Sonja Vulpes, Limbo

19. 03. 2021 - 06. 06. 2021
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Sonja Vulpes, 672 Limbo King, silkscreen, 1/1, 2021. Photo: Jaka Babnik. MGLC Archive.

The title of the exhibition Limbo is a carefully chosen word that can aptly and directly describe the artistic and mental expression of the self-portraits in the latest series of prints by Sonja Vulpes, in which uncertainty, disunity and a sense of being trapped in a state of helplessness prevail, the only solution to which seems to be that this will simply pass. She speaks about it sincerely, without shame and without regard to being judged.

In the context of contemporary Slovenian printmaking production, the prints of Sonja Vulpes are something special. The small edition, the printmaking technique of collagraphy, the accentuated drawing and the motif of the self-portrait stand out, with an emphasis on the position of the figure and the expression on the face. This also brings her closest to the viewer, who can better understand the artist trapped in limbo.

The exhibition was curated by Božidar Zrinski.

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Limbo, a short film about the work of Sonja Vulpes

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Limbo

The title of the exhibition Limbo is a carefully chosen English word that can be used to aptly and directly describe the artistic and mental expression of the self-portraits in the latest series of prints by Sonja Vulpes, dominated by the psycho-physical state of uncertainty and entrapment in an indefinable intermediate or transitional space. The era of images in which we live is interesting and more complex, as evidenced by the multitude of personal profile photos on social networks, where the joy of happy people prevails. From a distant future, it could certainly be argued that this was a time of universal joy. But some happy faces – selfies – are just masks hiding insecurity, fear, despair, anger, sadness, helplessness and similar complex emotional states of the human psyche. The inability to express personal happiness and joy forces many to deliberately lie about it or excludes them from the expected and accepted social frameworks.

The proliferation of selfies has indirectly influenced the understanding of the self-portrait, which is an established motif within the art context that can be said to systematically depict the human psyche as it is. The difficulty of the subject and the impossibility of a deep look at oneself are perhaps the reasons why self-portraits are relatively rare in contemporary art, and even rarer in contemporary Slovenian graphic print production. A good self-portrait is determined by a well-formed pictorial language and uncompromising sincerity in observing oneself. The self-portraits of Sonja Vulpes have both. We can sense a raw power of expression coming from her sincere self-examination, so there are no symbols or other semantic signs in the images, as she attempts to say practically everything with the position of the body and the expression of the face, with an emphasis on the eyes, which can be filled in black or just sketched out empty white circles. The figure is often curved and captured in an indeterminate space, with the background and space only hinted at but for the most part completely abstract, reflecting the mood of the figure more than its spatial placement. The prints are distinguished by a simple and precise drawing, which is further strengthened by the printmaking technique of collagraphy that brings out its pictorial features, adding to the expressiveness of the figure and the mood on the face. Also important is the process of preparing the matrix, in which the artist responds to the emerging image as she works on it, developing additional pictorial and expressive accents. The compositions of the portraits are inspired by well-known and established portrait canons from art history, but more than the recourse to academically established practice, there is a clear focus on the emotional state in which sadness, crying, joy and laughter can share a place on one face. She speaks about it sincerely, without shame and without regard to being judged. Her self-portraits can be seen on the one hand as seemingly real and spectacularly fantastic, and on the other as brutally naturalistic, deeply personal, confessional and intimate. In any case, we feel the incertitude, disunity and sense of being trapped in a state of helplessness whose only solution seems to be that it will simply pass.

In the context of contemporary Slovenian printmaking production, the prints of Sonja Vulpes are something special. The small edition, the printmaking technique of collagraphy, the accentuated drawing and the motif of the self-portrait stand out, which she uses to honestly speak about herself and her momentary state of indeterminate psycho-physical feelings of entrapment. This also brings her closest to the viewer, who can better understand the artist trapped in limbo.

Božidar Zrinski