Andrej Jemec - Infinite dualism

Infinite dualism by Andrej Jemec
The painting “Infinite dualism” was created in 1994, and is a perfect introduction into last two decades of artwork by Andrej Jemec. It belongs to a mature and synthesized author’s period—a phase that encircles and crowns all of his previous artwork and achievements. That painting symbolically concluded his monographies from 1995, in which a critic Jure Mikuz analytically went through Jemec’s opus and justified and established—already 30-year-old work—his seeking and exploring, shaping and finding resulted in truly powerful self-expression, art idiom, where all the aesthetic features of modern tradition were collected, while his experience forced him to reply with genuine freshness, severity, speed and valid skills.
With the painting “Infinite dualism” we, therefore, arrive into analyzing an opus which has its continuity for over half of a century, and knows its lush oscillations and various trials—something characteristic for the state of arts in the other half of XX century, and especially for dialectic relationship between classical disciplines and innovative neo-avantaguardic. There is no doubt in Andrej Jemec’s belonging to artists’ conscious about universal issue context, to painters who take into account range and limits of used media, however, that is why they succeed to develop energy of freedom from strictness. He is present in international and global exhibit schemes as well as in Slovenian cultural field; he is equally efficient as an artist formed on premises of high autonomic modernism, but as open to challenges of postmodern erudite combinatorics (of course, with no intention towards fashionable excess or easy thought; moreover, with emphasized need to respect nature of used resources and logics of composing, building, organizing, and saturating of cadre).
To understand better the way phrase infinite dualism isemblematic, it is useful to remember a few stations from Jemec’s work and maturing. Although his style is abstract, non-representative, non-mimetic, from the very beginning, he slowly crossed the amplitude from lyrically-limited to geometrically-constructive path, as well as strong gestures towards cold juxtaposition coloured field. There is an existing eternal partial line, passionate mark of state and feelings, an oscillogram of personal reactions. The drawing component was abstract and aniconic as well, but with a mediation of included signs, presumed outlines, suggestive blur, it often times switched to figural and figuratively—or at least to associative-allusive meaning.
The infinity of Jemec’s dualism will be visible in dynamic interweaving, and always different linking and contrasting of every possible parts of art language. Along with a true binomial through colour-lyricism, we can also emphasize oppositions of cold and warm colors, determined and shaky strokes, strong tones and light transitions, balanced surfaces and spinning blurs, close plans and deep backgrounds, dense areas and abandoned empty spaces, massive black areas and tempting white areas etc. Within the limits of chosen art idiom, Jemec’s artwork creates a correlation on infinite dualism of universum: microsmos of human weapon and macrosmos of star galaxies, a limited air and light accumulation, and chaotic turbulent agglomerations of darkness and “black holes”. Part of Jemec’s paintings are truly fields on which there is an interaction between positive and negative forces, displays were vital projections of circle, crossed, star, triangle, round, elongated are shown—and guided from the bottom of the being—moving with a trace of shiny comet, and all together representing sequences of starting, destined and archtypes of images (in spans that often times remind of dichotomy of Genesis and Apocalypse).
I dare to say that in his mature phase, Andrej Jemec succeeded in a tough assignment in linking extremes, moreover, in his paintings and drawings from the last decade he presented realizations of global character visions, but he managed to cherish and even enforce a spontaneous performance appropriate for relaxed diary writing. He is straightforward in his work on paper and canvas, in medias res, reacting instinctively on formatting challenges, dimension temptations, colour drives, line flows, correcting deposited layers with mental reflection and concluding with a breath of surprise. Therefore, his works prepared for the exhibit in Split, on one hand have, an image of lyrical fantasies and shaped (artistic) improvisations, and on the other hand, a power of epic reach and existential witnessing, and of course the “revenging” traumas and failed hopes of our time.
Let’s discuss the painting “Infinite dualism” which inspired us for this analysis. Dense and wide black lines with continuity, reaching the left and right side of cadre, while intersecting in the center are singled out from the magma and background of neutral, mixed purple tone. With a bit of exaggeration, we will see a dense refracted horizontally positioned “eight” (a symbol of infinity, but we do not insist that was on the painter’s mind). It is more interesting to notice heart-shaped contour, but it is also more crucial to see intense waves of yellow and green penetrating the contour. Through that vision of light, there is a visible intervention of red colour, which follows along black dominant color reflecting an aggressive contrast. In relatively simple composition of solutions containing a few elements, the painter successfully polarized contour and chromatic areas, and so contributing a character of chromatic energy and continued linear flow.
