Pun and Performance
(Marijan Grakalić, for the exhibition catalogue 2013.)
Janko Belaj’s photographs are easy to recognise by the reduction, which removes everything unnecessary from them, leaving the scene unequivocal, seemingly clear and clean. But, is that really so? In his exhibition “Meals and Drinks. Before.” the author leads us to an obvious confusion. Not because of giving up or changing the photographic expression, but because he explores whimsically the gastrosophic reality. Here the well-known photographic procedure of reduction to the minimal and essential is extended outside of photography itself, to the model being photographed, i.e. to what existed before, and what later became food and drink, and from which later the photograph appeared.
In this game between the art, light, appetite, shadows, vegetables, meat, spritzer and good digestion, the photographs themselves are, naturally, the best. They exude the sedate impression that the artist knows well not only his medium, but also everything else that precedes the exhibits. Thus, also the gastrosophic dilemmas. It is difficult to decide which of the offered photographs here would be the most necessary and most original. Somehow between the display of garlic sausages before their origin, or perhaps the chicken soup, pasta with cabbage or some other delicacies, surely one of the more popular would be the one showing the lunch credit, which, on the round wooden cheese cutting board, shows the credit cards and a knife suitable for cutting even something more hefty.
In these times when the Lent and fasting have somewhat lost their meaning due to privation, as the people are underprovided anyway, Janko’s photographs take on an aspect reserved for the avant-garde, i.e. those for whom eating and drinking isn’t just a necessity, but also a challenge. Unlike many photographers who use artificial colour to complement the redness of the roast meat of a restaurant’s chef, or, for example, set artificial smiles on the faces of supposedly happy burger flippers, his interest is in the artistic process which precedes the later mood. In such a way he poses before us an aesthetic challenge which he confirms not only through photography, but also through its meaning or feeling invoked by associations with bourbons, vegetable soups or those delicious brandies.
The pun and performance are the essential characteristics of Janko Belaj’s collection “Meals and Drinks”. No kidding, those are really wonderful photographs.