RENATA ŠTEBIH, art historian
Nataša Segulin began her work in photography following her retirement. Prior to that she had continuous exposure to visual art, as she was a journalist and editor of the cultural programme on television. She soon began to exhibit her work and it’s no surprise that her fourth series Lumen thrust her, with the same confidence and curiosity, into a new form of creativity – the »writing« of a photobook. Despite its long tradition, the photobook has been through a true renaissance in the past decade. The term describes a book in which the photographs are the only constituting element of narration. It is not only about a sequencing of photographs, but rather about providing a wholesome narrative through images.
When first viewing the photographs of the Lumen series, the eye unused to visual reading enters a place of shadows, darkness and decay. However, the artist’s story of a crumbling, centuries-old complex is read in another way. The story is simple. We follow the protagonist, natural light, in three chapters, as it slowly unveils and deglamourizes. In the first chapter, protruding slants of light are unravelling miniscule details and creating mystical, dream-like images. We could be anywhere. Then, Lumen takes us into the tangible, but is entirely subordinate to geometry. Only in the third chapter is the exhausted body of a former maternity hospital illuminated, the walls stripped off to recognition. It is unforgiving, unmasking the misery, but bringing hope, light and warmth at the same time.
The aesthetic of the atmosphere is an important part of the tale. In the tradition of abstract photography, the real pictorial space is eliminated. She focuses on the use of light and shape, colour, texture and tonality, and through them expresses feelings, sensations and impressions. The deteriorating, ugly, depressing reality disappears under the warmth of light, rich contrasts between dark and light, the softness of shadows, haptic drawing of structures, the rhythm of recurring shapes and the muted, monochrome colour palette, which emphasizes beauty and harmony.
The artist’s visual narrative is and is not a story of a building. It is a testimony of an eye that reads visually wherever it turns. A true constant in her work are the language of balance, harmonious and minimalistic, the clarity, rhythm or repetition of simple archetypical shapes, the tangibility of textures and vivid contrasts between light and shadow. Just as the feelings of peace, quiet and harmony which she places in the former Servite monastery, in the hopes of a bright future.
Every artistic series speaks of the author themselves. With Nataša Segulin, we are always in spaces which are somehow remote, even though they’re bustling with people at the same time (the port of Koper, quarries, tourist destinations with cultural heritage value…). The cause for the tale of lumen is a love for art and cultural heritage, a personal involvement in a physical space, the city of Koper, and the artist’s own emotions related to the building, from which the name of the series evolves. »Lumen as light, radiance, and the happiness and joy accompanying the birth of so many Primorska and Istria residents, I was born here, as was my family… light as hope for a better tomorrow.« Her positive credo is recognized as part of her photographic expression and although she is mainly concerned with formalist aspects of her photography, she tried, in her newest series, to affect a change in the collective social consciousness. If we look at Sartre’s definition of engaged literature, which states that »literature reveals to the reader their own situation, for them to take responsibility for it«, then in terms of defining an artistic style, her engaged poetic questioning of society’s attitudes toward heritage as one of the key elements of national identity has, in the case of Lumen, crossed the threshold of contemporary art.
 The Servite monastery in Koper’s old town is a building with the status of a cultural monument of national importance. It is one of the oldest complexes in the city and a superb architectural example of its era and of the style common all along the eastern Adriatic coast. The location, taken and inhabited by the Servites in 1453, has been inhabited already in Roman times. A Benedictine monastery with the church of St. Martin used to stand in its place. The monastery was used for different purposes through the centuries, including a military hospital. Since 1810 and until the second world war, a general city hospital was based there, but after the war and until 1996, a regional maternity hospital and paediatric department were based in the building. When the maternity hospital moved out in 1996, the former monastery spaces with its countless stories of the past, became empty. The interior is decaying, collapsing in on itself and has been waiting on renovation and revitalization for years. (After Neža Čebron Lipovec and Minka Osojnik, 2017: Stavbna zgodovina samostanske zgradbe / Storia della costruzione del convento. IN: Servitski samostan, Arhitekturni in arheološki spomenik v osrčju Kopra / Il convento dei serviti, Un monumento architettonico e archeologico nel cuore di Capodistria, ed. Neža Čebron Lipovec et al., Milano: Politecnico di Milano).
ANDREJ MEDVED, poet and philosopher
TÒ PHÔS, LIGHT, LUMEN AND DARKNESS AS LUX AETERNA –
LICHTUNG INTO DARK, AS DUNKELHEIT, FROM DARKNESS –
AMYDRON INTO LIGHT – PHÔS
And that brought to my mind a certain image, at which I immediately shrugged and even tried to stifle my imagination, which is always quick to react; but still I cannot say I have not thought of the image which appeared to me in that moment; and I'll tell you what I thought of, even though you'll shrug your shoulders, as I did: I thought of God's FIAT LUX. (A. Artaud, Voyage to the Land of the Tarahumara).
I opened my body into the sky, uncovered …
With sweet foam fused shoulder… and in the stomach a stinger
Of a sweet fly … and snare of a miraculous flower … an absence hidden in sheets as a conception
Your skin, which smells like a rose of a heavenly
Flower … on a zinc cloud. As in a strip of light,
The tail of stardust … in the star’s point … And the pocket of a suit in the wardrobe …
As a hexing spell in the steam of a laser
line, which breaks in a dream’s commotion, on a fairy-tale
overhang … and translucent sea bottom… in a collar on a pale bird.
Darkness as amydron is replaced by light … and caves, tunnels and canals in the Underworld: the barricaded »cave« replaced by Heaven = reflection of mirrors on the floor, walls and from open windows. The photography of a (former) maternity hospital as home of Woman … and line. Lines = light beams as »fruhe Spur«, as »early trace« of light out of darkness … And the patterns, wrinkles and spirals which peek out of doors and windows (some, some kind) of a sentimental building and … a fairy-tale city … out of a sunken and cathartic decaying and remerging »house of essence«.