We cannot analyze all presented paintings, but we certainly cannot forget a triptych “The entire world”, with which we step into an area of the new millennium (2001). If the painting does not contain a strong order and is not hedonistically toned, we will also notice a truly affirmative character of rich diversity of colours, and steady light flashes. Actually, each part of the triptych is composed of almost identical elements and similar tones, but with a different rhythm, giving the entire impression a sense of dynamics and coherency as well.
However, the diptych from the same year, “Apocalypse at the beginning of millennium (Prayer for the dead)”, has a completely different connotation. At the beginning, the crashed towers in New York and their dark shadow fall on a surface marked with cold green intermittent lines. This is not about the illustration of the event, but about parallelism of vertical longitudinal blurs, that are associative enough of the fatal date and indicative prologue of millenary threat. We could almost say the same for the other, equally summarized and elementary drawn-lined, diptych Crash of two worlds (2001 as well). Wide red lines are intercrossing and vortexing on a light background, as they almost are pushing and choking the entire middle space. With those two monumental canvases, the painter suggested a painful atmosphere of the era we are living in and indicated dialogue coordinates with epoch.
But he also did not abandon the need to face thankful aspects of living, with the atmosphere and space of privileged ambient. Paintings such as “Light of a lagoon” (2008) and “Mediterranean” (2009) are stations of Jemec’s euphoric proximity with beauty and vividness of shiny south emanations. And paintings titled “Urbs” are a true hommage to geometry and harmony of antique provenance, especially the one titled “Four sides of the world”, where the orthogonal net (cardo-decumanus) is partitioning the cadre into fields (boroughs) of intensively coloured surfaces of basic registry, avoiding “hardframed” stylization in the advantage of temperamentally marked limits and fast-input pigment.
The whole series of Jemec’s paintings was created by rare straightforwardness, motivated by some events, news, so it is significant for its clarity and simplicity of solution: “Earthquake” (2011) has solely jerky vertical strokes of grey-white mark on brick-red surface; “Tsunami” (2011) is characterized by determined horizontal strokes of white-blue deposits on grey-blue surface. Using almost monochromatic surfaces is partly continued in the piece “Haiku painting with three colours” (2011), where linearism and blurs of ultramarine are rhythmically dancing on the white fond, supported by emphasis of “baked siena”. An emphasized calligraphic structure of the canvas is leading to distant east experience of terseness and reduction (the title comes from here), such as “Alexander’s strawberry garden” (2011), which happily emanates infantilism of playful lines and a high yellow-orange shine.
More compositional stringency is found in works with rectangle plan and complex net of horizontal and vertical lines. For example, “Gate of Ljubljana” (Hommage a Edvard Ravnikar) (2008) purposely associates on architectonics and constructivism, and a fine refrained gama of dimmed tones brings along an unusual ambient. Interior version of similar “wave length” can be felt in the painting “Afternoon round with my predecessor in the atelier” (2011). However, “Cross(roads)” (2008) suspects the existence of geometric coordinates: blue silhouette of the cross melts in aggressive penetration of red forces, while the painting “Metropolitan raspasoj” (2011) offers a metaphor of usual order dispersion (analogically Modrian’s “Manhattan Boogie-woggie” in relation to the stiffness of other author’s artwork).
The most coherent and emotional out of all of Jemec’s artwork is the cycle dedicated to human suffering. He does not used iconic style in any straightforward way, he does not talk about indicative details, but we cannot be indifferent to anxiety of the painting “Pit (abyss)” (2009), or dramatic suggestiveness in “Calvary in Huda Jama” (2009). “Story with a red background” (2011) in its whirl may include free redeemed tones, but the painting “Apocalypse- fire, smoke, ash” (2010) does not leave any chance of retreat. “Massacre” (2011) is explicit in its domination of red colour, and “War” (2011) presents an impressive enformelistic accumulation of dark deposits with sieved threatening flares. With a burden of memories, paintings such as “Blood in the grass” (2011) and “Dried out blood” (2011) were created; artworks impregnated with such intensity of participation that “abstract” language managed to link itself with appearance.
Andrej Jemec found a sort of evasion from atrocious reality in contemplation of the firmament, in discovering of star paths. Dense and wide blues seem calm, in which yellow light penetration and core are blinking, shining. “Night visions” (2012), “Flickers” (Night paths) (2012), “Flaring in the dark” (2011), “Meetings among the starts”(2010) or “Night”(2011) reflect an approach in which the painter enriches his fantasy with motivation, and gives back the motivation a sense of experience morphology.
