07.MOJCA ZLOKARNIK15092013

 Objekti strmenja / Gazing Objects

Za slike in grafike, ki jih Mojca Zlokarnik razstavlja na razstavi z naslovom Objekti strmenja, je značilno predvsem dvoje – barve in proge. Seveda je jasno, da je skorajda vsaka slika sestavljena iz barv, ki so nanešene na podlago, in bi v tem primeru zaman iskali izjemnost njenega ustvarjanja. Njeno ustvarjanje je, kar se tiče barve, izjemno v tem, da barvo predstavi na zelo neposreden in skrajno nesramežljiv – včasih bi temu rekli kar žaljiv – način. Barva je izmuzljiva amebna snov, ki lahko prevzame podobo česarkoli. Zlokarnikova poskuša predstaviti barvo v teh izmuzljivih in fantomskih medprostorih. Na njenih slikah barva nima nobene specifične oblike, razen tiste minimalne, ki je potrebna za njeno reprezentacijo. Tukaj pa posamezna barva ni predstavljena v popolni izoliranosti, ampak v odnosu do druge barve, ki jo poudarjajo premišljeni intervali vertikalnih črt ali newmanovskih zadrg (zips), v odnosu do prostora, v katerega je postavljena in do stene, na katero je obešena.

Na prvi pogled se nam zazdi, da imamo pred sabo velike barvne karte, izreze oblačil ali preprog. Kot takšne, se slike Zlokarnikove ne glede na velike formate posameznih del, opazovalcu ne vsiljujejo, ampak ga vabijo k pogledu nase, skratka vabijo ga k strmenju v sliko, kar pa je nekaj bistveno drugačnega od bolščanja.  To, zelo neposredno vabilo opazovalčevemu pogledu, pa je hkrati past za ta isti pogled, saj se v tem strmenju slika ne izkaže kot nekaj dokončnega, pač pa kot nekaj živega in vedno spreminjajočega se. Pogled, uperjen v sliko, je pogled, ki je ujet v subtilne barvne nianse in sukcesivne kontraste. Ob tem se nam zazdi, da posamezno barvno polje izstopi iz slike in zalebdi v prostoru pred sliko ter se nato potopi nekam v globino izza slike, posamezni deli pa preidejo čez svoje strogo določene okvirje in začnejo pulzirati z različno intenzivnostjo.

Barva je fizikalno dejstvo, prav tako pa je tudi antropološko dejstvo. Ljudje so do barv že od samega začetka civilizacije imeli zelo neposreden odnos. Barvam so pridajali različne simbolne pomene, tako pozitivne, kakor negativne. Posamezne barve so lahko imele v različnih obdobjih različne pomene, obstajala pa so tudi obdobja, ko so barve nasploh pomenile nekaj zelo dvoumnega in prepovedanega. Včasih so iste barve postavljene v različne koncepte pomenile nekaj povsem nasprotnega. Rdeča barva je recimo tradicionalno barva, ki simbolizira ljubezen, srčnost in ognjevitost. V srednjem veku pa je najbolj negativen in preklet svetopisemski lik, Juda Iškariot pogosto prikazovan rdečelas. In sicer zaradi tega, ker je etimološki izvor njegovega priimka iskal v nemškem stavku »ist gar rot« (je povsem rdeč). Nemški antisemitizem je razlog za rdečo barvo Judeževih las našel v razlagi, po kateri so Judje kot rasa spolno tako razbrzdani in neučakani, da občujejo tudi med menstruacijo.

Isto pomensko raznolikost najdemo tudi v živalskem svetu. Večina živali spreminja barvo svojega krzna in večina ptic barvo svojega perja skladno s spremembo letnih časov, saj takšna prilagoditev barve okolju poveča možnosti za njihovo preživetje. Nekatere živali pa vseskozi ostajajo odete v barve, ki so prav kričeče in kot takšne močno izstopajo iz svojega naravnega okolja. Takšne živali s svojimi živimi barvami signalizirajo različne informacije. S pomočjo barvnega perja samci nekaterih vrst ptičev osvajajo samice. S pomočjo jarkih barv posamezne živali kažejo potencialnim plenilcem svojo strupenost in neužitnost, druge pa zopet s pomočjo svojih barv zvabijo svoj plen v smrt. E. H. Gombrich recimo opisuje celo primer rdečega samca bojne ribice v akvariju, ki je angleški rdeči poštni kamion zaznal kot svojega konkurenta.

