By Chiara Rizzolo
The Slovenian photographer Primoz Bizjak leads us to a sublime journey across the Apuan Alps to unveil the inner light and colors of impermanenceAfter a childhood spent in the fields behind his house looking for pieces from the First World War, a holy curiosity and a strong need to widen horizons drove a grown up Slovenian transport logistics engineer to finally attend the Fine Art School in Venice and become a photographer. “Now my curiosity is the source of my work” says Primoz Bizjak after several solo and group exhibitions in Italy, Spain, Germany, Slovenia and Canada. Using two old analogical cameras and nocturnal shots revealing colors usually hidden in the night, Primož’s pays a special attention to landscape, to the framing and to every detail. With an eye on abandoned places or places going through a transition, his work is a record of a certain locus in a particular point in time – often, a revealing one. All compositions are front-on and stick to the essential: there’s no room for unusual perspectives – “the students’ stuff” – as he calls it. Underlying all series is the idea of an unmediated directness with the selected subject, heightened by the fact that the works undergo no degree of digital manipulation. “I’m far more interested in the object itself, what’s in front of me, and I try to show it as it is. Much more important for me is the viewpoint, both in terms of form and concept.” His photographs patiently unveil the history of places, their symbolic landmarks as well as their impermanent function. Light is crucial, in this regard, since “it can sometimes help us see the same object in different ways or even reveal things the eye cannot see” – both in term of form and concept. After all, it hasn’t been that long since early childhood explorations: that young boy is still running in the fields or climbing up a mountain to witness the ephemeral, the hidden voice or nature or maybe, just the passing of time. Gregor Podnar Gallery recently hosted “Alpi Apuane”, a series of seven photographs taken between 2014 and late 2017 and dedicated to the vast mountain range in northern Tuscany. It took Bizjak four patient years to find the perfect moment in time revealing what is left behind – or sometimes beyond – Apuan rock walls. His analogue shots features nocturnal images surprising the viewer with a full spectrum of colors normally hidden in daylight. He gradually captured the abandoned quarries and extraction sites, defying heights and ‘no-entry’ signs to unveil what we would never be able to see. As a Romantic explorer, the artist captures these “suspended” landscapes abstracting them from both temporal and spatial dimension and freezing them into an atemporal place in history. The viewer’s experience, on the other side, is deeply immersive, almost a religious one. We’re asked to look deeper, to be silent witness of the mountain’s breathe. Maybe this is the ‘Sublime’ feeling well described in the 18th century writings by Joseph Addison and a few other Englishmen who had experienced a journey across the Alps. Sharing the same appreciation of the fearful and irregular forms of nature, what these writers and philosophers also had in common was a strong feeling of “delight that is consistent with reason”: the experience of the journey was at once “a pleasure to the eye as music is to the ear”, but “mingled with Horrours, and sometimes almost with despair”. The very etymology of “Sublime” – from Latin Sublimis (sub, “under” + limen, literally “lintel, threshold, sill”) seems to suggest us a perfect interpretation of Bizjak’s recherche: we’re somehow asked to look carefully at all these nuances, to discover in every detail a glimpse of what lies behind and, at the same time, aspires to reach the peak of an undisclosed height. Even a dismissed quarry can be called sublime because it ascends to the heights in a figurative and physical sense, as can every aspect of nature – as long as it has its own grandeur or is able to covey a “spiritual awakening”. Alpi Apuane thus is more than just a Proustian search of lost time. It’s a symbolic recollection of childhood’s curiosity together with adulthood appreciation of the transient impermanent. It’s a journey trhough Memory, an invitation not to forget what belongs to the past, elevating reality to the imaginary, almost mystical level.
Obliteration is not an option.Bizjak’s “unmediated intimacy” with the mountain is the way through an Epiphany, a sudden revelation. The micro becomes macro and viceversa: every photograph is a ‘manifestation’, that holy moment when a simple rock or a ray of light against a wall flashes out with its own peculiar meaning and makes us realize we’re maybe smaller than we think but – at the same time – higher.
For more information, visit Gregor Podnar Gallery.