Bernhard Schobinger – Annelies Štrba
Opening Saturday April 20th, from 5pm
20.04.24 – 30.05.24
Firenze, Via Maggio 19-21r

Bernhard Schobinger, Herr K, brooch, 2009, ferrotype, Urushi, red coral

Saturday, April 20, 2024 marks the inauguration of two shows: the Bernhard Schobinger exhibition at Galleria Antonella Villanova, retracing the artist’s career with a selection of important works from the mid-1970s up to his most recent production and the exhibition of Annelies Štrba’s work at Galleria Alessandro Bagnai, which focuses on a nucleus of pieces created between 2012 and 2024, medium- and large-format pigment printed photographs on canvas, and a series of small photographic prints on canvas with painted interventions.

The two artists are united, both emotionally and intellectually, by shared, interconnected experiences. They met in 1968 and married the following year, and since then have traveled a common but artistically individual path, each implementing their personal creative process in their respective fields of research based on the hybridization of forms, images, materials and techniques. It’s a relationship based on cultural osmosis that generates two different types of narrations – which do come together in a few cases, as in Štrba’s celebrated series of photographic portraits of her daughters Sonja and Linda wearing jewelry created by their father, Schobinger. The project blurred the boundaries between the two artists’ private and professional spheres with great poetic freedom, adroitly bringing each girl’s expressive idiosyncrasies into play.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, both artists were drawn to punk sub-culture, sharing its criticism of conservative bourgeois values, the aspiration to flout boundaries, and freedom of expression and experimentation, attitudes that led them to buck trends, blaze new trails and engender unexpected two- and three-dimensional visions.

The unexpected in Bernhard Schobinger’s work coincides with the unconventional nature of his approach to his art, aimed at breaking the preset rules of jewelry – intended in the strictest sense, as ornament -, and subverting the canons of concepts of beauty, harmony and preciousness. This neo-Dadaist approach to his artistic practice, as one might be tempted to more simplistically label it, actually seems to be driven by a sort of innate fascination with the randomness of certain discoveries artists make, which take on the sacredness of a chance encounter but are perhaps in some way predestined (encounters with objects, scraps, materials, a clue of some sort).
Like an archeologist searching for vestiges of everyday life, Schobinger digs into the universe of more or less anonymous or initially indecipherable objects: parts of utensils, fragments of statuettes, scrap metal, all thing the modern era has produced on a massive scale and disperses with the same mechanical relentlessness. As an art manufacturer, Schobinger intervenes with an almost redemptive gesture to reclaim the “being” of these objects/relics and reanimates them with a new function: he makes the ergonomic and bestows them with a completely new intrinsic, esthetic and emotional value. makes them into “jewels” – in the most archaic sense of the word (from the Latin vulgar iŏcus, joke or jest) – or better, “joyous” reliquaries. The playful/ironic aspect of Schobinger’s work lies not only in some of the iconographic or compositional stratagems he devises for his jewelry, but also in his cunning use of materials: precious stones and metals (including gold, diamonds, pearls and quartzes), sometimes in combination with humble or industrial materials like plastic and aluminum, often intentionally dissimulated or hidden, or employed in such a way that they are not immediately recognizable. If the concept of “anti-gracefulness” is intended to undermine the hierarchy between precious and lowly, attractive and repugnant, the idea of “gute form” aims to redeem the transitoriness of an object, putting it back into circulation with new formal, functional and conceptual dignity. The combination of these two antithetical concepts guides Schobinger as he constructs inventive jewel-amulets that encourage their observer or wearer to decodify not only their symbolic value but also their social value, and to rethink and reinvent the relationship between form and function, and between production and consumption.

Annelies Štrba, Nyma, 2023, pigment printing on canvas, 100 x 150

Annelies Štrba’s work takes us into a different imaginary universe. Building from her domestic family situation – portrayed through photos depicting the everyday activities of her children Sonja, Linda and her nephews – , the artist draws the viewer into an evanescent dream dimension. Employing analogical technical methods, she produces photographs that offer hazy, out-of-focus visions, over- or under-exposed, with hyper-saturated, psychedelic colors, like fragments of dream narrations suspended in an undefined and undefinable time and space. Playing on the intermingling of truth and hallucination, reminiscence and amnesia, subjectivity and objectivity, Štrba’s images tell of the whole breadth of our existing reality, pushing beyond phenomic aspects to infiltrate the interwoven transcendental and spiritual dimensions. Her main themes – such as family intimacy, childhood, the female body, and the landscape – blend with elements from 19th– and 20th-century visual and literary culture, from which she borrows iconographic subjects like John Everett Millais’ celebrated Ophelia, and linguistic references, like the lyrical decorativism of pre-Raphaelite painting or the esotericism of symbolist art. Rarely has the term “snapshot” seemed more appropriate for a photographic works; the figures Annelies Štrba depicts seem to have materialized at the very instant the picture was taken. The shot captures them as they emerge from misty naturalistic backgrounds or the semi-darkness of domestic spaces like phantomatic beings. This sort of magical epiphany is fostered by the empirical type of photographic method the artist adopts: the blind spot. By not aiming her lens directly at the subject, Štrba creates an intentional division between her own subjective gaze and the objective eye of the technical apparatus, giving the latter free reign to independently decide the framing and the quality of the image impressed on the film, as well as the resolution. Printed on canvas and sometimes further saturated with paint interventions, layered on or Printed on canvas and sometimes further saturated with layered paint interventions, or like edited slow-motion frames, the visual imagery of Annelies Štrba’s photographic works has become increasingly abstract and evocative over the years. Eschewing the realism usually intrinsic to video and photographic reproduction, she has developed an impressionistic approach to images in which the act of observing (a landscape, a body, or a shape) coincides with that of capturing real or imagined fleeting fragments of life in an artwork through an immediate, emphatic impression of color and light.
Emanuela Nobile Mino