David Batchelor v svoji knjigi Chromophobia opisuje zahodno evropski svet kot izrazito kromofobičen svet. Tisto, kar je črno, belo in sivo je pojmovano kot resno, spoštovanja vredno, moralno, poslovno učinkovito. Skratka, kot tisto, v čemer je odsotnost živahnih barv, znamenje odsotnosti zamaknjenosti in otroške igrivosti. Žive barve pa označujejo tisto, kar je manj vredno, marginalno in iluzorno kakor hipijski kalejdoskopski kozmos, viden skozi prizmo LSD. Že v antični (in zelo barviti Stari Grčiji) je Platon govoril o slikarjih kot o mešalcih barvnih drog, njegov učenec Aristotel pa je barvo imenoval droga (pharmakon). Barva je ohranila  določeno pomensko napetost tudi v latinščini, saj je latinski izraz coloro (barvati) povezan z izrazom celare (skriti ali prikriti). Sodoben človek je za barve tako rekoč skorajda popolnoma slep, saj od natančnega prepoznavanja barv ni več odvisno njegovo preživetje. Za osnovno preživetje sodobni človek potrebuje možnost prepoznavanja treh barv: rdeče, rumene in zelene, pri čemer rdeča pomeni prepoved, rumena svarilo in zelena dovoljenje. Kako usodne so te tri barve za naše fizično preživetje, lahko preizkusimo na najbližjem semaforiziranem prehodu za pešce.

Faber Birren v svoji knjigi Colour and Human Response pravi, da so mladi precej bolj odzivni na barvo in v njej najdejo ugodje, ko pa ostarijo in so bolj podrejeni disciplini, pa postanejo na barvo manj odzivni, saj barva zanje izgubi svojo notranjo privlačnost. Podobno je na začetku 19. stoletja trdil že Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, ki je v svojem Nauku o barvah pisal, da imajo divji narodi, neizobraženi ljudje in otroci izjemno nagnjenje do živih barv. In tega se zaveda tudi sodobna trgovina z otroškimi igračami. V takšnih primerih je barva dejansko nevarna in posredno smrtonosna. Barve s pridom uporabljajo v reklamah, kjer se pomeni barv simbolično zgostijo v simboliki pravljičnega jabolka, v katerega je ugriznila Sneguljčica. Belemu človeku je ravno to otroško nagnjenje »primitivnega« človeka do barv olajšalo osvajanje njihovega teritorija. Alkohol, ogledala in cenena barvna stekelca so bistveno pripomogla k uničenju posameznih kultur ostalih domorodskih »obarvanih« ras.

Povsem drugače pa je bilo pri barvah vojaških uniform. Te so bile zaradi lažjega prepoznavanja in ustvarjanja vtisa vedno zelo živih barv. Danes so takšni recimo športni dresi in to  iz povsem enakega razloga. Britanci so šele leta 1902 svoje znamenite rdeče suknjiče zamenjali s kaki uniformami. Leta 1916 pa so v katastrofalnih prvih urah bitke pri Sommi, zavezniki ugotovili, da sodoben način bojevanja zahteva povsem drugačne barve in vzorce uniform. Bistvo načina bojevanja ni bilo več v tem, da so bili vojaki in artilerijski položaji čim bolj vidni, temveč kar se da nevidni. Za to so zavezniške vojske poskrbele s kamuflažo in maskirnimi vzorci, ki so jih v vojskovanje pritegnili iz sočasnega kubističnega slikarstva. Nemška vojska je v 1. svetovni vojni v smislu barv poskrbela predvsem za svoje letalstvo. Nemška letala si namreč – v nasprotju z zavezniško pehoto in artilerijo – niso prizadevala biti nevidna, ampak v prvi vrsti individualno prepoznavna in razkošna v svoji pisani barvitosti. Letala v eskadrilji nemškega asa Manfreda von Richthofna (Rdeči baron) so bila tako raznoliko barvita, da so jo novinarji imenovali leteči cirkus Manfreda von Richthofna.

Črno-beli svet je bil svet dokumentarnih fotografij in filmov, ki so ravno na takšen način dokazovali in upravičevali svojo resničnost. Z razvojem barvne fotografije in barvnega filma, pa se je ta – črna, bela in siva resničnost preselila predvsem v japijevsko moško modo in vizualni atribut zanesljivosti in resnosti poslovnega sveta, v katerem pa je kaj kmalu postala sodobna kamuflažna uniforma, pod krinko katere se na posreden način netijo vojne, izvajajo kraje in uničuje okolje. Na začetku 21. stoletja se je ta črna, bela in siva resničnost razširila čez vse kontinente in iz mode poslovnega sveta v sivino medčloveških odnosov in tako svet postarala v samih temeljih. Že Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel  je v svojem Uvodu k filozofiji prava uporabil metaforo, po kateri se sveta ne da pomladiti, če slikamo s sivim po sivem.

