Erik Šille: From cotton candy piety to the epitaph - Noro Lacko
Since his early work, the visual fascination of Erik Šille draws energy from sources, which are not quite usual for the medium of painting, but thanks to his artistic activities, they settled in contemporary Slovak paining quite well. The fact that Erik Šille cunningly appropriates means of expression, objects, methods, and themes of the so-called consumerist culture, pop-culture or visuality of the electronic media is a clearly identified attribute of his individual visual language. Without any problems we recognize elements known from the wild and mad visuality of the present times: comic book, animated cinema, internet, computer games, street art, graffiti, tattoo, package design, iconography of advertising and entertainment business, political propaganda all the way to the design of serially produced plastic objects including toys.
Equally clearly, it is possible to identify typically “šille-sque” use of the acrylic painting technique, applied to canvas in smooth, even and clean surfaces, often amended with soft brush drawing, almost giving an impression of geometric marks. The technique of painting, in which any traces of brushstroke are lost, hides the individual manuscript to the level of denial of the live artist's hand. The purity and strictly calculated perfection of staged micro stories is in Šille's paintings accentuated in a strong contrast to the unrestrained pollution through compositionally calculated, but in the process of painting accidentally shaped surfaces of stains, pours, sprays and gestural interventions, which are the recordings of expression and direct emotive presence of the artist's hand.
Until recently, another characteristic sign of Šille's painting was a clearly bright, shiny, “custard” or cotton candy shoreless colouring. Earnestly attacking the sense perceptions, violently inducing a strong sensory experience and misleading many observers to judging Šille's paintings in notion categories such as beautiful to the senses, or joy and pleasure of looking. But shining sweetness is more and more suppressed by much darker colours in the works from last years.
Storytelling through a picture belongs to the inherent and characteristic attributes of Šille's work. Various animal or comic book characters are usually the carriers and agents of stories. Characters in Šille's paintings find themselves in situations which are almost contrary to the clear and ideal world in which they are placed, or – if these are citations or found objects – to the world from which they come from. These situations are at least wrong if not pathological. The canvases emanate sticky sweetness of infantile naivety, childish pseudo-purity and hyped-up harmony of well-made up world, with its brightness shadowing the cruelty, rawness, brutality and perversion of the pictured situations or narrated stories.
It is the combination of all mentioned elements, but mainly storytelling through half-borrowed half-made up characters or beings placed into strongly stylized, seemingly fabled or imaginary environment, that contributed to the fact that the world constructed in Šille's paintings could be designated on one side as surreal, and on the other as strictly utopian world, inhabited by strange creatures, for which even fantastic zoology has no generic and specific names, and thirdly, as paintings “similarly to classic fairytale stories”, in which “...contrary to the fact that the author solves the current questions of good and evil, it makes no sense to search for their truthfulness...”, because “what they offer is joy and pleasure from looking...”
I will attempt to suggest a somewhat different key to the interpretation of Erik Šille's paintings. Its basis is made of question, whether Šille uses all those visual (but also musical and literary) borrowings and his own imaginative fantasy creativity in order to construct his own visual symbolic and allegoric system, which enables him to literally think about the presence, his personal life experience in order to subsequently talk about it, comment on it by the means of the hanging picture.
And at the same time, actively enter this everyday lived presence. Entering not in form of the naively understood “aesthetics”, or aesthetics reduced to hedonistic sensuality – through making of beautiful, attractive for the senses, “decorative” paintings, but through paintings, which create a much more complicated and refined aesthetic aggregate. And paintings, which quickly cross the starting line of the sensory fascination into the ethic and politics, and become engaged in a good sense.
Creation of this symbolic language continually keeps moving between two stumbling blocks. On one side, it is the threat of the cryptic, impossibility to decipher, creation of some code sequence, which is derived from highly intimate experience or feeling only understandable for Šille himself, and on the other, there is the danger of falling into excessive illustration or poster-like quality. The first case leads to the “paradox of private language”, which negates the possibility of a public communication and a thorough capturing of the meaning of Šille's paintings. The other is the opposite of thinking, denial of an effort to individually consider the problem, and it can easily lead to nodding illustrations of public truths or public secrets. While Šille (quite maliciously) likes to reach for the first one, he tries to avoid the other one.
Let us try to perceive Šille's paintings as paradoxically “realistic” engaged comments and glosses on our commonly experienced world of everyday life.
The sensory fascination of the contemporary visuality, which I consider as his starting point and a stable ingredient of Šille's work, has as every fascination a structure composed of two contradictory effects. On one side stands attraction, seduction or even infatuation, and on the other there is satiety, disgust and a feeling of inappropriateness.
Šille's visual fascination will be much more comprehensible with the background of the society-wide onset of the “pauperum population” (poignantly said), when the first generations of children growing up in front of TV screens and coming of age during the media boom of the 90's enter productive age, and the social, cultural and political communication as well. For them, the essentially wild, and relatively diversified (more accurately and paradoxically: diversified and at the same time uniform) audiovisual culture is their axiomatic environment. Certainly more axiomatic than the environment of the spoken and printed word. In my opinion, the edgy difficulty of the effects of the visual fascination, connected to its natural immediate intelligibility for the generation of Erik Šille, and for himself, did not lead Šille only to (intuitive more than rational) choice of used means of expression, but to the identification of themes and problems, which he attempts to articulate in his works.
