Valvasorjevo nabrežje 4, Krško
September 5th - October 15th, 2017
The painting-drawing-publishing duo Beli sladoled (White Ice Cream), formed by academy- trained painters Miha Perne and Leon Zuodar, are holding their first exhibition in this part of Slovenia and at Galerija Krško. It is also the first time they are exhibiting in a converted church. The pair have been active as Beli sladoled since 2005, while they also work individually on their own projects as painters and graphic designers. Even in joint exhibitions their works retain their distinct voice. Perne and Zuodar founded the independent label Beli sladoled books & zines aiming to promote high quality drawing, which, in their words, has been “pushed to the margins of art expression by more modern art forms and relegated to kindergartens.” Their publishing activity has focused on creating a space for emerging artists to showcase their work. Perne and Zuodar are the recipients of the OHO award, a leading independent award for young visual artists in Slovenia.
With respect to publishing, Perne and Zuodar use a do-it-yourself principle, effectively eliminating any intermediaries (i.e. designer, printer) between the original idea and the final product; this allows them to have better control of the overall process. Their approach and drawings are most closely aligned with the screen printing technique, while their fanzines are created using an obsolete mass reproduction technique – a photocopier, a relict which has found a new home in an artist's studio. Much like vinyl records both these techniques belong to an era of the past, thus evoking emotions associated with growing up in a period long gone. This temporal distance has facilitated the recognition of an aesthetic quality in the functionality of these machines.
Their heterogeneous drawing style is inspired by comics as well as the abundant history of painting. In their works, the authors take a seemingly light approach and convey their message in a playful, succinct manner; this allows them to reach an audience which would typically not be frequenting galleries and museums. The duo share an easy-going, sometimes grotesque sense of humour, which they use to facetiously comment on day to day life. Although they are active as a team, they create their works separately, one in Ljubljana and the other in Postojna. However, once their drawings are placed side by side they form a cohesive unit – the authors themselves say they are not exactly sure why that is the case.
The exhibition entitled Book was envisioned as an installation adapted specifically for the space at Galerija Krško. Conceptually the authors examined the relationship between their drawing – publishing activity and the space. They were intrigued by a shift in purpose akin to the increasingly popular trend of prisons being converted into hotels, industrial halls into living spaces, churches into galleries etc. Their works are presented as a five-page open book made of cardboard, felt, glue and other materials. The size of the installation is adapted to an adult's visual field, while the “pages” are fanned out around the axis. The first and last page are covered in felt and painted as title pages, while the inside pages contain drawings.
The first step in the creative process was to determine their drawing parameter. They chose a black-and-white drawing on A4 and A3 format paper. Leon has adopted a complex drawing style that toys with the graphic form concepts of positive-negative and black-white. Images are duplicated, a positive drawing is counterbalanced by a negative mirror image of itself. Leon also uses bold contours and connects large white and black surfaces that give the impression of geometric shapes. His subject matter is derived from the local urban environment. His drawings are spontaneous and energetic using acrylics and markers. Interestingly, he also makes use of less conventional drawing tools that he happens to have on hand, e.g. a simple drawing program on his cell phone or latte art with melted chocolate. His creations are regularly posted on Instagram. Leon's compositions appear airy while Miha's are more complex, featuring a busy medley of human figures, animals, plants and objects.
Miha's drawings have a central composition and give the impression of completed images within their format. He draws using black ink. His works are spontaneous yet precise. The duality of black-white and positive-negative can be noted as an interchange between abstract and figurative forms. There is no blank space to allow his figures to move; instead, he fills any empty spaces with vegetative forms, real and imaginary objects. Figure-based drawings are counterbalanced by drawings using “isohypses”, which do not function as topographical lines on a map, but rather they delineate the intensity of form. The appearance of the form varies and is determined by thin and thick contours. As a result, the form is concentrically dense in some areas while in other areas more white spaces appear. The so-called isohypses invoke an image of a baroque floor plan.
Perne and Zuodar enter the exhibition space in Galerija Krško with their work entitled Book which showcases their drawing and publishing activity as the duo Beli sladoled (White Ice Cream). They comment on the altered purpose of the space by altering the purpose of the art work. As the title implies, visitors entering the gallery come upon a giant book or fanzine covered in black and white drawings. The fanzine has migrated from the streets, where it is passed from one person to the next, into the gallery where it is no longer perused in an intimate atmosphere but has rather become a museum installation. The wide open book of images is situated in the old sanctuary, inviting visitors to take in its content which is expressed plainly, in black and white. Yet, the content is not presented in written words or letters but rather as art. As children we used art as our primary form of expression, but as we matured, we have become somewhat inept at reading visual images. Beli sladoled's book invites adults to revisit the rich world of artistic expression.
Miha Perne was born in 1978 in Ljubljana. In 1997 he graduated from the Secondary School of Design and Photography. In 2004 he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, majoring in Painting. He is also active in graphic design, comics and publishing.
Leon Zuodar was born in Postojna in 1977. In 2004 he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, majoring in Painting. In 2005, Zuodar and Perne formed the painting group Beli sladoled and in 2011 they received the OHO award.
Ambient photographs: Nina Sotelšek