I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden



photography series (20), 48 x 69 cm

acrylic on canvas, paper (4), 100 x 120 cm

video, 2’10

The artistic practice of academy-trained sculptor Boris Beja builds on the concept of patterns of everydayness, whereby patterns are seen as the link between life, transience and art. “Rose Garden” is used to evoke the minimalism of the visual formality of arranging cut flowers into ikebana, which the artist explores as a pattern in sculpting and architecture, traditionally linked to notions of worshiping life and respecting death.

Beja builds his practice on the postulates of minimalism, and it is no surprise that he selects the ikebana as a model, as it allows a disciplined structuring of the composition with minimum means. The ikebana, by definition, is an artistic form related, among other, to a certain meditative quality, within which the author can reflect upon beauties of nature and build a sense of inner peace during the course of creating an art work.

The idea for making an ikebana was inspired by an old book, which Beja came across by chance while visiting a friend. Ikebana: the history and principles of Japanese flower arrangement contains ancient descriptions, rules and instructions for making an ikebana, and discusses the historical significance and traditions associated with it. It is perhaps no surprise that the original tradition of making ikebana derives from Buddhism, which came to Japan, the land of ikebana, from China. The book describes the care and nurture of cut flowers, how to handle them and create or arrange them into various creations, ike meaning alive in Japanese, and bana meaning flower. The ikebana project works on both processes, the formal, expressed in the visual format as an architectural wallpaper pattern, and the content-related, through which we are taken into the world of formalistic organizational principles, which precisely determine the arrangement of cut flowers. The architectural – wallpaper – pattern acts as a diagram, rounded up by paintings in the technique of acrylic on canvas. The paintings are further adorned by means of wrapping paper, which upgrades the diagrams into individual works of art placed in wooden constructions – paravans, which turn the paintings into free standing objects in space.

The videos symbolically complete and round up the whole both in terms of color as well as content. They depict the female and male form of flowers: the first is a recording of a lily’s “castration”, the cutting of its stamens. The second shows the cleaning of an elephant’s ear plant, which, at least by way of what its Slovene common name suggests (the elephant’s ear is called Adam’s leaf in Slovene), is a symbol of the Christian iconography of the paradise garden with Adam and Eve, and the lily as a symbol of virginity and purity, which was even believed to cure snake bites, as described by Benedictine Walafrid Strabo in his poem on gardening from the 9th century. Flowers have carried strong symbolic meanings since time immemorial, addressing their admirers in different ways, attracting attention with the diversified shapes of their blossoms, their colorfulness, their scents and their primal natural beauty. The attraction of the artist to the ikebana lies in its structure: whoever makes an ikebana must be familiar with sculpting or architectural principles, or, in the words of Boris Beja: “An ikebana consists of three rules. Just like in a ‘classic’ work of art, there has to be an object, a subject, and a third element, which is the observer, or visitor. The practice of ikebana is a practice of the correctness of concept and a number of visual patterns”.

The artist, therefore, enters into the field of various neo-avantgardist traditions, and in doing so he involves other people and their works, usually experimental in nature. In the works of Boris Beja, these traditions are conceptually related, and presented in a variety of media, which he has explored for years, from sculpting, drawing, collages, photography, video, to ready-made objects and various materials used to complement and enhance patterns and ornaments on the level of form and content. Beja creates spatial, ambient installations, which are really more like complex organisms. According to him, the space, into which he enters as an artist, is of key importance each time, because it represents an expansion and at the same time compression of his formal qualification as a sculptor. The exhibition “I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden” represents a specific pleasure, triggered by the sensual depiction of a subject in an internal conflict, which also partly determines it, by means of a modern moralistic message. In the same way that a pattern is reassuring due to its highly organized structure, giving us a sense of stability and harmony, Boris Beja achieves this effect with his photographic collages, created through his intervention into the ikebana flower arrangement handbook. The image of the ikebana is enhanced by means of a wallpaper pattern, whose colors match the composition on one side of the book. And even though an ikebana might be marked by a sense of transience, in Beja’s case it is quite the opposite: the pattern is what determines this transience, and thereby justifies it in a certain way.


Nina Jeza, Artists&Poor’s


Objects included in the exhibition were created by:

Lea Osolnik, Cvetka Logar, Dušanka Kuhl, Lidija Globevnik, Lidija Drobež

The works were created at the sculpting studio of Pionirski dom, Center for Youth Culture Ljubljana.