Stick to grid
December 10 —
January 10, 2022
Levstikova ulica 3
1000 Ljubljana
Piera Ravnikar

Eva Simonič
Mario Zupanov

            In reports on contemporary art production, the idea is often perpetuated that artists react to the society in which they live as external observers, that they "hold up a mirror" to society with their artworks and are (usually) critical of it. Miha Perne's painting, on the other hand, confirms that artistic creation is something that is firmly embedded in social conditions and is not merely a reaction, a commentary or a "reflection". Perne refuses to create under the guise of insincere or impotent social critique and is dedicated to exploring the world through convincingly authentic, imaginative iconography and unsurpassed painterly intuition. In a new series of paintings, he deliberately breaks with his previous practice following seemingly rigid rules. In contrast to his usual search for images in broad brushstrokes, this time he systematically prepared the images himself. With organised, methodical work, he began to explore the connections between form and content, or more precisely, how the grid determines the form, which in turn determines the content and vice versa. All paintings were created within a given basic grid, usually in the structure of 8x8 or 16x16 units, which could be further subdivided into halves or into thirds within individual units. This approach appears rigid and restrictive, but in contrast, offers a non-surveyable number of starting points in the form of an open source. Within the network, the artist is free to assemble the elements – following other successful modular systems such as Ikea or Lego cube furniture – into a coherent whole.

           Despite its recurring form, Perne's refined method does not become monotonous, as chaos also enters his paintings. He often uses his much-loved dripping technique in the background, the colour of which is repeated in the foreground images, while the artist's penchant for recycling adds a special, unpredictable dimension to the paintings, such as the use of wooden packaging or flat-sanded pallets that become canvas. The motifs are also similarly unusual: letters, the basic building blocks, started to appear in Perne's basic grid, then the alphabet, words and phrases full of (pop) cultural references that the viewer may decipher depending on their personal life situation, such as year of birth or even Photoshop skills; alternately, they may turn their attention to the predominant image in the series of paintings, the robot. The basic guiding principle of the exhibition, how to create something visually striking within restrictive set rules, led the artist to a nostalgic, childlike fascination with robots. For Perne, the robot has a double meaning: on the one hand, it is an innocent toy that he can paint as friendly and harmless; on the other hand, the idea of a robot can clearly trigger unpleasant implications. He painted dozens of them, comparing the "build-up" of the painting as a parallel to the construction of a robot – how can it be improved and refined so that the next one is no longer the same as the previous one? Finally, he compares his own act of constantly painting grids of repetitive, painfully precise details to the mechanical movement of a robot; the artist's gesture is also highly automated, but at the same time allows him to make sense of his own practice and work. Coincidentally or not, the word "robot" has its roots in the Proto-Slavic language and originally meant precisely (hard) work.

            Miha Perne (1978) graduated in Painting from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in 2004. In 2005, he founded the painting group Beli sladoled together with Leon Zuodar and in 2011 the publishing house BS books & zines. For their work, they received the OHO Group Award (2011). As an independent artist, Miha Perne works in the field of painting, printmaking and drawing. He has presented his work in many group and solo exhibitions at home and abroad. He lives and works in Ljubljana.