painting, which is a visual trick and an illusion. Images with a different feel operate with the language of Magritte's surrealism, which challenges the viewer's perception of reality and encourages him to become more sensitive to his environment. Tominc is not a one-way artist, as he develops the significance of the message by expanding communication in a complex combination.
The visual power of the paintings in the exhibition is due to the synthesis of painting styles and graphic practices. Some of the paintings in the exhibition are transformed into posters, which have always been a favourite medium for Tominc. The constituent elements of his posters are, first and foremost, signs into which he transforms carefully selected cuttings of his paintings. The defined typography supports the perfection of these posters, which can be read from different angles. The compositional versatility speaks of irreconcilability with typological conventions, giving them a multi-layered, multi-character effect. In them he combines images, letters and art segments alongside symbolic colours. Posters thus become another channel of cultural struggle. The process of Tominc's work, the way he constructs paintings and posters, is never straightforward, as it is similar to the process of the symbolists in poetry, where the new semantics are never clearly defined. Tominc's interpretative enigmas, his artistic ambiguities that produce visual rebuses, represent the point at which the author enters the ideological sphere of liberal aesthetics. Tominc has supplemented the ambiguity of the artistic process with an interpretation from the point of view of the ideological position of the leftist. However, his left-wing ideology does not manifest itself as a didactic or moralistic imposition of thought or as teaching, but as an area of free thought and interpretation. The liberal aesthetic sphere, based on an authentic individual style and a mechanism of aesthetic judgement, is different from the area of popular culture and the ideological dumbing down of the masses. The cultural class struggle becomes a struggle between Tominc's ideology of aesthetic authenticity against the indoctrinated crowd, and in his art it manifests itself as the conflict between freedom and the ideology of consumption.