Angleški romantični slikar James Mallord William Turner je na svojih slikah upodabljal nedefinirani in forme razkrajajoči vir svetlobe, ki bi ga lahko pojmovali kot svetlobni madež. Njegova najznačilnejša novost je bila odkritje škrlatne, ne hladne, ampak razžarjene sence, kar je bila za takratni estetski okus in za takratno moralo žaljiva in izrazito nemoralna stvar. Turner je s svojim pojmovanjem svetlobe požel večinoma kritike in posmeh. Časopisa The Literary Gazette in The Atheneaum sta naredila serijo neresnih omalovaževanj Turnerjeve častitljive podobe, primerjajoč njegovo tehniko s slikanjem s čokolado, kremo, jajčnim rumenjakom in grozdnim želejem. Obstaja karikatura, ki Turnerja zaničljivo kaže kot majhnega moža, oblečenega v frak, s cilindrom na glavi, kako slika s cunjo na palici. Na vedru je napis YELLOW, kar je smešenje primata svetlobe v Turnerjevem slikarstvu. Turnerjev sodobnik William Hazlitt pa je njegove slike posmehljivo označil kot »zelo dobro zadete slike niča«.

Zelo ustrezni pomenski razlikovanji med črno-belim in barvnim najdemo v dveh filmih. V filmu Wima Wendersa Nebo nad Berlinom (1986-87), sta predstavljena dva svetova, eden je svet duhov in angelov, drugi je čutni svet telesnih bitij. V tem Wendersovem fimu je svet duhov črno-beli svet, medtem ko je svet telesnih bitij barvni svet.  Šele ko angel (Bruno Ganz) pade na zemljo in se utelesi, lahko vidi svet v barvah, a za to novo pridobljeno sposobnost plača z lastno umrljivostjo, kakršne prej kot angel, ki sveta ni videl v barvah, ni poznal.

V filmu Victorja Fleminga Čarovnik iz Oza iz leta 1939, Dorotejo in psička Tota tornado skupaj s hišo odnese v čudežno deželo Oz. Dorotejin rojstni Kanzas je črno-bel, čudežna dežela Oz se pojavi v technicolorju, ob tem pa so posamezni objekti še posebej označeni s pridevniki, ki označujejo njihovo barvo – rumena opečnata cesta, smaragdno mesto in rdeči čeveljčki. Doroteja izrazi svoje spoznanje v stavku, ki ga izreče psičku Totu: »Toto, občutek imam, da več nisva v Kanzasu«. Kanzas je siv, prerija je siva, njena hiša je siva in prav tako siva sta tudi teta Em in stric Henry, ki se nikoli ne smeje. Čarovnik iz Oza je izraz želje po zapustitvi določenega stanja in kraja. Je izraz želje po zapustitvi sivine in vstopa v svet barv in novega življenja, kjer ni nobenih težav. Vstop v barvni svet čudežne dežele Oz, je vstop v svet, ki se nahaja onstran mavrice. Tudi v tem primeru je barva droga v smislu zgoraj omenjenega Platonovega in Aristotelovega pojmovanja. Potovanje v svet barv, je potovanje v stanje zamaknjenosti, sanj in nezavednega.

Poseben del razstave predstavlja šest objektov, po katerih je razstava tudi dobila ime, to so Objekti strmenja, se pravi slike-objekti, ki po svoji obliki spominjajo na prenosne računalnike. Tisto, kar je izvorno bilo mišljeno kot pripomoček, je v končni fazi postalo nekaj, kar bistveno ukinja človeško komunikacijo, človeka samega pa dela slepega, ne le za barve, ampak za vse stvari okrog nas. Človek, ki hoče biti neprenehoma priključen na elektronske naprave, in se neprenehoma boji, da mu bo ušlo kaj pomembnega, vse bolj postaja podoba klinično mrtvega človeka, ki je na oddelku za reanimacijo priklopljen na različne aparature, ki mu omogočajo nadaljnje vegetiranje. Zlokarnikova nas preseneti s tem, da njeni objekti strmenja po zunanji obliki sicer res spominjajo na prenosne računalnike, a na njih ni ne ekrana ne tipkovnice. Obstajata samo dve slikovni polji, ki nas vabita  k strmenju, h komunikaciji s samimi seboj in s svetom. Če bi ta njena dela obrnili za 45 stopinj navzgor, bi dobili obliko poznosrednjeveškega majhnega diptiha, na katerem je bila na levi strani upodobljena sveta podoba, na desni pa v molitev zatopljeni vernik. Podobno kakor prenosni računalniki, so bili tudi ti majhni diptihi namenjeni prenosu. Pred njimi je njihov lastnik molil med svojimi potovanji. Objekti strmenja so objekti za rekonstrukcijo medosebne človeške komunikacije. Isto nam govorijo tudi njene ostale slike in grafike, na katerih vidimo krhke linije, sledi rok spričo katerih smo pred njimi ujeti v isto dvoumno začudenje, kakor Robinson Crusoe, ki je na svojem neobljudenem otoku v pesku odkril sledi stopal, ki niso bile njegove.

