Andraž Šalamun’s retrospective exhibition presents the artist’s oeuvre spanning five decades of uninterrupted work. Šalamun took his first steps in the world of art in the late 1960s as a member of the OHO group (together with Marko Pogačnik, Milenko Matanović and David Nez), when he produced some of his most poetic works in the spirit of arte povera (poor art) and body art. In the 1970s, the artist’s focus shifted to painting; as a self-taught painter he began exploring, by mid-decade, the materiality of abstract painting in large-format works. From the very start, his work could not be said to fall into any of the concurrent artistic trends. Although his artistic production coincides with post-conceptual fundamental painting, it appears to be completely independent of it. While clearly testifying to his fascination with the materiality of the paint and the support, at the same time his canvases exhibit a sublime poetic charge: poetic abstract landscapes, colorful suns, “cloud machines” and fantastic animal creatures, they always bring their potential to sensuously charm the viewer to the fore. In the 1980s, Šalamun’s painting exploded in image and color, which made the artist one of the foremost Slovene representatives of the New Image. In his work, the New Image manifested in fantastic animal compositions resulting from random play with images as facts, devoid of any clear or univocal semantic or symbolic allusions. Šalamun’s most famous series from that time is a series of enormous canvases of bison, including the one included in the Moderna galerija permanent collection exhibition 20th Century: Continuities and Ruptures. In the early 1990s, Šalamun’s painting became even more individualistic and unrelated to stylistic groupings. Presented at the exhibition from that period are his most characteristic and successful series of large-format canvases: Suns, which constitute a turning point in his development as a painter, a series of Greek islands characterized by his intense exploration of the abstract landscape, a series of so-called Mediterranean landscapes with a dark, melancholic charge, and the series Moss and Silver. After 2000 there followed the Venice series, the Cypresses series, the Moons series, and finally a series of abstract cosmic landscapes, which round up the artist’s many years of artistic explorations in the serial repetition of the same motif in numerous variations. Presented at the exhibition are over 50 large-format canvases – a selection of the most characteristic and best works from Andraž Šalamun’s oeuvre, which have been kindly loaned to us from numerous public and private collections in Slovenia.
Andraž Šalamun was born in Ljubljana on July 30, 1947. He finished high school in Koper. While studying in Ljubljana, he was an active member of the conceptual movement – working in the OHO group (whose works were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as early as 1970). After the dissolution of the OHO group, Andraž Šalamun did not join the Šempas Family, but instead completed his studies in comparative literature and philosophy and returned to Koper. After his initial series of pastels and drawings he dedicated himself exclusively to painting (after 1976). As early as 1977 he received the Seven Secretaries of SKOJ Award, at the time a prestigious Yugoslav art award, for his early paintings. In the 1980s he won several prizes and awards at art colonies across Yugoslavia (Pazin, Sombor, Dubrovnik, Sisak, Čačak) and in 1993 the Prešeren Foundation Award.
Andraž Šalamun’s work has been featured at numerous exhibitions: he was included in all big surveys of conceptual art as a member of the OHO group, while his paintings were included in Yugoslav selections of major international shows (such as the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1979 and the Venice Biennale in 1982) soon after his first solo exhibitions in Zagreb and Belgrade, as well as in the collections of Yugoslav museums and galleries and in travelling survey exhibitions of (young) Slovene art. He was actively involved in the self-organizing of younger generation artists in the Equrna working community in Ljubljana (starting in 1982) and in the art scene on the Slovene coast, especially by working with the Littoral Galleries in Piran, the Artists’ Association of North Primorska (DLUSP, later the Insula Association) and the Sqart Studio in Koper.
Over the years, three art historians and critics in particular – Tomaž Brejc, Ješa Denegri and Andrej Medved – have written extensively on Andraž Šalamun and his art.
Support: Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia
Andraž Šalamun, Crete, 1996, acrylic on jute, Obalne galerije Piran
Andraž Šalamun, Untitled, 1971–74, pastel on cardboard, private collection
Andraž Šalamun, Untitled, 1996, acrylic on jute, Obalne galerije Piran
Untitled, 1980, acrylic on jute, 294 x 450 cm, Moderna galerija collection
Bison, 1986, acrylic on jute, 300 x 400 cm, Moderna galerija collection
OHO (Milenko Matanović, Andraž Šalamun and Marko Pogačnik, May 1970), Moderna galerija collection