Writing about Ivana Petan’s work, Marko Pogačnik makes an interesting observation and says that anyone who engages in ceramics is fortunate enough to work with the earth itself, but at the same time he asks whether the artist works only with the earth or, in so doing, also “cooperates with the Earth”.[1] The acute awareness of clay as a material suitable for very subtle, intuitive communication with the creative principle that permeates all beings and determines their layered interconnectedness is what makes Ivana Petan stand out among a growing number of artists who have chosen ceramics as their primary artistic practice. Thus, starting from the directness of contact and work with the material, the artist’s notion of the creation of an artwork is embodied in her personal relationship towards the experience of life and the world. At the same time, the final form of her works, whether they are individual sculptures or more complex spatial installations, is shaped in communication with the site-specific and temporal context in which she is working. It is precisely for this reason that Ivana Petan’s creative process always has a fluid portent, and is open to experiment in the formal and technological sense. Of course, we should be aware that this is an artist who has behind her some score of years of work and tireless investigation of technologies related to clay, an artist who is very familiar with various techniques, ranging from clay pit or electric kiln, smoked clay, Raku or Saggar firing processes, and in that sense the experiment does not mean the process of mastering a certain technique, but free creation and combination of acquired knowledge that is unencumbered by the potential limitations of material or processes.

At the exhibition titled “From the Background”, Ivana Petan sets up installations in two distinctly different spaces. The artist interprets the open space of the museum’s atrium as a necessary connection with nature and installs two dozen or so ceramic sculptures on the lawn, the forms of which evoke an appearance of the noble pen shell. And indeed, this exceptionally important and endangered species that filters seawater was Ivana’s starting point in designing the installation, which is fully in line with her focus on nature and detecting the neuralgic points as necessary healing sites. This, however, is definitely not an illustration or a literal reproduction of a form from nature, rather it is a transformation of the entire space, precisely because the artist is primarily focused on the energetic and symbolic potentials of the art object. In the very process of creating the sculptures, Ivana consistently employs a transparent approach which underscores the natural beauty of clay, as well as the way it is processed, visible through the traces of adding and impressing the pliable material. Variations in the colour and textures of the surface further erase the boundary between the natural and the (wo)man-made, whereby artistic creation completely merges with the primordial, the creation of life.

Ivana Petan treats the neutral, classic white cube exhibition space as a staging area with an almost ritual character. She installs small “floating” stylised heads into space, which almost invite to be cradled in the palms of one’s hands. These objects exude intimacy and tenderness, and given the fact that they were created over the last two extremely taxing years, the artist’s need for just such a process and final artwork form is clear. She mounts ceramic paintings on the walls, which convey the symbolism of the passage of time, the conscious and unconscious memory, while the large-format ceramic bowls are placed on pedestals. With these objects, Ivana Petan comes closest to her works in the field of applied ceramics, but she also clearly shows that for her the boundary between applied and art production is very fluid and that behind both cases lie intense reflections and creative processes. The associativity of such objects in the context of art installation inevitably leads us towards the early ritual uses of ceramics, and we can only hope to fill them with some symbolic elixir of life, a panacea that will wash away all the troubles of man and nature and bring us much needed healing.

Jasminka Babić

Ivana Petan (Zagreb 1974) has for the last two decades built a specific artistic approach to working with clay, and with her continuous work in the field of art and applied ceramics she occupies a prominent position on the contemporary ceramic art scene in Slovenia. From 1999 to 2001, she studied ceramics and pottery at the Magušar Pottery Workshop in Ljubljana. In 2000 she obtained a degree in social pedagogy from the Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana. In 2011 she obtained a degree in geomancy from the School for Geomancy, Society for the Coexistence of Man, Nature and the Environment VITAA in Ljubljana. In 2015, she received her master’s degree in philosophy and theory of visual culture from the University of Primorska, Faculty of Humanities Koper, Slovenia. Since 2004, she has regularly participated in a host of ceramics exhibitions, workshops, symposia and residencies in Slovenia and abroad.

Solo exhibitions (selection):

2020 Forma viva Magija gline 2020, Hrušica, Slovenia

2020 display window exhibition, Art Gallery Juha Studio keramike, Ljubljana

2019 Barke/Boats, Stari Grad Museum, Stari Grad, island of Hvar (with Bojan Brecelj)

2019 Walking on the Grass, park Kromberk Castle, Goriška Museum, Nova Gorica, Slovenia

2019 ◯ πr kvadrat, Exhibition of Contemporary Kinetic Ceramics, Vovk Garden, Kranj, Slovenia

2018 The Water Dragon of Venice, Zadar City Loggia, Croatia (with Bojan Brecelj and Marko Pogačnik)

2018 “6 exi” Gallery, Contemporary Ceramics, Thessaloniki, Greece

2017 Dominican Monastery of St. Peter the Martyr, Stari Grad, island of Hvar, Croatia (with Bojan Brecelj)

2015 Stari Grad Museum, Stari Grad, island of Hvar, Croatia

2015 Slovene Ethnographic Museum, Ljubljana, Slovenia

2014 Cultural Center Srečko Kosovel, Sežana, Slovenia

2014 XXX International Festival Sarajevo, Hanikah Gallery, Baščaršija, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

2013 Charlama Gallery, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

2012 Tropski vrt, Dobrovnik, Slovenia (with Bojan Brecelj)

2012 Grosuplje City Library Gallery, Grosuplje, Slovenia

2011 Tir Mostovna Gallery, Solkan, Slovenia

2010 Town Hall, Ljubljana, Slovenia

2009 Čokot Gallery, Split, Croatia

2007 Meduza 2 Gallery, Piran, Slovenia

2006 Magušar’s House, Radovljica, Slovenia

2004 Srečišče Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia (with Bojan Brecelj)

[1] Pogačnik, Marko. Art, created of the Earth, in Ivana Petan: a story of clay 2002 – 2020. Society for the Coexistence of Man, Nature and the Environment VITAAA, 2020. p. 61.