Ján Šipöcz works with memory and memories. The source of inspiration is found in his own memories, personal experiences. The outcome, despite this personal approach, plays on collective memory, the memories of entire generations of people, even nations. He often works with metaphors, when pic- tured objects are meant to be a reference to other objects or the pictured objects are carriers of some memory. For each viewer their own. This play, when personal memories transcend to collective ones, is what Ján Šipöcz finds interesting. He works with classic photography. His composition is strict, the viewfinder searches until it finds a clean composition consisting of only what he aims to show. This can be seen in series like Childhood Traumas, Ways Home, Objects of Interest or Souvenirs.
On another level of his work he approaches a photograph as a building material. Pictures already tak- en are used as the founding stone for his own work. He usually uses old slide films and manipulates them mechanically. He erases the emulsion, blacks out what he doesn’t want to show or on the con- trary, sketches things in. He creates new compositions, changes the content. Composes already once composed, adding new layers of meaning, pushes his work to the realm of conceptual art.
These conceptual tendencies in the work of Ján Šipöcz are balanced by a strong visual experience. And this fine balance is rather typical of this author – balancing between artistic and conceptual pho- tography.
When creating something, it is important to me that the original is clearly distinguishable, or that the work itself is an original. That is why most of my photographs are captured on a colour film. When photographing I take in my surroundings, pick and choose an image, which I then visually clear in the viewfinder so that only what I want to share with the viewer remains. What I want to show is not captured in the photograph. Captured objects are only a metaphor, a shortcut. My process of photographing is very intuitive, I keep a distance and my compositions are detached. Often I do not precisely remember what I captured. Selection comes only after the photographs have been developed. Then, when some time since taking the picture has passed, I see the situation bare off emotions, it becomes just an autonomous image. This time gap and emotional distance are other reasons why I use film photography. Digital photography enables you to see the captured situation instantly, to live it twice in rapid succession. This reduplicated seeing deforms the image and the perception itself. My way of work gives me the feeling of freedom. It is about a non-binding relationship that forms between me, a camera and an object. Photograph is a memory of this encounter. I honestly call this process free art. Series: Dry Stuff, Objects of Interest, Free Days, Plein Air.
As a reaction to the amount of photographs that are taken every day I am trying not to make new images, but to recycle some old ones. The ones that their original owners do not want anymore. I buy whole collections of amateur slide images which I then select through, and manually interfere in a way as to adjust the content to the message I want to convey. This is visible in my series like Short Stories from the Past, Summer Holidays, Last Minute and the newest one – Niveau stable.
Apart from my usual work processes – either plainly photographic work or recycling of already captured material – I keep searching for possibilities to use various, not only photographic techniques, in the process of the art making. They arise from unceasing search for creative work. It is a visual play with photography that does not have more elaborate ideological outcomes. These are not restricted to photography only. I only devote myself to these projects for a short period of time. None of them have been exhibited yet.
I believe that visual art should be visually engaging, it should move the viewer to emotions, associations, even confrontations. These should be encoded in the work in multiple layers that enable different viewers to see the same work differently. I do not work with themes that are interesting to mass media. I do not react to current affairs happening at home or elsewhere in the world. We are overloaded by mass media, with what is happening everywhere in the world, with advertisement. I do not poach themes from media, on the contrary, I am trying to pull the viewers away from media. To focus their attention closer to themselves. My themes are socially important. Current. But at the same time very personal and close to skin. My own as well as the viewers’. My themes are themes of everyday life, subtle differences we often overlook or have no time to feel, experience.
Triaška and Čejka_FM: Absurdita vo fotografii
Tv show abou art and culture. Interview and report from the exhibition on the begining of the show
Written by Filip Vančo, curator of the exhibition
Diffused light. Tabletop horizon. Neutral background. Three fundamental forms of expression of Šipӧcz’s photographs. Not to forget the objects. Objects are usually prosaic, everyday. Nothing remarkable, nothing pompous. More like a scientist’s laboratory than a photographer’s studio. But Šipӧcz is a photographer. He works unemotionally, without any additional ambience, without hierarchy, without pompous compositions. He photographs his objects one after another, anything that crosses his path and is evaluated as interest worthy. As he himself says, he uses the basic characteristic of photography – he captures reality. But are we really looking at what we think we are looking at? Have you seen a one meter long loaf of bread? Is the bread still just bread? And it is this ‘reality play’ what makes Šipӧcz’s photographs so urgent. Šipӧcz is a bearer of doubt. He makes us ponder about what it is he’s trying to tell us. It doesn’t matter if it is bread or a box of slides tagged “Yugoslavia 1984”. His photographs are an appeal to think about everyday life. He brings the ordinary things into the overflow of information, experiences, perceptions and possibilities of today’s life. Šipӧcz “saves” us. At the last moment. Last minute. This doesn’t change when he works with other people’s vacation slides. He collects slides, draws, scratches and scribbles into them. Uncompromisingly, tongue in cheek. He covers up and at the same time reveals. Without respect. With his own type of humour. He appropriates and changes the stories and memories of others, memories that are no longer missed nor is there anyone interested in them. It is apparent that his approach is formally different from his photographs of objects, yet the punch line remains the same. Šipӧcz makes use of hyperbole in both mentioned instances. He exaggerates. He changes the gauge, he emphasizes to stir our attention. But there is another, hidden layer behind the “effortless” almost childish play – the layer of disposability, the layer of hollowing and lack of interest in simple, taken-for-granted and common things, which we so comfortably forget.
