Kaja Urh / Paintings
Paintings – Kaja Urh
The artistic opus of the Slovene painter Kaja Urh is critically questioning and putting
both traditional and new media in an interrelation (painting / photography / video), as well rethinking current social, social, political issues.
Starting from the very observation of the diversity of artistic / creative processes and values of their products, the artist, using traditional techniques, shifts mass digital production into the physical sphere of the artwork – a painting. With this transition, Urh takes photos found in the vastness of Internet (often of small artistic value) and give them the status of a materialized, physically present artwork with a new (if not the first) aura.
She uses large-sized canvases on which she transfers two or more different photographs using acrylic paint, and that overlapping gives them new meaning and makes room for questions and / or comments. Bringing certain photographs into this interlink, the artists articulate her own critical attitude publicly, changes the meaning of photographs, creating a way for a lucid, interwoven narrative on numerous levels.
The dominant “distortion” in the paintings is twofold: it is an association to the ubiquitous pixelization of digital media, as well as a certain “window” into what is below – literally and metaphorically. Just like the choice of photographs, the dimensions of the canvases are not accidental here. Urh deliberately uses larger canvases, which require a distance to be seen as a whole, but it is also necessary to come closer if one really wishes to “see” the painting. Only by getting closer and gently “zooming in”, the scene becomes clearer, the background is more visible, the picture becomes largely different. Still, caution is needed because, if the image is approached too closely, it becomes unreadable, almost abstract. The artist actually forces the viewer to find the right measure, to slow down. To study. Quick glimpses and skipping to the next image / content without deeper perception / reflection, as is often the case with digital media, will not be enough. (Then, just like in everyday life in which we were bombarded with lots of information, things are not “seen” as they are.) Hence, the digital content that is found in the paintings of Kaja Urh through artistic intervention and transformation into the field of painting, is suddenly highlighted, it gets the attention it deserves, and – finally – it gets new meaning. There is a certain parallel that the artist metaphorically pulls with a superficial, hasty, uncritical way of human acceptance of information served by mass media.
This brings us to the figurative critique presented in the undoubtedly engaging, socially critical images of overlapping symbols and a clear-cut attitude.
In the thoughtful combination and mutual intertwining of photographs of politicians, protesters, soldiers, children, dogs, sheep, and such, Kaja Urh creates new stories about power games, manipulation, rebellion – a selection of photos move from their original context into a completely new context. This way, the triptych “On the gravity of species” (made of three different online photographs, one of which is the cult photo of a kiss after the victory of America over Japan), shows the pose of a soldier in the navy uniform passionately kissing a nurse in a white skirt, to be significantly similar to the shape of a dog. It is almost impossible to distinguish a man from the beast, violence inevitably becomes a part of the kiss story. “Sheep will rise again” and “Brighter Future” showcases demonstrators in revolutionary stances, which the artist brings close to the gentle stares of calm sheep, and similar tensions can be felt in “We can do it”, where the dynamic gesture of politicians in the background is accompanied by peaceful children playing in a sandbox …
Kaja Urh (1988) earned her BA and MA degree in Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She is a member of ZDSLU and Art Association Kranj. In her works, she focuses on
the relations between traditional painting and digital media, along with the question of mass imagery, its fleetness, complexity and subjection to manipulation. She lives and works in Kranj.