With the entire exhibit, Andrej Jemec is not only acknowledged by his high leveled and deep motivation, but he also witnesses reasoning behind his actions, a strong will to rule, and a will to reply to phenomena of existence. Sovereign brace of sensual color tones and temperament drawing ductus, cooperating with a delicacy of rational control and a filter of ethics, gave the author a rare authentic speech about time and space we are living in, so meeting his artwork is a true festivity for whoever is expecting him.
Tonko Maroevic

Poet in the Slovenian modern arts
In 2005, I wrote a short essay on the artwork of Andrej Jemec, which was published in the exhibit catalogue of his watercolour works and drawings dating from the recent years in Loski museum in the castle located in Skofja Loka—the essay was called Lyrical prismatism.
I believe the title of that essay emphasizes the ductus of his literary speech as well as hidden messages. Or it can be said differently—he acquired attention with his early work, especially graphics where he expressed his aesthetic focus, and won a Grand Prix International Award at the international biennale in Tokyo in 1964.
It is true that in his most recent artwork his sublime core of the art speech developed in lines as well as colours, therefore, in the entire texture of images in which all the aesthetic parts refract—something I try to emphasize with syntagma of lyrical prismatism (this phenomena was not as visible in his early graphics). I can say that I recognize the mentioned on every artwork of Jemec, especially in the most recent artwork; there is noticeable energy and vital curiosity as well as sacred creeps, which is inspired by today’s world in his critical consciousness or even timing which happens outside of any known ethical limits and imperatives.
How is lyricism— a specific and undoubtedly constitutive aesthetic position—expressed in his artwork? Lyricism in poetic sense, as well as in arts, is established upon individual, sensory and thought experiences, which is expressed in monologue or in immediate expression of personality meaning the lyrical subject. This is different from the real author, therefore, his statement is not empirically verifiable with the truth, which would be equivalent to reality. Moreover, it is crucial for a lyrical ego to be integrated into present, since all other time periods lead to postponement and self-destruction. His main position comes from self-love, egocentrism, which is usually transmitted to others, particularly on metaphysical alterity—this is already told by Plato’s thesis about hidden universality during love ecstasy, since he linked love experience with something called Idea, later knows as Platonism.
During personal life experience, the most-telling is Kierkegaard who— according to ontological basis of existential experience reminds of Andrej Jemec—put love as one of leading pillars of human experience in two crucial existential relationships or precisely said, in two linked and conflicting formative emanations.
Aesthetically speaking, the experience of love is an experience of pure seduction and repetition. The egoism of joy and its egoism force and lead subjects which is an archetype of Mozart’s Don Juan. The world is fulfilled with that type of love egoism or egocentrism.
Ethically speaking, there an existing love that is challenging its own truthfulness and I see that as a basic dimension of Jemec’s erotic tone in his artwork. We are talking about eternal relationship, faced with absolutism, which Kierkegaard felt in his second trial to attract Regina.
In Jemec’s erotic tone, which I can recognize in his artwork message, all mentioned dimensions of his prismatically refracted and spread egocentrism intertwine—freed in author’s creative commitment and evocation towards unknown. Absolute—equally being hidden and revealed in the texture of his artwork—is lights, and even better, the idea of light since the sun being in the centre of his aesthetic vocation, is never really visible. (compare the cycle Annealing of kindling wood, 2009)
By that I point to crucial participation of the sun and light in aesthetical act, described by Derrida in White mythology: “The sun is not only an example—an impressive example—of a sensory being that can vanish, get out of sight, not be present. The mere antagonism between appears and disappear, the entire vocabulary phainesthai, aletheia, etc., day and night, the visible and the invisible, present and absent—this is all possible in the presence of the sun.”
Light is, therefore, an eternal challenge, which is shown in all of author’s emanations of eroticism and egocentrism. So his paintings are prismatically shining in all existential states and its hidden messages. This is valid for kierkegaardic approachable/inapproachable reginas in all of Jemec’s attitudes since he is the identity seeker, who does not exist, he does not find him in anybody, god nor himself. Andrej Jemec is Ahasfer in alienated world. In his curious spirit he is vital and is determined due to his impetus which comes from his ethos. This is especially visible in a few acrylic paintings regarding author’s historical experiences, so he elaborated his feelings and visions not through a mimetic (figurative), but through a symbolically iconic way, according to his aesthetic language (for example Apocalypse in Srebrenica, canvas 2008, Calvary in Huda Jama, canvas, 2009).
