The current solo exhibition of Berlin-based artist Zora Janković (*1978) at "B-Part Exhibition" shows how multifaceted and at the same time reduced the principle of condensation in sculpture and image can be artistically conceived. By focusing in her works (marble, concrete and steel, photography) on the effects, even accidental ones, that the precise execution of artistic techniques in sculpture and photography can produce, Janković opens up mental and concrete spaces towards a concentrated formal understanding of supposedly figurative elements.
After "Konstrukt" and "Konkret", previous exhibitions by Zora Janković, now then: "Kompakt". When the artist was looking for a title for her current exhibition at "B-Part Exhibition", this term was immediately in the room - and this more than metaphorically, because "compact" already resonates with the idea of something material, spatially extended, sculptural. Not without reason - for the factor that the Latin prefix "com-/con-" can be used in the sense of "completely" points here to the completed work, the definitive statement, the artistic statement. That Janković's choice of title thus fell on the term, which focuses on the density of an object and initially puts questions of figuration on the back burner, is only logical in view of the works on view:
The motifs of the two series (photography, marble) and three individual works (concrete and steel), which are correspondingly distributed in the room, may indeed call up images in one's mind of relationships between the sculptures to be seen and images of existing architecture, for example, but questions of form and material are more decisive for Janković's works than clear references to architectural history. Thus the sculptures "MONUMENT II.11" and "MONUMENT II.13" can be read as a fundamentally different configuration of material in space, depending on the position of the viewer. What was just cantilevered and raised questions about stability and gravity, appears from a 90-degree rotated angle as naturally towering and actually compact. Here, the process of viewing also becomes a reflection on the process of production: what about the form is material- and technique-related, what appears to be deliberately shaped and planned, what has emerged, and what is the key to understanding the works? Rugged, straight, round, hollow, angular, massive and supple elements of form are what the artist has incorporated into her works, and in the interplay with the concrete elements, sometimes left raw by the casting, sometimes smoothly flattened, the sculptures reveal a multifaceted nature that, beyond what can be seen, refers in particular to the process of their creation. The colors in almost all shades of the black-and-white spectrum that emerge on the plaster material used for casting reinforce the effect of being confronted with objects whose subject is also that field in which plannability and chance meet.
A similar color spectrum as the "MONUMENT" sculptures is also used for the eight photographs of the "SERIES NF713": Here, Janković has documented small-format two- and three-dimensional elements she has produced from various materials, some of which have been processed in color, using a photographic process in which the film positives on view act like their negative counterparts. To the thus twisted difference of light-dark contrasts, Janković adds a component that is only immediately apparent to the trained eye: alternately, the subtractive primary colors yellow or magenta are used in each case in such a way that in the dialogue of the images with one another, the depicted, which remains abstract, sometimes has sharper, sometimes softer contours and surfaces. Not least the fact that the artist disposed of the elements used for the production of the pictorial motifs after the series was produced indicates that in this series, which also brings to mind photographic experiments exploring black-and-white contrasts from 20th-century avant-gardes, the sculptural is only a means to an end, the pictorial is central.
Mounted on the wall directly next to a window of the exhibition space, not without intention and with consideration for the changing incidence of light, are the four elements of Janković's latest series "RM1" - blocks cut from Swiss Cristallina marble and worked by the artist. Defined by the Zurich "Material Archiv" as "compact" due to the strong interlocking of the mineral grains, the material used by Janković is characterized primarily by a high light-reflecting potential. Taking advantage of this potential, Janković has treated the surfaces of the four marble blocks facing the exhibition space differently in such a way that, if one looks closely, a wide variety of light effects are created, while the rough shape of the blocks, which is partially irregular due to semicircles, creates shadow effects rather than light effects. Both together reinforce a condition in which the work exists as a hybrid of pictorial and sculptural series, which raises further questions about the formal understanding of the work as well as the role that marble, a rather unusual material for wall works, can play in this framework.
Martin Conrads / KOMPAKT / B-Part Exhibition / 2022
Zora Jankovic (*1978, Ljubljana, Slovenia; living and working in Berlin) started her art studies in Rome, continued them in Venice, and completed them in Berlin as a master student of Albrecht Schäfer at art college Weißensee.
Both the statues on the wall as well as in the room are made out of massive concrete and are cast in one piece. The steel elements that provide stability to the sculptures are also partially visible. The patina of the works is sometimes rough, sometimes smooth. They are not treated after the casting, so that one is directly confronted with all of the work stages. The heavy yet fragile works evoke memories of Brutalism, the architectural style that was implemented mainly between the 1950s and 1970s, yet which enjoys great popularity again today. Jankovic, however, does not manufacture architectural models but transfers the notion of concrete matter into independent artistic thinking.
Yet Zora Jankovic’s work comprises more than only sculpting. Other mediums and techniques also allow her to experiment with her very own vocabulary of forms. The principle of negative-positive, which she is familiar with in her sculptures, continues in her engagement with the two-dimensional medium of photography. For this, she composes spatial bodies out of paper, cardboard and wood, which then are the exposed to extreme lighting conditions and in this way lead the image space ad absurdum. Sometimes, her photographs also seem like miniature sections of her sculptures. For her printed graphic works, she creates a picturesque effect, which is achieved by using the Aquatinta printing process, the use of which Goya and Picasso already cherished in their graphic works.
