Irena Jurca: Sea in Me

Du 14 février au 11 mars 2017


Irena Jurca is an artist who has been working in the field of photography for the last two decades but who only rarely presents her work to the public. She predominantly focuses on themes relating to the everyday existential reality, such as the questions of existence, identity, essence and meaning, and the contemplation of current sociopolitical issues. She is especially concerned with the search of the relationship between one’s intimate experience of the world and the social reality of our time.

The latter is also to be found in the photographs from the series Sea in Me, which can be defined as a specific nexus of the author’s subjective feelings in the turning points of her personal life and the topical issue of migration. Namely, the topic of the extensive refugee crisis is not presented through the harrowing scenes of exhausted refugees but through telling images of the sea, dead sea creatures and withered plants.

The starting point of the series of twelve black-and-white photographs was the oft-written thought that the sea became a mass grave, which the author subtly accentuated with the compositional structure of images.
The monotone images of water surfaces are delivered with an ascetic vocabulary, sequentially, in dark grey and black hues, while the images of lifeless nature are depicted on a pitch-black surface.

The author thus uses the expressive power of the color black and its aesthetic impact to good effect, using the darkness to effectively accentuate both reflections of light on the water surface and the superficial structure of the bodies and objects washed ashore. On the other hand, the predominant blackness suggests a broader spectrum of meaning in regards to the depicted motives. The color black denotes the author’s inwardness, her anxieties, and feelings of unease when faced with the daily reality. Simultaneously, the images evolve into her personal critical response to the humanitarian catastrophe, affirmed by the (mise-en-scène) photograph of a dramatically undulate water surface suggestive of drowning.

The rest of the seascapes, which don’t depict ample water surfaces but rather a narrow section of the sea without the horizon are characterized by complete emptiness (with the exception of light accents) that signifies – in the words of the author herself – our own reflection, a reflection of our spiritual emptiness. It seems that the images embody the current zeitgeist that can be best described with concepts of uncertainty, hopelessness, dehumanization, pessimism.

These decadent feelings are alleviated somewhat by the symbolic meaning of water, which is the source of life and one of the four elements. Its fluidity emphasizes the fact of perpetual change and circulation, and despite the procreation and passing of beings, remains forever unchanged.

With the series, Sea in Me Irena Jurca proves that it is possible to pose cogent universal questions with seemingly irrelevant fragments of visual reality, for instance regarding our future as individuals or as a society. Her images in which a subjective tone is highly emphasized are of course not momentary; instead they come across as deliberate formal studies in which the form is made subordinate to the content. However, for understanding the series it is not only the symbolic element that plays a part, but also the tonal contrasts which serve to underline the content unfolding as the perpetual drama of being.

- Nataša Kovšca

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