Vesna Bukovec: Drawings

Vasja Nagy

Drawing is the most fundamental way to translate thinking into an external visual image. Even with a very simple method, such as a thin line, one can present, illustrate and show very complicated concepts from any field of human behaviour. Because of its simultaneous simplicity of implementation and possibilities of expressive complexity, drawing is often used as a primal and direct means of communication between mental creativity and reflection. For drawings which help us understand and remember, there is an established term: the mind map. In visual arts the drawing is frequently the basic pattern for executing the finished work. Because of the capacity of a clear and fully meaningful expression it is also used alone as a finished work. Some artists choose it as their medium precisely because it provides a simple means to show all that is needed.


Already since her first drawings for the public, Vesna Bukovec has been faithful to simple lines. Without shading or the illusion of space, she creates images full of meaning. Although they can be conceptual, they are an aesthetic whole, with no need for a special context. She chooses the motives from the media world of the Internet, television, popular magazines, which we can also see in her videos. She especially deals with themes relating to the consumer society of instant gratification and to some of the frustrations which life in this society provokes in the individual. The drawings are full of humour and also realistically brutal. They appear as a mirror of society, tilted in such a way that it highlights specific characteristics, specific relations. The drawings of Vesna Bukovec are particular caricatures and with the inclusion of handwritten texts, are also reminiscent of comic strips. The language of the writing is always English. At first glance it seems possible that the artist has decided to use it for the same reason that Mladen Stilinović pointed out with his finger in 1992 when he stated that an artist who doesn’t speak English isn’t an artist. Perhaps that statement did truly influence her decision. However, if in that choice someone can see an easy recipe for quick fame and is satisfied with the cynicism of the context, it would be best to ask whether the use of language isn’t a conceptual aspect of the artwork as such, and with that a paraphrase of Stilinović’s statement. With that it especially strikes the cynicism of the social-political-economic state of the contemporary, globalised society.

Vesna Bukovec, I am aware of the possibility to be misunderstood
From the series I am aware of the possibility to be misunderstood, 2011


On the survey exhibition of drawings by Vesna Bukovec are six series from the last four years. We can divide them into two major groups according to the way that the individual in society is treated. In one group, the individual is seen as an unconscious and unemancipated yet independent entity, in the other group, the individual is a fundamental and active, although sometimes passive, builder of the frustrated and frustrating society. In the first group we can put Positive Illusion (2009), Their True Nature (2010) and How to fail successfully (2011); in the second group: I am aware of the possibility to be misunderstood (2011), There is no society without spectacle (2011) and Do you not want me, because I’m critical (2012).

Vesna Bukovec, Their True Nature
From the series Their True Nature, 2010


In the series Their True Nature, a Dadaist dialogue emerges between the drawings and the texts. The two elements offer information which operates between them incompatibly, yet each one gives meaning to the other. The use of texts from a popular Internet horoscope establishes an absurd relation with the drawing above, which has no connection with the well-known astrological signs. They are connected by the obviously incompatible iconography which shows the absurdity of believing in an Internet Oracle. The latter is easier to believe because it calls upon the much older ancient mythology. The artist also devotes the series Positive Illusion to a peculiar religious aspect of everyday life. Underneath a pessimistic caricature, recalling Murphy’s Law, are related questions with possible answers in five levels of agreement. They’re questions from psychology tests, typical of the ones some firms use with job applicants. They even remind us of similar tests published in assorted magazines. The ones that offer superficial descriptions at the end which are usually classified according to the number of points obtained in a particular category. Just like horoscopes, they always hit the mark. How to fail successfully is a series of drawings which, with adorable cynicism, provide the directions to reach our desired goal. Just like in handbooks which present revolutionary guides to a better and more successful life. The text is written with clear instructions for using simple household gadgets, the drawing above the texts explicitly shows how its execution should look. In the foreground are highly valued concepts of success and happiness, which in today’s society cause much distress for individuals. One can often protect oneself in the fear of failure by ignoring problems and excuses and seeking solace in self-destruction.

Vesna Bukovec, How to fail successfully
From the series How to fail successfully, 2012


The series Do you not want me, because I’m critical arose as a reference to the comic strip Tinza by Marko Pogačnik from 1969, which in the middle of the sexual revolution critically and stereotypically displayed qualities which in the society at that time were unacceptable for women. A good forty years later, the male gaze still looks upon women in society with qualities that women find unsuitable for them. specially since women do not correspond with the model which the media forces upon them, a model which primarily bombards male desire. The drawings which are joined by the title I am aware of the possibility to be misunderstood, take the form of a comic strip in three pictures, in which there is a silhouette of a woman in a t-shirt with a slogan. These slogans are usually meant to express the mood and opinion of their owner. They are like real life cartoon balloons, not just ones on paper. The individual here isn’t expressing a struggle, joy or fun, but rather one’s own frustrations in a mental dialogue with society and above all the fear of failure and unacceptability. There is no society without spectacle shows crowds of people in the stands at sporting events, at prayer, at protests, while waiting for food to be distributed, or waiting for a new telephone to go on sale. The images, which are abstracted from Internet photos, indirectly present the individual as a part of society. In the rest of the series of drawings Vesna Bukovec indirectly addresses the individual as the one who includes oneself in society. Here she treats the individual as one who is caught up in the illusion of being self-consciously aware and who wants to believe in happiness. The individual already exists, since as a spectator one identifies through the activity of watching and is also included in every drawing. Here we have to search to find one’s environment in which one can identify as a part of the crowd, as a part of society. The critical turn here is that it is precisely the argument that there is no society without spectacle, which emphasises one’s alienation. The search for happiness and everlasting comfort once again moves two steps aside. Just enough to maintain desire.

Featured text was written for the occasion of the survey exhibition Vesna Bukovec: Risbe/Drawings at Gallery Domžale in April 2013.

Works mentioned in the text:

Exhibition info

Slovensko | English

Vesna Bukovec deluje na področju sodobne vizualne umetnosti.

Je članica umetniške skupine KOLEKTIVA.