Who is innocent?
Mito Gegič is a visual artist of the younger generation. He grew up in a family in which many members were hunters, including his grandfather and several other relatives. This is what prompted him to learn about the hunter’s way of life, activities and customs very early on. He decided that he would not be actively involved in hunting and that he would not continue with the family tradition. He respects and accepts it to some extent but does at the same time not agree with it altogether. He became a painter and hunting has become an important subject in his artwork. He explores and absorbs himself into the details of the topic and the various aspects of hunting and seeks parallels also with other areas of human activity and society in general.
He almost always relates the topic of hunting with the contemporary way of life and the digital media yet approaches it critically. He first considered it in painting but expanded the field of his “hunting” creativity to objects and performative action, recording the latter through video and photography. Occasionally, he supplements the hunting topic with the “non-hunting” topics of current events within the world and contemporary society.
In his paintings, he deals with the transfer of digital painting onto canvas, that is, the materialisation of the imaginary. He has developed a special technique for his painted creations, which is also his speciality. He covers a clean canvas with strips of self-adhesive tape. He searches and finds a suitable motif on the web. The choice of online images is based on perfect or provocative motifs from the real world of hunting or wildlife, occasionally he also opts for other current events. Gegič highlights these motifs by painting them as realistically as possible on the taped surface. He prepares a second canvas and transfers the individual strips from the first canvas onto the new one, reconstructing them into a second image. In doing so, he is not precise and purposefully creates defects in the spacing between the strips. The painted strips are misplaced or even torn and crinkled or missing in places. He completes the finished piece by fixing it. The original motif from the web can still be recognised in the newly created image. The individual painted strips bear the information of the fragments of the image, which the artist first divides, and thus fragments, in order to then reconstruct them on a new canvas, so defragmenting and forming them into a new image. This is not ideal because of the defects and missing strips, yet it is at the same time perfect enough for the original motif to be recognised in it. An intangible image from the web, which is nevertheless a notation of the real world, is chosen by the artist and materialised on the taped canvas in the form of a new, imperfectly transferred image. In the digital world, some files become damaged or lost sometimes, but in the end, the whole programme still works. That his method of working is connected to digital technology is indicated by the artist through the titles of his works.
He addresses hunting both from the viewpoint of the hunters, who care for the animals and nature and instate the broken balance of the animal species, as well as from the viewpoint of the guardians of nature and the animals, who see hunting as the meaningless killing of animals and the deliberate destruction of the natural balance. He paints hunting motifs as well as wounded, killed and dead animals, thus pointing to the lack of piety towards them and expressing his disagreement with the unnecessary harm and killing of animals. He also adds a critical view of contemporary social events that leads to egoism as a result of the prevailing influence, which is driving people into an increasing crisis and personal distress. His paintings can be a medium for questioning our own attitude towards killed animals and killing, towards family, local, national tradition, including hunting, and ultimately serve as a point of reflection on our relationship with the environment and death.
The works of other – non-painting – art genres distance themselves somewhat in terms of content from the critique of hunting, chase and killing of animals, and increasingly relate to the contemporary times. He highlights moral and ethical aspects. Even though he almost always uses parts of dead animals and antlers in them, they are increasingly socially critical, often also reaching towards interhuman, interpersonal and social relations. They are marked by a critical view of contemporary social events, the crisis and pressures that it brings to both individuals and the general public, of personal distress, fear, uncertainty, loneliness, numbness, lack of solidarity, numerousness, of the personal characteristics of individuals and relationships among the masses of those different or divergent, of increasing egoism, intolerance, lack of compassion ... which can thrust an individual into personal distress. He is becoming increasingly precise in expressing his criticism.
Mito Gegič is presenting mostly objects and paintings at the Krško Gallery, which complement each other in their spatial layout. In such a way, he further emphasises current social events, particularly the ecological issue, the attitude of man to nature and animals, his aggressive encroachment into nature and the disturbance of the ecosystem as well as the helplessness and fear of the animals and their forced adaptation.