Prav tako poseben del razstave predstavlja tudi »gozd« visečih trimetrskih grafik. Senzibilnemu gledalcu se za trenutek zazdi, da stoji pred davno izginulimi Semiramidinimi visečimi vrtovi. Takšen način pojmovanja papirja nam nevtralizira slikovno polje in nas napeljuje na to, da si takšno grafiko ogledamo iz vseh strani, torej tako, kakor ponavadi gledamo skulpture. Takšno pojmovanje grafike ima poseben pomen in namen, namreč, vse tiste transparence, ki jih poskuša Zlokarnikova dobiti s samo prosojnostjo papirja, tako pridejo še posebej do izraza, saj so v sam papir vključeni tudi elementi, ki se ne nahajajo neposredno na njem, pač pa se vidijo skozi njega. Papir se na takšen način dematerializira. Kaže se nam kot prosojna tančica, ki vsebuje moment erotičnega suspenza, ki je še dodatno stopnjevan s tem, da njene materialno izmuzljive grafike lahko premakne že človeški dih. V opazovalcu to vzbudi nezavedno željo ali po neposrednem uživanju v samem stanju suspenza ali pa željo po odgrnitvi grafike kot zastora in želji po neposrednem pogledu na tisto, kar te tančice skrivajo in hkrati najavljajo. Tudi te viseče grafike so, ne glede na to, da so postavljene neposredno v prostor, povsem nevsiljive, tihe in meditativne. Dejanske proge-risi na prozornem papirju delujejo kot tetovaže na prosojnih in preperelih kožah in kot takšni ti risi dobijo tudi moment apotropejskih znamenj, ki varujejo notranjost, ki v tem primeru v materialnem smislu sploh ne obstaja, torej varujejo zunanjost in svet okrog nas.

Proge na teh grafikah nam na poseben način elegično govorijo o domotožju po Zlati dobi človeštva ali po spokojnem bivanju v Edenskem vrtu. Govorijo nam o hrepenenju po času, ko sanjarjenje ni bilo brezsramno in anatemizirano početje, ujeto med mehanske in elektronske kronometre, torej početje, ki si zasluži vsaj prezir, če že ne kaznovanja, pač pa enostavno življenjsko dejstvo. Te grafike v tem domotožju, vsebujejo tudi pridihe strašljivosti same poti, ki jo človek mora prehoditi. Spominjajo nas na jadra, a nas hkrati spominjajo tudi na mrliške prte. Govorijo nam o sočasnosti lepote in strašljive osamelosti sušečega se perila. To počno na podoben način združevanja lepega in strašnega v isto pomensko enoto, kakršnega zasledimo v Visoki pesmi:

»Lepa si, moja draga, kakor Tirca,

Privlačna kakor Jeruzalem,

Strašna kakor vojska v zastavah«. (Vp 6, 4-5)

Drugi pomemben dejavnik na slikah in grafikah Zlokarnikove so proge. Tudi te proge še dodatno nakazujejo na odpadništvo in nezaželenost objekta ali človeka označenega – poslikanega ali oblečenega v oblačila z  izmenjujočimi se progami.

