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Painting Exhibition

Silvester Plotajs Sicoe: Zen in Punk Nature

from 08. Jun to 10. Sep 2023, from 9:00 to 20:00, "S" Gallery, Ljubljana Castle

Rising Overnight

I would like to start these brief reflections on Sicoe’s painting with the words It seems that Sicoe ... but some jokester could understand the beginning of the text in the context Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived… so it may be better to start with the title of the famous film Once upon a time in the west, somewhere behind the forbidden hills, which Sicoe paints during the Covid restrictions. I often see Silvester Plotajs Sicoe in the role of a lone rider, albeit mostly on a bicycle. He is one of those painters whom we can (unjustifiably) only notice every now and then in an exhibition centre or gallery if we follow the Slovenian art (painting) scene attentively. If we saw him in a museum, the same jokester from the first sentence would probably comment that it is a rather good sign, as it signifies proper professional treatment and historicisation of his production. Sicoe’s creative vitality, his uncompromising stance and his commitment to visual research reside beyond the existing art system, on its edge and in another time and space, among other people. Perhaps that is why he has aptly labelled his more recent paintings, created in the last few years, as punk cubism. This label has a resonance among those who freely admit that they are lovers of painting and are able to shift their gaze, from the comfortable environment of seemingly acceptable and current images, contexts and concepts, to the very edge of the perceptible. It is only from there that we can see beyond, to the other side, where we can experience Zen in punk nature. Alternatively, we can experience it at the exhibition of the same name. These reflections are perhaps somewhat romanticised, but they are supported by the fact that the present show is Sicoe’s first exhibition in Ljubljana for almost five years, and that during this time there were quite a few attempts to present contemporary Slovenian painting production in which Sicoe was not included. It is also interesting to note that Sicoe last presented himself to the Ljubljana audience in the Ljubljana Castle’s Casemate in 2016, as well as with the collective Divji v srcu (Wild at Heart) at a group exhibition in the As Gallery in 2019, and as part of the exhibition Art Critics Choose in the Cankarjev Dom Cultural Centre in 2022.

After viewing one of his paintings, we can pursue the artist and try to capture him in various conceptual and contextual combinations, directions and styles of Slovenian painting. We can set traps for him from the vocabulary of cubism, new images, magical realism, modernist paintings or post-media painting, but he will still most likely elude us in every second painting. While we are wondering in which bush the rabbit is hidden in his painting as a reference to Joseph Beuys (or perhaps Janez Bernik or even Tivoli Park), he will give us a bitter smile and paint a loaf of bread that has risen overnight (as a metaphor for a picture that rises in the mind, enriches itself and acquires taste, or simply for the rising excitement before starting to create a new work) and place before us a pipe that is not. He will hide from us in a house for contemplation and show us the tongue of punk. Each of his paintings bears references to popular culture, to the history of film, literature and the fine arts. If the viewer’s gaze is contemptuous and underestimating, Sicoe’s paintings can quickly slip on Cubism-hungry bananas. Sicoe is a generous painter, an enthusiastic storyteller who recognises the content conundrums of contemporary art. That is why he likes to play with the viewer and furnish his paintings with inscriptions – mottos, slogans, short aphorisms, his own poetry – painted words and sentences that we can read and view at the same time. With his paintings, he responds to the contextual emptiness and monochromaticity of the modern visual concepts of our space. Perhaps this label is too bold, but it is in keeping with Sicoe’s artistic character. As restless as he is, wild at heart and insightful in thought, he is always in search of a new painting and on the hunt for a complete painting experience both for himself and for the viewer.

Božidar Zrinski

The exhibition has been prepared in cooperation with the Ljubljana Fine Artists Society.

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Free admission