17 May — 8 July, 2024

25/7? It's only natural

Patrik Dvorščak, Jurij Hartman, Petra Korent, Oskar Slabe, Neža Šivec


Eva Stamboldžioski, Maša Šebek

For the fourth time, the ECOART festival takes place in Y Gallery. This time it features the exhibition 25/7? It’s only natural, which presents the works of five young and promising Slovenian artists, which has become something of tradition at the festival. The diverse local art scene is at the forefront of the event, as it is here that all these young emerging talents are nurtured and shaped. Some of them are still at the art academy, while others are already fully paving their artistic path independently outside the safe realm of the academy. All artists, however, are fully up to speed with the big and worrisome issues at home and worldwide.

One such issue is addressed by this year’s overarching theme of the Ljubljana Art Weekend festival (LJUBAW), which touches upon the precarious work displayed almost everywhere nowadays. As a result of a fruitful collaboration with the LJUBAW festival, the exhibition in question takes this theme as its starting point while at the same time introducing its interpretative frame. Therefore, it approaches the topic from the point of an everyday struggle for the existence of young artists, particularly those who, we could claim, produce work, i.e. art pieces, whose market value cannot be as easily reached and agreed upon by the extant economic system.

Young artists are confronted with their future occupation’s cruel reality during their student years. The five featuring artists represent a path that is inevitable for any artist who strives to gain the status of cultural worker. The artist is thus subjected to unpaid hours and working overtime, self-promotion on social media channels, showcasing new and attractive works of art in renowned galleries, endless competition, and more. The artist must conform to the ruthless rules of the modern free market, which leads to the overcrowding of the physical and virtual space. From an ecological standpoint, the hyperproduction of such paradoxically devalued artworks can be considered a controversial act. At the same time, this “whoring” and selling out of the artist is considered as something natural, which is not a product of a momentary human delusion.

The exhibition includes different artistic media: from sculpture and painting to mural drawing, graphics, and video. Each of the five artists comes with their idea of the topic, depending on the media, in which they predominantly work, and what currently defines their personal lives. Petra Korent is a sculptor who recently succeeded in obtaining the status of cultural worker. She is also a first-time mom. At the exhibition, she will present a sculpture, symbolically built of eight wooden footstools, where she draws inspiration from craft tradition. Only in their entirety is the assembly of the footstools understood as an artwork. All the while, the visitor is invited to buy one footstool for themselves to have it not as an artwork but to use it as an applied object at home. The act will destroy the sculpture, whether we want it or not, as it is highly probable that the footstool will lie forgotten somewhere at home, and we will step on it only when we need to grab something from the top shelf in the storage room.

Similar questions regarding an artwork’s value this time occupy Neža Šivec, an illustrator and young comic book artist, who instead of having applied for the status of cultural worker opted for a different path as a social worker employee to help the marginalised in society. For the exhibition, she prepared a mural drawing in charcoal, a technique that is by itself very expressive and with narrative dimensions. A composition of smaller images that speak of a life lived and the work of an anonymous individual, come together in front of the visitor to form one bigger image of an elderly man who stares back at them, stretching his empty hands in their direction. The elderly man offers the visitor his life and work experience to take with them, or maybe a bunch of nothingness.

Into a similar play between different aspect ratios steps Jurij Hartman, a third-year student at the Department of Painting. He exhibits two diptychs – one in painting and the other in graphics. Graphic design left an indelible imprint on him during his high school years. So, currently, he draws visible connections between the two artistic media by bringing to the fore the system behind the technical image reproduction and simulacra in painting technique. He thus enters a digital world of images that constantly migrate from one context to another, so that they lose their initial purpose and meaning. His diptych in painting technique simulates an image taken from an old print, where the author likewise questions the perfection of a machine-generated image. The diptych in graphic technique juxtaposes a quatre of an image with four-hundredths of its graphic notation. A question of the true nature of the image is thus introduced.