Art as photo/graphy is Orpheus's gaze, which Lacan equates with objet petit a = the look – »drive« as Triebfeder, the spring into the face of the (pre)image as (un)whole woman. Art = the only woman I love (F. Nietzsche). In that sense, the photographed image is a broken hymen, the undoing of an image, emptiness, entropy. Orpheus's gaze destroys the art = the Woman whole, his gaze is Liebesstrieb, the drive of love, brought about by Want as Pleasure. The photographed look is always a thin line between pleasure and death. Orpheus's song is the introspective Look into the transience of a loved being = photo/graphy of Woman, that is, a being that is already departing behind the curtain (Wandband), into the emptiness of interior spaces. But in truth it is essential; Orpheus's gaze, that is, for the recurring ascension and praise of art as praise of the whole Woman (Himmelfahrt des Weibes), her »shell«, wondrous flower …, the repeated awaking of the artistic, art, and art-work, which is joy and freedom according to Hegel.
Joy – joie de vivre, grief – deuil and light – dark, chiaro-scuro, and the late gothic as gotico fiorito: the gothic line in bloom = the turn, fold and in »crooked line«, romanticism/classicism and rationality/emotion … and breathing– inhale, exhale, a steady rhythm. Pleasure is jouissance, phonetically j‘ouïs sens (after J. Lacan) as »an auditory hallucination« to the sense of the Unborn as existence in the Real world. The Real, which in itself has no sense, is reasonable in a love-related event. The flower/shell of light as absolute and Ding an sich, the thing after itself and the categoric imperative which rules the world. That is why photographs never and under any circumstances speak only partially, individually, particularly, but combine in the »house of essence«, basileia in Greek, the entire light-induced decay of the Image.
The strip of light, spurt of light… like a »germ plasm« = the seed is pure poetry, le milieu, pur de fiction … and poietós: the source of creation and creativity, perfection, which is all »emptiness«, emptiness, which is all »perfection«, sûnyâta, nirvana. In them is the Western concept of gift-giving and the gift itself. The gift is in itself, it is affected neither by generosity nor friendship, uncorrupted by any soul…, as ancient hokku poetry says. The gift: gift and giving, no one's gift: it is the One of duality and doubling as reproduction and clinamen: case and incline and bend in the fold of a pure and innocent soul. The Universal soul, which rules over us humans, artists and all things, relations in planetary and interplanetary, universal pneum.
»The arrival into the centre of the labyrinth, as after the end of an initiation, leads into an invisible dwelling, which artists have always shrouded in mystery. More accurately, every one of them was able to imagine it in accordance with their own intuition or personal inclination. Concerning the labyrinth of Leonardo Da Vinci, Marcel Brion points out a society consisting of people of all eras and lands who fill the magic circle, left white by Leonardo, since the making of his spirit did not presume to explain the meaning of the centre of the labyrinth.« (from the dictionary of mystic symbols).
As written by J. Lacan in Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis: I am taking the structure at the level of the subject here, and it reflects something that is already to be found in the natural relation that the eye inscribes with regard to light. I am not simply that punctiform being located at the geometral point from which the perspective is grasped. No doubt, in the depths of my eye, the picture is painted. The picture, certainly, is in my eye. But I am not in the picture. That which is light looks at me, and by means of that light in the depths of my eye, something is painted—something that is not simply a constructed relation, the object on which the philosopher lingers—but something that is an impression, the shimmering of a surface that is not, in advance, situated for me in its distance. This is something that introduces what was elided in the geometral relation—the depth of field, with all its ambiguity and variability, which is in no way mastered by me.
It is rather it that grasps me, solicits me at every moment, and makes of the landscape something other than a landscape, something other than what I have called the picture. The correlative of the picture, to be situated in the same place as it, that is to say, outside, is the point of gaze, while that which forms the mediation from the one to the other, that which is between the two, is something of another nature than geometral, optical space, something that plays an exactly reverse role, which operates, not because it can be traversed, but on the contrary because it is opaque—I mean the screen. In what is presented to me as space of light, that which is gaze is always a play of light and opacity. It is always that gleam of light—it lay at the heart of my little story—it is always this which prevents me, at each point, from being a screen, from making the light appear as an iridescence that overflows it. In short, the point of gaze always participates in the ambiguity of the jewel.
Pleasure: la jouissance de l’objet petit a = taking pleasure in art, photo/graphy is already and still an assumption, the biggest, most far-reaching assumption. We are not also already and still assumptions, but we are already and still subjects, consumed by a worm, Lacan's »worm«, the symbolic survival of a primordial marker, which in reality is One less plus a: the surplus pleasure of art, Liebeswunsch and la jouissance de l’amour in Orpheus is some kind of »clinamen«: the ratio of head and gaze, mouth and anus, voice and hand, that is an activity which results in the edges of depiction, which is in reality the form of a form for das Ding, for the want of an artistic act.
Photography as clinamen and art = artist and photography as object in the making, transience and eternal, never-ending production, the basic, core amoebity (Indo-European ambh), the crossing into a being of the pre-image as a possible and probable existence of Art, dwelling for-yourself and on-yourself and at the same time in a social contract with the world and art in the making: like a paradise come to life, gardens of Eden as opportunity and enclosing of the divine and at the same time mortal pansexual relationship between photo/graphy and photo/grapher. At first as a reconciliation of yourself and others, others inside you and the capital Other, Art with a capital A, the other from another and objet petit a as the artistic in photographic gift and act.