I suspect that Šille's thinking is possible to be perceived as close or in relation to mythical-poetic thinking. But I want to emphasize that the expression mythic is not used in a sense of a mythical story, utopia, fantasy, fairytale or cock-and-bull story, but as a type of narration, which creates a frame for our experience with the world, society and ourselves, and which enables the grasp of ideas and communication of this experience. Equally, I would like to remark that I do not understand mythical-poetic thinking as some archaic for of pre-rational and pre-scientific thinking, but as an integral part and an element of our everyday existence. It seems to me, that Šille was not challenged to find the approach to this type of thinking, because it is, simply said, the medium and carrier of what I here call the mass media, popular or consumer culture. The real output of Šille is the fact in which way he managed to bend this thinking against himself, while in the first stage he used the moving powers of defiance, irony and sarcasm.
The main problem oscillating in Šille's work is, in my opinion, the feeling of loss of the “authentic” “natural” world, reality substituted by the pseudo-reality of the reality fabricated by the media. The feeling of delineation, involuntary predestination and the artificial canalisation of relationships tying one person to another, and the feeling of expropriation of existence, “lifestyle” design of the relationship to one selves. The more and more intensive belief that the life we are living is not our own, that it is the requisite life, or rather the pre-pictured and prescribed. Or also vice-versa, the life that we live, we live in such a way that we can later display, publicise and present it. The feeling that the authentic, real experience is almost impossible. Together with this feeling, the collapse of the orientation of values is deepened. I consider one of the first works, which Šille exhibited: a painting of a Madonna holding a child, with a mobile phone in one raised hand titled We are Looking for Signal (2004).
I think that Šille deliberately misuses on “mythic-poetic” narration in order to turn it against himself, and in such a way, that through this he builds his own version of the world, and such version with truthfulness of which he is convinced. The environment of this world is not surreal, neither it is utopian nor fairytale-like, but it is a picture of everyday seen and transformed by the šille-sque logics. Šille essentially proceeds as a diagnostic while building a picture of the world. He looks for the symptoms. Most frequently, he aligns them into at a first sight paradoxical pairs such as infantility and cruelness, staged make-up and destruction, fascist-like order and chaos, network, connectivity and communication collapse, and sometimes he creates whole chains or flows (of information, money, energies, excrements), or circuits and cycles (production – consummation – excretion – production – consummation and so on) for instance in painting We Also Have Our Supermarket (2004). Contrary pairs are not real opposites, because they create on indivisible whole.
Whatever is actually a real opposite is only reminded by its absence. On one side, it notifies itself through negative symptoms: unrest, nervousness, aggression of gestural intervention in shape of catastrophe, disorder, failure, “headless animals or amputated limbs, and even more often by explosions and every possible morphology of destruction”. On the other side, through positive freeing itself by using irony and sarcasm, which are often maximized by compositional use of a view, like in paintings TV Show (2004) or Monopublic (2003).
What could be the contours of the preliminary diagnosis? Deliberately exaggerating, let's try to ask whether the picture of our presence suggested by Erik Šille isn't a picture of the world where community (in places blindly, naively, genuinely, because of inability to find other solutions, or out of attachment to their own fear) believing in history of spiritual, social and political redemption (with all the for and against arguments) is being replaced by the population of cynical universality of the global market. Population of infantile, cruel, careless, confused, overgrown children heroising their own banality. The community of strict organised drill is being replaced by a line of marching satyrs. Apollo finally learned to play the lyre of Hermes. A generation without long-term memory, a generation of “tele-presence” (Paul Virilio), of the rigid here and now, unable to face the past and understand the future is coming. A society of realised, suffered or refused unfreedom and “normality” is substituted by a population of motivated, sovereign, exhibitionist, asking for manipulation trivial hedonists that has no idea that the big feast organised as a celebration of loose freedom could well be a funeral.
And then there is another Šille, Šille dark and mourning. While the first decade of his work (where the work since his first presentation during his studies in 2001 can be included and dated) is marked by his capricious, fighting irony, the other inverts. The first stage keeps something of the atmosphere of euphoria of the hope and mercy of the new beginning of the nineties. The other is submerged into hopelessness. In first, the faith that art could actually become resistance is present. In the second half, traumatic paralysis prevails. In Šille's work, the hanging picture becomes an epitaph. A painted reminder of the dead, forgotten, lost and missing things. A gradual growth of dark colours, substituting the view from top by a frontal perspective or by a pure black surface of the background, repeating motives of the last sail, unrooted burning houses, emptiness and mainly death, loss, sadness boldly move Šille towards a much more tragic form, and force us to reconsider interpretation of the older works as well.
If Šille is looking for a path to light (es wird hell was a title of his solo exhibition in 2009), it will be – at least from the view of his current work – a more Orphic than Dionysian journey, because it is only possible on Charon's barge.
