Slovenia honours artist Zmago Jeraj

Zmago Jeraj

Zmago Jeraj is one of the most important Slovenian painters and photographers of the second half of the 20th century. His work spans fifty years of unique and versatile works which shape art in Slovenia to this day. He combined techniques and also used them separately. Radio Slovenia International's Ivana Pristavec reports on how Slovenia is honouring one of its best known artists.

Zmago Jeraj
Painting, sketching, graphics, photography, illustration, scenography and film are Zmago Jeraj's way of relating to the world. He studied art in Ljubljana, also in Belgrade and later improved his knowledge in graphics at the Horsney College in London and in the Soviet union. His work was exhibited and rewarded in many cities at home and abroad. This month the city of Maribor -- his current place of residence -- decided to honor him with a reward for his life's work and a retrospective exhibition.

We spoke to the artist about the primary forms of his creations, sketching and photography:

» On one hand it's true that sketches and photography form a base for a painters work, or they are regarded as such, but on the other hand both techniques are very capable and worth of an independent art expression. This is why I used them very often.«

The artist was born in 1937 in Ljubljana. His paintings are never glamorous, his photographs never show war, sensational adventures or special occasions. He mostly deals with simple everyday things. His early work contained plenty of dark symbolism and feelings of being trapped in the world. Later his work became more humorous, playful, slightly ironic and artfully ambiguous. He uses many symbolic forms, which carry a story, like the image of a man, woman, dogs, cats, houses, big and small vehicles, light particles etc.

His artistic language is often described by art critics as »Jeraj's scenery« and »Jeraj's space.«

Jeraj explained how he decides which motive to choose and explore:

»I have to think about a possible motive carefully but it is also true that most things I seem to find interesting have a certain harmony which attracts me. After this I solve both problems on the canvas. The problem of the theme and the problem of forming the painting. Every painting is a story for itself, a new art form. They never repeat themselves in forms but only in the theme which I try to explore into detail.«

Among many other prizes he has received the Golden bird award for his work in culture in 1972, in 1991 he was given the highest artist award in Slovenia: the »Jakopič's prize« and in 1998 he received the Prix d'excellence authentic art award in Meung Sur Loire in France. But perhaps the most important prize an artist can receive is the recognition of people who are truly inspired by his work. This can surely be said for Slovenia's Zmago Jeraj.