Only Loners Left Alive: A Conversation with Evgen Čopi Gorišek
It's amazing how quickly the current state of affairs turned life upside down, reshuffling the way we think and feel about everything, including ourselves. Superficial things we prioritized suddenly became irrelevant as we had nowhere or nobody to share them with. Never before has our lifetime experienced such an urgent re-examination of values, especially magnified in a world of social media. Time will show the depth of these changes, and the art world is responding with work that reflects on the New Normal.
Evgen Čopi Gorišek's solo debut Only Loners Left Alive, set to open October 29,2020, at Plan X Art Gallery in Milan is certainly one such example. Conceived, and completed during lockdown, the show addresses avoidance of physical contact in a socially distant world. Part of the new generation of artists shaped by technology, socially and professionally it's enlightening to hear the voice of the Slovenian-born and Berlin-based artist.
For his debut presentation, Čopi Gorišek painted a series of subjects who are mostly portrayed alone, apparently without purpose or aspiration. Fashionably dressed and ready to "live their best life" they have ostensibly been put on hold, as portrayed in their frozen, exaggerated facial expressions. With spray paint, airbrush, oil pastels, and acrylics, the artist creates an exciting blend of styles, capable of capturing both the shiny and sometimes coarse facades we project, as well as the grotesque nature of the whole situation. We recently got in touch with the artist, eager to hear more about his view on the current state of things and how that has informed his work.
Sasha Bogojev: What do all these loners represent for you and how do they relate to the title of the show?
Evgen Čopi Gorišek: Those are my post-pandemic heroes. In many works they are representing myself, how I imagine I could end up in those situations. A big part of my work and my life is humor so that is also the reason all the figures are always smiling. If they are in a good or bad situation they always smile, but at the same time they put the viewer in situations where they have to decide if the laugh is real or fake. So, if they smile because they are really happy or just pretend and are actually hiding something behind it. I like the viewers to decide which one it is. They relate to the title as they are the humans who avoided other people so they ended up being the only people alive.
And how do you personally imagine the way your subjects feel in your paintings, and why?
I imagine most of my subjects being happy. Even the ones who are sometimes not happy, they turn happy with the time. For me, being positive is the best solution for everything. Like in this situation with loners being the only people alive, they still smile. They have to choose between being positive and happy or miserable and sad until the end of their life. I was inspired by thinking of the quote “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
Why are you so fascinated with the human figure?
Ever since I can remember I painted human figures. It’s something I've always found really interesting and fun to paint. I had a period where I used to paint mostly just heads but in the last year, I had really focused on the entire body. I’m really interested in people's behavior, dressing style, their looks, how they talk, and what they do, pretty much the lifestyles that surround me in my everyday life. My favorites are random, unexpected, sometimes absurd moments that I encounter while walking around the city or waiting for the train at an underground station.
What do these portraits or snapshots symbolize? What else do you source?
I actually never really thought of what the snapshots stand for. I usually decide to paint a specific pose because I find it interesting and challenging to paint. In the case of my solo show titled Only Loners Left Alive, I was specifically looking for human figures being alone. I find most of the images in magazines or scrolling through the Internet and social media. Sometimes I watch something, and if I find a specific moment or pose interesting I just take a picture or a screenshot. In the last couple of months, I really got interested in fashion and interior design as well. More precisely, it is not just the human figure that interests me but also the clothing or the furniture included in the scene. So I started going to vintage markets on Sundays where I find lots of old Vogue magazines for example, and from there I get tons of material to paint.
What is your favorite technique and why do you use it?
When I paint I use acrylic, spray paint, airbrush, and oil stick. Acrylic is a medium that I've used ever since I can remember, and I use it mostly for painting the background, or some other part I airbrush over afterward. I like acrylic because it dries fast which is important for me because I paint pretty fast. The same goes for spray paint, which I’m not using as much. My latest discoveries were airbrush and oil stick which I’ve really fallen in love with. What I like about airbrush is how it allows me to make smaller details on the paintings that I couldn’t do with spray paint, and I use it for fading and 3D effects. In order to get some texture on the painting, I started to use oil sticks.
Your subjects have accentuated anatomical or status features (muscles, clothes, accessories), yet their faces are stickman-like. What’s the reason?
The whole thing started with the faces. I used to paint this sort of abstract face with lots of details. At one point I got a bit bored, so started developing faces with fewer and fewer details. I just wanted to paint the faces as simply as possible. The idea came up when I was visiting my grandma. She has lots of my childhood drawings hanging on the walls, from when I used to paint these kinds of simple stick man-like faces, so I thought that it would be cool to try something like that. I saw those kinds of faces later when I discovered Madsaki’s work and I thought that looked cool too. Of course, I wanted to make my signature face, so with time I developed it. After that I started using airbrush more and more, I got into fading skin tones, to make it all look realistic, and afterward, clothes and furniture as well. My intention was to combine those two styles. Somehow realistic and 3D parts combined with faces, fingers, and flowers painted in a naive, childlike way.
How did the locked-down world affect you personally?
The worst thing that happened to me after the lockdown is that I became more antisocial in real life. I’ve been keeping in touch a lot through video calls earlier on, but after lockdown, when I had the first opportunity to socialize in real life, It just felt really strange. After an hour I just went home because I didn’t know what to do. I realized that I changed - something that used to be natural and fun became something strange and unusual. The good thing about self-isolation was that I gave 100% of my mind and concentration to work. I had no disruptions while I was painting, which also affected me in the way that I’ve calmed down with my general lifestyle.
Do you have any ideas on the effect this will have on our future lives?
I haven’t thought much about the future. I definitely think that there are going to be major changes in our social behavior, especially in the physical part of socializing. The handshakes, hugging and kissing. I don’t even want to think about living without them. Those are only my ideas—and I hope they won’t come true.