Thanks for remarks and comments to Silvia Čúzyová, Gabriela Kisová and
BESKID, Vladimír: Maliarsky kód súčasného mesta. In: Flash Art CZ/SK, 1/1 sept./okt. 2006, p. 34 - 35.
The relation to surrelalism was suggested in the opening speech of Šilles exhibition in Wannieck Gallery in Brno in 2010 by Richard Adam. The question of surrealism often appears in published interviews with the author.
MICHALOVIČ, Peter: Erik Šille. Obrazy nového sveta. Exhibition text in Gallery SLSP in 2008.
GERŽOVÁ, Jana: Rozhovory o maľbe. Pohľady na slovenskú maľbu prostredníctvom orálnej histórie. Vysoká škola výtvarných umení; Slovart, Bratislava 2009, p. 353; also see: Geržová, Jana: Maľba vo veku obrazu. In: Profil súčasného výtvarného umenia; 2009, 1-2., p. 92 -94.
ČÚZYOVÁ, Silvia: Šillem - Šilleš - ŠILLE. In: Profil súčasného výtvarného umenia; 2008, 3. p. 53.
Diagnosis ŠILLERIK – different landscape of painting
I. Work characteristics: Šille's canvases bring an inflow of contemporary visuality with all attributes of current visual language. They constitute penetrative signboards of the consumerist society. A little amusing, and a little “blue-noise” dance on the theme of fake plastic paradise. Everything blooms in red in these neon gardens: blood, wine, fires or homemade nuclear explosions. Comic books, animations, advertising logos and animals, computer games, web design and “zoom of consume” are all spilled out on the canvases. All is compressed into one pictorial space of explosive cocktail of custard chroma.
There is something sweet and childishly cute in this world: shopping bags with bomber aircrafts, toys with cakes and little bombs in a burning house. In this world, there is something corrupt and murderous: supermarket glo-balcan fuckers, sharp-teethed old scratch and other ammonites drinking oil from river with a straw (in the blood for oil programme). Clean surfaces of the rational constructions of this world are often broken down by chaotic stains, flaming tongues of paint and expressive paint “pollutions”. This all is taking place in the golden cage of painting – a picture of fascination and satiety, pleasure and alienation.
The setting for the mentioned paintings are imaginary constructed urban units, or their colourful fragments with a number of communication and canalisation connections and played-out micro situations. These Orwell-like modelled landscapes of the “beautiful new” world are gradually changed for melancholic pictures of polluted land and people. The clean panel of painting is whirled over by mini stories of characters, animals and their mutants, emerging in forms of plastic toys, figurines. They are rather lost, estranged and hopeless, thrown onto the surface of the picture of a flawless world. Bureaucrats and their cadgers appear, all knowing their “how to” and offering their “howknow” (note: phonetically sounds like “shit” in Slovak) to the crowd of headless sheep. The big-eyed message “Suck my karma” is dedicated to them.
Šille often intently paints until late night. He then doesn't pick up the phone, and this is probably when all moths and night-hags keep him company while he kills his childhood dreams. Therefore he brings a different view of the world, and epitomizes a unique “fiery” element in the landscape of our paining. Just like the street artist Otex a Owad makes his street interventions with the logo of a headless bleeding angel, or asks direct questions like: “Can we brainwash our heads in such a way that they become clean?”.
II. Artist type: The above named Erik Šille, born 1978, living in Bratislava, is a practicing artist with teaching experience. He radically opposes “brown pictures” in favour of full-blown colour – toxic, signal, custard. The explosive type resigns from painterly brushwork. Favourite technique: acrylic on canvas. Preferred format: 2 x 2 meters.
III. Generation: representative of the youngest “Mc generation” (he grows up with McDonald's, Macintosh and music MC), which directly reflects the contemporary world of the mass media, and translates it back to the canvas. Pupil of the 4th Studio of Ivan Csudai, he belongs to the strong generation of painters of the 21st century, and helps to formulate the picture of Slovak painting of the last ten years.
IV. Iconography keys: Šille composes his canvases with a critical and ironic undertone. He makes his own group of iconographic motives and their meaning traces:
a) challenging of the ideal plastic world, system of power, double game perfect-defect: flags, signs, corporation logos, defenceless heroes covered in ketchup blood (Absolut style, 2004; One blood, 2005; My sweet home, Europe, 2007; Last Boating, 2009)
b) threat and disruption of the system – flames, fire, burning Bratislava Castle, nuclear explosions, airplanes, small bombs, bombed blocks of houses (Without Effect, 2004; Massive, 2005; Empty, 2007); damaged architectures, highways, bridges, canals ( Blue noise city, 2005; Silence, 2006; If there´s information here, we´ll find it, 2007; Birds fly to the hell, 2007)
c) white parasites and their metaphoric traps: monsters, hybrids, wolf biles. In some moments they overflow the entire picture surface (I miss you a lot, 2007; If there´s oil here, we´ll find it, 2007; Hope, 2008; Where are you – mostly harmless, 2009; Mr. Pig, 2009; My demons..., 2010)
d) vulnerability, disability of the system and key ideas: bandaged leg, blood, red cross, headless sheep and does (Flowers grow from my wounds, 2007; If there´s religion, we´ll find it, 2007)
e) sweet consumerism – sweet and sour conspiracy: beach cocktails, shopping bags, supermarket buildings (Saflama beach, 2004; We also have our own supermarket, 2004; Monopublic, 2003; 2 times buy, 1 time measure, 2007; We are going to the market, 2008)
f) the troubled field of immigration and environment: dark colouring, smoking chimneys, dead rivers, sidecars (CO2 positive, 2008; Amethyst deceivers, 2011; Lack of food, lack of thinking, 2011)
V. Media orientation: hetero-medial with frequent sidestepping away from the picture surface: graphic design (CD covers, t-shirt designs), book illustrations, extraction of figures from paintings – 3D print, using drill to draw on plexiglass – light boxes; sticker infection with nickname Otex a Owad + culinary experiments...
