Simple, fun and dangerous, Prints from the MGLC Studios

20. 09. 2016 - 01. 10. 2016
Mladen Stropnik: The Puff, silkscreen, 2011

The International Centre of Graphic Arts is the leading Slovenian institution dedicated to printmaking since its establishment in 1986. It succeeded the organization of the Ljubljana International Biennial of Graphic Arts, held since 1955, which is one of the oldest and most prestigious graphic arts biennials in the world. Last year it celebrated its sixtieth anniversary.

MGLC regularly puts on art exhibitions, particularly showcasing creativity within the graphic arts field. This museum institution keeps an extensive collection of prints and other graphic works, as well as artistic publications, produced after the Second World War, which are also available for study purposes. The collection includes works by local and foreign artists, mostly those that participated in the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts. MGLC is the publisher of numerous publications, prints and print portfolios and also had, amongst other things, an important role to play in the formation of the Ljubljana school of graphic arts.

The production of prints represents a significant portion of the artworks created in Slovenia, with a considerable number of artists still working precisely in the MGLC fine art print studios. In the early years of function, their primary job was to preserve and protect the cultural heritage. During this period many reprints of works by Slovenian artists were made. Later, the production in the print studios focused on using certain traditional printmaking techniques such as intaglio printmaking, lithography and screen printing. But they were always conceived to function as a research laboratory, where local and foreign artists could further their knowledge and skills, and explore in the graphic medium. Since the end of the 1980s, and up till the present day, more than one hundred artists have used the studios to produce artworks in the techniques of intaglio printmaking, lithography and screen printing. The exhibition entitled Simple, fun and dangerous presents a print portfolio and series of prints by artists that are not recognized in the Slovenian arena as printmakers, but have demonstrated with their work in the MGLC print studios that the graphics medium has always been, and still is, open to experimentation and different ideas. The new approaches link and expand the boundaries of the possible, posing a challenge to both artists and audience.

Mladen Stropnik (1977) is an established artist of the middle generation, who entered the Slovenian art scene right after graduating with his fresh conceptual ideas, radical understanding of the art system and exceptional economy of artmaking. His drawings, collages, paintings and videos reflect a subtle sense of humour and mental acrobatics. His works immerse us in a world of fiction, combining the general information about his work with the mental effort invested in it, and the amount of time that we devote to its observation. In 2011, MGLC published Stropnik's print portfolio entitled Beć. The print portfolio is one of the most interesting and experimentally conceived folios created in the recent years. It includes the artist’s concept in the form of a mind map, brief explanations and five prints produced in the screen printing technique. The five seemingly unrelated prints are linked by the illogical, random, momentary and inspiring, into an interesting understanding of art as something ungraspable, unfamiliar and inconceivably simple. The artist expects the viewer to have the right amount of humour, to be able to form random connections and make associative leaps from one print to another. If there are words in the foreground on one print, there is just the format of the paper, colour or diagonally cut edges on the other. The viewer often feels as if his leg is being pulled with an offering of something that he could easily make himself, but basically he is being pushed over the edge (of the print) into pure fiction. In such a way Stropnik shows us that the artist and art waver on the edge of social acceptability, on the edge of rational limits and complex thought patterns of modern man. This is what makes Stropnik’s works a blow to the eye and a kick in the teeth, that push us over the edge.

Small but Dangers is a deliberately misspelled paraphrase of "small but dangerous", which has become the driving leitmotif, recognizable slogan and name of the artistic duo made up by Mateja Rojc (1977) and Simon Hudolin – Salči (1977). From their very first exhibitions, the well-established Slovenian duo has been confronting us with the expressly multilayered meanings of images that it places before us. The series of prints entitled Thin Line produced in 2016 in the MGLC print studios also lures us into the fantastic world of discovering meanings, semantic relationships, possibilities of the real and the application of potential within art. The series comprises prints produced in the screen printing technique, which are imprinted with blank sheets of paper as known from different types of notebooks. The structured arrangement of the lined paper in the print changes into empty space, ready to receive our projections and associations. The minimalist form prepares our thoughts for a monumental entrance into the world of understanding and walking on the line, from which we can slip to one side or the other at any moment. We are constantly moving between humour and extreme seriousness, between illusion and bitter reality, between understanding and misunderstanding. SBD confronts us with the moment when the artist stands before a blank piece of paper or canvas and embarks on his conceptual creative breakthrough onto the other side. Through the observation of their works and prints, we are placed in a position ourselves, where we are looking for the sense of artistic creation and are putting our own tolerance of understanding that which is different to the test. If we asked them whether this was even printmaking, the two artists would certainly reply: “Of course, it's printmaking. Simple and dangerous!"

Curator: Božidar Zrinski