Oblačila s progami so od srednjega veka naprej označevala negativne in nezaželene osebe in outsiderje. Takšna oblačila so označevala izdajalce (Kajn, Juda Iškarijot), okrutneže (rablji), norce (dvorni norci) in celo bolnike (gobavci). V renesansi so zaslovele progaste in »razrezane« hlače nemških in švicarskih Landsknechtov, najemniških vojakov, ki so leta 1527 oplenili Rim, sami pa so skupaj s kmeti sodili na samo dno družbene lestvice. Isti negativni značaj in kazanje na drugačen in nezaželjen svet so kazala tudi progasta oblačila lagerašev v nacističnih koncentracijskih taboriščih in zapornikov v javnih zaporih. Laurel & Hardy v nemi komediji Liberty iz leta 1929 pobegneta iz zapora, a svoje norčije lahko uganjata šele takrat, ko se znebita svojih progastih jetniških oblačil, se preoblečeta v civilna oblačila in se tako vizualno izgubita v množici.  Konec dvajsetega stoletja se je eksplicitno hoteno outsiderstvo in upor proti obstoječemu družbenemu redu izražalo tudi s progastimi pajkicami članov heavy metal skupin, kot je to recimo skupina Iron Maiden, ki jo tudi zaradi tega dejstva vsekakor lepše poslušati, kakor pa gledati.

Michel Pastoreau je trdil, da proga ne čaka in ne stoji pri miru, je v nenehnem gibanju. Tega dejstva so se zelo dobro zavedali likovni umetniki optične umetnosti, filmarji in fotografi. Tudi Fortuna, ki obrača kolo človeške usode je pogosto oblečena v progasta oblačila. V današnjem času se nam zdijo tisti otroci na otroškem igrišču, ki so oblečeni v progaste oblačila, bolj aktivni kot tisti, ki so oblečeni v enobarvna oblačila.  Na področju športa pa se zdi, da se s trenirkami in športnimi copati, ki so poslikani s progami, teče hitreje.

Dela Zlokarnikove povsem zanikajo Evklidovski prostor in Newtnovo optiko. S svojo nesramežljivo prezentacijo barv in prog skuša umetnica v nas prebuditi našo arhaično senzibilnost in ponovno sestaviti našo izgubljeno možnost simbolnega razumevanja barve. Kromofobiji zoperstavi kromoterapijo, ki lahko vsaj v enem majhnem segmentu izboljša stari in bolni svet. Zlokarnikova nas poskuša povabiti in zvabiti na potovanje v labirinte nezavednega. S tem, ko potujemo po teh labirintih pa v bistvu potujemo skozi nevarne psihične predele izrojenih usedlin naše civilizacije, vse do takrat, ko se teh bremen dokončno znebimo in se vrnemo v svoje pravo domovanje. Nekje v polni praznini slike se skriva obris naše osebne Itake. In nekje v globini slike oba svetova zamenjata svoji mesti, oniričen svet barve postane resničen, črno-beli svet pa postane privid. In tam, v globini slike, obstaja možnost, da nam bo uspelo, podobno kot je nekoč uspelo Williamu Blakeu – v peščenem zrnu videti ves svet.

Robert Inhof

Prvič objavljeno v: Mojca Zlokarnik: Objekti strmenja / Gazing Objects, Murska Sobota: Galerija Murska Sobota, 2013.

Objekti strmenja / Gazing Objects, 2013, pogled na postavitev / instalation view, Galerija Murska Sobota, foto / photo: Tomislav Vrečič

 

Two things stand out in the paintings and prints exhibited by Mojca Zlokarnik in the Gazing Objects exhibition – colour and stripe. It is of course clear that almost every image is composed of colours that have been applied to a ground, and in this case our search for the extraordinariness of her creations would amount to nothing. Her work is extraordinary in terms of colour, in that she presents it in a very direct and extremely unabashed – we could at times even say insolent – manner. Colour is an elusive amoebic substance, which can assume the image of anything. Zlokarnik endeavours to present colour in these elusive and phantom-like in-between spaces. Colour does not hold any specific form in her paintings, other than the minimum that is required for its representation. Nevertheless, here each individual colour is not presented in complete isolation, but in relation to other colours, amplified by the well-considered intervals of vertical stripes or Newmanesque zips, in a relationship with the space into which it has been placed and the wall from which it hangs.

At first glance, it seems as if we are facing some large-scale colour charts, pattern cut-outs of clothing or carpets. As such, and irrespective of their large-format, the images of Zlokarnik do not impose themselves on the viewer. Rather, they invite the onlooker, they entice with a proposition to gaze, which is something essentially different from staring. This, very direct invitation to the observer’s gaze, is at the same time also a trap for this very gaze, since in the act of gazing, the image does not prove itself to be something definitive, but something alive and ever-changing. A gaze directed at a painting, is a gaze, which is caught into the subtle nuances of colour and its successive contrasts. At the same time, we get the feeling that the individual pictorial plane steps out of the painting and begins to hover in the space in front of the image and then sinks back into the depths behind the image, before the individual parts begin to pass through their rigidly defined frames and start to throb with varying intensity.

