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Prešeren Awards

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2001

Gustav (Avgust) Gnamuš (1941)
For his painting oeuvre


It is the tranquillity in Gnamuš's art that reflects the author’s content and his worldview most effectively. His paintings can be classified as meditative art for they relate to this particular creative direction as it evolved through historical periods. What can be observed in these paintings at first glance, actually separates them from everything clearly visible as they do not reflect any other recognisable shape except for the reality they possess inside. Their shapes and colours do not relate to anything outside but only to themselves, consisting solely of the clearness of their components and pigments. Being completely non-referential, their visual effects are on the very edge of perception; all shades are, for example, often difficult to detect to an untrained eye. The expressive power is enhanced precisely with the effort required to distinguish and recognise the painting elements. The visible area, which cannot be related to any identifiable reference points and meanings from the experiential, perceptive sense of the outside world, can only be comprehended and set associatively in a slow manner. In appropriate circumstances, this can lead to a clear meditative experience. The main means of expression in Gnamuš’s paintings are the saturated colour areas. The colour is, however, not a purpose in itself, but the main messenger of the atmosphere and the content. Apart from the form, it may be the only fundamental component, which is superior to all, sometimes even to the form. Its suggestive and hypnotic power urges the viewer to identify with it. Although the colours, when confronted in new artistic and ideological contexts, do enrich, change or abolish their symbolism and meanings, there are some direct associations which are obviously innate to a man (for example, red is associated with blood, blue is associated with cold). Western Modernism has set a rather subjective but sufficiently recognisable legend of the colour symbols which reflects the peculiarities of contemporary life and its technological development, the characteristics of society and the reactions of critical and sensitive individuals in it. New coloristic contents gladly respond to the continuing discoveries of organic and inorganic micro and macrocosmic environments, unimagined so far, which are enabled by more precise optical instruments. The artists, interested in such depictions, have begun using new glowing and phosphorescent pigments in addition to traditional colours. Synthetic acrylic paints also played an important role. Gnamuš's colour spectrum is still expanding, and it continues to bring new, previously unknown tones, which are hard to distinguish because of their insignificant differences and correlated frequencies of radiation. It is also difficult to classify them. A special colour culture has also been developed by an increasingly sophisticated technology and popular use of light sources that allow optical mixing of light and the related effects, which can affect the viewer's mood and – along with the scene on the stage or sounds of the appropriate music – soothe, excite or frighten them. Some artists had a similar experience when exposed to intense radiation of the colour which gets detached from the object. The vision occurred under the influence of the hallucinogens. Contemporary contemplative art, on one hand, attracts the viewer with the mechanisms settled in Western art history and contemporary everyday life. It adds also newly discovered principles, which are in fact ancient and not very different, developed by the oriental meditation, which is based also on the reflection of specific Buddhist symbolic forms and mantras. It does not stop there. This art encompasses also the scientific observations of the world, the cosmos, the human psyche and subconsciousness. Gnamuš's work therefore requires a deep meditation on the colour areas and shapes, which awakens and emerges a suggestive spiritual power as a timeless metaphor of an unfathomable secrecy of the numinous. Today, the numinous is no longer unambiguous and generally applicable but much more diverse, subjective and difficult to identify at the same time. The artist can no longer rely on a predetermined joint spiritual attitude which would associate the audience with his works for certain. He or she has to seek the subtle, formal details, which can translate symbols of private mythology into signs comprehensible only to those whose spiritual stance is in tune with the expressiveness of images absorbing the viewer in its spiritual space. Thus, special attention should be dedicated to the size of a canvas and architectural interiors displaying the painting, the corresponding isolation of the exhibit, proper lighting and coordinated colour of walls. The formats of paintings are mainly large but not in the sense of the former monumental, religious, historical or committed canvases or murals which used their size in order to set a clear ideological distance from their viewers. Metaphorically, but sometimes also for real, the painter physically connects with his canvas. When deciding about its size, the painter therefore generally stems from the size of his own figure and his intimate space. According to these, he sets the width and height of the painting which can also be enlarged by the appropriate anthropomorphic ratio. The viewer is thus attracted by the format itself because its rhythm, reflected in the measuring system of perception, creates the impression of a direct contact, which is required for the spiritual harmony. The viewer feels the human charge and the emotional address imprinted on the image by the author, and finds a space of identification in that psychological energy. This lack of real object sources discloses the sign chain so that different describers can attach to it. The transitions between Gnamuš's colour areas are seldom clearly identifiable. More often, they are blurred, and it seems as if they melted one into another. The transition between them disappears, and forms in the viewer's visual thinking alone. The