'Coral Island' by Damijan Kracina is one of the many projects
the artist has prepared in the recent years, and which
he imbued with a recognisable and unique artistic expression.
Kracina's approach to nature, seen by many as romantic,
is in fact based on awareness a virtue that the majority
of human race does not possess. With it the artist re-visits
over and over again the theme of endangered animal species,
in particular those on the brink of extinction. Different
animals enter his cognitive and often imaginary world:
the Tasmanian tiger, the Soča trout, the cave salamander
(Proteus anguinus), and also indeterminate creatures, natural
and imaginary mutants. Each species adopted by Damijan
Kracina for his artistic expression is given a unique presentation,
most often with a view to warning the human kind of its
destructive march across the globe. Grandiose words about
human guilt are most often left behind on old newspaper
clips. Humans only have short-term awareness of their carelessness
towards nature and its ecosystem; they only start to feel
pain, when their own survival is at stake.
'Coral Island', which was created in a predetermined context,
is in line with the series of Kracina's projects, which
subtly bring attention to the wrongdoings of the human
kind, and (with a touch of cynicism) present alternative
sub/super-species of microcosms (un)known to humans. At
this point I would like to focus on a project entitled
'Galapagos', which the Kracina has been developing and
exhibiting for some years in collaboration with the artist
Vladimir Leben. The Island known to us mainly through Darwin's
theories of evolution is a setting where mutants live.
The artists thus question the foundations of genetic theories,
which state that for new species to emerge, the existing
ones must mutate. Their mutants present themselves as an
image of future, as something which cannot be predicted
or controlled in the face of all science and advanced technology.
Such a display of the 'animals of the future' evokes in
us different reactions and feelings, which most often span
from laughter, mirth, and conviviality to the awareness
of today's harsh reality. They may arouse us, albeit only
for a few moments, from our numbness, or at least restore
our good mood.
Karcina's tackling the animal kingdom is often based on
animal species typical of the environment in which he lives;
the inspiration and numerous of themes he finds here are
impossible for him to ignore. In 1997 he set out to make
the first Slovenian zoomorphic typography. His inspiration
came from Proteus anguinus, or 'human fish' as it is known
to people, which is ''...the only true cave amphibian in
Europe, and is, as a living fossil, one of the monuments
of our natural heritage (the species is found only in Dinaric
Karst in Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina).''
Ź This amphibian is the inspiration and the material for
Kracina's typography. In this way, the knowledge of this
wonder of nature is spread beyond the borders of its natural
habitat faster and above all, with greater ingenuity than
with postcards. We must also not overlook an important
fact, namely that Kracina's typography includes the letters
č, š and ž.
In his 'Coral Island' the artist also makes use of endemic
species, which he draws from the photographs and video
footage compiled by Andrej Voje and Andrej Natlačen.
The marine life recorded over a course of several years
serves the artist as the first step in creation of statuettes.
Tiny underwater animals, which Damijan Kracina creates
together with children at the Paediatric Clinic, are
given a home on the coral island or on an amoeboid structure
of his design. The artist conceived the project following
an invitation by the Škuc Gallery. In collaboration with
the NGO Art dans la Cité and the Ljubljana Paediatric
Clinic, the Škuc Gallery also invited the artists Jana
Flego and Sašo Vrabič. At the Paediatric Clinic Kracina's
proposal was considered the most appropriate for establishing
a workshop, and most fit to include the children in.
All three projects featured unique approaches, and confirmed
that which is proved time and time again: that working
with children opens up new ways (sometimes undiscovered
or forgotten) to the imagination of adults.
Besides sculpting the workshop features painting on canvas
which forms a part of the 'Coral Island' as stage scenery.
With the joint effort from the three colleagues Katarina
Toman Kracina, who was actively involved in sculpting and
painting, Ajda Toman, the workshop's host, and the photographer
Urška Boljkovac, the entire course of the workshop, and
its participants, have been documented on tape and in photographs.
Viewers can thus not only enjoy the end product but follow
the entire course of the workshop and the work of all the
Such collaboration among artists and children stimulate
creativity of the young patients, and provide new possibilities
for young people to get to know and appreciate contemporary
art. Because learning about contemporary art is most often
overlooked in the school curriculum, and since society
is not particularly favourably inclined towards such forms
of cultural production and therefore refuses to pay due
attention to it, we see this project as one of the ways
to effectively communicate contemporary art to the coming
Text by Alenka Gregorič