ARCO Lisboa
Opening Section

May 25 –
May 28, 2023
Chus Martínez & 
Luiza Teixeira de Freitas
Lisbon, Portugal


            Duba Sambolec and Maja Babič Košir are Slovenian artists whose professional and personal paths are closely intertwined. In her decades of artistic production, Sambolec has focused on sculpture and installation, breaking through their institutionally conservative boundaries. Her distinctly multidisciplinary practice is often premised on theoretical propositions that question the role of the viewer, the totality of the space in which objects exist and their specific characteristics, the viewer's (in)ability to move freely and observe, the politics of control and other key phenomena of Western culture, including the strains of gender identities and the role of the '"female artist" (as opposed to simply the "artist"). In the artwork Temporary, a transparent cylinder is placed transversely on a stand appearing like a randomly deposited object waiting to be transported to another location. Sambolec is interested in energy and its transformation from one state to another, in the dynamics between the immovable and the shifting, which raises the question of whether the object is dead or alive. Babič Košir is also a sculptor, as can be clearly seen in the series Love Letters. In her practice, she layers and superimposes a variety of materials (paper, cardboard, stone, wood, plastic, textiles) in a way that both builds up into space and creates space, exploring the plasticity of these materials and their sensory dimensions. Her interventions in found (sometimes recycled) materials are minimal; she submits to the material, uses it as she finds it and assembles it into a new whole with little or no embellishment in the style of a raw aesthetic.

            The starting point of the installation is the identification of points of intersection where the otherwise divergent intellectual and visual processes of the artists meet. The dialogue that emerges is multi-layered: the two artists have a special relationship since it was Sambolec who mentored Babič Košir at university and later in life, helping her to find a voice through art and eventually teaching her to filter her stories through art. Their artistic practices – despite their shared sense of aesthetics – are completely different. Their drive comes from different motives: Sambolec is political, referential, external and feminist, while Babič Košir works from the inside out, increasingly interested in the intimate, in the representation of her own life experiences, her reaction to those experiences and the relationships that define her. Nevertheless, the installation of their works is conceptually interconnected and coherent. They deal with many of the same issues, but they explore them from markedly different perspectives and with drastically different approaches. For the two free spirits, art is a necessity, a filter for survival, a drive, a rebellion in itself to not be pigeonholed, to not be classified. The invisible energy that drives them to their work springs from the same starting point in both of them – the desire to express themselves, to find and mark their space through art. They are also united by the use of different materials, the exploration of their haptic dimensions and effects, their stance in space and the focus on the figure of the viewer, who stands as a necessary third party in the conversation between viewer, artist and artwork on an equal footing with the other objects in the installation.

            Duba, Dubravka Ana Sambolec (1949) completed her postgraduate studies in Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana. She has received several prestigious international grants, including the Pollock-Krasner Grant (1990) and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation individual support and emergency grants, New York (1991, 1992). She has spent much of her life abroad, taught for many years at art academies in Norway, was invited guest artist-teacher in the United Kingdom and the People's Republic of China and was elected professor at various art academies in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. She has shown her work in numerous solo shows and has participated in many national and international exhibitions around the world. She has been invited by international curators to the São Paulo Biennial (1985) and the Venice Biennale (Aperto, 1988). Her works are included in the permanent collections of the museums of modern and contemporary art in Ljubljana, Bled, Zagreb, Belgrade, São Paulo, Stadt Goch Museum and in private collections in Slovenia, Brasil and Europe. She has received numerous awards and prizes for her work, most recently the Slovenian Jakopič Award for Lifetime Achievement (2022). She lives and works in Ljubljana.

            Maja Babič Košir (1978) graduated and obtained her Master’s degree in sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana. She completed her postgraduate studies in creative illustration and visual communication techniques at the EINA University School of Design and Art in Barcelona. Her creative process is based on the principle of meditative introspection. She draws subject matter from her environment and personal history, especially from her rich family archives holding a wide array of materials; this enables her to use intuitive artistic interventions in translating her intimate stories into a visual form. She takes regular part in international contemporary art fairs & shows, for example, ARCO Lisboa, SPARK Vienna, Berlin Art Week, Vienna Contemporary, SWAB Barcelona and Zürich Art Weekend. She won several awards and acknowledgments, and her works are housed in private and public collections. She lives and works between Porto and Ljubljana.