VI. Risk groups: recidivist reforestation of paintings by mini stories, illustrative decoration with small figures, decorative surfaces and expressive self-efficient brushstrokes.
VII. Diagnostic conclusion: healthy painting programme stabilized, without significant symptoms of solidification, fully capable of artistic performance and further progress, so “still fresh and šillerik”.
Report completed by Doctor b.skid
Important warning!!! This report does not consist all requisites as prescribed by law, including attachments and documents. In case of ethical barriers, difficulties or sudden nausea please contact you art historian or curator immediately.
Erik Šille is one of the most significant protagonists of Slovak painting. His creation has been rapidly profiled as early as during the first years of his studies (VŠVU, Bratislava), when he ranged himself among the first “stars“ of the painting revival connected mainly with the appearance of the IV. atelier led by Ivan Csudai.
Šille´s painting consistently and systematically represents his own artistic voice with initial stimulation in visual particularities of pop-culture, comics and street-art. Dominant recognitory feature of his creative language is a strong influence by the digital image processing which is so precise that it even reminds us of the graphic design. Yet he never falls out of his free painting creativity. In spite of the impression of the “clarified“ surfaces, a gesture is extremely important for him, frequently it even makes the essential moment of his final expression.
His creation has been shaping so far as a continual, organic process of choice and a following development or a progressive pursuing of certain ideas. Though having a persistent definition of style, Šille doesn´t stagnate in “manner“ but still innovates and seeks the new ways within his program. Strict determination of concluded collections or periods of his works would be a bit violent effort in his case. If we really want to differentiate his latest work from the previous creation, we could draw attention to certain unification and simplification of his message and also to a more compact image set-out. As time goes by, a flavor of sentiment is accentuated in his permanent irony.
In connection with Šille´s creation, city and its microcosmos is used as a main idea basis most frequently. What is far more important is the narrative dimension of his motives, often happening on the background of urban structures. When looking on his creation from a more complex view - including his drawings, illustrations and “street-art“ realizations, Šille´s personal iconography and moment of particular symbolism rise up on the spotlight. The phenomenon of a pulsating city life is only a spawn from which the fantasy “creatures“ emerge as the protagonists of his stories or “urban legends“, more precisely. With a little pathetic enthusiasm for a good thing, we can also search for small moral lessons in his paintings, in the sense of remitting to bigger or smaller sins of consumery life. His intentions are a bit more captious – criticism is mixed with admiration, negation of one phenomenon is mixed with creation of its other variant (even more exposed) and all this is present in resonant colours and motives. Predominantly, there is always a scent of sarcastic humour. Despite of
deliberate impression of particular distance and insight, his paintings are in essence highly personal artistic expressions. They get what they deserve... ?
(Author is an art theoretician)
The artistic visual fascination of Erik Šille is pumping the energy from sources which are not very common for the medium of painting. Erik Šille is sophistically taking on the objects, themes and methods from the industrial design. Without problems, we can recognize the features typical for consumerism design on his canvas: from the graphical design of packings and iconography of advertisement and entertaining industry to the design of batch production plastic objects, usually toys. Šille transfers the techniques of drawing and the composition of comics into painting, also user manuals and computer graphics. He composes the fragments of microstories of the protagonists - plastic toys and lets them pose towards a life situation.
The world of industrial design and iconography of the advertisement media represent not only the source of portrayed objects, but mainly the source of a method of the imaging. Technique of smooth homogeneous and spotless surfaces by acrylic-paint which covers all the marks and tracks of brush tool also hides (and reveals on other level) the individual autograph to the border of denial of living, physical presence of painter´s hand. The mannerism along with the series-character don´t garant anonymity only to the figures but to a painter as well.
Or to be more exact, it would garant, if the events on Šille´s paintings would´t make totally different stories. The word “or“ is a mark of a plot and plot is an engine of stories. So what are the stories which narrator Šille makes us to watch.
I am convinced that the basis of stories clearly recognizable on Erik´s paintings is a story of fascination. Visual fascination first, but visual fascination so strong that it quickly laps over the sill of political and ethic, making Šille´s painting committed at a good sense.
The plot that we are trying to figure out is the plot of fascination itself. As already mentioned, Šille is pumping the energy from sources of industrial design. That is a fascination consisting as each fascination of two contradictory affects. From one part there is a temptation, seduction or even enchantment and the other one there is satiety, repelling and feeling of uncomeliness.
