Art Critics' Choice
In cooperation with Slovenian Association of Art Critics
Selector: Milena Zlatar
Author: Anka Krašna
Anka Krašna is an artist not only devoted to (post)modernist painting and its abstract deviations, but also critically responding to and addressing burning social issues in her concurrent paintings and installations. The diverse overlapping motifs and moments of associative visual impulses, drawn both from nature and urban environment, express more than just the artist’s intimate stories – the leitmotif is the artistic creed that emerged through her reflection on and response to social reality: the logical outcome was a series of socially engaged artistic narratives. The paintings and installations of workers (men and women, different kinds of precarious workers) represent the male version of an abused and heavily exploited human being, followed by a representation aimed at raising another vital issue, that of the female pole of social reality.
The current exhibition addresses female social exploitation through a diptych; two paintings and two representations of a woman. The body of the first woman is covered, she is wearing a burka or niqab that veils her face, leaving slits for the eyes, and she is thus watching us with a wide-eyed gaze. This figure is juxtaposed with a blindfolded nude woman, as the motif of the second painting. While the figures could be perceived solely as a motivic transliteration from the real world, the black bandage covering the eyes of the unclothed woman invites an entirely different reading; the paintings have related iconographies. In Islamic culture, wearing a veil that covers the entire body and face represents a withdrawal into privacy, and is supposed to accentuate a woman’s (also a man’s?!) modesty and morality. Although the decision whether to wear these clothes or not is left entirely to an individual, our culture understands it as oppression and inhibition of women’s freedom. The perception of one’s appearance (both male and female) is socially conditioned and has in most cultures developed, throughout the centuries, to attain the currently instated plurality of fashion, the multiplicity of clothing and – increasingly – unclothing, until the body has become disrobed to the extent of a mere shell and an emptied vessel of senseless existence. A life that allows no room for thought, empathy and individual decision since others make the decisions for us... The blindfolded eyes in the exhibited painting signify just that, while at the same time suggesting an even greater dehumanisation, when people in the name of all kinds of ideologies claim the right to kill other people, blindfolding them before execution.
The message of the diptych bearing a telling title Brez besed (Wordless) and representing a blindfolded nude female can acquire dual meaning: the woman has become a victim of social circumstances (imperialism, capital…), she does not see the truth, does not feel, does not live… She does not realise that her body has been utterly exploited, that it is bereft of all emotions; not being able to see, she likewise cannot react and has less and less opinions… While the figure in the second painting is covered from head to toe – her attire conforming to strict social norms, her eyes are wide open, which inspires the hope that she does not feel entirely numbed and that she is only apparently submissive. He culture would have us believe that she has chosen this attire herself, that it makes her feel free; but the gaze of this woman, her expressive eyes, reveals that this is not the case, that deep inside her she nevertheless has the power to confront oppression. In this diptych, the covered and unclothed female bodies convey the same message, since the freedom articulated by a naked body does not signify female liberty, does not indicate that she isn’t subjected to an increasingly machoistic society. Selfish interests of individuals and groups obstruct change on all levels of society and destroy human dignity. Resigned to our fate, we have stopped hoping for a better world.
The paintings could be contemplated from another, entirely artistic perspective: this is not only a truthful and socially engaged work of art, speaking louder than words despite its illustrative title Wordless. What also appeals to our sensibilities is the masterful painting technique adopting the style of new naturalism, in its details revealing both the structures and textures of a human body and the pulsating – living body of the painting. The two paintings, as independent entities, and their message reflect the myriad contradictions of life.
Brez besed / Wordless (diptych), 2017, mixed technique on canvas, (2 x) 192 x 80 cm
ANKA KRAŠNA, academy-trained artist with a specialisation in painting, was born in 1950 in Maribor. She graduated in 1976 from the Academy of Fine Art (ALU) Ljubljana (in painting under Professor Gabrijel Stupica, and in stained-glass windows under Professor Franc Kokalj). In 1979, she specialised in painting from the same academy (under Professors Jože Ciuha and Marijan Tršar). She is currently a painting professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Maribor, and has a studio in Miklavž na Dravskem polju.
She has held over ninety solo exhibitions and participated in over two hundred group shows in Slovenia and abroad (Austria, Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Belgium, England, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Turkey and Spain); in April and May 2018 she is exhibiting her work Japan, at the 8th International Art Exhibition “Message from Toyama – Contemporary Art” 2018 ART/X/TOYAMA.
She has participated in various art colonies and received fifteen awards, including the 1995 Acquisition Prize of the Art Gallery Maribor, the 1996, 2014 and 2017 Maribor Art Critics’ Association Award, the 2004 Glazer Distinction for Artistic Achievement bestowed by the City of Maribor, the 2015 Association of Slovenian Fine Artists’ Societies Award and the 2017 Slovenian Fine Artists’ Association Life Achievement Award.