Branko Lenart: Big Sur Real
Opening: 9. 2. at 19h
9. 2. – 9. 3. 2018
Since his youth, Branko Lenart has travelled widely across the world. He is often “on the road,” so to speak; and apparently he is most attracted to the southern hemisphere. He has always combined travelling with his other passion, which became his career – photography.
It is difficult to summarise rich Lenart’s work. In the mid-1960s he began to seriously dedicate himself to photography. When we skim over his oeuvre, our first conclusion is that he has been torn between the documentary and conceptual art in his photography. His first series focused on people (Lush Life, On the Road, Styrians...) wherein he paid special attention to the social margins, be it the members of the then urban counter-culture or countryside social conditions. In the 1970s, the first series of landscapes and people began to emerge; these are probably best defined as “subjective topography,” putting to the forefront a more personal, sometimes even poetic interpretation instead of “mere” reproduction, a reflection of observed reality (Seascapes, Krkavče, Millerton...). In the view of the many, Lenart reached his creative peak with his long-term, conceptual project Hand:Work, in which during his travels he successfully merged the landscape and the figure – this time himself – into lucid visual rebuses swarmed with quotes, references, suggestions, but most of all surrealistic juxtapositions. The role of surrealism, in particular the influence of Man Ray and Rene Magritte, is most definitively expressed in this period of Branko Lenart’s work, especially when we consider inevitable textual material which has, not only in the titles, become yet another signifier of Lenart’s work in general and in particular this series.
In such an extraordinary rudimentary demarcation of 50 years of creativity the selection displayed this time has a consistent place within the mentioned coordinates, and yet it is very specific in its own way. Through the magnitude of images that Lenart took on his travels in the south, in particular around the Mediterranean and in South America, the artist is most likely revealed in his most genuine and primary essence – as an always inquisitive traveller with a magic device to capture light and memories. For this reason these images are first of all distinctively subjective; in a great many, in particular the older ones, we suspect that despite the simultaneous production the artist’s selection initially earmarked them for the “private use” box. Lenart has an enormous quantity of these visual impressions “from the road” and it is difficult to select among several hundred the thirty “best” for this exhibition.
Big Sur Real. Here, in this title, yet again a lucid play on words and meanings includes all or nearly all that is important to know about the selection of the photographs, and in a sense also about the photographer. Big Sur is a real place on the California shore, but it was turned into a myth and romanticised as a paradise of liberty, hedonism and counter-culture. It was widely romanticized, and many also moved there, including Henry Miller, Edward Weston, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and, of course, Jack Kerouac, who found there a “cult of freedom and anarchy” to which he dedicated his homonymous novel. The extended area of a symbolic “real freedom”, paz real, is in Lenart’s view the entire Sur, the Latin South – as the “real south,” sur real. Simultaneously this evokes in him the feelings of sur-reality in a sense that reaches beyond the influence of surrealism on his work; in a way, it is an imaginative place of the artist’s “real light”, it is actually his luz real – the area of ultimate inspiration. It is no coincidence that his partner, his amor real, also comes from that part of the world which combines the artist’s work and life in an inseparable entirety…
The selection of photographs from nearly 40 years of work is thence in a way ultimate (self)homage on the occasion of the artist’s 70th birthday. With this exhibition Branko Lenart in the best possible way looks back on his amazing career and shares with us some of the most beautiful moments of this period. As a photographer and a man who left his mark in other areas as well (among others, as the President of the Slovenian Association Člen 7). With Big Sur Real he presents himself again in the “right light”. Respeto, Branko!