The figures on Šille´s paintings find themselves in situations that are contradictory to pure and perfect world, from which they have been excluded. These situation are at least inaccurate if not pathological, and their inaccuracy is multiplied by the ungovernableness of the given situation. The tidiness and strictly and briefly calculated perfection of plastic mannered microstories significantly contrast with the unrestrained pollution of the composition consisting of stains and blots that report a chance, expression and direct emotive presence of painter´s hand.
Story of this visual paradox is a story of agression of perfect and pure light, its violence and power of seduction. It is a story of world that wants to charm us by its perfectionalised toreutics, series-character, mass availability and neatness, relying on fact that nobody will notice any error being part of production process and appertaining to it all unthinkably.
I suppose that the presence of such production error, an scratch on perfectly smooth surface, a pertubance of seemingly faultless structure is a source of really intensively experiencing the feeling of irony that is urging us, the irony of Erik Šille´s paintings.
There is no doubt that Šille belongs to those young painters that have brought back the importance to Slovak painting. Mainly the first VŠMU exhibitions of a few students from the 4th atelier of Ivan Csudai started a discussion about the “return“ or “rebirth“ of painting. In particular because of fact that their painting is not posing as posh and comlicated, and it is not playing the role of a worried neighbours who just watches more sucessful contemporaries. Thus it becomes naturally evident that the disputant must get used to it.
Also Šille´s paintings are like that, moreover they easily and wittily work with icones and symbols of thing called Recent Epoch. Šille narrates a short story by each painting in a striking form of comics where is always something on or is about to happen. It is very clear that Šille is charmed by contemporary image of the world - by bilboards, advertisement, television, comics, street style and videogames.
But when looking closely we find out that these are a bit misleading mimesis. Along with the enchantment there goes a fear. From what? Just look closer. And that is why he was awarded by Igor Kalný prize.
Many recognizable features of contemporary world as comics, computer games, cartoon films, Internet, street style, coloured by a dose of music (electronic body music, industrial, minimal, techno, noise music, etc.), are transfered to painting language and rest on the image ground culture of swinging painting. Departing point of his painting intellection is a definition of urban cut-out, city fragment, connected architectural and social structure. But the point is not in the illustrative cut-outs of city aglomeration with a dominant story of one person. It is in the imaginary construated city units with overgrowth of social “border zones“, commuticative and canalization connectors and loosened up microstories. Basic component of mentioned paintings are urban constructions, even military order of solid architectonic blocs of perfect “new wonderful“ world, reinforced by a dynamic perspective and diagonal setting in the format of painting.
Street fronts, bridges, canalizations, gas pipes, flow of regulated rivers, these all arise on the paintings. Then small figures and symbols (e.g. red deer without head, mark of McDonald´s), lost in a position of plastic toys, figures, which are abalienated and desperate thrown on the surface of painting in a perfect plastic light.
Pure and large surfaces are dedicated to this racional structure of city by Šille, restrained in the expression and realization, supporting certain articulated briefness and homogeneous mechanic character of the environment. On the other hand, there are unbound expressive surfaces and stains on the painting, smashing the perfect system by its spontaneousness, emotiveness and presence of the painter´s autograph. We are not sure about the type of iconography – are those explosions, fires, floods, bubbles, clouds, stains, leaking in of color? In any case, we are dealing with a clear “pollution“, barbarian invasion of something incalculable, changeable, naturally liquid into briefly calculated painting pattern.
This part I consider as a major weak point of Šille´s manner of work – to know the right dose of unbound feature, so it would promote the image tension and not fall into ecquilibristic splatters, coloured tongues with a shifting to a decorative expression.
Stated image dialogue of order and chaos, purity and infection, enchantment and satiety is brilliantly supported by attacking “pudding“ colourity which overfalls in both positions, intentionally agressive, signalling, another time retiring and velvet. In Šille´s case there is certainly present a searching for an own artistic language, formating of an electrising visuality of Recent Epoch in a painter´s code.
Dr. Vladimír Beskid
In Trnava on 7 June 2006
Erik Šille – Paintings of the new world
One look and you understand that these painting are not of our world. And they do not come from it. It is a systematically Utopian world inhabited by strange creatures which don´t have patronymic or generic name even in the fantastic zoology. Thus they don´t possess and don´t need names, because words are useless for them. If they occur in this world, just look on their shape, not meaning. They exist only in the visual world where everything exists only as invisible. This world even doesn´t have paintings, because it is painting itself. It was born from combinations of lines and color surfaces and its laws are born and change with every evolution phase, which is represented by individual painting. No doubt that as every other world, this world has laws as well, it is governed by certain order, yet there is no doubt that it is closer to the architectonic chaos than to the organised cosmos. In this world everything can be connected with everything but if it is really so depends on a viewer, on what kind of fictional image he or she will read. Each can be right, each can be wrong, essential is just: to enjoy the pleasure of perceiving the sense formes.