Colour is a physical fact, just as it is also an anthropological fact. People have had a very direct relationship towards colour from the very beginning of civilization. Colours were attributed with different symbolic meanings, both positive and negative. Individual colours could have different meanings at different times, but there were also periods when different colours could generally signify something very ambiguous and forbidden. Sometimes the same colours placed into different concepts could mean something completely opposite. The colour red for instance is a traditional colour that symbolizes love, kindness and fervour. In the Middle Ages, however, the most negative and cursed biblical character, Judas Iscariot is often portrayed as a redhead. This stems back to the etymological origin of his surname which comes from the German sentence “ist gar rot” (is completely red). German anti-Semitism found the reason for Judas’ red hair in the interpretation according to which the Jews as a race apparently have such a lack of restraint and level of sexual arousal that they even copulate during menstruation.

The same sort of diversity of meaning can be found in the animal kingdom, too. Most animals change the colour of their fur, and most birds the colour of their plumage, according to the changes of season, since adjusting their colour to their environment increases their chances of survival. Some animals, however, always remain cloaked in colours that are very flashy and stand out from their natural environment. These animals give off different type of information with their bright colours. The males of certain species of bird use their colourful plumage to win over their female counterparts. Some animals use their vibrant colours to display their toxicity and inedibility to potential predators, while others use their colours to lure their prey to death. E. H. Gombrich for instance even describes a case of a red male Siamese fighting fish in an aquarium that perceived an English red post-office van as a competitor. In his book Chromophobia, David Batchelor describes Western Europe as a distinctly chromophobic world. All that is black, white and gray is conceived as serious, respectable, moral, businesslike and efficient. In short, as that in which a lack of vibrant colour represents a sign of the absence of rapture and children’s playfulness. Vivid colours mark that which is worth less, which is marginal and illusory, like the hippie kaleidoscopic cosmos, seen through the prism of LSD. Already in the Archaic – and very colourful – Ancient Greece, a painter was just a grinder and mixer of multicolour drugs, according to Plato, whereas his pupil Aristotle branded colour a drug (pharmakon). Colour has also maintained a certain semantic tension in Latin, because the Latin term coloro (to paint) is associated with the expression celare (to conceal). Modern man is so to speak almost completely blind in his perception of colour, since his survival no longer depends on the precise identification of colours. For basic survival, modern man merely needs to recognize the option of three colours: red, yellow and green, by which red represents interdiction, yellow warning and green, permission. We can try out just how fateful these three colours can be to our physical survival at the nearest signalised pedestrian crossing.

The book Colour and Human Responses by Faber Birren suggests that young people are much more responsive to colour and find it pleasurable, but lose this responsiveness to colour as they age since it loses its inherent appeal to them. A similar claim was made at the beginning of the 19th century by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in his Theory of Colours, who stated that native peoples, uneducated people and children have a great inclination towards vivid colours. The modern-day trade of children’s toys is very well aware of this. In such cases, colour actually becomes dangerous and vicariously deadly. Colours are used to profit in commercials where its meaning is symbolically condensed into the imagery of the mythical apple as bitten into by Snow White. It is precisely the childlike inclination of “primitive” man towards colour that facilitated the white race in its conquest of their territory. Alcohol, mirrors and cheap coloured glass were instrumental in the destruction of the individual cultures of the remaining indigenous “coloured” races.

However, the case differs with the colour of military uniforms. These were always very vividly coloured so as to create an impression and be more easily identifiable. Nowadays, club sportswear follows the same example, for exactly the same reason. The British exchanged their famous red jackets for khaki uniforms in as late as 1902. In 1916, however, during the first hours of the disastrous Battle of the Somme, the Allies discovered that modern warfare requires uniforms that have quite different colours and patterns. The essence of the method of engagement was no longer in the fact that the soldiers and artillery positions were as visible as possible, but the contrary, as invisible as possible. The Allied armies took care of that by adopting camouflage and masked patterns that they brought into warfare from Cubist painting, which was developing at the same time. More than anything else during the 1st World War, the German army took care of its air force as far as colour is concerned. German planes – contrary to the Allied infantry and artillery – did not strive to be invisible, but first and foremost individually recognizable and luxurious in their vibrant colourfulness. The aircraft in the squadron of German ace Manfred von Richthofen (Red Baron) were so diversely colourful, that they were even described by journalists as Manfred von Richthofen’s flying circus.

