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STOLP Gallery,

Andrej Ciuha: The power of pictures and words

Gallery STOLP at Bled castle will be hosting painting exhibition from Andrej Ciuha in August. Below read more about the artist.

The works of art created by Andrej Ciuha are clearly defined by the dialogue between inspiration, the artist's response to it, and the verbal message – the meaning that the artist writes down next to the painting. Poetry, which years ago, when Andrej Ciuha began his career as a painter, became the central inspiration for his artistic creations, also played an important role. The author created paintings for most of his poems himself. And although poems remain part of his holistic presentations, image – meaning – poem, they are no longer his "commandments" as they once were, nor are they an inspiration for his painting – vice versa, in fact. In recent times, paintings have become the inspiration for his poems. With such coexistence of media and their specific interpretation of content, the author wants to convey to viewers the experience, symbolism and attitude towards the content, as they inspired him or as he perceives them himself. 

Andrej Ciuha, a master of law and real estate management and a bachelor of economics, has been more intensively involved in painting for the last seven years. He attended numerous art courses led by academic painters, including courses at the Ljubljana National Gallery with the master of modern Russian watercolour, Julia Barminova, and with Nik Anikis Skušek in classical portraiture. Between 2019 and 2020, Andrej Ciuha held independent exhibitions at Terme Snovik, in the largest general library in Slovenia – the Ljubljana City Library, and at the Central Medical Library, which operates under the Faculty of Medicine in Ljubljana. 

The inspiration for his paintings were initially his two collections of poems: "You are so beautiful" from 2004 and "Black and White Pearls" from 2012. He was invited to present his poems in the Mentor and Apokalipsa magazines, and in three literary nocturnes of the First Programme of Radio Slovenia. When his creative interest and inspiration for poetry shifted in 2014 towards fine arts, Andrej Ciuha started painting with enthusiasm. Inspired by poetry, he selected and highlighted some of his most decisive verses in terms of content, placed them in an artistic composition, and wrote them directly on the painting. Although he often draws motifs for his paintings from his own poems and illustrates them, half of his exhibited works have no connection to them. Poems were born later, when completed paintings become the inspiration for them.

Andrej Ciuha's paintings have always been larger than book formats of poetry collections, as he never painted poem illustrations in a 1:1 ratio, but in much larger formats of works of art, which are completely standalone even without poems, although some artworks are interdependent on poems. And although motifs recognisable in paintings evoke associations, their iconography is extremely complex – neither a fable nor an allegory – so the author usually highlights and explains it in the supplementary leaflet to the exhibition. This includes topics of universal content of global dimensions, with an emphasis on Slovenian peculiarities, which everyone can identify with, especially with the moral of the story, which the author generally conveys through a written explanation of the meaning of the painting, his artistic illustration and interpretation, and even through a poem in some cases. Thematic premises are defined, but they provide a wider range of associations, while the moral conveyed to us by Andrej Ciuha is clear, exact and direct, presents a mirror to us, and expects us to take a side regarding the subject matter, provide an answer or, at least, a comment. The issues highlighted by Andrej Ciuha are always current and at the same time global, and stem from the psychology and 'corruptibility' of man: man's vanity, vices, pursuit of profit, culture of conduct, ethics… Hence, the presence of animals in the painter's works. These always have a symbolic meaning, as their characteristics are comparable to those of man, and correspond to the author's unique iconographic recognisability, which has in recent years been enriched by portraiture and landscape painting, accompanied – as characteristic for Andrej Ciuha – by meaning and, sometimes, a poem.

In Andrej Ciuha's paintings, the recognisable building blocks of the composition are always symbolically connoted and arranged in balance within the pictorial field. Artworks made using the acrylic technique are compositionally clear, with expressive colours and colour combinations, and can not be placed in a single framework in terms of style. We can recognise the form of the comic (Three blue baldies), Bosch's presentation of the content and playfulness (Wheel of fortune, Judicial evolution), symbolism (Choice of beauty, Soča, the river of Truth, and Black bull), etc.; however, the decision on stylistic presentation of the motif is more intuitive and follows the author's feelings and intent to present the selected content as clear and multi-layered as possible. Unfortunately, the imbalances, injustices and nonsense that Andrej Ciuha highlights remain widespread in society and in the country, and those who point them out are rare and courageous individuals who care about change and do not react passively to what is happening in society, as most do in such cases, brushing them aside, saying, "Nothing can be changed, anyway." But things can be changed. Therefore, let us become the change we want! 

Nuša Podgornik, art historian and art critic

Please note that an entrance fee to the castle is required to be paid.

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