Šille´s paintings can be approached to from formal and meaning side towards the contradictions as a harmony of the composition vs. a chaos of iconographic features, a geometry vs. painter´s gesture or a “candy“ colourity reminding us of the cartoon films by Disney from one part and a vibrating feeling of uncertainty on the other. But his paintings are more than combinations of mentioned features and as the Gordian knot, they fascinate mainly because it is not easy to unknot them. Every recipient chooses a different way.
Silly protagonists and figures from his paintings, fluffy oddities and masked fairy tales characters deal with they own troubles, similar to ours. Their world with luminous advertisement bilboards and frightful grinning creatures is not that distant from ours as it may seem. The author has been building his visual language for years, being inspired by cartoon films, comics, children corner and graphic design, thus he can playfully depict without restraints also serious issues, for example the menace of home as idylic secure island (Hope home, 2009) or the ritual of last goodbye (Prezliekol som sa a vaše predstavy došli neskoro, 2008). On one of his latest paintings (Untitled, 2009) Šille depicted a ship voyage on the background of night countryside. Reminiscencies on traditional motif are present there and also on composition of romanticism and classical modern, but the melancholy of fog scenery is interrupted by typical Šille´s moments as advertisements and electrical post which symbolically cuts the night countryside. The source of light in this case is also the source of tension and longed-for day spring stays far away.
The studio on Technická Street in Bratislava, sometime in autumn 2016
We enter a building that, a few years back, belonged to a road research institute. It feels as if the quiet spirit of the laboratory process still permeates the spacious corridors of this half-empty building. The given coordinates being “outside of town”, meaning the industrial periphery – zones of anonymous storage units, creeping consumer halls and the remnants of garden allotments. We open the door and enter Erik Šille’s studio, a space about as large as a small classroom. Like a typical studio, it is crammed with paintings, work tables, an array of tubes and paint pots, volumes of sketchbooks, books, a computer...and everything else that defines the character and interests of the studio’s inhabitant. A bicycle, drums, a coffee machine and the light glaring through the large windows too, perhaps. Although the latter is not part of the artist’s own equipment, it is so intense and so omnipresent that its clear sharpness gives each painting, each discarded object, an equal importance. Here shadow is almost absent and dimness must only come with night. In choosing this place, assuming it was not intentional on Erik Šille’s part, the subconscious must have been the major player. Not because when painting he responds to light; his paintings are not illusionistic and do not imitate the seen. That sharp light, in which everything present emerges as surface unalloyed by any shadow, has from the beginning of thinking about Erik Šille’s work crept into my mind as a fitting metaphor for his interest in detail. Indeed, his paintings are built on a dynamic reading – a taxonomic urge towards individualities. The drive towards detail is not only an important factor in the pictorial composition and the activities within it; it is also an indication of his manner of conceiving and creating his pictorial world. He does not study universal truths, and neither does he belong to those artistic researchers who extract ‘the ineffable’ from everyday corners. And he certainly does not dwell on ambivalent analyses of the validity of painting and art. He is a textbook painter and even an animator of events in the image, which he paints as a complex puzzle put together from street motifs, city sounds, rhythms of music, political slogans, as well as his own biographical flashbacks criss-crossed by the virtual highways of our media-saturated world. Constructing the image from living fragments has no end, and I imagine how he draws them in his sketchbook in a precise delineating way, places one drawing next to the other; another he discards, while he stubbornly returns to yet another. His sketchbooks contain hundreds of such drawings. Those that later appear on the canvas of the painting lose nothing compared with the fastidious originals. Instead of losing focus, it seems to have grown and capitalised on the larger format of the painting. The point of Šille’s painting stories is in the focus on detail; he builds his technique and narrative line, the story of the image, to this end. The road to this kind of method was, however, not simple, partly because it is somewhat at odds with the home-grown tradition. The key directions of Slovak painting tend rather to focus on qualities of painterly gesture in the service of various Modernist ‘isms’, or on the other hand encourage the liberation from reality towards various forms of abstract painting. Most recently, conceptual approaches towards art reframed colour and gesture in a painting as a platform for self-questioning and universal issues, beyond ‘just’ painting itself. A possible source for Šille’s painting, if we look at the history of Slovak fine art, could be found in book illustration, but which had declined many years before his period of studies. Moreover, it is no secret that the appellation of ‘narrative and illustrative’ has a negative connotation in the contemporary painting dictionary. And yet precisely at the point when Erik Šille exhibited his first paintings in the interim shows of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, the local art scene was radically changing, anticipating the digital and virtual worlds which were being proclaimed as the new future. Artistic expectations were then mostly linked to new media, and painting in that unsettled period was, for many, already ancient history. And here, into this yet undefined time and space in the year 2000, Erik Šille made his entrance as a new student of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design.
