HELENA TAHIR
Words Fail Me
January 14—March 11, 2022


LOCATION
RAVNIKAR GALLERY
Levstikova ulica 3
1000 Ljubljana
CURATOR
Piera Ravnikar

TEXT
Eva Simonič
PHOTOGRAPHER
Mario Zupanov

︎︎︎STATEMENT
            The exhibition Words Fail Me is the latest in an ambitious series of drawings that Helena Tahir has built up over many years. It consists of a lush colour triptych and five small black and white drawings. The artist's pictorial expression is dominated by the figurative, which she has gradually developed from initial portraits to full-figure representations that she incorporates into refined compositions in the present exhibition. The large-scale, life-size sets of the central triptych are distinctly narrative, and the artist's sometimes romantic, sometimes chaotic fantasy world demands a slow and meticulous reading from the viewer. Thanks to her consistent and thorough questioning of the medium, each drawing presents her with a new technical challenge. She has found a convincingly fresh and authentic expression within a traditional medium; exploring volumes, proportions, contrasts and lighting effects by reflecting on the capacity of coloured pencil to contrast with other media such as painting and printmaking. The drawings are saturated with details that are either precisely sharpened or distorted beyond recognition. The latter is related to the artist's working process: she first intuitively forms individual figures and objects in a digital collage, where she stretches, mirrors and multiplies them at will. She is also instinctive in her choice of motifs, which she finds while leafing through old magazines or is attracted by their symbolism. At the same time, she chooses them by following the previously described aesthetic principles given that for the next stage, i.e. the transfer of the images from digital collage to drawing, the selected elements must be varied, attractive in colour and have a unique texture or a particular sheen as luminous objects require greater precision in the application of subtle transitions between tones. The incredibly precise drawings required total dedication and a tireless eye for detail – it took the artist 32 days with 14 intense hours per day to complete the central triptych.

            Words Fail Me is a rich visual narrative in which each drawing has its protagonist, surrounded by accompanying figures, undefined objects and other indefinable details. Tahir often returns to certain themes and symbols that are not just a technical exercise but already have an extensive iconographic history, manifested in the metaphor of colours, the question of light in relation to darkness, the significance of water, animals and flowers. These offer alternative, ambiguous references in a new context. The figures depicted are often members of various marginalised groups, victims of imperialist and colonialist violence, and the artist also recognises the echoes of their stories in her own experience. The fragmentary scenes seem like momentary insights and impressions from her life that she reproduces on paper, where they serve as an almost liberating method of self-knowledge. Nevertheless, knowledge of the artist's personal iconography is not a prerequisite for the viewer as Tahir understands the artwork as a totality of images, experiences and emotions that can be recognised solely through perception, visual experience and only then on the intellectual level. Essential to the overall experience of the artwork is the synthesis between artistic intention, the work as such and the viewer, who comes before the work with his or her own expectations and perceptions. The artist places great emphasis on the emotional experience, on the insight that the viewer can gain through the "conversation" with her.
           
︎︎︎ABOUT THE ARTIST
            Helena Tahir (1992) primarily creates in graphic art and drawing. She completed her undergraduate studies in graphic art and her graduate studies in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design (ALUO) in Ljubljana. As a student, she received further training at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Porto and at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig. Her monumental, rich, and detail-saturated visual narratives require slow and rigorous reading. Thanks to her consistent and thorough examination of the medium, every painting represents a new technical challenge. Helena Tahir has presented herself with several independent exhibitions, for example, at Lamut Visual Art Salon in Kostanjevica na Krki (2018), International Centre of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana (2020), Gallery Ravne KGLU (2021), and RAVNIKAR GALLERY SPACE (2022), as well as many group shows in Slovenia and abroad. In 2022, she will also premiere at the international art fair Art Rotterdam. She currently lives and works between Jesenice and Ljubljana.


