Matija Bobičić / Perfect Organisms
UGM Studio, Trg Leona Štuklja 2, Maribor, Slovenia
8 February – 3 April 2021
exhibition opening online: Friday, 8 February 2021, Instagram (live) + Facebook (video), from UGM Studio, 19:00

curator: Jure Kirbiš

Perfect Organisms is the first homecoming solo exhibition in six years for the Maribor-born painter Matija Bobičić. Since his last solo show in Maribor the artist developed an entirely new approach to painting and has penetrated the international contemporary art market. The exhibition at UGM Studio presents a new series of eight large-scale paintings.

The new series, presented at UGM Studio for the first time, is a summary of the artist’s work over the past few years. Gathered in one place are all the various versions of characters/figures, subjects of the artist’s previous series. The characters emerge via three points of departure. First, they are the Frankenstein's monster or the cyborg, two archetypes in the genres of science fiction and horror – the body of the former is composed of organic material, the latter is a combination of the organic and mechanical. The second point of departure is the context of the early 1990s, a formative time for the artist, both personally and artistically. The third is the present, in which we’re forced to rethink many of our habits, once taken for granted.

Frankenstein’s creature and the cyborg surfaced in societies on the cusp of change. They embody the fear of dawning change. Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus (1818), a novel by Mary Shelley, heralds the Industrial Revolution. The female cyborg in Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927) is a symbol of the modern age. Paul Verhoeven’s film RoboCop (1987) forewarns of newly-nascent digital control. Similarly, Bobičić employs these sci-fi archetypes to address the gradual infiltration of American culture into post-Yugoslav Slovenia of the 1990s, and finally its near-total absorption into Western monoculture, as we perceive the world today. Bobičić’s hybrid figures are made from components taken from artist’s early childhood. The artist borrows from 1980s American Saturday-morning cartoons, such as He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), that arrived to Slovenian screens with a decade-long delay. There are references to attributes of American hip-hop culture, like Nike sneakers or baseball caps. Characters from blockbuster movies appear, velociraptors from Jurassic Park (1993), xenomorphs from Alien (1979). Then there are the clowns and the shoppers. The former as a metaphor for the façade of perpetual happiness we put on, particularly online. The latter, a symbol of consumerism gone wild.

Bobičić’s painting style is rooted in his childhood as well. Following an early period of his career, making use of a mostly abstract visual language with echoes of late modernism and neo-expressionist figuration – Jean Dubuffet, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francis Bacon were among influences –, in recent years we can observe a significant transformation in the artist’s approach. With a return to scenes from his youth, he is also reminded of his early creative endeavours as a child. It was then that he first began expressing himself visually by drawing cartoon characters off the television screen. This, along with his experience of working with children, made him once again appreciate the freedom and unrestraint of a child’s perspective. Today, Bobičić's paintings are imbued with childlike curiosity, the figures are flat, outlined with a prominent contour, the surface is composed of bright, often contrasting fields of colour. The characters give the impression of being enormous, regardless of the size of the canvas. This effect is achieved by expanding the figures right towards the edge of the canvas, so they appear to be pushing against it. Positioned firmly in a wide stance, Bobičić’s gigantic cyborgs and monsters are like modern-day Colossi, creatures of our time and for our time.

Matija Bobičić (b. 1987) graduated in art education from the University of Maribor under the mentorship of painters Ludvik Pandur and Oto Rimele. With skilful use of Instagram in recent years, he has managed to achieve considerable visibility, breaking onto the international contemporary art market. Recent solo shows include Razsnovljen at RSR (Maribor, 2013), Nocturnal Animals at KID Kibla (Maribor, 2014), Paths and Collisions at Rigo Gallery (Novigrad, 2017), Under the Rainbow at Marvin Gardens (New York, 2018) and Funny How? at Ravnikar Gallery Space (Ljubljana, 2020). His work has been shown in group exhibitions at KID Kibla (Maribor, 2014), GT22 (Maribor, 2014), Zuccato Gallery (Poreč, 2014), Smoke the Moon (Los Angeles, 2018), Ravnikar Gallery Space (Ljubljana 2018), Sim Smith Gallery (London, 2019, 2020) Galerie Clemens Gunzer (Zürich, 2020), Galerie C.O.A. (Montreal, 2020) and as part of events NordArt (Büdelsdorf, 2015), Georgetown Carnival (Seattle, 2018), Parallel (Vienna, 2018) and GIFC (Kansas City, Barcelona, New York, Denver, 2018). He is currently preparing for exhibitions at Hunted Projects (Edinburgh) and Ruttkowski;68 (Berlin).