The world of black-and-white was the world of documentary photography and film, which proved and justified their reality in just such a way. However, with the development of colour photography and colour film, this – black, white and gray reality predominantly moved to the preppie realm of men’s fashion and the visual attribute of reliability and seriousness of the business world, soon becoming the modern camouflage uniform, under the guise of which wars are fomented, theft is implemented and the environment destroyed. At the beginning of the 21st century, this black, white and gray reality spread across every continent and from the fashion of the business world into the greyness of human interpersonal relations, thus ageing the world in its very foundations. Already Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel used a metaphor in his Introduction to the Philosophy of Law according to which the world can not be rejuvenated by painting gray on gray.

The English Romantic painter James Mallord William Turner depicted the undefined and form-disintegrating source of light in his paintings, which could be perceived as a stain of light. His most recognisable innovation was the discovery of purple, not the cold, but the incandescent shadow, which was very offensive and highly immoral for the aesthetic taste and morality of the time. Turner’s notion of light mostly earned him criticism and mockery. The Literary Gazette and The Atheneaum made a series of frivolous belittlements of Turner’s respectable image, comparing his painting technique to painting with chocolate, cream, egg yolk and currant jelly. There is a caricature that sardonically depicts Turner as a small man dressed in a tuxedo with a top hat, painting with a rag on a stick. The bucket bears the word YELLOW, which ridicules the primacy of light in Turner’s painting, whereas Turner’s contemporary, William Hazlitt, mockingly described his images as “pictures of nothing, and very like.”

Particularly relevant distinctions in meaning between black-and-white and colour can be found in two films. The film by Wim Wenders, Wings of Desire (1986–87), presents two worlds, the world of the spirits and angels, and the sensual world of physical beings. Wenders’ film shows the spirit world as a black-and-white world, whereas the world of physical beings is a world of colour. It is only when the angel (Bruno Ganz) falls to earth and takes on a physical form that he can see the world in colour, yet he has to pay for this newfound ability by renouncing his immortality and become mortal – something unknown to him as an angel that had never known a world of colour.

Victor Fleming’s film The Wizard of Oz produced in 1939 tells the tale of Dorothy and her dog Toto who are swept away by a cyclone to the wonderful Land of Oz. Dorothy’s home of Kansas is black-and-white, whereas the wonderful Land of Oz appears in Technicolor, with certain aspects additionally highlighted by adjectives denoting their colour – the yellow brick road, the Emerald City and the ruby slippers. Dorothy expresses this insight in a sentence addressed to Toto, her little dog: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.” Kansas is gray, the prairie is gray, her house is gray, and Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, who never laughs, are gray, too. The Wizard of Oz is an expression of the desire to leave a certain situation and place. It is the expression of the desire to leave the gray and enter a world of colour and a new life where problems cease to exist. Entering the world of colour of the wonderful Land of Oz means entering the world over the rainbow. In this case too, colour is the drug in the sense of the afore-mentioned notions by Plato and Aristotle. Journeying into the world of colour represents a journey into a state of rapture, dreams and the unconscious.

A special part of the show is constituted by the six objects, the Gazing Objects, after which the exhibition was also named, composed of paintings/objects, whose form is reminiscent of laptops. What was originally meant as a tool has ultimately become something that substantially eliminates human communication, making man blind, not only to colour, but to everything that surrounds us. A person, who wants to be constantly connected to electronic devices and constantly fears that something important will escape him, is becoming increasingly similar to an image of someone that is clinically dead, connected to various machines in the department for resuscitation, enabling him to go on vegetating. Zlokarnik surprises us by the fact that her gazing objects do remind of laptops by their external form, but they possess no screen or keyboard. There are only two pictorial planes that invite us to gaze, to communicate with our own selves and with the world. If we were to rotate her works upwards for 45 degrees, we would get the form of a small, late medieval diptych, with a depiction of a saint on the left, and a believer immersed in prayer on the right. Similarly to laptops, these small diptychs were also intended to be carried around. They would be used by people for private prayer on their journeys. Gazing Objects are objects for the reconstruction of interpersonal human communication. Her other paintings and prints have the same message for us, in which we see fragile lines, traces of hands, whose evidence before us finds us caught in the same ambiguous amazement that Robinson Crusoe felt as he discovered the sandy footprints of another on his desert island.