︎︎︎HELENA TAHIR: WORDS FAIL ME

            Razstava Words Fail Me je zadnja v nizu velikopoteznih risarskih serij, ki jih Helena Tahir nadgrajuje že vrsto let. Sestavljajo jo razkošen barvit triptih in pet manjših črno-belih risb. V umetničinem likovnem izrazu prednjači figuralika, ki jo je iz začetnih portretov postopoma razvila do celopostavnih upodobitev, te pa je v pričujoči razstavi umestila v zahtevne kompozicije. Scenske postavitve v naravni velikosti velikega formata osrednjega triptiha so izrazito pripovedne, umetničin fantazijski svet, ki je mestoma romantičen in drugod kaotičen, pa od bralca zahteva počasno in rigorozno branje. Zahvaljujoč doslednemu in temeljitemu prevpraševanju medija ji vsaka risba predstavlja nov tehnični izziv. Znotraj tradicionalnega medija je iznašla prepričljivo svež in avtentičen izraz; skozi refleksijo zmožnosti barvic v nasprotju z drugimi mediji, kot sta na primer slika in grafika, raziskuje volumen, proporce, kontraste in svetlobne učinke. Risbe so nasičene z detajli, ki so bodisi natančno izostreni bodisi izkrivljeni do neprepoznavnosti. Slednje je povezano z umetničinim delovnim procesom: posamične figure in predmete sprva intuitivno oblikuje v digitalnem kolažu, kjer jih poljubno razteguje, zrcali in množi. Instinktivna je tudi izbira motivov, ki jo nagovorijo med listanjem starih revij ali pa jo privlači njihova simbolika. Obenem jih izbira v skladu z estetskimi načeli prej opisanega procesa, saj je za naslednjo fazo, torej prenos podob iz digitalnega kolaža v risbo, ključno, da so izbrani elementi pestri, barvno privlačni, z unikatno teksturo ali leskom, saj sijoči predmeti zahtevajo več preciznosti ob apliciranju subtilnih prehodov med toni. Sila natančne risbe so zahtevale popolno predanost in neutrudno oko za detajle – umetnica je osrednji triptih ustvarjala kar 32 dni po tudi 14 intenzivnih ur na dan.

            Words Fail Me je bogata vizualna pripoved, v kateri ima vsaka risba svojega protagonista, ki je obdan s spremljajočimi liki, nedefiniranimi predmeti in drugimi nedoločljivimi detajli. Tahir se pogosto vrača k specifičnim tematikam in simbolom, ki niso le vaja v tehniki, temveč imajo že sami po sebi obsežno ikonografsko zgodovino, ki se kaže skozi metaforiko barv, vprašanja svetlobe v odnosu do teme, pomena vode, živali in cvetlic. Ti v novem kontekstu ponujajo alternativne večpomenske iztočnice. Med upodobljenimi liki so nemalokrat pripadniki različnih marginaliziranih skupin, žrtve imperialističnega in kolonialističnega nasilja, odmev njihovih zgodb pa umetnica prepozna tudi v lastni izkušnji. Fragmentirani prizori učinkujejo kot hipni uvidi in vtisi iz njenega življenja, poustvarjeni na papirju, kjer ji služijo kot skorajda osvobajajoča metoda spoznavanja same sebe. Kljub temu pa poznavanje umetničine osebne ikonografije za gledalca ni bistveno, saj Tahir umetniško delo razume kot skupek podob, doživetij in čustev, ki ga lahko spoznamo tudi skozi izključno zaznavno, vizualno izkušnjo in šele nato na intelektualnem nivoju. Za polno doživetje umetniškega dela je bistvena sinteza umetniške intence, dela kot takega in opazovalca, ki pred delo stopi z lastnimi pričakovanji in zaznamovanostjo. Umetnica velik pomen pripisuje prav emocionalni izkušnji, uvidu, ki ga gledalec skozi 'pogovor' z njo lahko doseže.

︎︎︎KRATKA BIOGRAFIJA

            Helena Tahir (1992) primarno ustvarja v poljih grafike in risbe. Zaključila je dodiplomski študij grafike in podiplomski študij slikarstva na Akademiji za likovno umetnost in oblikovanje v Ljubljani. V času študija se je izpopolnjevala na Faculty of Fine Arts v Portu in na Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst v Leipzigu. Njene monumentalne, bogate ter z detajli nasičene vizualne pripovedi od bralca zahtevajo počasno in rigorozno branje. Zahvaljujoč doslednemu in temeljitemu prevpraševanju medija ji vsaka risba predstavlja nov tehnični izziv. Svoje delo je predstavila na več samostojnih razstavah, med drugim v Lamutovem salonu v Kostanjevici na Krki (2018), Mednarodnem grafičnem centru v Ljubljani (2020), Galeriji Ravne KGLU (2021), RAVNIKAR GALLERY SPACE (2022) ter številnih skupinskih predstavitvah v Sloveniji in tujini, letos premierno tudi na umetnostnem sejmu Art Rotterdam. Živi in dela na Jesenicah in v Ljubljani.

︎︎︎INSTALLATION VIEWS




Words Fail Me, 2022



Study I, 2022
Words Fail Me
Drawing on Paper
50 x 70 cm


Study II, 2022
Words Fail Me
Drawing on Paper
50 x 70 cm

Study III, 2022
Words Fail Me
Drawing on Paper
50 x 70 cm

Study IV, 2022
Words Fail Me
Drawing on Paper
50 x 70 cm


Words Fail Me
Pencil on Paper, #triptych
88 x 122 cm


Words Fail Me
Pencil on Paper, #triptych
88 x 122 cm



Words Fail Me
Pencil on Paper, #triptych
88 x 122 cm