Jozef Srna ml. — Pier

Jozef Srna ml. is the son of a forgotten (but distinctive) painter Jozef Srna st. [Sr.] who also uses features of a similarly constricted or even underdog-like creative style...

Inventory No.: O-2090

Artist: Jozef Srna ml.
Title: Pier
Year: 2005
Technique: oil
Material: canvas
Dimensions: 140,5 x 150,5 cm
Signature: none

One of the titles hiding in Nitra Gallery’s depositories is an image called Pier (2005) by painter Jozef Srna ml. [Jr.] It is a painting that follows principles of genre painting. The artist’s interest in landscape painting began during his studies at the School of Applied Arts in Bratislava. His immense interest in natural light and colour were driven even more by his frequent trips to the great outdoors. The artist admits his inspirations are C. Monet, C. Pissarro, F. Goya, W. M.Turner or the Czech landscape school (J. Mařák, A. Chittussi, A. Kosárek, A. Bubák). His landscapes are inspired by nature, which he consequently re-interprets in his own language. An important phase of his painting process is preparation which includes drawing, photographing, studying.

His image titled Pier (2005) is a landscape painting capturing the existential emptiness of man reflected in an unknown (anonymous) landscape. The canvas pulls us into the landscape – the pier area washed by the sea. We can see the actual pier in the front. Chains on one side and a staircase going deep into the sea. On the other side, there are unloaded containers, waiting to be loaded on another ship? It is probably not important.  What is important is the water surface with the mist hanging over it, illuminated by a distant sunlight and a sun ray reflecting off the water surface. The flare allows us to just grope for other parts of the pier and the suggested silhouette of ships. The feeling of emptiness is emphasised by the (in)definiteness, (no)place and (no)time frame and we can only dream about and try to recall the specific place, time and pier… The artist has painted numerous images of unknown (perhaps fictional) and at the same time actual landscapes (Dusk, 2007; Light on the Bridge 2008; Path towards Light 2008; On the Bridge-Under the Bridge (Meeting) 2008; Wave 2007 and others). Even though the flare is a predominant feature of the image, it does not warm anything up, on the contrary, the pier is very cold. The image helps us realise the ephemerality of the moment, the ephemerality of existence. Only the sea and the sun stay the same…

Jozef Srna ml. is the son of a forgotten (but distinctive) painter Jozef Srna st. [Sr.] who also uses features of a similarly constricted or even underdog-like creative style. The inconspicuous painter is a passionate punk enthusiast, although he is not your typical “punk” with a “mohawk on his head”, there is plenty of those in the history of mankind. Srna ml. is very interested in the contemporary life on the street. He lives in the reality of today which he often depicts in his images. His painting style is full of desire to record (capture) the present using tools and techniques of the past. While the painter’s father (Jozef Srna st.) used to accommodate different painting approaches (impressionism, expressionism, hyperrealism), Jozef Srna ml., regardless of the given theme (landscape, figures, portrait), uses his technique to isolate the painting from its period. He puts unrests, tension, people on the margins of society (social losers) into opposition with contemplative intimacy which sometimes reminds us of his father’s late works. Srna ml. creates timeless pieces thanks to the supporting pillars of history and its painting. Unrests, human basket cases, after/revolution aftertastes on our tongues, crushed dreams, drug-infused escapes, agonising cramps, paralysing apathy – all of these are a part of our present which will soon become our past. Man (and painter Jozef Srna ml.) has always been looking for a natural escape in the landscape he wanders through in order to surpass himself in the loneliness of the dialogue he leads with himself. “Srna’s large-scale paintings use his non-revolutionary approach towards the painting medium in order to respond to the “demons-wraiths” of today’s society. Formally, his images tend to return to the past, but his inspirations come from the present… Srna’s heroes are just as physically and psychologically exhausted as many regular people of the 19th century were… The individual faces feature different characteristics and their states of mind are apparent from their scared eyes, twisted mouths and silent screams. Their whole bodies scream revolt and resistance.” The similarities between historical and modern understanding of anarchy are key elements in the artist’s work. (He admits he fascination with contemporary painters: O.Nerdrum, W.Cotton, S.Roberts). His images are records of our imperfect world. Srna’s landscape themes make man feel lonely even with his (small) heroism as it suddenly loses its meaning, it is not important anymore. What is important is the given moment, the impression and its little detail that can disturb or enhance the (im)perfectness of the depicted situation. The bizarre and the perfect work well together. The painting by Jozef Srna ml. is indeed a romantic painting full of hope (if a painting is capable of that) which also makes it an isolated painting.

Jozef Srna ml.: (March 4, 1979 Bratislava) studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava (prof. Rudolf Sikora’s Open Studio) between 1998 and 2004. He went on a study trip to Prague where he attended the Academy of Fine Arts (doc. Antonín Strížka). Some of his selected exhibitions include: (solo presentations) The Circle of Stories, GJK Trnava, 2014-2015; In a New Light, GMB, Bratislava, 2012; Light and Drama PGU, Žilina, 2007; In front of Painting, NG, Nitra, 2006; (group exhibtions): Entity Space, GUEZNZ, Nové Zámky, 2010; Interpretation of Reality, NOC, Bratislava, 2007; New Blood. Young Slovak Painting, GMB, Bratislava, 2007; Zlín Youth Salon, Zlín, 2006; Draught, Contemporary Slovak Painting, PGU, Žilina, 2005; SSG, Banská Bystrica, 2006; GPMB in Liptovský Mikuláš; 2006; GMP, Praha, 2006;

Bibliography:
POPELÁR, Roman: Jozef Srna. Bratislava: Vydavateľstvo Krása a Galéria mesta Bratislavy [Krása Publishing and Bratislava Cit Gallery], 2012.
POLÁČKOVÁ, Ľudmila: Slovak Goya on the Rise? In: denník SME [newspaper], June 15, 2007., p.8.