Re-vision, selected works 2000- 2013, Galerija Velenje, 2013.

Re-vision, selected works 2000- 2013, Galerija Velenje, 2013.

In connection

The exhibition Re-Vision aims to give an overview of the past work of Nataša Tajnik Stupar. However, the very title chosen by the author suggests that the view is not directed entirely backwards. From the edge of the future it offers us also a glimpse of what is ahead. One of the reasons for setting up an exhibition of the artist’s past work could be the end of a certain period, however, this is not the case here. What is more highlighted in the exhibited works is the continuity of interest in particular themes, symbols and forms. Even the notion of development as some kind of a hierarchical structure gravitating from the less to the more can easily be discarded here. Undoubtedly, we can notice some changes in the author’s work spanning over the period of more than ten years in terms of her formal as well as the technical-technological approaches. In both we can detect a confident detachment form the academic frameworks in quest of an idiosyncratic path of research and mature expression. Yet, is that not a trait of every creative spirit? What sets the author apart is the changes in the content core of the paintings, or rather the lack of them over the past years. The saying that a painter spends a lifetime creating just one painting can be applied to the author’s work without hesitation. Even though the motifs are different, we are caught in the same story. What keeps changing is the words in the narration and the perspectives adopted. This painting is not a collection of scenes and the story is not linear either. Lyrical expression, which is one of the most persistent traits in Nataša Tajnik Stupar’s works, creates an illusion of submersion into a multidimensional world where everything takes place simultaneously. On the one hand, her paintings resemble colourful gardens promising to the soul relaxation and revival at their springs, on the other hand, the paintings evoke everyday frustrations of an intimate struggle of an individual with the outside world. In the dualistic interplay between Eros and Thanatos the former has an emotional advantage, however, one cannot find peace without the other. Nor can they together, for that matter.

The mythological symbols refer to the archetypes that everyone, or at least most of us, can adopt. One of the particularly important ones in the author’s work is the wheel of life. This wheel depicts a never ending circle of alternating growth and demise, creation and destruction, birth and death. A version of this wheel can be seen at this exhibition in the painting The Circus (2000). It is the original source of the motif of mandorla, which has been occurring also in other of the author’s paintings over the last years. The great circle in the painting is indeed divided into eight segments, however, its other version with an embedded six-petal flower can be traced back to the old art of ornament and is still present in the folk tradition. Mandorla can be seen as one petal of such a flower, yet even with the absence of the whole circle, we can still follow the life story of birth and death as told by the wheel of life. In art mandorla most often signifies a passage, a door that separates this world from the world beyond. In Christianity, for example, Christ appears from heaven through it, whereas in the pagan tradition – to put it simply without trying to diminish its complex symbolic value in any way – this form is most directly linked with vagina. The symbol of mandorla is even more intriguing if we associate it with the middle section of vesicae piscis, the bladder of a fish, which as a whole represents the merging of the male and female deities with the aim of reproduction.

In the paintings of Nataša Tajnik Stupar mandorla emerges in different versions, however, it is always connected with its transcendental meaning – mandorla as a passage or link between here and beyond. The painting The Path to the Island (2001) has a meaningful title. The canvas is scattered with repetitive strings of a single form that can be interpreted as a colourful impression of reflections on the undulating surface, or as boat hulls. Similar effects can be found in the black version of the Tora Bora painting (2002). The boat is the most common mythological vehicle used for the transport of the dead to the other side. The horizontal string functions as a passive antipode to the vertical mandorla in which we can recognise the ascension gap. A new life emerges in the painting The Bud (2001), which is divided into two halves. In one a cereal ear and a big seed are easily recognisable, whereas in the other we can see a lotus in a greenish pond. The Slovenian equivalent of the word bud is kal. In Slovenian the title is juxtaposed with another meaning of kal, which was used in the south-west of Slovenia to refer to the water source used for cattle. Water with its transparency and the potential to reflect light has become an important motif for the author’s lyrical expression. When juxtaposed with dry land it represents the content motif of the dualistic dynamics of the never ending circle. In the painting Matrics (2002) the background of a poetic landscape is contrasted with a foregrounded framed image of two serpents coiled into a spiral. According to the ancient Indian tradition, this is the representation of Kundalini, the primordial cosmic energy, often interpreted as the unconscious and libido. In the European tradition the two coiled serpents are most known as part of the caduceus, the staff carried by Hermes. According to the ancient Greeks, Hermes was a messenger between gods and humans and, in some interpretations, a guide to the underworld. Formally the two coiled snakes represent two entwined circles or an endless loop. A similar motif is the Ouroboros, a serpent eating its own tail, however, this one, as well as the wheel of life, is more commonly associated with the basic unit of living organisms – the cell.

It was in the painting O, my DNA (2006), when the form of a double stranded helix outlined with thin lines first appeared between patches of colour. The author associates the motif very directly with the molecule carrying the hereditary material in every cell. She expresses it as a string of vertically arranged mandorlas. In my opinion, this painting marks a radical turning point in the artistic expression of Nataša Tajnik Stupar, as she now substitutes myths and religion with science in her interpretation of life. The theme remains more or less the same, and the motif of mandorla is preserved, however, the abstract forms give way to the forms reminiscent of the realistic shapes from under the microscope. The gap into the world beyond becomes one turn of the double helix, as it is shown in the paintings The Greenhouse and Intergalactica (2008). The motif from the caduceus multiplies, accumulates and thickens into a materialized mass that one could get hold of as if it were made up of thick ship ropes. Like other mythological creatures Ouroboros does not belong into these paintings any more. It is replaced with cells and the mystery of life is simply encrypted into the genetic code of the DNA molecule. After all, this is what defines who we are and what we are like in our individual life circles. The connections that everybody carries within are individual too and they determine our uniqueness as well as similarities with our relatives. In the paintings these connections are expressed through the stripes with shadowy patches that resemble the so called DNA finger prints. They enable the identification of an individual and his or her family ties. Perhaps the idea behind The Sisters and The Humility (2010) is the affirmation of the connectedness through the origin taken from the author’s intimate space, a search of one’s identity. As in her other works, especially in her charcoal drawings from 2005, where intimism was linked with humanism, we can assume that here too we are dealing with a more generalized metaphor. The story can be connected with the beginning and we can catch a glimpse of the mythical basis of our understanding of the living, perhaps of our common origin and the end of life. And finally, the painting Knit the Future (2013) increases our awareness that we do possess the ability and power to create and transform our lives.

Vasja Nagy