The 28th STRABAG Artaward International has just announced the winning artists. The award, which focuses on painting and drawing, is one of the country’s most highly endowed private art prizes. Initially limited to Austrian artists, it expanded in 2009 to include international participants. The prize consists of a main prize and four recognition awards, totalling €35,000, given annually. For 2021-2023, artists from Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Austria were invited to participate. Out of more than 700 applications, five artists were selected as winners.
In 2023, Jósefina Alanko, a Polish-Finnish artist, received the main prize. The recognition awards were given to Peter Cvik from Slovakia, Samira Homayouni from Austria/Iran, Liza Libenko from Czech Republic, and Grzegorz Siembida from Poland.
What inspired you to utilize painting as a medium?
I did projects in different medias before applying to Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. I was doing decorations for rave parties in the forests, installations and landscape art as well as some conceptual works. Then during my studies my focus naturally turned to painting. After few years of training the craft I understood that possibilities in this medium are so wide that they have no boarders. Last Years I realised that my big passion is to work with colours (in material and psychological way as well). So in my personal story it turned to painting very naturally.
How would you describe your work?
My work is constant development of painting practise for last 18 years. What could describe my work the most is the layering of painting it self same as layering the topics and other possible meaning. There is a lot of parallels in my works. I try to develop unique visual system that is commenting era we are living in by painting.
Can you discuss the inspiration and thought process behind your winning work?
I work a lot with traditional genre of landscape painting as well as architectural fragments of city-realities. As Strabag is construction company I worked with idea of monuments that are existing only in my visions so they are not real. By using the schemas of brutalistic architecture I wanted to show a scar of concrete socialistic architecture that is cutting the whole Europe from North to South as mute reminder of past history. Anyway the works should not be just a reminder of unpleasant past but also should show a hope for brighter future.
What do you hope to communicate to an audience with your work?
My works are also based on mental work of audience. I try to open up the interpretational fields as much as possible. My aim is to achieve the moment when different viewers see the different stories in my works. It is directly connected to their own memory atlas. So I would like that my works are read as unique private interpretations of viewers memories or reminders of specific situations of their own story. By my work I would like to start a sentence that the audience is finishing individually.
Have you experimented with other mediums?
I did a lot of different projects with different mediums. Especially before being accepted on Academy. Topic of my Phd. studies was Layering in classical hanging painting. In 2017 I had a solo exhibition “From square to material” (that was also a title of my Phd. thesis) in Hot Dock Gallery Bratislava where I showed mostly the works that contained different materials as pieces of raw canvases, different cuts of painted canvases or nets against the insects. I was researching the usage the non-painting materials that were layered on pieces that could be still called “painting” as traditional hanging object. Later on when I already considered myself as painter I started to make these projects on symposiums or residencies (p.ex. “Stories of Leipzig” series where I was implementing the old maps from 70’s and worked also with composition of inner frames and transparent materials that were painted and stretched over these assemblages to achieve a feeling of flatness of painting as object. In this project, usage of the maps has direct connection to similar contexts of socialist countries)
Can you talk about your biggest learning experience during the process of creating your work?
My biggest learning experience is to never give up, get up after each single fall and stay motivated. If there is no flow it will be the other day.
Can you discuss your biggest success since starting your artistic journey?
I will name three.
I did have a solo exhibition “Architectons” at the International Biennale for Young Art in Moscow in 2016 as representant of Slovakia. This was my first individual presentation abroad.
In 2019 I won 2nd place on competition “Painting of the Year” organized by VUB Banka Slovakia (Intensa Group). Funny fact is that the first place was not given as the overall winner did not respect the rules of the competition by size of applied work. So basically, I won without winning. Anyway, what I recognize as the biggest success these days is that my works are acquired to high quality private collections where they are positioned along “blue chip artists” works.
What is your dream project or piece you hope to accomplish?
There are more plans in my mind that I will be able to accomplish during this lifetime. Every project that I do is a dream project as I am lucky enough that I can choose from the proposals. So once I am doing the project I want to perform the best that I can and turn the dream to reality.
As a winner, do you have any advice for artists who want to submit to awards, competitions, residencies, etc.?
Never give up and take every loosing as a motivation for being better and more professional next time.
Lastly, I like to ask everyone what advice they would give to their fellow artists, what is your advice?
My biggest advice is to stay grounded no matter which success You gain. I am very happy that I am actively meeting with “A class” painters from all around the world and what I see as the connection line in between all of them is respect and being down on earth. There is no need for comparing. How could You compare completely individual attitudes in the end of the day?
If we were to rummage around in your studio, what art supplies would we find and what key colours would we see on your palette?
My studio became completely private space for invited only so there is no need to answer this question by my side. Only thing I want to mention is that my studio space is very organized. So everything has place and I keep the order inside.
How did you feel when you heard that you were selected for the Strabag Art Awards?
I was very happy and excited about it. First of all, to be shown in context of different young talents from different countries on final exhibition of the Strabag Artaward International. On the other hand, as every finalist is having a solo show I was already looking forward for mine as the Kunstforum exhibition space is not easy for preparing the project. So I am looking very forward to all of the solo presentations of winners this Year.