Iva Tratnik: Maske / Masks
9. 3. – 14. 4. 2018
ACE KIBLA / KiBela, Ulica Kneza Koclja 9, Maribor

A palimpsest collage of reality

The art of Iva Tratnik employs a variety of media including painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, video, textiles, installations, etc., and stretches across different fields of artistic practice, including performance, contemporary dance, and theater. Once these layers of creativity melt into a single piece of art, highly individual works are created, which embrace and transform the entire exhibition space into a consistent, personal, and highly original artistic expression beyond comparison. The eruption of gesture transcends the specifics of the individual exhibited elements, shifting from one form to another, from walls to paintings, from drawings to digital screen; appearing as a collage or performance; jumping from static to dynamic narrative, and yet remaining faithful to the subject matter, and captivating in terms of the complexity of its concept.

The artist’s particular becomes universal, once we accept that we have stepped inside a monumental, all-encompassing and complete unified environment, and that we ourselves are weaving the threads of interpersonal relationships as explored by the art works. The creations, with their monumentality and symbolism, and the different materials and techniques used, take over the exhibition space and absorb the viewer. The works communicate at different levels: among themselves, connecting in terms of imagery, motifs, and colors, as well as with the observer, piecing together the meanings and sub-meanings either associatively or conceptually and ultimately connecting the two.

The exhibition contains reminiscences of history, or the history of art: by means of drawing, the artist connects Botticelli’s Venus (The Birth of Venus, 1484–1486) and Michelangelo’s David (1501–1504), re-constituting and physically de-forming them (the original painting and sculpture can be seen in Florence. Italy), whereas Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (Nu descendant un escalier n° 2, 1912) becomes a deconstructed mechanicistic design with a pop-art addition of an (‘invisible’) Pythonesque arm (in several paintings), a kind of a deus ex machina – as if she was trying to connect Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel ceiling to 20th century art, especially the fine arts and film making, or to her own, 21st century artistic creations.

On the other hand personal topics, the more profane, ‘everyday’ subjects, and even elements of folk traditions, are used to deconstruct intimate preoccupations, thoughts, superstitions, traditions, customs and dreams, which burst from the inside of the painting, fragmenting it, deconstructing it into individual details, to set up a unique platform from the multitude of visual elements and creative procedures, expanding the point of view and creating a specific artistic anagram by means of juxtaposition. She adds to this a near-mythological symbolism: the scarab was revered by the ancient Egyptians as a symbol of the Sun, as a symbol of life and rebirth, and a similar kind of ‘firebug’, with its typical red and black coloration, is found in the works of Iva Tratnik.

Images are layered by means of various procedures, as the artist plays with perspective and dimensionality, thereby accentuating certain structures that dwell in the paintings and are intertwined with other, sometimes surrealist metaphors (similarly to Chilean painter Roberto Antonio Sebastián Matta Echaurren), although the poetics of Iva Tratnik would more accurately be labeled as symbolist. The symbolism extends to the titles of the works. Often these are inspired by I Ching, and, together with the artifacts themselves, they help to determine the overall concept of the artwork. Through various forms of painterly representation, the creations of Iva Tratnik are combined to form an exemplary universal installation, which not only opens up the artist’s universe, but fills the entire space, changing the exhibition venue into an analog, immersive, mixed type of reality, through which we are guided by the art works.

In terms of both form and space, there is an inner dynamics that unfolds in front of us, ‘pasting’ and separating visual elements into the painting at the same time, layering them to form a uniform artistic landscape, and labeling them with individual titles, which through a highly original, unique, and typical artist’s mark, place Iva Tratnik into a fully autonomous, recognizable and specific position, which is difficult to compare to anything found on the Slovene or even global art scene. It feels as though we are witnessing a continuous battle of ideas, representations and urges, which suddenly find themselves together in one place, co-existing and living inside a seeming reality, when the artist wants them to. Iva Tratnik not only pours herself into her works; she internalizes the world around her and creates other worlds from it, a multitude of worlds, actually, through which she attempts to embrace the entire human history, and offer it to us in an autochthonous futuristic ‘disguise’ – about which we soon notice that it is different, that something does not fit, that it is distorted and, of course, metaphysical: what happens is a kind of a palimpsest collage inside a (skillfully) erased reality.

Before considering whether the art work of Iva Tratnik are futuristic, or whether they represent an archaic activation of various themes, meanings and metaphors, one needs to consider how her works intertwine deconstruction (the analytical decomposition of a subject down to the bone; no flesh, no blood, only the spine remains, we are, after all, vertebrates) and destruction of the symbolic in the use of reality as a kind of synthetic ‘condition’, which can easily turn into a synaesthetic experience. The human being, as an inseparable part of nature, becomes a memory of art, and exists as a part of art, and in the company of art. We do not exist outside art. It is almost as if the artist wanted to add, “life is short, art is long”, turning around the word order of the original, the ancient Hippocrates’ aphorism, ars longa, vita brevis.

The above famous quote can serve as a starting point in the consideration of the work of this academy-trained painter, who has introduced a kind of an ‘uneasy freshness’ to the (Slovene) art scene: the primary beauty of her works enchants us, and yet, it is but a trompe-l’œil that tricks the eye, while at the same time a complex, extensive, intense structure is established, merging together large oil and acrylic canvases, drawings, textiles, collages, photographic and video portraits, and sculptures and installations mostly made from recycled materials – to put on a unique, one-of-a-kind show for the audience. The art of Iva Tratnik is long, indeed: this is also demonstrated by the way she passes between various fields of creation, never stopping, as her creative efforts extend to theater set and costume design, or even performances in contemporary butoh dance shows.
– Peter Tomaž Dobrila

Academy-trained painter Iva Tratnik, born 1980 in Celje, Slovenia, holds a BA (2006) and MA in painting (2012) from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, and currently works as a freelance artist in a variety of artistic practices. She was one of the selected artists representing Slovenia at the EXPO Milano 2015. In 2017, she held a solo exhibition at the Gallery of Contemporary Art Celje.


ACE KIBLA is co-funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and the Municipality of Maribor. Project RISK CHANGE (2016–2020) is co-financed by the Creative Europe program of the European Union. ACE KIBLA is a member of M3C, Multimedia Centers Network of Slovenia; International Platform X-OP eXchange of Operators and Producers; and McRU, Network of Slovenian Arts Research Centers.