Leon Battista Alberti’s notion of the picture as an open window, as addressed in his 1435
treatise De pictura, is a trope that points to the essentially fictive poetics of painting. Where
as images aimed to represent the absolute Other, the window, originally an allegorical figure,
was taken literally as a portal to a realm that was felt to be present but remained invisible.
Other artists used the window to create an irresolvable ambiguity, suggesting both the presence
of the Other and the experience of absence.
Vedran Kopljar’s Inner Space Portals (ISPs) approach this art historical convention from a contemporary perspective, viewing painting as an illusion driven by the viewers’ desire to see what they long to see. The works in this series continue his ongoing interest in the relationship between image and perception, and the nature of painting as a model of Western thought. The ISPs conceptualise the visualisation between the inner body or metaphorical and poetic interior spaces. They offer a window into the phantasms of the (un-)real interior, into spaces that are both present and absent – spaces that represent a radical otherness, wavering between exclusion and participation.
In their materiality, the works oscillate between object and painting with the canvas surrounded by organic wooden frames. The frame is the portal, the canvas the ‘other space’. The colours and shapes of the ISPs send out a myriad of overlapping and coexisting signals, triggering uncanny, surreal or affective imaginings of one’s inner physicality. These paintings as- objects are informed by images from medical books and three-dimensional anatomical representations of organs, cells and membranes. Cartoons and hentai – pornographic versions of Japanese manga and anime – also inspire Kopljar’s imaginary biomorphic entrances, manifesting as spatial signifiers for something that is part of us but mostly inaccessible. Other references that influence the aesthetic of the works include adult thumb-sucking and the implied longing for a temporary return to a safe and warm place like the womb, and vorarephilia – the erotic desire to consume or be consumed by another person or creature. The ISPs are manifestations of whatever the viewer experiences. Through the given (or depicted) illusionary space, Kopljar transforms images of imagined interiority into a material substratum. The works, in all their plasticity, are autonomous entities whose implications depend on the viewer’s projections. As painted artefacts, they absorb embodied meaning and transform it into an abstraction. The titles of the works sound like something found on the internet. They are deliberately misleading, and they add another layer to the multitude of connotations that can be ascribed to what is ultimately just an illusion – oil paint on canvas that, on closer inspection, disintegrates into matter.
For Kopljar, this moment of collapse, when the spatial illusion disappears and the portal closes, is the key to one of the main characteristics of Western figurative painting: the longing for the possibility of entering realms that cannot be reached. The image as a representation of the real is only a projection of what we want to believe. As imagined views, the ISPs explore the relationship between two-dimensional images and the three-dimensional space they inhabit. They promise to transcend boundaries but fail to do so. They trigger meaning only to disappoint. In the end, the traditional concept of painting – the frame separating the image from the outside world, the canvas unfolding imaginary views – is turned against itself. The portal to the inner space invites projected meanings but remains ambivalent. As its materiality comes to the fore, all that remains is a physical metaphor of an image already lost.
Vanessa Joan Müller