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exhibition
Samuel Grajfoner, Teme lukenj
23. 07. 2003 - 28. 09. 2003
Galerija Slovenj Gradec


“… a star that was sufficiently massive and compact would have such a strong gravitational field that light could not escape: any light emitted from the surface of the star would be dragged back by the star’s gravitational attraction before it could get very far. /… / Such objects are what we now call black holes, because that is what they are: black voids in space. /… / The event horizon, the boundary of the region of space-time from which it is not possible to escape, acts rather like a one-way membrane around the black hole: objects … can fall through the event horizon into the black hole, but nothing can ever get out of the black hole …”

Stephen W. HAWKING, A Brief History of Time. From the Big Bang to Black Holes, Bantam Books, New York, Toronto 1988, p. 86, 94.


In his opus, Samuel Grajfoner engaged himself mostly in classical intaglio printing, dry point, engraving, aquatint and etching, as well as expression in the black and white technique. Art critics like to stress that Grajfoner’s basic education is as a sculptor, though he has practised printmaking since the beginning of his training at the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts and later deepened this knowledge by attending special studies in graphic art. One could probably connect Grajfoner’s sculptural experience with his expressive sense of comprehending space and substantiality, which is reflected in the set up of his exhibitions. In other words, he always finds new ways of moving graphic prints from the flat wall area to the three-dimensionality of the exhibition grounds.

For Grajfoner, the matrix is a specific subject matter, to which he nurses an intimate, somewhat erotic relation. While engraving on a zinc plate, he likes to use a knife usually used for cutting matrices in graphic studios. He engraves with the force of his whole body, and the incisions are uncommonly deep, which later demands special care in applying colour. Consequently, the prints are presented in high relief. Lately, he has been experimenting with engraving upon linoleum and using a compressor guided rotary cutter in working with metal matrices. He has redirected his physical power, which until now was used for making incisions with the knife, to working the rotary machine, which is hard to master in contact with a smooth plate under high revolutions. Engraving attracts him because of the matrix’s resistance; usually he supplements it by using dry point and aquatint representing the soft and fragile opposite sides to sections that are deeply engraved. He treats the plates for as long as he completely uses their mass with countless engravings and etchings. He also copies the back side of the matrices’ so that the structure of accidental incisions and lesions into the composition is included. As he experiences the matrix in all the extension of its substantiality, the materiality of printing colour is also of great importance to Grajfoner. The solid forcing of colour into the deep incisions change the graphic print into a precisely structured relief, on which the plastically protruding lines interfere with the velvet-like surfaces treated in aquatint.

For Grajfoner, the essence of graphic art doesn’t lie in its reproducibility but in the creative use of the possibilities this technology offers. He always accentuates the difference between classical drawing that is an independent artistic discipline and direct engraving on a plate. The latter he experiences as a connection of spirit and subject matter. He prints only a small number of copies from one plate, making only one copy preferably. He is more interested in the continuous completing of the matrix and the arranging of prints from one plate into series that offer stories loaded in layers into our memory.

The line is Grajfoner’s primary means of expression. He understands it as a proof of energy in its extension of space and time. He likes to say that with the lines he places in different directions he is ťweavingŤ shapes. The dark and heavy shapes on Grajfoner’s engravings are composed of numerous incisions that leave a relief-like protruding structure of the print colour. The spaces between are slim lines with the colour of uncovered surfaces, which edge and accentuate the direction of black lines by uniting them into a spatial perception of the object.

Typical to the existing graphic opus of Samuel Grajfoner is the reinstatement of the relation between bright and dark surfaces, though in the last two years he has decided to express himself in the black colour that entirely covers and satiates the surface of the graphic paper. In the iconography of colours, black holds a special position; it is mostly characterized as the absence of colours, absolute zero, but Malewich with his black square an a white surface, a cult painting of the 20th century, gave it the mysticism of absolute spiritualization making black the highest possible expression of abstraction. Because of its sublime character and the even more typical obscure, tragically orientated symbolism, black has great expressive power. Some art critics even noticed that black acts ťin a macho fashionŤ, in terms of male sexual power. Grajfoner’s black is a substance of absolute value that reflects the comprehension of black as seen by Richard Serra, who calls for attention to its ťgraphicnessŤ and expression of gravity due to the fact that it drags back all rays of light. The shape of black objects is marked by margins at the juncture with the whitenesses, whereas the richness of the black in Grajfoner’s graphic works is experienced in contrasts between glimmering and relief structured sections and velvet soft surfaces.

On his latest engravings in linoleum, Grajfoner ťhas wovenŤ the shapes into ovals. He was inspired by the numerous oval openings on the buildings in his native Maribor. The windows on the front of churches, agitated campaniles’ roofs and superstructures on the town’s roofs are surrounded by more or less skilfully decorated frames, from behind which dark holes gape at us. Often the emptiness proves fictitious, through attentive observation the contours of the roofing or trumpery separate from the dark or the oval opening is panelled or glazed; the darkness becomes tangible. The oval shapes are symbols of womanhood; they also remind us of a cosmic egg representing creative power and immortality, which again brings us close to the meaning of the black colour that was already in antiquity regarded among other things as the state before creation, the chaos from which a new beginning is born. Two such ovals, one engraved and the other in aquatint, were fixed by Grajfoner on a large canvas coated with silicon. The black and hermetic subject matter grew luxuriantly over the canvas surface and indented into the margins of the black oval. On the left, beneath the relief-like protruding lines, here and there uncovered whitenesses of the paper glimmer, on the right, the velvet soft surface entices us inevitably into the infinite depth. This time, Samuel Grajfoner, sculptor and graphic artist, asked himself about space and its transfusing from the foreground to the background (and vice versa) by the means of painting.

Marjeta Ciglenečki


SAMUEL GRAJFONER was born in Maribor in 1960. In 1990 he graduated in statuary art at the Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts under Professor Lujo Vodopivec. In 1994 he specialized in graphic art under Professor Branko Suhy. He also attended studies at the Minerva Academy in Groningen in the Netherlands, at the Paragon Centre in London, at the Cité International des Arts in Paris and in the Printmakers Workshop in Edinburgh. He is a senior lecturer in graphic design at the Maribor Faculty of Education. He has taken part in group and individual exhibitions in Slovenia and internationally, and has received several prestigious awards for his work. His graphic works are in several galleries, amongst others also in the Vienna Albertina.