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Virginia Vrecl is an architect who has recently made a name for herself in architectural photography. While in her professional work she remains faithful to the formal codification of standards tailored to client requirements, she is concurrently evolving her own, signature style in art photography. In this context, she has created several series and held exhibitions showcasing works in which she abstracts, in diverse ways, architectural motifs or assembles them into artistically intriguing compositions. With her black-and-white documentary pictures of dilapidated buildings comprising the Arrigoni complex in Izola, Vrecl returns to the basic principles of photography to reflect the wider context of a particular space and time. With a focus on Izola’s industrial heritage, the artist expands her area of interest in ‘architectural photography’, while also raising interest in this ‘sub-genre’ of photography in Slovenia.
While in the history of photography the theme of industrial heritage has never been at the forefront, several important bodies of work examining this subject matter have nevertheless emerged. In a broader European context, the ‘objectivist’ output of Albert Renger-Patzsch can be singled out in the period of New Objectivity, while the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher provided ultimate artistic legitimacy to ‘documenting’ industrial heritage. In the history of Slovenian photography, industrial buildings and objects became a noteworthy theme in a period when the aesthetics of New Objectivity gradually overrode pictorialist ideals. The post-war socialist period mainly witnessed a flourishing of so-called ‘factory photography’, tackled by many notable Slovenian photographers. The synthesis and artistic enhancement of these trends are found in the output of Antonio Živkovič, who turned documenting industrial heritage into a kind of ‘subjective industrial archaeology’.
The Arrigoni series, created in 2019 for the Concrete Dreams (Betonske sanje) group project, depicts present-day ruins of the former fish-processing factory Arrigoni in Izola. Built in 1881, the factory was in operation until the end of the 1980s, when it merged with the Delamaris company and relocated to more modern facilities while an area of the building complex was preserved as a monument to industrial heritage. Virginia Vrecl’s series is placed in the aforementioned historical context primarily in order to improve our understanding of industrial development and to call attention to the importance of this type of heritage. However, even here, the artist, in deviating from the rules of optimum representation of buildings, ‘enhances’ these ‘material remains’ into a visual metaphor of transience. The Arrigoni series thus represents not only a valuable document of time before the final obliteration of former buildings, but also an artistic reminder of time disappearing before our very eyes.
Virginia Vrecl graduated from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Ljubljana. After graduation, she collaborated with various architecture studios, and began her solo career in architectural planning. She started practising architectural photography while researching architectural space. Since 2014, she has independently exhibited or participated in numerous group exhibitions, while her architectural photographs have been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, and books, as well as on national and international online platforms.
Dejan Sluga is Director and Chief Curator of the Photon Gallery – Centre for Contemporary Photography. Holds a BA in Art History and Sociology of Culture from the Faculty of Arts Ljubljana, pursued postgraduate studies at Sotheby's Art Institute London. Started the Photon Gallery in 2003. Launched the Photonic Moments – Month of Photography Festival in 2005. Opened Photon Gallery in Vienna in 2013. Since the launch of the Photon Gallery in Ljubljana, Sluga has curated and organised most of the Photon exhibitions and projects in Ljubljana, Slovenia and internationally, including the Photon Gallery Vienna.