Thursday, November 24, 2016

Text for the small catalogue for "States of Things"

The image is penetrated through and through by the system of meaning, in exactly the same way as man is articulated to the very depths of his being in distinct languages.

 R. Barthes, Rhetoric of the image

With respect to its visual presentation, the latest exhibition by Slavica Janeslieva,“States of things”, represents a continuation of her previous creations with installation, which exists in parallel with her other artistic works in the domain of the graphic medium. 

The articulation of Janeslieva’s artistic expression offers a comprehensive assessment of the current states and societal anomalies, as well as of the generally undervalued everyday life.  It is represented through six separate ambient segments, crafted by her recognisable, direct and specific manner, which insists on deepened relations between the image and its meaning.

The staged installations are experienced as pre-meditated visual structures and follow Barthes’ semiotic phrase “the image as a sign”. Through them, the artist generates knowledge systems of a universal, rather than merely a local context.  Understanding of the conditioned narrative of the works in the current installation is not chronologically driven; in its centre-stage are images of the states created by the dysfunctional society in our daily lives. These images are then transmitted by the artist through the objects – indicators of representational power, which are also correlate with various controversial phenomena of our surroundings.

The exhibition showcases the logically present and clearly defined opinions of the artist, among which we can emphasise the following: the stance deriving from burning issues related to the common context we share as opposed to intimate psychological dialogues; the feeling of conditioning and connecting events to the wider ambience; the dialectical relation between the part and the whole, autoreferentiality, personal and common narratives, memory and the present, reality and the metaphor – all of this meticulously crafted and modelled in its own contradictions and united in its narration as a structure. There are “materialised” elements with symbolic meanings which are continually discovered in the current artistic work: mirrors, texts, embroidery, pillows, chess, spoons, whereas the textual narration provokes the audience to contemplate and initiate dialogue.

 The technical aspect of the exhibition is the result of an enduring process involving manual dexterity, energy, emotions and a multitude of moods. Using everyday items, Janeshlieva alters their purpose by employing accentuated interventions. Hence, she transforms them into sign-bearers of different associative messages, which reflect various crises and serve to connect the personal with the experience of the other.

The installations are conceptually structured on the basis of several carefully selected symbolic elements, with a myriad interrelated meanings. In “Immigrant or Emigrant or Maybe I”, through the longstanding and meticulous crafting process (closest analogy being with “A Cry”, a previous installation) the artist has manually sewn 2700 pins and applied 11 kilograms of candies from “Europe” sweetshop. The message is one of the quest for a better life, often mixed with raw emotions and traumatic temptations.

In “Overpopulation”, we come across one of the artist’s favourites –chess as a strategic and tactical game (akin to the global political scene), which demands an appropriate level of perception and is a pure visualization of a relevant global issue.

The mirrors are present in “Three Sides of the Story” and suggest viewing, reflecting, and contemplating the “truth” and the consequences that derive from our perceptions, thoughts and behaviour. “Higher Education” is a direct symbolic visualisation of a local, yet also global, issue of lack of selection which prevails in higher education institutions. “Monument of the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century” represents a metaphor for the expression of dissatisfaction and a portrayal of individuals fleeing the homeland in pursuit of a better life: according to the artists, the tent is currently the most frequently viewed item and thus symbolises the same period. “Still Hunt” encourages a multi-layered analysis of femininity within existing quasi traditional patriarchal norms.

Controversy is a term used to signify contradiction and debate. Yet, through the eye of the artist we realise that the term loses its original meaning on a universal scale, precisely due to the “aggressive ease” with which the states are imposed and their casual acceptance as normal everyday phenomena, ignored in conformity. 

“States of things” is an exhibition that serves as a materialised critique of modern society – the decline of moral values, the economic exploitation generating wars, destruction and migration, imposed patriarchal codes, continuing and the deepened crisis in education, social/existential problems, cultural decay with its derived dilemmas and the agony of existence. With the current, as well as with previous projects, Slavica Janeslieva reaffirms her lasting position on the contemporary Macedonian artistic scene, imprinting again her characteristic lucid, critical treatment of reality.
Maja Chankulovska-Mihajlovska
(translated into English: Ana Lazarova-Nikovska)

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