Another special part of the exhibition is the “forest” of hanging three-metre long prints. To the sensitive observer it may seem for a moment that he is standing in front of Semiramis’ long disappeared hanging gardens. This way of perceiving paper neutralises the pictorial plane, encouraging us to view the print from all sides, therefore in the same way as we usually observe sculpture. Such a perception of printmaking has a special meaning and purpose, that is, all those pellucidities that Zlokarnik tries to attain just with the transparency of the paper come particularly to the fore in this way, since the paper also includes elements that are not located directly on it, but can be seen through it. The paper is dematerialized in such a way. We see it as a transparent veil, which contains a moment of erotic suspense, further intensified by the fact that her materially elusive prints can be moved by the slightest human breath. This awakes in the observer the unconscious desire for direct consumption in the very state of suspense, or a desire to draw the print back like a backdrop and a wish to openly see that which the veils conceal and announce at the same time. Also, these hanging prints, regardless of the fact that they have been placed directly into the space, are completely unobtrusive, quiet and meditative. The actual stripes-lines on the see-through paper function like tattoos on transparent and dilapidated skins and as such these lines also get a moment of apotropaic markings that protect the inside, which does not exist at all in the material sense in this case, therefore they protect the outside and the world around us.

The lines on these prints mournfully speak to us in a special way about the homesickness for the Golden Age of mankind or the tranquil life in the Garden of Eden. They speak to us about the longing for a time when dreaming was not a shameless and anatomised thing to do, caught up between the mechanical and electronic chronometers, something that therefore deserves at least disdain, if not punishment, but actually just a simple fact of life. These prints in this homesickness also contain a touch of the frightfulness of the journey that man must take. They are reminiscent of sails, while they at the same time also remind of funeral shrouds. They simultaneously talk to us about the beauty and terrifying loneliness of the drying laundry. They do this in a similar way as the beautiful and the horrifying are combined into the same meaningful unit, such as can be found in the Song of Songs:

You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling,

As lovely as Jerusalem,

As awesome as an army with banners.

(Song of Songs 6:4)

The stripes constitute another important factor in the paintings and prints of Zlokarnik. These stripes also additionally indicate apostasy and the undesirability of an object or person, marked – painted or dressed in clothes with alternating stripes.

Since the Middle Ages, striped clothing denoted negative and unwanted persons and outsiders. Such garments characterized traitors (Cain, Judas Iscariot), brutes (executioners) lunatics (court jesters) and even patients (lepers). In the Renaissance, the stripy and “cut” trousers of the German and Swiss Landsknechts rose to fame, the mercenaries who pillaged Rome in 1527, while they belonged to the bottom of the social ladder together with the farmers. The same negative character and indication of a different and undesirable world was exhibited by the striped clothing of the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps and the inmates of public prisons. The silent comedy Liberty of 1929 features Laurel & Hardy escaping from prison, but they can only get up to their antics once they have disposed of their stripy prison clothes, got changed into civilian clothing and thus blend visually into the crowd. At the end of the twentieth century, the overtly desired opting out of society and revolt against the existing social order was also reflected in the stripy leggings of the members of heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden, which are much more pleasant to listen to than watch due to this very fact.

Michel Pastoureau argued that stripes do not wait and stand still, they are in constant motion. Artists dealing with Op Art, filmmakers and photographers were very well aware of this fact. Fortuna, who turns the wheel of human destiny, is also often dressed in stripy garments. Nowadays, we find those kids in the playground that are dressed in striped clothes more active than those who are dressed in monochrome clothing. And in the world of sport, it seems that one may run faster in a tracksuit and trainers bearing stripes.

The works of Zlokarnik completely deny Euclidian space and Newton’s optics. With her brazen presentation of colours and stripes, the artist attempts to awaken the archaic sensibility within us and re-establish our lost opportunity of understanding colour in a symbolic way. She confronts chromophobia with chromotherapy, which can improve the old and sick world in at least one small segment. Zlokarnik tries to invite and entice us to a journey into the labyrinth of the unconscious. But as we travel through these labyrinths we are basically travelling through the dangerous psychic areas of the degenerate sludge of our civilization, until the moment when we finally get rid of those burdens and return to our real home. Somewhere in the full void of the image, the silhouette of our personal Ithaca is concealed. And somewhere in the depths of the image, the two worlds change places, the oniric world of colour becomes real, and the black-and-white world becomes an illusion. And there, in the depths of the image, there is a chance that we will succeed, as William Blake had succeeded once – to see a world in a grain of sand.

Robert Inhof

Translated by Arven Šakti Kralj Szomi.

First published in: Mojca Zlokarnik: Objekti strmenja / Gazing Objects, Murska Sobota: Galerija Murska Sobota, 2013.