blurred transitions create the impression that the forms move around the canvas as if water would toss them back and forth. The painter may indicate an imaginary contact line by changing the colour quality or frequency of radiation or by drawing its neighbouring form accurately. Such visible uncertainty of the linear compositional system carries its own message. It would be naive to think, though, that Gnamuš’s painting choices, artistic knowledge and expression reflect directly in his visual language. The hesitant manner of setting transitions between different areas does not indicate that the author might not master his painting formats entirely, or that he doubts whether he has chosen the appropriate form, or even that he is experiencing some kind of a personal trauma. Rather, it places an entirely new pictorial value on the image. The transition, which is seemingly intermittent and unfixed, emerging and disappearing, changes the form and creates an impression of a pulsating organism, of a live heart or any other vital organ. Its appearance is thus a direct result of the impression from the past which also indicates the future. At the point where two colour areas intersect or enter one another, there is a special atmosphere, which varies from a loose, blurred blending to strictly specified delimitations, determining the character of the image crucially. It establishes the main painting framework, which can be solid and consistent, or randomly loose. No matter how passive or neutral the composition might be, every transition between the areas will bring in the new dynamics. The selected colours and their values, creating different contrasts, and the position of the individual colour area in the order of application, determine whether it is more appropriate to talk about varied peaceful paintings or peaceful varied paintings. One or the other, the art narrative of both depends on large surfaces or strokes that connect as patches and, at times, logically intertwine as well. Gnamuš is not interested in the traditional tonal painting of deep colour contrasts which generated the illusion of an extending space with voluminously reflected objectivity in it. He is a colourist and he builds a modern flat image field with precisely determined warm and cold colours, coordinated and underlined by lightening or darkening. The directions, shapes and colours are quantitatively and qualitatively balanced by the light alignment. The author does not specify any particular centres, which would organise the structure of the visible within the painting by offering some privileged points of view. He regulates all elements according to the general gestalt principles in relation to the geometric centre of the canvas. From there, the image conceptual structure classifies them one against the other by internal logic, so that none is exposed or emphasised, which dictates the viewer a long visual journey along the image. Since the shapes themselves provide no directions, the viewer may choose his or her own path, free to enter and exit the painting whenever he or she likes. External edges make for inevitable components of the painting, determining the choice and dimension of the interior forms. Some of Gnamuš's works are closed in on itself, their colour shapes and areas adapted to the format of the canvas, while in others, they run across the painting edges. In the first case, the frame borders the painting and determines the shapes of the colour field so that they float towards the viewer and embrace him or her into its abstractness. However, when the external edge does not frame the painting field, the inner shapes spread all over, thereby reinforcing the aural impression of colour floating between the canvas and the viewer. It seems as if the pigment dust would rise from the canvas and spread around it as a translucent coloured mist wrapping around the viewer. The painter's choice of appropriate tones and their enlightenment determines which colours on the canvas will radiate more. The inverted space illusion is created, which does not unfold the painting back towards the perspective line of gravity but keeps some colours “floating” between the viewer and the canvas while others remain “attached” to it. Thus, gravity and two-dimensional spatial positioning of forms are shaken, because the flaring colour curtains create the impression that they really float. They become weightless and phantom, because in terms of the artistic syntax they do form images, while in perception, they degrade the soundness of the image field. The uncertainty confuses the viewer, the reference points are missing and the structure is completely dispersed. The pigment is dematerialised so that the bright colour beams evoke a sensuous experience in viewers affecting their sentiments. The paintings absorb the viewer who starts realising that he or she submerged and disappeared in them. Gnamuš’s spaces are revealed in an unusual way – by turning into themselves and moving from one condition to another. Despite the precise choices for actual forms, their directions and turns, the colour areas create the impression of movement, making some of them independent, while others disappear and emerge all over again. Perception requires certain time for observation, when all the support of both the artistic and the actual space finally start to disappear. The viewer no longer distinguishes between up and down. The room inside and outside the painting is intertwined and transformed into a unified spiritual place of meditation. The resulting room without room, a utopia, does not replicate the experience of a real space but rather suggests a new experience of disintegration and dissolution of the physical space and the creation of the spiritual space. When standing in front of the painting, the viewer feels as if he or she is entering a room not known from before. Through this room, he or she enters different places all over again, like Alice stepping through the mirror, and experiences the perception, which Gnamuš once likened to an astronaut’s in his spaceship cabin, lost in the universe without a course to follow. Jure Mikuž
gpn
Brez naslova, 1990
akril, platno; 240 x 100 cm

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