Statement - Legacies

Betty Kovacic gallery
Betty Kovacic Art.

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As the daughter of a Yugoslavian Woman who survived the Nazi Concentration Camps, I am profoundly influenced by her stories of horror and torture. Interspersed with her tale of suffering were accounts of altruism, heroic acts and the unwavering will to survive. Cognizance of individual roles, heroic or otherwise, in societal development continues to inform the content of my art.

Driven by yearnings to retrieve and preserve segments of individual and collective memory, and my need to comprehend present society, I embarked on a course of artistic inquiry. Like many others, I sought knowledge of the present by studying the past. The gathered stories and ensuing portraits of British Columbian seniors, born near the beginning of the Twentieth Century became the vehicle of realization...of expression.

Signifying greater importance than the recorded likeness of a person, the portrait alludes to the emphasis of individualization within the constraints of society. Not only being an indication of the definition of individuality, but the power contained therein, the portrait has infinite societal significance. Referencing a desire to remember, preserve, make visible, and express, these portraits invoke the individual and collective journey to identify. The work functions as mnemonic sites for the safe keeping of particles of past experiences, images and artefacts soon to be lost in the abyss of time. Each piece safeguards individual tales in a visual exploration of hopes, dreams and events. Metaphorically, the single life creates a sense of deeper awareness of the human condition, a realization of the heritage of humanity.

The work is a wealth of image, content and surface. Subjects, regardless of the age of portrayal are presented as strong even heroic figures; archetypes from a different time and place. Almost a shrine, definitely an icon, each piece validates the aged identity in the celebration of their lives. The work simultaneously elucidates various times, geographical locations and states of mind. Around the person stereotypes, symbols, items and images from current or almost forgotten memory merge to form new diverse meanings. Yesterday's images, filled with multiple meanings are manipulated to deflect synchronic interpretation of past events.

Within each painting or sculpture a union between several approaches to formalist art making can be found. The integration of historical and contemporary styles and concepts is a manifestation of personal artistic inquiry and aesthetic expression. It is not a disregard of formalization, but an expression of self. Within the tension created through seemingly conflicting styles are modernist elements of form, content, meaning and ambiguity.

A metaphorical reference to the complexity of existence, and the abundance created, each piece functions as a reminder of the wealth of individual experience and knowledge. A perpetual invitation, visual elements seduce the viewers into attempted decoding, yet elude complete interpretation of the mysteries presented. Achieving more than recognition or understanding of our heritage, this body of work bears witness to the past. The pieces function as mnemonic sites that honour and remember each transitory life.

Creative Process

This body of work is made up of both two and three-dimensional pieces. The paintings are comprised of acrylic, mixed media (paper with drawings, rubbings, prints) and mylar collaged with objects onto canvas. The three dimensional forms include resins, resin dyes, paper mache, plastic, acrylic mediums, fabric and paper (with drawings, rubbings, prints) and wood. Artefacts such as old letters, diary pages, photos, newspaper clippings, bones and objects are embedded in either the two or three-dimensional works. Additionally, art forms created from other materials are floated within the sculptures. Further textures, forms and images painted on the surface present a limitless source of expression.

Subjects and Interviews

Subject criteria were based on equal gender representation, cultural and geographical diversity. After researching possible subjects, the artist interviewed each person. Working with the subject, the artist assembled old photographs, mementos, or anything the person felt was important, and copies were made. Before the end of the interviews each subject helped to clarify details. Upon completion of the artwork, each subject received a photo of the work and a copy of the narrative.