Helena Tahir, Somewhere Near

31. 01. 2020 - 08. 03. 2020
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Helena Tahir, Print (2), from the series a Poetic of Childhood, 200 x 120 cm, linocut and handmade print on felt, 2020.

Helena Tahir represents the youngest generation of artists to deliberately explore the properties of classic printmaking techniques both in terms of form and content, hence actively co-creating the image of contemporary graphic creativity on the Slovenian art scene. She is an expressive drafter, which allows her to be extremely precise in preparing her loquacious visual narratives, most often executed in the linocut technique. The classic printmaking technique of taking material away from the matrix offers the artist the option of paying particular attention to each motif separately, which is reflected in the striking details that become visible once the print is made. It is quite clear already at first glance that Helena Tahir’s graphic prints and drawings are the results of careful preparation and an ongoing work process, which is often physically exhausting and requires special production conditions. Helena Tahir focuses on and perseveres with figurative art, intently building up the saturation of the pictorial field with various objects and depictions of people, especially children, into fictional imaginative combinations, puzzles and narrative collages. She often finds her assortments of motifs in old magazines, newspapers and books, which she carefully selects and inserts into new contexts, creating new substantive and imaginative settings. Certain details stand out, which are not randomly depicted but have been carefully selected and appropriately integrated into the composition. The graphic prints are like collages, made up of different matrices, various impulses, associations and semantic conclusions. They are an archaic image of today, as information, symbols and images literally hover somewhere nearby and address us. Everything seems equally important, but if, in a world brimming with visual stimuli, we can exclude these or simply overlook them, the gaze on Helena Tahir’s graphic prints cannot evade them, as both composition and technical mastery drive us into the visual game of exploring the depicted.

Making prints with a spoon is an interesting process upgrade in which the matrix is transferred onto paper or fabric in a manner like painting with a brush or rubbing with a pencil. This comes as a conscious decision partly due to objective conditions and partly due to choosing this type of printing, which emphasises the work process and the production of the final image, meaningfully summing up the connection between drawing, printing and the graphic print. Also special is her relation to the matrix, which is not merely a surface for printing but indicates disparate possibilities of treatment, engraving and etching, taking material away using various techniques, through which the motifs come to life in disparate ways formally and aesthetically. The matrix is also tested out by the artist with frottage, which she uses to check the quality of the potential impression, creating new, completely abstract, independent works through careful framing.

In her practice, Helena Tahir has committed herself to the details she best expresses in colour pencil drawing, emphasising even the smallest details and colour nuances, whereas her drawing technique is often reminiscent of high-quality industrial printing and book reproduction. But a special place in her creative oeuvre is taken by her pencil drawings, in which she remembers the gazes, situations and setting of Jesenice, where she grew up. Her characterful and at moments expressive drawing perfectly complements the motifs of the dark and deserted streets, industrial buildings, views of the apartment-block districts and other urban areas of this once flourishing industrial city. Yet they do not embody a critique of the present-day situation, but a nostalgic memory of a past full of childhood play and constant exploration.

Helena Tahir’s graphic prints and drawings stand out from the widespread pluralism of contemporary art approaches with their slightly nostalgic and romantic manner of loquacious visual storytelling, so we need to stand somewhere near them in order to take a close look at the treasure of motifs that they offer, despite the fact that the wheres and whens that would fully unravel and aid understanding of the works remain unclear. Somewhere near, there are space and time as we know them, nevertheless, we cannot define them clearly and precisely, since they stem from a kind of fantastic fragmentary timelessness in which recognisable images are most often composed arbitrarily and for no particular reason into new temporal and spatial dimensions.

Curator: Božidar Zrinski