I found you

Ziva Zitnik

21.04.11 – 21.05.11

La Scatola is pleased to present “I FOUND YOU” a solo show with artist Živa Žitnik.

Živa’s portraits of her friends and acquaintances have the power to shock the viewer while tenderly embracing them at the same time. They are intimidating and in their straightness they are so fragile.

Aggressive usage of colours and violent brush strokes intimidated me when I stood in front of her paintings, especially without knowing where the subjects were looking at with their cold eyes. All the subjects of Žitnik’s paintings are a big question mark, a medium used by the artist to tell a story not about them but about the artist herself.

They will read your mind without even looking in your eyes.

They are all focused on imaginary points beyond and all of them are captured in a virtual space which exists just for a moment when the connection between the viewer and the subject is made. By standing if front of these paintings, we are on the edge of our fantasy and the reality surrounding us. Are we standing in front of the emotions of the sitters’ or the artist’s, or maybe both? These faces influence us to investigate on the mystery behind them and perhaps on our own secrets. The backgrounds of the portraits are just monochromes without any indication of where they could be. But everyone is given a colour and they represent artist’s feelings.

Are we standing in front of the emotions of the sitters’ or the artist’s, or maybe both? How many people can we find in one painting in the end?

Find yourself by looking at others.

Živa Žitnik was born on 16 of January 1981 in Ljubljana. In 2005 she graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design of the University of Ljubljana with a degree in painting, and obtained an MFA degree in painting in 2008. She lives and works in Ljubljana.

Thursday 21.04.11
6 – 9pm

An exhibition curated by Valentina Fois.


How many dimensions do we experience when we look at a portrait? The answer is three, according to the Slovenian artist Živa Žitnik. “My paintings require three views: my view, which has been captured into the image; the view of the person who has been portrayed; and the viewer’s own view, reflecting back to him/her.” This complex process is as revealing of the painter as of the subject. It brings to mind the words of Oscar Wilde: “Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.” Neatly summing up the viewer’s dimension, Valentina Fois, curator at La Scatola Gallery, encapsulates her reaction to Živa’s work by saying, “when I was looking at you, I found myself.”

Živa, who is based in Ljubljana, the city of her birth, has 19 portraits in her first London solo show. All derive from her emotional reaction to the subjects. She explains that she eschews preliminary drawing “which would cut off the emotion,” in favour of painting straight on to paper. This lends immediacy to the feelings she has about the friends and colleagues she depicts. Their reaction to the finished products is one of shock, “but they all recognise themselves, and are happy that I have made the paintings.” Her oil and acrylic works, she says, “paint themselves.” Indeed, they do take on a life of their own, engendering an intangible depth. When she did paint from human models, a few years ago, she soon found that “I could not paint people from life, because their presence was disturbing me.” This urge for the enigmatic figure has been with her since she was a little girl, and she remembers her mother remarking, “You are always painting people with long hair!” Živa, who herself has finely groomed, waist-length hair, has gone on doing so, through her graduation studies at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in her home city and through 25 subsequent exhibitions. Živa’s portraits draw the viewer to speculate on each person’s particular history, but the real question is, as Valentina puts it, “are we standing in front of the emotions of the sitter or the artist, or maybe both?”

Most of Živa’s studies occupy a monochrome space, although one exception is the portrait of her boyfriend, Matic whose head is seen against a spotted background. Živa has devoted much analysis to the art of portraiture “People often say that looking at my paintings shocks them,” she wrote in an essay. “I always take it as a great compliment. My painting is a meditation on them. The painting is created by a set of my senses and their ‘organic’ memory, some kind of personified emotional mechanism. As I draw only from my personal memory, only acquaintances are painted.

“I do not strive to capture the person’s ‘real’ image. I see that kind of search as an empty cul-de-sac. Time makes every moment variegated. Man, who is a consequence of his/her thoughts and percipience, and whose consciousness and subconscious are constantly active, slightly changes from one moment to another.” Since the painter also changes, a person can be depicted in an endless number of ways, yet in all of them exactly that person can be found. “I completely relax and submit myself to the feelings which that person arouses in me. Not the words that this person has said at one point in time, not the acts they have done, but the silence, emitting from this person, touching me. I often say that I paint what is ‘behind the mask’, some kind of ‘conserved’ movement. That is why I also avoid frames. They suffocate my paintings. Because of the never-ending relationship between the viewer and the painting, I do not like to confine my paintings to a ‘complete whole,’ the way a physical or thematic frame can do.”