Winter interim show. Studios of the School of Fine Art. Bratislava, December 2001
Slovak National Certainty is the title of Erik Šille’s installation exhibited at the winter interim show of the School of Fine Art second years. He placed a conference table against the wall, covered with a red tablecloth. On its top he asymmetrically positioned a mirrored cube, as a setting for a ‘toy story’. Four Monchichis, popular and relatively bizarre toys reminiscent of monkeys with childlike smiles, have ‘voluptuously’ outstretched arms and appear to be enjoying their acting roles. Two are sitting on loaves of bread, while the other two bathe in milk and blood respectively. Real blood, whose distinctive stench of decay (those who were there remember it) hovered above the seemingly cheerful composition. In addition to the smell, three white ‘cocaine’ lines, trailing from the exhibited salt cellar towards the elated Monchichi, wrench the story towards an utterly different focus, where the play corner mutes into a very different performance. Even this early student work was already built on a seemingly innocuous, but in the end subversive principle which Erik Šille later often used as a reliable storytelling tenet. He brought the habit of inconspicuously entering a story from the street. His erstwhile presence in the city streets has not only a biographical value as an artist’s embellishment; it is also an undying source of themes that appear in his future painting practice.
Naturally, we begin in Rožňava, the home town, which together with Revúca and Košice (where he later went to secondary art school) formed an important life axis during his first eighteen years. Those who know Rožňava, know that it is more a town of the past, a place that ‘was’. It carries a burdensome nostalgia and today also a slow sleepiness, typical of the towns of southern Slovakia such as Lučenec, Rimavská Sobota, Revúca, or Plešivec. Until the end of the 19th century, Rožňava was an important cultural and social centre of the Gemer region, placed on the borders of two or even three cultures: Hungarian ,Slovak and German. The Second World War together with the Vienna Arbitration and subsequent post-war population exchange – the repatriations and deportations between Czechoslovakia and Hungary – began its present ossification. The emptiness, despite later patching up by new inhabitants, brought to these towns a silence, stillness, a subdued existence, so different from the post-war building boom atmosphere of the Slovak towns. Despite this ‘lost town’ backdrop, people’s daily lives were unremarkable. And yet some of them still carry with them that burden of people from the periphery and borderlands as a portable painful memory carried from generation to generation.
OTEX and OWAD and their street brotherhood
Before Erik Šille came to Košice to attend the School of Applied Arts, his life differed little from that of similar apartment block kids from small town peripheries. The coordinates of his mental world were then formed by the school and the yard, and the subsequent discovery of shared interests. According to him, these were listening to music, copying the titles of metal bands and devouring comics. Later, Košice brought a life in student halls of residence and private renting, an entry into art and music communities, and most importantly coexistence with other ‘applied arts’ peers. Secondary education is usually the period when the artistic ego begins to waken, with the need to become known in art schools usually linked to radical, anti-establishmentarian stances against any conceivable kind of authority. Together with a few fellow students and friends he made up and created the Nekromancer magazine, whose title alone reveals an abject darkness typical of secondary school teenagers. Erik Šille took part in the graphic design and illustration of individual contributions. Here he probably received encouraging feedback from his peers, since he had the courage to go beyond the sketchbook and school assignments, and so his ‘street debut’ was another natural step in his anarchic-artistic self-confirmation. The street was attractive because of its greater potential radius and the opportunity to be in unalloyed contact with real life. Street art and graffiti had by then besieged Slovak towns, and it was no hard thing for an applied arts school student to become part of the street art community, where he was known by the tags Otex and Owad. When we study this today in the few documentary photos and on extant transfers, we see rather ‘pictures’ pointing to a further branching of comic storytelling than an aesthetic street sign. Šille remembers that he responded primarily to a “visual attack, by gluing all this rubbish together”. The revolutionary idealism of 1989 was already a thing of the past, and people submitted to quotidian reality. World events moved on to the Balkans, while Slovakia witnessed its own ‘small’ breakup of Czechoslovakia, the venality of Mečiar-era politicians, and capitalism in its ‘enthusiasm’ when consumerism and freedom in their various local mutations radically transformed the country. Erik Šille’s Otex and Owad are two fictional characters which, with a measure of exhibitionism and critical distance, appear to live the streets. The intention to avoid falling into mainstream street-art production is already felt in this choice, which sent out unfamiliar signals to the streetwise audience. Otex harks back to the Socialist clothing brand while Owad, with the foreign ‘w’, is initially an unpleasant insect (‘ovad’ means horse fly in Slovak – translator’s note) but in relation to Otex it transforms into a communing pair, a bit like Laurel and Hardy, Wolf and Hare (from ‘Nu, Pogodi!’ – translator’s note) or Tom and Jerry. The first transfers were black and white: he conceived and designed them, copied them on to transfer sheets and distributed them, by himself or with friends. In Bratislava, approximately during his first year at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, his artistic process assimilated the graphic design of the Tesco supermarket chain. He inserted slogans into the blue and red typography of the chain corporate identity which ostensibly appeared to follow advertising rhetoric, but whose content betrayed a critical and mocking intent. Alongside these activist texts he gradually formed his own pictorial iconography: a mashup of popular commercial brands and figures of a lamb, a bleeding decapitated angel, or a schematic turd. He distilled a visual story on a small surface; he added the power of comic book drawing and clothed it all in a kitsch aesthetic, much of it from the worlds of Christianity or tattoo parlours. Apart from the fact that it is the significant beginning in Erik Šille’s practice, the street-art period was more of a life style than a conscious reflection on painting and image. It was surely important to live through the tempo of the street and the town’s underground currents, since he is an artist (as we have maintained from the start) for whom the real is around him, and perhaps even the primary impulse to work. “At the time it was natural for me to visit those clubs and all those places. They had music, and I was there with my parasitic transfers”, concludes Erik Šille.
