Bittersweet Descent showing at VIN VIN Gallery, Vienna.
March 6 - April 6, 2024.

Collectivity; infectious action; crowds; movement – thus are the motifs that define Ava Tribušon’s newest body of work, brought together under the aegis of “Bittersweet Descent.” On the outskirts of Verona, the 1975-built amusement complex called Gardaland pays heed to the visual language and socio economic impetus of post-Second World War Americana – the military industrial notion of what constitutes “magic.”

Converging variable vehicles of amusement – roller coasters, each with their own colour scheme, narrative world, interior and motifs – the eclecticism of the carnivalesque is reflected in Tribušon’s paintings. Each piece is possessed of a different perspective, in elucidation of the plethora of personalities and experiences that are drawn together, all amassing in the pursuit of pleasure and leisure. The works comprise narrative divisions of a programmatic whole: insights into the same scene, as opposed to separate stories. Poetically constructed and inherently referential, the narrative power of the series of works is such that they frame a first instalment within a world-building exercise.

Original imagery and sourced material blend inextricably – personal and collective memory become one and the same. Always rooted in the composition of a photo that speaks to Tribušon, scenes are augmented with characters and motifs; prints worked back-into with oil paint and pastel. The poles of the digital and the manual operate in constant tensility upon the canvas, just as the materials themselves argue with, and resist one another – the smoothness of the photographic gesture disrupted by the rawness of the waxy addendum.

Saturated primary colours abound within amusement complexes – lurid colours, swirling boundaries and oscillating lines create a sense of euphoric frenzy. Tribušon’s paintings borrow this hyper colourised palette, paying heed to the aspect of simulation inherent to both her process (the translation of the digital), but also to the site of the pleasure park. Inherently farcical infrastructures, such sites oscillate between the macro and micro: representations of world orders, juxtaposing realism and obscurity.

For Tribušon reality is subsidiary to the engendered relationship to the uncanny. Within the works elements of the real are recognisable, but one’s awareness of being in a natural environment is queried: the viewer comes to be guided by evocation alone. Within each painting is evidence of its own materiality; Tribušon’s playing with the affective register of texture upon the canvas illuminates the fact of amusement parks as hyper constructed sites that seek to suspend disbelief, but are fallibly grounded in reality as fundamentally capitalist enterprises.

Tribušon’s paintings can be read as an exercise in affect theory – one is led to the writings of Lauren Berlant, on the notion of Cruel Optimism; or the legacy of Intimism, with specific reference to the 1953 anthology The Poems of the Four – a crucial vertebrae in the spine of the Slovenian poetic canon. Both volumes illuminate the emerging inability of liberal-capitalist societies to provide their citizens with ample opportunity: the disintegration of the lurid promise of the “goodlife.” The title of the exhibition itself parses the Strauss-Howe generational theory – a charting of this saeculum, from the high to the crisis. In the age of technology we conceive of life as a series of shifts, a compression of space time and geography augmented and enabled by the prevalence of social media.

Tribušon’s paintings capture the precarity and contingency that characterise our new modes of temporality, speaking both to the state of emergency that has become a permanent condition of our contemporary, as well as the subsequent search for escapism (and delirium). The sense of confusion and oversaturation that permeates “Bittersweet Descent” is yet undercut by a vein of hopefulness. Tribušon suggests that, by embracing the world’s nonsensicality, we can commit to moving forward – in the best way we can, together.

Text by Katrina Nzegwu 

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