Denis Volk

The Tale of the Artist

The force of expression which branches from the works of Saša Bezjak requires great courage. The artist exposes her most intimate world to the audience: her thoughts, fears, desires, everyday life, sexuality, her body ... She exposes, what most hide. As she exhibits her work, the revelation of in-timacy leads to a progression which is personal (in both senses of the word) as well as artistic.

The most numerous part of the extensive body of work by Saša Bezjak is represented by her drawings. The viewer may perhaps not decipher the familiar motif in them - similarly as it is diffi-cult to find one's bearings in children's drawings - yet it can easily be recognized intuitively without a lot of effort and contemplation.

Referring to children's drawings, which this is not, since the drawing of Saša Bezjak is a char-acteristic language of a mature artist, indicates the impact of the oldest known painted works or simple folk art. Particularly strong is the influence of the cultures of the South American peoples: masks, depictions of rituals and animals.

The artist presents very adult themes, very personal and intimate experiences, current issues as well as events that are set in memory and emotion. In terms of content, her motifs are not only hers, but are universal, since the same or similar things are known to everyone: birth, motherhood or parenthood, growing up, body change, interpersonal and relationships between the sexes, par-tnership, different emotional states, passion, pain and death.

The drawing is simple, mostly covering the greater part of the visual field, sometimes a slightly smaller portion, in which case the unused area or whiteness emphasizes the motif. The figures are simple and concisely formed. Proximity is shown by overlapping, distance with dimension, and various positions and flat surfaces with shifts and tilts.

Simple drawing relieves her and at the same time means a return to primitive painting, to primal or primary expression. Human figures, in some of their essential features and details, perfectly mimic the anatomical relationships and specific features of the drawn parts of the body. Such an example is the drawing on which the lower limb is properly rounded in the muscular parts and narrower in the folds, so the artist can afford to make the other limb entirely schematically. She similarly marks the sexual organs, sometimes on the appropriate location of the body, sometimes at a dislocated position, also outside the body, designating the body's sex (a vulva beside the female body, a penis beside the male). Sometimes there is even no body, just the sexual organ. Among her drawings, we can also find examples where the artist has envisaged a body, whose sex cannot be determined. Among Slovenian artists, Jože Ciuha stands out in this aspect, who also de-picts persons of an undetermined sex in his drawings occasionally. However, Saša Bezjak also cre-ates an inter-sexual or trans-sexual body, and sometimes also a body of an anatomically completely identifiable sex with the organs of the opposite sex.

During periods that she finds mentally exhausting, she exploits her inner pressures to create. She transfers the tensions of everyday life onto paper with rapid, repetitive drawing without any selection of motif, so that no rational impulses would interfere with these tensions. She uses this method occasionally to effectively eliminate a bad mood and the negative, as well as to improve her well-being. However, the works that arise in such a way only make up a share of her art-making.

Among the motifs of Saša Bezjak we can recognize quite a few subject areas that are linked by the way they have been created. Except for the first group of works that have been produced un-consciously, the rest are more considered. The largest group is definitely the intimate approach to unconscious subject matters, which she brings to the fore by using the technique of quick drawing when she finds herself in distress. The second group includes works that have been created under the influence of other artists or their works in which the artist recognizes her own personal story, or resonates with the artistic principles of the particular artworks. Therefore she reworks them in such a way as to include her own declaration. These are Automatisse, Matisse Red, Mask and Francis Bacon. Only a small number of motifs relates to the contents that constitute the depictions of random visions and associations of the artist: The Christ from the Cross and Christ. A common factor in some of the works is also that she makes a commentary on those depicted. She also expresses her opinion publicly, but without a word to that person. In such a way she uses her current (negative) emotion creatively. In some of her pieces, however, she depicts specific events, such as the death of a fish, breaking a leg, physical changes and bodily symptoms, important to the artist at the moment of creation.

Even though the works are not "nice and pleasant" at first glance, they certainly attract the viewer and do not let him go easily. They compel him to observe, experience and sense, and then to consider. And only then do they become more understandable and meaningful, whereas the viewer wants to see more and more.

The drawings are mostly drafted on paper, some also on fabric or canvas. When the artist de-veloped her works on paper further technically by using canvas, this became the basis for the for-mation of her embroideries. The embroideries are constantly undergoing development, with new discoveries arising from the creative process. The artist's ideas arise spontaneously during the pro-cess itself, as when for instance her mother is improvising whilst embroidering, or when someone makes a remark on the work. She is currently interested in complementing the coloured em-broidered surfaces with acrylic painting on the unembroidered parts of the canvas.