The use of different media can be noticed in the work of Patrik Dvorščak. A painter has held numerous solo and group exhibitions. He is hence already fully emerged into the reality of the artistic occupation. The presented artworks follow the artist’s typical, unique style, with which he brings a certain ease to the exhibition by being simultaneously provocative, as they confront the viewer with an ad finitum exploration of the canvas. The young artist emanates his deep comprehension of the cruel reality of painters’ struggle to survive through his mature and highly considered approach to the painting medium. His exhibited graphics-like paintings speak of the human condition and existence in today’s capitalist system by encouraging the visitor to reflect upon their ways of living, existing, and doing.

Digital market principles, on the other hand, interest Osker Slabe, a master’s student in Graphic Design. His is the video installation and a photo album, that consider the basic human needs, prisoners of market ruses. Video teleports the viewer into the foreseeable future, a life after death, when our consciousness will dwell in the virtual channels. However, this comes at a price. For the consciousness to exist peacefully without a milliard of commercials disturbing it, its owner would have to pay at least a monthly subscription to a premium plan. With the photo album, the artist experiments with the endless human need for love and intimate memories, which could as well be a digitally fabricated fiction with the aim to implant the images of products directly into our brains.

Petra Korent (1997) primarily works in illustration. She introduced her art to the public with her first solo exhibition in Gallery DobraVaga in 2016. Since then, she has actively participated in group and solo exhibitions throughout the Balkans. She is also a permanent member of the artists’ collective Podmladek. She explores and notes many little moments, intimate or not, that make up her day through a playful and humorous approach to art. For her, artistic creation represents a sort of diary, in which she pours out her feelings and experiences using a line-drawing technique and other media.

Neža Šivec (1996) finished her master’s degree in Art in 2021 at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana with a thesis about comic book art under the mentorship of professors Milan Erič and Damijan Stepančič. Already as a student, she participated in numerous group exhibitions. She also illustrated a young adult novel Gimnazijka by Anton Igolič (Beletrina, 2023) and published a comic book Črepinje about homelessness and a quest for home (Stripburger, 2023). Since 2021, she works at the Humanitarian Association for volunteer work Vincijeva zveza dobrote, focusing predominantly on assisting homeless people.

Jurij Hartman (2002) concluded his high school studies in 2021 at the High School for Design and Photography. In the same year, he started his studies at the Painting Department at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. He is an interdisciplinary visual artist, whose work encompasses different disciplines, from multimedia to design. Through multimedia installations, he explores the role of new technologies and interfaces. He offers viewers an enhanced and augmented experience of his artworks using digitally mediated spaces and constructs. He actively participates in solo and group exhibitions at home and abroad.

Patrik Dvorščak (1995) obtained his high school education at the High School for Design and Photography. He continued his studies at the Painting Department at Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. He received his bachelor’s degree in 2017 and master’s degree in 2022. Currently, he lives and works in Ljubljana. He has participated in various solo and group exhibitions and workshops at home and abroad. In his art, he focuses on the dualistic nature of humans and their relation to reality and objects, where he also takes special interest in the interconnectedness of these notions. In doing so, he learns that humans inevitably act against their better interests (potentials) to satisfy their misbelief in the capitalist idea of the Hero. The multitude of elements in his art creations in their togetherness put the viewer in a special position of co-author and co-creator of the artworks. This artistic gesture stems from the artist’s belief that every human should take responsibility for their life and the lives of others.

Oskar Slabe (1996) finished his visual communications studies at the Faculty of Design in Ljubljana in 2018. Currently, he is in his final postgrad year of master’s studies in Graphic Design at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design. During his studies, he gained experience working in design as a freelancer. He is the co-founder of the Totem Hoarder Games company that carried out its Kickstarter campaign in 2023 with his first Author’s Totem Hoarder card game. In addition to design and animation, he is active in the art world, music production, and visual DJ-ing at various events. He participates in group exhibitions at home and abroad.