Text by: Martina Vovk
MIHA ŠTRUKELJ: PAINTINGS, LIKOVNI SALON CELJE, 2004
Miha Štrukelj has already been given a special place among contemporary Slovene artists due to his completely individual painting strategy. Štrukelj’s past works have denoted the artist’s intensive referring to mass media imagery. This, basically thematic and motive choice, has made possible a very complex and well considered conceptualisation, where the essential point is actually being nothing more than dependent on and linear-proportional to formal, completely artistic object setting. The imagery of humanitarian catastrophes and contemporary wars – from Gulf war and Chernobyl tragedy to the NATO’s bombing of Belgrade, Afghanistan terrorists and 9/11 New York agony – naturally supposes engaged and critical stand of the spectator. But things are not even nearly as simple as that, since the motifs are wrapped in some kind of double game; through the means of painting and entirely formal conception they are coded into a much more branched and far-reaching discourse.
Since his very beginning as an artist, Štrukelj has been flirting with phenomenon of technology. His personal traumatic experience of bodily injury has been enabling him to sight, by means of extended and incredible possibilities of medical technology, the core of his consciousness itself – literally in his own head. CT (computed tomography) – scans of a brain shortly became a motif in Štrukelj's works. And with this kind of artist's imitation procedure, adoption of the structure of the technologised sight, it is impossible to deny the concurrently multimeaning, delusive and extremely ironised autor’s attitude. One cannot sight the core of his/her own body, neither the psychic or spiritual essence of it; a human being no longer recognises characteristics of its own existence, the subject can no longer be constituted from/by itself – so it resorts to technology. Thus, at the utter indefiniteness, disorientation and uncertainty of the present subject, the cut occurs – the unconditional trust in the eye of the camera (endoscope, computer animation, sophisticated military surveillance equipment), the adoption of its sight for one’s own.
The cynicism of this idea can be sensed in the very formal structure itself - in the design of the painting surface of Štrukelj’s paintings, dated from period 1999 to 2002. Technologised and to the extreme degree aestethicised view of the worldwide super-eye is denoted with hardly perceptible, nevertheless totally obvious raster. In this process, seemingly insignificant artist’s idea, a totally subversive point is hidden. The sterile calculability and predictability of the raster (the fact of a raster actually being merely a residue of some accustomed painting tool is of total insignificance), clashing with pasty colour layers, is its own self-disclosure. The art images of war scenes depict a game of a duplicated/annihilated reality – the certainty of watching a constructed war spectacle in video game (or film), or, on the other hand, real crises scenes in TV reports, becomes fully irrelevant. The extended, objectivised, aestethicised view of technology which is supposed to give to a contemporary a clearer insight on essence of the reality is actually a farce. Just as it is any illusion of human kind being able of making progress of any kind actually a farce, too. The inexorably true result of this incapability is the banal truth of any war, including the one that finally always brakes through the meanders of reflection on Štrukelj’s art to the spectator’s consciousness as the most bitter and reliable fact.
Štrukelj’s ironic fascination with technologised view continues in some different versions in paintings from 2003. Scenes are often torn, covered with abstract square colour sequences, showing not necessarily recognisable battlefields, but meddling entirely neutral landscapes, some sort of undetermined topographies. It is possible to make actually anything out of it; for example, for some time we can be amused by the assumption of all being just a materialisation of digital technology based modern communication breakdown. It is about a gap, momentary intrusion of one reality into another; it is about a sensation, much alike the most dramatic moment of a film being suddenly interrupted by disturbance of transmission and distorted into a static, abstract colour pattern. And then again – it is about the moment of consciousness in which any attempt of trust, identification, constitution of a subject in relation to the World is becoming impossible or is made impossible.
Štrukelj’s elementary process of creation could be named scanning; yet not in a sense of sublime, metaphoric meaning, where every art work passes on at least a part of the reality from which it appears, but almost literally scanning which imitates the very technological procedure itself, thus inheriting many of the content implications. If, on one hand, Štrukelj in his early, traditional oil technique (due to this fact a certain degree of a witty defiance must be recognised, since one could come up with much more simple and available technical procedures, particularly with that topic) works literally pretends to scan the image of the reality as it reveals itself through constructed reality of info-tainment, and some sort of technical disturbances interfere with those scans in his later works (in both cases, of course, it is about the author’s critical stand, awareness of the absurd and perversity of the contemporary society mechanisms), then, on the other hand, this scanning procedure of his latest works of 2004 sublimates to more personal, more undetermined and, we might say, more intimate level. The standpoint of the Big eye that scans scenes of human drama in earlier Štrukelj’s works from the bird’s eye view, globally and from distance, with that sterile and releasing distance of media reporting or satellite shots of battlefields, descends on the level of an ordinary human standpoint in his recent works; descends into towns, crossroads, squares and streets of great Metropole. The paintings’ titles reveal it is mostly about New York and Berlin, the two of the artist’s favourite cities; however this recognition is almost of no importance, since it is more about personal, small and individual drama, than generally important stories.
In these works Štrukelj renounces bombastic and spectacular, ill reputed and globally fatal events of the modern history and tries to replace them with seemingly totally unimportant, instantaneous and general events, time-spatial cut outs from the metropolis ordinary scenography. There is a testimony in this indefinitely indifferent, almost naively prosaic and at the same time fragile lyric selection of motifs, momentary recordings of time/space of some in fact nameless metropolis, a testimony of arouse from earlier clinically sterile recording of state of the World, of some intimate, humanly personal restoration of author’s own horizon. It is a testimony of author’s own, minor, fleeting, yet the only reliable visual – and it should be named existential at the same time, of course – experience of the World. This experience is, strictly speaking, impossible to define in its essence and there is no need for doing so, since it is – like any essential moment of being – indefinable and indescribable. It is inexpressible in its very own whiteness, white blurs from which the contours of new objects and views arise in pure colour and under strong light, similar to the sight of the world as seen by the newborn eye. This way it is possible to view all of these arising images of city sceneries, these momentary, confusing and apparently totally unimportant sights, being reasoned by the moments of lightning-like and true consciousness. The whiteness from which the colourful mirages step up is silence, from which the word is born and vanishes into. This lack of articulation, silence of the word and silence of the colour, which defines (starts and ends with) the author’s self-constitutive sight, is the main purpose of Štrukelj’s creation. It is the artist’s personal, intimate, painfully insecure, yet the only possible record of the situation. It is a scan of the subjective coordinates in the world and time with no innocence, so to speak.