Mitja Tušek

Galerie Bruges La Morte

Mitja Tušek’s paintings are based on the principles of addition and multiplication, in which the final image is clearly both the result and the effacement of all of its constituent parts. Using beeswax that has been tinted with different pigments, Tušek constructs these works as a series of layers, each one covering and extending the previous one. In some cases, there are up to fifty layers on the canvas, producing an image in which depth and flatness seem to exist in equal parts.

All of the paintings are stretched on wood and are shown without frames—an important point, since, examining the sides of the works, one can see not only the thin layers of paint, but also some of the colors that have bled out of these layers. In some cases, these colors seem to have completely disappeared from the painting’s surface, as is the case in a large screen and a black abstract painting (all works 1993). Yet, to say that the colors red and purple are absent from the final result is misleading, for each and every layer leaves a trace on the succeeding ones, whether they are “evident” in the end result or not.

Tušek goes back and forth, between abstract and figurative works, and this exhibition makes clear their commonality with the work of a painter like Gerhard Richter. In Richter’s case, though, the negation of sharp focus relates directly to photography and to the (in)ability of the artist to fix an image.

With Tušek, the lack of definition in the figurative paintings relates to the materials used, as well as to the physical process of repeating the same image with the application of each different layer. The repetition serves to push the object of representation into a deeper space, foregrounding the effort that is involved in reproducing it. For Richter, the lack of clarity is an end product. For Tušek, it is a gradual result of his refinement, through the use of the copy, of a primary image.

Two other paintings in the exhibition, one a forest scene, the other a kind of close-up or detail of it, use oil on canvas as if to contradict the accumulated effects of the wax paintings. The former works are like throwaways, dashed off in a series of gestures and strokes that emphasize the idea of process as an immediate rather than an attenuated activity. Different in almost every conceivable way from the wax paintings, these works are, in a sense, another layer of meaning that the artist superimposes on his own work. Regardless of the materials involved, each painting points to the trace, the evidence of the physical act of painting, as an activity that is both immediate and infinite. The power of Tušek’s paintings rests in the way they imply these two states, without ever making them contradictory.

Michael Tarantino