Top Slovenia Interview: Slavojka Akrapovič

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Architect, designer, gallery owner and art patron. All the roles are related, but at the same time different, they are all written in your DNA, but still: which one is your favorite?

Architect. Also a designer. This was my life’s career orientation, I started my professional path as an architect, where we designed in the studio of architect Andrej Kemr in a way like designers, somehow integrally. I also did graphic design for a while, and I also flirted with garden art. For me, it’s all the same expressive language, only the material is different. The rest of what you listed came as a result of my work, experience, and circumstances.

Did you always dream of owning your own gallery space?

No. I also never imagined that this would play such a big role in my life. As an architect who discovered this workspace of mine, I thought it to work best as a small gallery. Otherwise, I first had my own studio in it, so to speak, a project studio, which over time became too small, so I looked for another space and inspired its content – a gallery. The studio became a gallery.

You have participated and worked on quite a number of exhibitions. Which one are you most proud of?

Perhaps I would like to highlight the first exhibition – the Sculpture – Painting Exhibition of the important Slovenian sculptor in stone Jiři Bezlaj, which is based on a work of art – a very attractive oil painting, which has filled most of the wall of the artist Igor Bravničar – who made statues and originally erected an exhibition – a kind of specially commissioned work of art just for this space. The exhibition inspired the sculptor to take an existing piece of art as the bse of his sculptures. Given that I was just starting out with gallery work, I found this a great tribute to my idea of how to carry out gallery activity, as I personally do. Otherwise, every exhibition is close to my heart, a new intellectual challenge, every time we project both wall and spatial installations and in parallel we carry out a supportive gallery presentation of the artist. We also carefully design all publications. We also had exhibitions outside our gallery and the country, with the artist Leon Zakrajšek also in Beijing – art district 798, which we are really proud of. Art district 98 is the artistic part of the captial city and is percieved as the most developed one.

Creators of various branches are presented in your art gallery.  How do you pick the artist you work with? Or does the artist come into contact with you?

There are not many artists, they are carefully selected and represented in various artistic genres such as sculpture, painting, graphics, illustration, photography, design.

At first, the artists themselves started contacting me. Then I started choosing them myself. Everyone who is represented in the gallery and with whom we create a gallery profile, is “dear” to my heart, to the extent that I also want to have their artwork with me – at home or where I am and work. That is my selection criterion.

We must imagine there are certain criteria one must check in order to be featured in your gallery, could you tell us which are those?

I have very individual criteria. I perceive art as an impulse when it excites me to such an extent that it occupies me emotionally. The same goes for music. You want to listen to her or not. Very important are the colors, the large formats that dominate the interior space and enrich it. As an architect who also creates interiors, it is especially exciting to me that a work of art (painting canvas, photographic magnification or sculpture) finds its place as if it were commissioned for a chosen location. Being in this role as an interface is really a special professional pleasure. This is also one of the criteria for selecting artists in the gallery.

How do you perceive art?

I feel art as a need. As an escape from the outside world. In the field of art, everything is perfect, harmonious, and when one contemplates oneself with a work of art, one calms down, becomes creatively rich, and also becomes more sensitive. In my youth, I played the piano for ten years, almost decided to study music, and then came another decision, a more real world. Over time, I began to miss these sublime artistic energies, my profession did not completely fill me. In my Atelier, which was originally this space, I began to bring works of art, which began to harmonize me internally, and so slowly more and more works of art and artists were around me. Thus was the gallery was born. Also because of the perception of space. I would probably have been just a collector in other circumstances. Everything is intertwined – space and art.

Could you tell us which is your favorite Slovenian and foregin artist at the moment?

My favorite painter is Igor Bravničar. He is also a pianist and perceives the fine arts through music. We have been friends for a long time, we were also classmates. He was my first artist in the gallery. I also appreciate Leon Zakrajšek and all other artists under in the frame of our gallery, as well as Marko Jakše, with whom I occasionally collaborate. My favorite foreign artist is Anish Kapoor. This one totally overwhelms me every time, with its ideas, innovative shapes, flawless placements of sculptures in selected materials, placements in rooms or exteriors. I am also fascinated by James Turrell, who is a representative of the landarte, and his means of expression is the light he geometrizes. As an architect, I sometimes try to follow his example. In painting, I would look back a little. Mark Rothko somehow paints the musical atmosphere with his colors. He was ahead of his time, just like all artists. As a generation, I was marked by the 20th century, starting with the constructivists, and it developed into a pure abstraction.

I think that fine art is in this time in seeking of itself, although artists are being born at any time, as they are now, and they are developing it further.

You have been present in the field of art or a few decades now. Would you say Slovenia is an artistic country? How can we improve?

Slovenians, as a nation is at the crossroads of various influenced of cultures, represented in all artistic genres and architecture at the world level. I wouldn’t list the names now, but we as a nation have been very sensitive and constituent practically throughout history. We also identify with culture and art. When Slovenians had their own money – the tolar, the banknotes were identified almost exclusively by artists, literals, painters, musicians and the famous architect Plečnik. Currently, it is a time of different influences of cultures from all over the world and thus the search for artistic expressions. World exhibitions such as the Bienalle di Venezia are a great display of search and only a few individuals stand out.

Do you think Slovenians know their artists well enough?

Yes and no. I think interest in art has been declining in recent years. As if there is no need and time for it. The lifestyle has changed a lot in a short period of time. Personally, I think he also impoverished. This does not only apply to Slovenes. I travel a lot around Europe and I see the same trend. Only where they are very thoughtful in designing and arranging indoor and outdoor space art is also presented. This should be the case in Slovenia as well, as it has been the case in the past. There is a narrow circle of people who are always present at exhibitions, follow artists and also want to have their works of art, place them in their collections.

Can you tell us what you are currently working on? Are you planning to launch a new project?

We are currently finishing the renovation of the space above the existing gallery, where we have gained quite a bit volume, walls, and the possibility of expanded gallery activity. We decided to dedicate ourselves to education. We will organize various art workshops, especially for the supplementary art education of young people and children, as we believe that they are lacking in the school system. For some time now, as an amateur program, we have been running painting schools for adults. We notice that there is a lot of interest in artistic creation, as people also relax in painting and at the same time cultivate a creative streak. Even children love to create with colors, draw, in short, a person carries a sense of proportions, harmony. Aristotle argued that art fills what has remained imperfect in nature.

Despite the closure of Slovenian museums and galleries.  Do you have any upcoming exhibitions that our readers should already mark on their calendars?

In October, we had prepared a very interesting exhibition of posters by the architect Bogo Zupančič, who has just taken over the position of MAO director. These are posters that were created during our studies in the 80s at the Faculty of Architecture and express the spirit of that time. When the galleries open, we will open the exhibition together with the renovated space, where thirty posters and a short documentary and sketches will be on display. I think that the upcoming exhibition is very interesting, as it presents the author, who is now creating as an architectural historian, in the light of an artist whose professional public does not know him. His posters have not only interesting messages but also artistic value, as they were at that time some were also awarded, and in 1987 one of them was chosen for the art work of the month.