Mitja Tušek

Freizeit ist Arbeit

June 12 - July 30, 2021

Mitja Tušek

Freizeit ist Arbeit

June 12 - July 30, 2021


Galerie Ceysson & Bénétière is pleased to present “Freizeit ist Arbeit”, an exhibition by Mitja Tušek, in its Wandhaff space. Although it covers the last twelve years of his work, this exhibition is definitely not a retrospective. Mitja Tušek has chosen to present some older works alongside recent ones. 

Rather than following the furrow of an unceasingly restarted practice, Mitja Tušek has always refused any form of linearity and has admitted suspensions, syncopations, and ruptures into his work from the very outset. Mitja Tušek works simultaneously on different series. These can even sometimes appear contradictory. However, in their juxtaposition, correlations are established, silent dialogues are maintained, and a paradoxical coherence is created. 

The approach of the painterly work is pragmatic. Matter, colour, duplication, pattern, stain, trace, figures, space: the resources of painting are all explored by gesture, and by thought. Oil, acrylic and varnish are subjected to multiple protocols. A vast deployment underlies the contradictions and oppositions between one series and another. Painting for Mitja Tusek is a dialectical operation, any norm is revoked.

The recent paintings evoke groups of individuals. Each painting brings together a small society of unlikely faces. They overlap and mask each other. Each face is made up of patches of paint, sometimes smeared, sometimes simply poured, sometimes spread with a knife. Nine circles, of different sizes and often overlapping, of a deep, matte black, seem to represent the elements of the face, nose, mouth, eyes, etc. Moreover, these faces composed of nine circles seem to allude to heaven and hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The nine orbs of hell, like the nine orbs of paradise according to Dante, are places inhabited by saints and sinners. In a similarity to Dante’s orbs, each face seems to offer its own mixture of vices and virtues in its singularity.

The paintings may evoke screenshots from Zoom or Skype meetings, but it is probably the time spent in front of our screens during the confinement that prompts this interpretation of paintings started long before the epidemic began. In any case, Tušek claims that these are indeed paintings of modern life, or perhaps even paintings of the wandering souls of modern life.

From 2006 onwards, Mitja Tusek began to paint the paintings called "forests". There is no horizon; the space is without reference, the gaze losing itself in a taut jumble of colours and matter. Here and there, the paintings show homogeneous dotted patterns. Indeed, Tušek has impregnated sheets of bubble plastic with paint and then applied them on the canvas, and consequently – and in a very surprising way – a sense of depth appears on the surface. The gaze is lost in complex events which nevertheless resolve themselves into a coherent whole. In a random but effective way a figure manifests itself before our eyes, but what we see is not the constructed representation of a landscape, of undergrowth: what we see is a landscape in the process of being constructed before our eyes. There is only undergrowth for those who wish to behold it. All in experimentation, the forest emerges as if from an intentionally rectified accident. 

What seems to be important to Mitja Tušek is the unceasingly renewed look that the spectator applies to the screened stains, a gaze that is active and is not the simple faculty of seeing. The spectator immediately and almost involuntarily tries to discern what the work suggests to him. His interpretations are numerous. The reading of the painting is never unique for Tušek: it is multiple.

The relationship between gaze and reading, the relationship of form to sign are troubled.. This is what is at stake in the Text Paintings, a set of paintings begun in 2009. 

Their double structure recalls the charts developed by the psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach. However, these arabesques evoking insects, perhaps, skeletons, or strange creatures, have nothing to do with psychological tests. Perhaps they refer to Mitja Tušek's memory of the credits of the BBC show Vision On, which he watched assiduously as a child.

Here the sometimes single and sometimes coupled words come from Tušek’s elective visions of Shakespeare’s  As You Like It. The eponymous work consists of seven canvases, each dedicated to one of the seven ages of life characterised by Jaques in his famous poem: “infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, judge, pantaloon, oblivion”. Traced on one side of the canvas which is then folded back on itself to form an inverted double, the words carry in their very form a suggestive design, perhaps Infant mimicking the allure of a teddy bear, Lover that of hugs, Soldier perhaps referring to a suit of armour, but here as in the “forest” paintings the reading of an image is blurred and meant to be merely suggested. The words are presented vertically; for the viewer, it is first of all a still undetermined figure that is offered up for recognition; then it is identified, and finally decoded. It is therefore an image that appears first of all. Each letter is an image, a drawn image. Beyond their meaning, the words formed are images. Mitja Tušek understands well that writing is drawing.  Thus the space between reading and looking shrinks, and sign and image merge in the instance of the painting. Is the reader a beholder? Is the viewer a reader? No more gap. Because everything becomes painting with Tušek.

Big Easy is composed of ten paintings of a 200x150 cm format. A network of lines, interrupted by the edges of the canvas, occupies each of the paintings on backgrounds close yet distinct tones. Loops, curves and intertwining lines are perhaps traces left by planes in the sky, a network of motorway ring roads around a metropolis, or lines scribbled on a sheet of paper during a telephone call. Although the ten paintings form a whole, each one can be read independently. 

If the lines refer to the movements of the painter’s body, his gestures creating a variety of thicknesses and directions, a meander of gyrating lines, they are nevertheless carefully rendered depictions of scanned cables, placed on the plate of a machine and then enlarged in proportion during the transfer to the canvas without the viewer being led in any way to understand the real source of the imagery. Here again Mitja Tušek’s work opens up to multiple readings and interpretations.


Artist : Mitja Tušek

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