Jemec’s work is significant because it lacks figurative tones, except for blurry outlines. In that way he is different from the last artwork of Janez Bernik, where a flangelstic vision of a man in a jerky, almost tectonic meeting with a short-termed human existence with eternity, particularly with god’s entity appears.
Jemec’s watercolour and acrylic artwork, developed in the last two decades, often include motifs with similar trials, because the author in his existential and erotically unavoidable faces questions of his own finitude and transcendental god’s being, particularly with the truth of human being, life and eternity, which is experientially elusive. That transcendental path in author’s seeking of the truth of existence is often times expressed through semantics—something that we assume—which is alluded through titles as well (for example Resurrection, 2007, cycle Genesis, 2009, Secrets, 2010 etc.).
Nevertheless, these two authors are linked through existential starting point, but not in sensory thematic of their experience on canvas. For Bernik, it is important to emphasize the traumatic experience of separating animate from inanimate, ego and superego, which belong to transcendence, and that is presented in a way so that a man is at the same time imitating Christi and a few tragicomic flagellants in a menagerie of collections.
With Andrej Jemec and his meeting with ego and unknown Other, we will not feel any self-destructing passions and repression of suffering, which is related to the author avoiding any kind of figurative articulation of his existential temptation. That is why the author is guided with introducing sublime states of spirit and feelings, on which he build on his lyricism, and holds it prismatically in his language.
However, that does not mean he, as a lyric, is hiding and repressing his emotions. In contrary, we often witness true eruptions, linked to events that excite the author and that seem untamable.
That is why in his artwork, from watercolour to watercolour, from canvas to canvas, from drawing to drawing, we are introduced to emotions, with visibly clear deterioration and mental motions—with aesthetic attitudes with semantics that remind me of similar art messages, that may be compared to etudes in music.
Niko Grafenauer

Painter, academician and professor Andrej Jemec is one of the most important Slovenian painters who is internationally recognized. He became globally famous even early in his youth as a winner of the main award at the biennial in Tokyo in 1964, where he affirmed himself by presenting gloomily painted abstract artwork. In these paintings he shaped the visions of moon province, specifically of cosmic distances with flashing light cores and intermittent supple plexus of lines, which originate from Far East calligraphic story-telling. Due to its calligraphic mark, yet personally free and remarkable gesture and lyrical subtlety, his paintings are very popular in Japan, as well as in other parts of the world. (for example, he received the most valuable award for arts from Austria. )
Later, his work was developing in different aspects, from partitioning various artistic issues, specifically analyzing the language of arts, as well as including expressive figurative associations and color revival starting from the 80s of the 20th century—latter being the evidence of Jemec’s coloristic nature. Paintings in Split show that revival, as well as broadness in themes. Therefore, the painter builds on his work by establishing a relationship with color in his chromatically enriched abstract paintings with associative flares. He transforms the experience of his written gesture, which spontaneously mirrors the painter’s impulsive energy as well as broadly links airspace of colors. In extremely personal line fashion and color richness, emphasized with various spontaneous ways of reviving the surface, the painter reveals the way in which he may universally express his relationship with reflexes of the environment, as well as his own inner spiritual impulse.
His art work accounts for different life enrichments, and opens a new insight in cosmic secrets. In his work, the painter manages smaller and larger canvasses as his creative cosmos by using free and broad strokes, gestures and refinement of colors. Since Jemec is of a fragile and lyrically sensitive character, with a great talent for musicality, his paintings are a true musical symphony. With his involvement and always kind relationship with reality, especially with tragic findings of human suffering in recent history, Jemec successfully included these tragic happenings in his paintings by using outer abstract artistic manners, particularly coloristic allusions—this gives his artwork a dramatic tone. In one of his abstract cycles, he used a definition of “a realism of abstract shapes”—a finding that abstract making can be realistic since it can reveal inclement reality.
Jemec’s artistic language has developed as a sovereign approach, especially as a medium with which the painter expresses his internal happenings and those from the society, and looks upon star cosmos and reopens the question about eternity. His work is integrated with lyrical, and even better with dramatic, expressive, symbolic beauty which along with its gesture dynamics reveals an infinite restlessness of cosmic nature and human living. With all that in mind, I am certain that Andrej Jemec’s art exhibit located in historical Split will be significant for Croatian and broader cultural society.
Milcek Komelj


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