The possibility of replacing animals with humans, and animal nature with human nature, makes this message by the artist in the works of Gegič even clearer and louder, be it a body, parts of a body or a bone, or for instance, a hunting observatory built by man to observe animals whose function has been changed to the surveillance of people. His message from the hunting field can be expanded and tied to other negative human activities – as a critique of war, genocide, exploitation, indifference, cruel treatment and the supremacy of one group of people over another, helplessness and fear (of migrants or those otherwise endangered) as well as risk (of life) for better living conditions ...
Among the works that stand out with their non-hunting theme, is the painting Carnival, which shows the massive killing of pigs from farms during the time of the pig plague. Here, human behaviour goes beyond the ethical and humane killing of animals and the professional prevention of spreading disease. The killings are extremely cruel, ruthless and probably also unnecessary. Inadvertently, an association of substituting man crops up: like a massive killing of captured people or refugees in special centres, or for instance, a scene from a concentration camp. If substituting victims with children, then a scene gets a biblical dimension because it is reminiscent of the (altar) painting of the Holy Innocents, the children whom Herod had killed during the time of Jesus’ birth.
The piece Remember Me as Part of the Day, which implies a deer lying on a stretcher covered with a sheet, breathing heavily, triggers numerous associations. A deer may be a symbol of a particular animal species or the entire animal world, left to man – who cares – helping him to recover and thereby survive. Or perhaps he is left to man, who does not care, because he has pronounced him dead even before he died and has abandoned him to a prolonged and torturous death or even extinction. The deer may be a symbol of nature in general, but it is man’s decision to take action. A deer can be a symbol of man, who is left to the mercy or lack of mercy of another man, it may be a symbol of a hungry child, perhaps an orphan (of war) or an abandoned child. Many associations allow for numerous interpretations, the riches that the artist has offered us for reflection.
The hunting observatories and lookouts are the artist’s frequently used hunting motif, which, however, can be easily transferred from hunting to any environment, wild or urban. But much more frequent than the artist’s motif are the different means of observation and control in contemporary society: these may be a camera and a computer programme on a mobile phone, or a computer that can switch on regardless of the owner’s wish, or cameras in buildings, cafés, city streets, roads, satellite cameras, therefore any camera that surveils, records and monitors us. The camera and programme that recognises and tracks us, the camera that eavesdrops. The camera and programme that record every step we take, our activities, analyse them and anticipate our thoughts, goals, our next steps that plan the possibilities of our decisions and our lives. The cameras and programmes of contemporary surveillance and analyses are part of our everyday life, which we have accepted and live with in unwilling captivity, but cannot resist since people are, at least in general, mostly a helpless animal species.
The works of Gegič are critical towards the different classes of society and appropriate to their time. They are a unique mirror of the contemporary times.
Text by: Denis Volk, curator
Mito Gegič (1982, Ljubljana)
Mito Gegič completed the general matura at Gimnazija Ptuj in 2002 and enrolled in the Painting Department at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (ALUO) under the mentorship of Prof. Emerik Bernard in the same year. As part of the CEEPUS student exchange programme, he attended the New Media Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 2006. He graduated in the class of Prof. Herman Gvardjančič (co-mentor: Zmago Lenárdič) in 2008, with his final piece entitled The Edge and the Field of Power. He completed a postgraduate specialist study in Painting at ALUO under the supervision of Zmago Lenárdič in 2016, entitled The Hunted Image. He recieved numerous awards in Slovenia and abroad; in 2016 he recieved Jakopič Award. He lives and works in Škofja Loka.
Denis Volk (1968, Šempeter pri Gorici)
Curator Denis Volk holds formal qualifications in the field of health. He completed his training for curators and critics of contemporary art at SCCA–Ljubljana. He organises exhibitions and writes texts about exhibitions and contemporary art. He works independently, and his particular focus of attention is the presentation of Slovenian artists outside Slovenia. He works with numerous institutions, societies and individuals from Slovenia and abroad.
Ambient photographs: Nina Sotelšek