Tjaša Rener - In Your Presence I Meet my Absence: Gallery III, Accra

27 Oct - 1 Dec 2022
Gallery 1957 is pleased to present In Your Presence I Meet My Absence, a solo exhibition by Accra based, Slovenia born artist, Tjaša Rener. Running from October 27th - December 1st at Gallery III, Accra, Ghana. In Your Presence I Meet My Absence is an allegory of coming home into one another. It is a series of figurative portraits that reflect a transformational narrative of mutual discovery and connection.

Earlier this year, Accra based Slovenian artist, Tjaša Rener, was invited by Gallery 1957 to do a residency. During the months of March and April 2022, the gallery organised portrait sittings for various members of its creative community. For the artist, this presented a challenge. Whereas before that, her live painting had evolved into a deeply personal and transformational part of her practice, mainly involving subjects that touched her life or that she had a previous connection to, she was now facing the prospect of painting people the majority of whom were strangers, or unknown. The artist explains: “What inspires me is the relationship. Making a portrait is more about spending time together than about painting.”


Rener’s process started by researching some of her subjects, and by going door to door for studio visits that would allow her to establish a point of contact. She then fell back on a prerequisite of her practice: setting the stage, or designing the context. In her own words: “How can people emerge, or come out without support? The background helps with providing that support."Her approach to cultivating the scene is at once ritualistic and intuitive. It speaks of a tension between the grounded and the ephemeral, and harkens to bird nesting: the meditative act of turning a loose grouping of twigs into a structurally sound home base. Although fictional and fabricated, the context nonetheless lends itself to the establishment of a safe zone that makes room for imperfections while sowing the seeds of a mutual and authentic exchange. The fetching of a plant, and a particular quality of light anchor Rener to the present while connecting her to her home back in Slovenia where she is affectionately referred to as Sonćek or ‘Little Sun’. A table, a chair or couch, and floor mats are often part of the scene, the latter adding an element of locality, personality and contrast. The artist explains: “I sometimes change the scenography. It happens instinctively because the setting doesn’t feel right in this particular moment, for that particular person.” Whereas the staging part of Rener’s process is driven by thoughtfulness and an attention to detail, the painting stage is more visceral and improvisational in nature. The artist comments: “I never sit still when I paint. I engage with my whole body.”


She works primarily on paper and non-stretched canvas, alternating between charcoal, acrylic paint as well as dry and oil pastels. Rener also juggles a number of brushes which don’t get cleaned during the session. The point of the portrait, in her eyes, is not to present an idealised, sanitised vision of the sitter, but rather to embrace a certain flow of energy: a quality of aliveness and presence that is felt and shared in a particular moment in time. The artist explains: “All my portraits are also self portraits. I’m not interested in perfection. I may leave some elements out, such as an eye, a nail, a shoe…they are indicators, but not the most important thing. The whole is.”


The exhibition’s signature work Harmony 6/4 is a portrait of Isshaq Ismail, and a beautiful depiction of the power of human connection. The work as a whole is a paradox of depth and simplicity, energy and restfulness, autonomy and abandon. The minimalist charcoal lines stand out against a spread of sunrise colours-longer wavelength colours, namely pink, peach and orange- which while unexpected against the sheer presence and masculinity of the figure, induce an immediate sense of calm and effortlessness. The eyes are the focal point of the portrait: they seem to follow and look into the viewer regardless of the angle they’re taken from, suggesting a sustained focus and awareness. Between the laser eyes and the half smile which is at once wistful, empathetic and mysterious, there is something vaguely ‘monalisaesque’ about the work, and though it is obviously a contemporary portrait that is very different in style, composition and sensibility.


In Your Presence I Meet My Absence is a body of work that posits the notion of homecoming as a shared and mutual pursuit, while being refreshing in both its humanity and emotional honesty.


- Extract from Curatorial essay by Rania Odaymat

Installation Views