EXHIBITION | Marijan Tršar’s Abstract Art and Visual Art Theory
15 December 2022 – 2 April 2023

Marijan Tršar’s Abstract Art and Visual Art Theory

Opening: 15 December 2022 at 7 p.m.
Duration: 15 December 2022–2 April 2023
Museum of Modern Art MG+, Room 6 

This exhibition, opening at the Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana in the year of the centennial of Marijan Tršar’s birth, brings together two domains of his activities: his artistic practice and his theory of the visual arts.

This is Marijan Tršar’s second exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art; he first exhibited his works here in 1953, as part of the Skupina 53 (Group 53) show.

A painter and printmaker, and the 1993 Rihard Jakopič Award laureate, Tršar dedicated himself to both the theory of the visual arts and his artistic practice from the 1960s until the end of his life, producing a stylistically varied oeuvre.

At a time when the theory of the visual arts was not as differentiated or as popular at academies and among prominent visual artists as it is today, Marijan Tršar and Milan Butina were among the few Slovenian artists to point out the necessity of a good knowledge of artistic syntax, favoring theoretical reflection above art-historical analysis. Based on practical research, Tršar’s reviews of contemporary Slovenian artists and his texts, essays, and diary entries on the theory of the visual arts surpass in their broadness of view the visual art theory postulates of the time. He also passed on his findings to his students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana, where he taught anatomy and the representation of space between 1969 and 1983.

After earning a master’s degree with the thesis Wassily Kandinsky’s Theoretical Systems under Prof. Lazar Trifunović at the Faculty of Arts in Belgrade, he enrolled there in doctoral studies, which he did not complete due to various circumstances. In 1985, he translated into Slovenian his selection of Wassily Kandinsky’s writings Od točke do slike (From Point to Painting), and in 1997 published the book Vasilij Kandinski, slikar in teoretik: rojstvo abstraktne umetnosti (Wassily Kandinsky, Painter and Theorist: The Birth of Abstract Art) based on his master’s thesis. He found confirmation in the theory of the Russian artist, the father of abstraction, for his own lucid explanations of the relations between the artist, the artwork, and the viewer, which led him to discover contradictory and apparently paradoxical rational and emotional aspects while taking into account his practice-based findings. In addition to Tršar’s theoretical explorations, Kandinsky marked also his artistic expression to a certain extent.

The works exhibited at the Moderna galerija now are Tršar’s acrylic paintings from the 2000s. They represent the final stage of his explorations of abstract art, which he first considered in his youth, and then introduced into his painting and printmaking gradually and intermittently. Of all the artistic elements he devoted most attention to color, which he most admired in the impressionists and post-impressionists. He was particularly drawn to painters who broke with conventions and combined their practical work with theoretical premises. Captivated by “Cezanne’s plastic expression” as a student, he realized that traditional, old masters’ painting no longer suited his needs and that color was a “deity.”

A prominent feature of the selected paintings is the color blue, about which Kandinsky said that “it beckons man into the Infinite, arousing a longing for purity and the super sensuous.” With the aid of pouring, Tršar created fluid, lyrically expressive, and glowing canvases, full of color and formal contrasts, with an invisible, hidden object or imaginary entity in the background. He applied paints by dripping, smearing, and spraying, and let spontaneity guide his brushstrokes, like the abstract expressionists. Despite this overt intuitive randomness, these acrylic paintings, the culmination of his insights into abstraction, still betray his characteristic penchant for order. By dividing a painting into fields with drawing before pouring paint over the surface he remained faithful to a deliberately considered pictorial construction, typical of his earlier landscape and figurative works.

In addition to paintings the exhibition includes Tršar’s most important books on the theory of the visual arts. 

Exhibition curators: Robert Simonišek and Tjaša Šavorič

Marijan Tršar raz_ume
The collection of publications related to Marijan Tršar at the Moderna galerija library