CONCRETE / Galerie Rundgänger / 2019
Zora Jankovic also focuses on architectural details in her work: Her sculpture “Rekonstrukti 4” is reminiscent of the constructivist-spatial significance of the conformist International Style. Zora Jankovic’s work is characterised by a reduction on the materials concrete and steel, together with unhandled, “raw” surfaces. Stains and leftovers of boarding still stuck to the concrete contribute to the raw materiality of the massive pieces. Hints at heaviness, shadows, structures, and above all, lines, angles and fractures are engaged in a dialogue with the sculptures’ deconstructed functionality and dimensionality. Black and white surfaces – shadow plays – emphasise the plasticity of the sculptures. In the context of model and sculpture, Jankovic’s work begins to oscillate in a state beyond all function together with the architectural and structural design of the overhead railway tracks that are so characteristic for the park at Gleisdreieck.
MODELL/SKULPTUR / B-Part Exhibition / 2019
What can be identified as brutalistic architecture in the public space is generally only appreciated by a small group of specialists. The connoisseurs of these clunky architectural proposals for the future — which now are slowly re-entering the discourse — however, have managed to open our eyes for the specificity of this style and its embeddedness with modernity’s visions of utopia.
Zora Jankovic’s geometrical sculptures let us experience the gentle violence of the constructive. If one wanted to compare brutalism’s purism of the use of concrete to Zora Jankovic’s sculptures, one first of all would have to emphasise Jankovic’s take on form as the essence of a lyrical-planar play between a style of light and dark. And their melancholy gentleness, which shows itself particularly in her parallel works of graphic art and photography, is of a very different temperature than anything that could be called brutalistic. I would even go so far as to claim that Jankovic merges her different materials in the form of concrete, steel, paper and light, to disavow and soften the dictatorship of the right angle. Once a sense for the understanding of this characteristic kind of aesthetic opposition is developed, one quickly experiences a palpable pleasure. Instead of trumpets and fanfares, Jankovic composes her sculptures with a light touch, yet with the precision of a surgeon. Positive and negative forms, further emphasised through colour, result in minimalist cubic formations at rest in themselves. Sometimes appearing monolithic, other times ebullient, the pieces at all times manage to convey a pleasant spatial presence.
Christoph Tannert / KONKRET / Galerie Bernau / 2018
Zora Jankovic’s origins are in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. After several years in Italy, she has been living in Berlin since 2008. She studied photography, design, graphic arts and sculpting in her hometown as well as in Rome, Venice and Berlin. She completed her studies with a diploma from Berlin art college Weißensee in 2015 and a master student degree one year later. The German capital remains the centre of her life. Her sculptural oeuvre is determined by constructive sculptures that take up the space and at the same time create spaces themselves. For those, Jankovic uses steel elements and massive concrete, which she pours into the negative forms of her constructions to eventually cast them in one piece. The artist accomplishes a dynamic intertwining of positive and negative forms. Consciously making use of all shades of grey in combination with black and white, Zora Jankovic creates her very own architectural objects. In her photographic work she follows a similar principle. For this purpose alone, she manufactures special spatial object constructions which she can combine and piece together variously. For the camera shots, light as a further element plays an important role also. Under its guidance, the artist determines the degree of physicality the photographs are able to convey, as well. Zora Jankovic, who is experienced in etching, consciously challenged herself in Hohenossig to transfer her spatial principles and photographic expression into another two-dimensional medium. With the use of powerful black and white, she managed to achieve this on several of her sheets.
Christine Dorothea Hölzig / 27.SÄCHSISCHES DRUCKGRAFIK.SYMPOSION / Künstlerhaus Hohenossig / 2017
Zora Jankovic studied sculpting primarily, but also graphic arts and photography, in Ljubljana, Rome, Venice and Berlin. Her constructional, spatially entangled sculptures are composed of fragile steel constructions or massive concrete; geometrical bodies are construed in negative forms as a whole and directly executed in one-piece castings. In sharp observation, Matthias Bleyl commented on their effect: “Unlike with traditional sculptures, the colouring here does not enhance the plastic effect of the objects, which were often composed using straight lines and right angles. Because the objects — independently to their spatial extension — appear in three different hues and are subject to the spatial chiaroscuro themselves, contradictions between hue and spatial structure appear. These ultimately lead to the enhancement of what is already a complex spatial structure.” The artist herself says about her photography: “The results are two-dimensional works abstracted by light and shadow that yet transport their three-dimensional origins. These photographs with their black-and-white gradations, contrasts and shadow flows have an own spatiality within the photographic structure.”
Ralf Bartholomäus / Formwandel / galerie weisser elefant / 2016
Hardly any contrast is as fundamental as the one between black and white. This is not only true for art but for our existence itself – one only has to consider how much we all are tied up in the constant changing of night and day. If grey, the mixture of the two, is added in all its shades to the extreme contrast of black and white, the three achromatic shades accomplish the simplest way to visualise plasticity on a plane, and is a technique mostly used in graphic arts. We perceive a two-dimensional object, modulated from light to dark, as a body. Besides photographs, in which simple white bodies achieve a wide range of gradations of grey up until black through the use of hard lighting, Zora Jankovic manufactures objects through castings of concrete. These objects, whose bodies are already complex by themselves, also demonstrate black-, white and grey hues. Some black-and-white leftovers of paper from the boarding, which was removed after the casting, are permanently stuck to the more or less grey concrete surfaces. These are therefore no subsequent retouches, or a colour version to imitate a plastic or material effect, but premeditated black, white and grey colourings of the objects due to their materials. Different than in traditional sculpting, the colouring here does not enhance the spatial effects of the objects, which are often composed with straight lines and almost right angles. If one imagines them in one colour, say, grey, the different positions of the pieces would be easily perceptible to the eye through the degrees of bright- or darkness. Given that the objects, independent from their spatial extensions, appear in three different hues which are subject to the light and dark of the space themselves, contradictions between the hue and the spatial position occur. These ultimately contribute to a considerable enhancement of the already complex spatial structure of the objects.
Matthias Bleyl / KONSTRUKT / galerie haus 23 / 2014