Report from the exhibition
Written by Marek Šimoník
Off Format gallery
Written by Petr Kovář, curator of the exhibition
I considered it unbelievable, but actually even contemporary artist and his work can be remarkably influenced by seasons, not unlike for example a farmer. In summer months he searches for his material outside, while in the short dark days he works on his homework, self-imposed tasks that are easily accomplished with a little help of artificial light, tripod and a table. In tune with this natural rhythm, now that we are turning to the summer time, gallery OFF/FORMAT presents the accomplishments of Šipӧcz’s winter season. In his previous photographic series Ján Šipӧcz communicated as a documentarian, however idiosyncratic; whether it was documenting his own childhood traumas, or situations and objects in his surroundings. Formally they were always still-lifes borrowed from our reality in their disturbingly guileless purity (Traumas from Childhood , Dry Stuff , Swans , Feeders , Objects of Interest ). These ‘ready-mades’ acquire their own picturesque quality, which we, juxtaposed in context of lived-in space, did not previously see, and simultaneously they are a parade of an odd profile of human conduct. Exhibition Homework elaborates on this strategy, apart from all else also with the appropriation technique. Appropriation of someone else’s work is one of forms of conceptual art which is has been used since the 1960’s. Ján appropriates photographic material of others which he artistically re-evaluates. We are not talking about paintings though, this is about family photographs, slides, which are commonly for sale at bazaars and internet auctions. From someone else’s photography archive full of individual memories he makes an archive in which all these memories become collectivised. He achieves this for example with visual manipulation which makes the existing outlines of family members disappear and therefore a standardised scene, open for existing memories of anyone else, emerges. This collectivisation of memories sometimes takes on an ironic turn by naïve/childlike reshaping of events, grotesque actions on the backdrop of ordinary memories. That there is a wider perspective to the appropriation of events can be seen in the second appropriated album, which quite contrary to the aforementioned series, as the name – Personal Audit – readily suggests, belongs to the photographer’s family. There is a personal link between the captured scenes and Ján; he is either in the photograph itself or somewhere nearby, but he never pressed the shutter, never chosen the frame – all photographs were made before he turned fifteen, before he started studying photography. The nature of material here requires a more personal approach and the compositions made by family members are transformed by his artistic eye – he knowledgeably chooses details, changes atmosphere, even the purpose of the photographs. The third document focusing on our memory and its relation to reality is a set of large format photographs, which are part of a yet unfinished series. Is it possible to see something for only what it is in a picture? Make it stand out and not be consumed by the game of contextual relations? Probably not. If not anything else, then there still is the way it is photographed, the composition, focus it still drags the point of view chosen. But it is still possible to play with these elements – objects in pictures on their own, uncomplicated, precise, oftentimes as if we were looking at products photographed to convincingly and alluringly promote the pictured. But without any further context or promotionalback- ground they seem rather like discoveries, revelations we long to examine, soberly, in this archaeological drama of search and dreams. These are not some bizarre pieces. They are sections, cut outs of our everyday lives, but in the abandonment of their natural surroundings they are uncommonly stiff and weirdly posed, like an anaesthetized patient on a operating table or a family, who set out for a studio in hope of turning one moment into eternity. Homework is a collection of photographs made at home or through home. It is an attempt to capture what is strange and moving, again and again, like a legacy about one’s own space. Cracks in reality and peepholes into individual lives.
FlashArt SK&CZ No.26
Written by Lucia Gavulová
Ján Šipӧcz graduated from Academy of Fine Art and Design (Bratislava, Slovakia) in 2009, in the photography studio of Filip Vančo. After school he moved to Prague, where he continues in his photographic work and apart from Maija Laurinen is one of few of his school year that is still artistically active and exhibiting (his last solo exhibition was in Photoport Gallery, 18.5.2012-6.6.2012 – Short Stories). He was a finalist in Oskár Čepan Awards in 2011. Jury praised his photographic methods, which they deemed conceptual. His work with discarded or in other words unused photographs from a photo lab and his subsequent physical intrusion into this photographic material, like cutting or reframing, also stirred interest. Šipӧcz’s creative expression carries a quality that is recognised also on the global scale, which was confirmed when he was included among the finalists of awards juried by professionals of international merit, a jury unburdened with local context of Slovak photography.