Asimilar repetition like in the drawings, and a related process like in the embroideries, takes place with the sculptures, except that in this process the artist works alone, be that kneading and applying clay, from which she forms the image, or making casts. A longer rational process takes her from the drawing or idea to the sculpture. In the final execution, instinctive creation also has its share, which is unlimited in at least one part, as she lets herself flow with the process, even though she is constantly overseeing and improving the entire process.

It is precisely the sculpture pieces that experience the most changes. They are conceived mo-dularly - she freely transfers and composes the individual modules in new installations, whereas some parts of the sculptures are also used more than once. Individual elements - modules, hold special significance for Saša Bezjak, and her relationship towards them, or towards the issue at hand, is more intense than the one she has with certain other pieces. She repeatedly addresses and processes a certain issue, topic or emotional state, so that she re-uses the same modules in various combinations, like someone who lets irritating thoughts go round and round his head with little change to the mental circumstances. The process runs unconsciously. She shapes some of the sculptures herself by modelling them, sometimes also using them as the elements for new sculptures. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the most commonly used modules of her sculpture-making are the head of her departed grandmother and a woman's torso (from a member of her family). She also makes use of various ready-made and found objects: a wall clock, river deposits, animal parts...

Her sculpture pieces are clearly legible and identifiable to educated and culturally formed view-ers of various ages. They are simple, the narrative is primary, instinctive, rationally untreated and therefore universal, a kind of visual Esperanto. Many people who try to understand these works find them rationally incomprehensible. However, if one allows oneself to experience the works emotionally and instinctively, without thinking about them, then their story is very clear. One can really be successful in the quest for a rational explanation and the creation of a story, if one con-siders the works and the circumstances in which they were created in more depth.

The artist communicates with the audience in a similarly clear and simple way, with primacy -like in her drawings, embroideries and sculptures - in the performance, You and Me, first carried out in 2012. In this action, she establishes non-verbal communication with passers-by, which can be understood by all, like her drawings, embroideries and sculptures. Those who choose to par-ticipate, are given the opportunity to also challenge themselves and for a moment test how they feel whilst doing some quick drawing without too much thinking, as used by the artist to release her tension. The artist prepares an opposing element to the primacy of drawing in the art action, which at the same time acts as a complement to the other work and takes place simultaneously: the reading of poetry, screening of a film in the background, and playing of music.

In Saša Bezjak's creative work, individual works and genres are not strictly separated, since they constantly mix and interchange. She creates all the time, so everything is constantly intertwi-ning in her thoughts, ideas, planning, explorations and execution, only that occasionally her focus on something becomes more intense.

Various stages of the family stand out in the motifs, from the formation of the relationship, through pregnancy, childbirth, coexistence, disease and death, with a great emphasis on sexuality. We find the Christian iconography of the cross with Christ among the drawings, embroideries and sculptures, every time in a different context. Beside the hospital bed, the real cross has been re-placed by a gilded skull of cattle, which resembles the shape of a cross. The bed with an impover-ished bedspread, the helpless and anguished face - all beside the bovine skull - raise questions about the neglect or suffering of patients as well as the stability or sense of faith. The figure of the crucified on a tree trunk washed ashore also raises its own association: Christ, in a typical pose, can be identified as a female figure, by the proportions and physical characteristics. It is remini-scent of a tortured or abandoned woman, thus highlighting the issue of women and violence in general in the Christian faith as just one of the religions. The themes are also not strictly separated and are often intertwined.

Saša Bezjak creates what she lives. Her work is her visual diary, her biography in visual form, a visual autobiography. The artwork does not follow a linear sequence of events in the artist's life nor a simultaneity as lived by the artist. This is more of a chronological fill-in, into which we can ar-range individual images that are staged as drawings, embroideries, sculptures and even photo-graphs, or in any other form with a time dimension, such as video works. Performative works re-present another form of expression based on time and duration, which could be included in the artist's fill-in timeline as a video document.

The individual "pictures" of this fill-in timeline have a more documentary nature, others are more expressive or experiential, which complement, support and explain each other. Individual life events are also interconnected, or not as the case may be, their mutual influence is clear, lightly concealed, sometimes you discover it only after several years or after a long period of observation, research and reflection, and sometimes it is simply not there. In this way, these "pictures" - the artworks of Saša Bezjak - are no different from real life.