He first sparked interest while still at school with his work Traumas from Childhood (Traumy z detstva, 2008), in which he uses a simple, undistorted photographic language and focuses our attention to various banal, well-known, everyday life details (milk skin, scar, abandoned swim ring on water surface, plate with unfinished spinach…), while their visually attractive aura is an expression of photographer’s childhood traumas. Šipӧcz is an excellent observer. His perceptiveness of everyday life is transferred to his photographs, and in later works this curiosity, or joy of emphasizing the common, banal situations and giving them additional weight transforms in his later efforts into work with gathered photographs and their recycling whereby he transforms or resurrects their original meaning. Returning to works based on observing we should mention also Ways Home (Cesty domov, 2008) and photographer’s thesis work City like a Studio (Mesto ako ateliér, 2009). Not one of the photographed events or scenes is staged, they are all only observed by the perceptive eye of the photographer and once they are photographed, they are abstracted, destined to a new context. We could say similar things also about the series called Dry Stuff (Sucháre, 2009-2010) or perhaps the most poetic of Šipӧcz’s works, Swans (Labute, 2009-2010).
Some change in development of Šipӧcz’s not visual language but rather his approach to the portrayed has been apparent since his series Short stories from the Past (Krátke príbehy z minulosti, 2008-2011) and then Pop-up Picture (Pop-up obrázok, 2008-2011) Real Estates (Reality, 2011), Photographies (Fotografie, 2011), and Summer Holidays (Letné prázdniny, 2012) where he finishes his shift toward the object (which had started with the autobiographical board book Pop-up…, or even the cut-outs of Short Stories… - practically beginning at the moment when he starts manipulating the photography itself, the material). In Short Stories from the Past (2008-2011) he communicates through other people’s pictures – the position of author from the photographic point of view is replaced with the position of the selector working with material made by others, photographs from other lives and situations, whose context he doesn’t know and has no personal attachment to them. The only attachment he has with these pictures is in fact the photo lab where he worked and in which these pictures found their way into his hands. He created a series of 3.5x4.5cm photographs from material meant for binning, and which went through secondary composition within which Šipӧcz recycled someone else’s experiences and created new stories. Conceptual charge of his work is felt also in the series called Real Estate (2011), which could be encoded also as a critical testimony of this day and age, interpreted through the form of ironic shift of unattainability of dream houses, expressed via framed photographs. Similarly as in Short Stories… the photographs of this series are again handled by Šipӧcz as a certain form of ready-mades. He appropriates other, already existing material and adjusts it to his context. He continues his work with appropriated material also in the series Pictures and Postcards (Fotografie a pohľadnice, 2011 - Father and Son, Head, Aeroplane, Mushroom, Obersee, Bratislava, Guitarist, separate series Gymnast and his Wife), where he selects his material from old photographs and postcards of unknown authors. The aim of this certain detachment is to focus the attention solely to the events captured in the picture, to the content – he is freeing the viewer of unconscious associations and connotations with what is shown. He voluntarily gives up his photographic signature which is here reduced to the moment of selection – his selection from photographs.His most recent series, Summer Holidays (Letné prázdniny, 2012), represents a complete shift from 2D to 3D; photographs are again appropriated but they are encapsulated in glass. He related his own childhood holidays memories to the themes found in the slides he bought. The form of adaptation and the way of presentation on simple shelves illuminated by neon light (as if he consciously “illuminates” dusty memories and gives them back their life, he puts them into an ever valid mode relating to just any vacation photographs; they generally evoke vacation “aesthetics” and typical stereotypes, related to visualisation of summer, vacation season) as a result create an effective and visually attractive installation, communicating towards the viewer, who is tempted to touch these small objects and take them home as a souvenir.
Summer Holidays transmit positive signals on Šipӧcz’s work, the series shows that he perseveres on the journey he has embarked on, that he does not relent from his own demands and does quite the opposite – he discovers new and new possibilities of expression, according to which he pushes his boundaries and limits. He listens to his intuition, he is never calculating, he remains alert in his perception of his surroundings and ready to draw from everything they offer.
Written by Barbora Haviarová
newest photographic series of Ján Šipӧcz called Summer Holidays (2011) is another interesting work by this young photographer.
This series works with the theme of summer holidays. Childhood memories are slowly buried under layers of new events. All these once unforgettable experiences that can “never” slip into oblivion are often outcast to stay only on a print of paper. Return to childhood and its key events captured on film slowly fade and get lost in our minds, like insignificant artefacts, which lose their meaning and our attention under the sediment of never ceasing flow of new events. It seems that it is this circle that the photographer wants to break.
Summer Holidays is not the first series in which Šipӧcz returns to childhood or “recycles” photographs of others. In this series he works with slides in 5.5x5.5cm format, bought at flea markets. To emphasize the steadiness of these memories he covers each slide with a 1cm thick acryl block. Then he arranges them in a row and we get a sense of the gradual process in which they were captured on slides.
Conscious as well as unconscious reminiscences hidden in the heads of the viewers, that in the flow of time disappear and get lost, are here illuminated from underneath and so again brought to life, urged to tell a story. Šipӧcz adjusts the acryl directly to the original slides which makes every piece of this “memory puzzle” indispensable, just like our memories.
Report from the exhibition
Short stories, Photportgallery, Bratislava, 18.5.-6.6. 2012