“The music has to be on for me to start painting.”
If we want to understand Šille’s paintings and be able to sense all their hypertextual elements, it is crucial above all to pay attention to his interests and his unusually “leaky” awareness of everything around him. Perhaps the strongest influence outside of art is music, which in truth embraced him earlier than his discovery of art. One can trace his musical growth through his Rožňava, Košice and Bratislava periods. Music fans maintain that the nineties were, from the point of view of alternative club culture, a positive anomaly and a final romantic period when music was accepted and listened to with a feeling of mutual experience; without mobile phones and the internet, cultivating personal relationships and alliances. If the access to information was impeded by censure and bans until 1989, the nineties was the boom of everything. From self-published underground magazines to newborn punk and hardcore fanzines, MTV watching, to various forms of garage music, noise, EBM-electro body music, post-punk, electro, techno, rave, hip-hop, industrial... Erik Šille was of the music subculture, it was his home scene. Its atmosphere, the communal present of a likeminded group, all of this was engraving itself on his sensitive subconscious from which he can pick and choose today. “I like hard and constructed things. I was getting into this music at an age when the extreme, the dark and the low were exciting and attractive for me. And I began to deposit all of this in drawings and paintings. Not in grey and dark tones: the opposite. A sharp yellow has a stronger voice for me than dark graphite. When you listen to electro music, you feel how aggressive and uncompromising it is in its eternally repeating tonality and its monotonous quality. It fascinated me and it seemed natural to me to put it into a painting. If I make a large red area – it is an intensive sound to me, which is repetitive and irritating. And you put little accents into that. Really, I often thought I was doing it like ts-ts-ts. The decor in the painting is the same thing, or something repetitive.”
In the year 2000, Erik Šille applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava and, after the talent exam, was accepted that same year. Along with sketchbooks filled with hundreds of drawings, he brought his street-art transfers and their critical potential as his artistic capital. During his painstaking preparation of the transfers he gradually realised that he could work similarly on a canvas surface. But the shift from transfer to painting was not that easy. A pictorial motif earlier intended as a critical intervention and latterly examined in a painting may appear as banal agitation. The act of leaving signs on the street is imbued with poster aesthetics and the anarchic gesture. First of all, therefore, he disposed of the overbearing symbolism that usurped too much attention, and moved on to a more descriptive approach to narrative. After completing the first year and foundation course, he applied to the newly-opened Fourth Studio of painting led by Ivan Csudai. This artist managed to open the Studio in 2001 after almost a decade of running the foundation course in the painting department. As the leading painter of the Slovak wild painting generation from the eighties, Ivan Csudai was one of the few to successfully accept his digital environment and use its tools as his own. His school studio was concerned strictly with ‘painting within the image’, without challenging the boundaries of other media. This approach went against the trend of expanding the space of painting, and it attempted to claw back all focus back within the frame. The second important aspect of this studio was the acceptance of the digital environment and the transformation of the world through the media, computers and also gradually social networks. The birth certificate of the new painting had already been created in the previous decade, in the nineties. The image had already become an omnipresent icon, and its painted peer was confronted with an existential question. And the nineties were precisely the time of realisation and awakening to the fact that to reject reality was to condemn oneself to the museum relics of the past. With the coming of the new millennium, when the existence of media reality was certain, the Fourth Studio too became a child of the millennium, and so the conditions for the birth of new painting could not have been more ideal. The opening of the Fourth Studio in 2001 was by itself nothing revolutionary. The emphasis was on painting and scrutinising reality. The world of media was natural territory for the new generation and this only quickened their resolve. The teacher, still fresh, and the students, still virgins, discarded the maintained painting complex and leapt to ‘paint the contemporary’.
The first works of Erik Šille were painted on the foundation course, which was then led by Ivan Csudai in the last year before he opened his own studio. The atmosphere of the foundation was itself the creative basis of the future studio. Šille still took his first themes from those of his secondary school sketchbook, so from drawings originating in a comic book construction of the image. The single surviving painting from this series, I Am Your Town (2001) is built as a sequence, as a performance with a bubble. Although the original sketches to this painting were inspired by György Konrád’s book The City Builder, the choice of this subject during the foundation course may be understood as a shared feeling of fear of the unknown.
This particular painting may or may not have been the clincher, but Šille applied for and was accepted to continue the study of painting in the newly opened Fourth Studio. The programme of the studio allowed for the image to be made in various procedural environments, including digital media, but the irreplaceability of painting as a process was maintained. Erik Šille remembers that after a while he began to understand the words and questions of his tutor. Why does he run around the streets and work on such temporary things. Why does he do it elsewhere, when it can live in a painting. He recalls what Ivan Csudai said: “Paint it! When I showed him my street concepts, he was not interested. Where are my sketchbooks? he asked. This is where I feel his influence. In being directed and questioned. I lost interest in the ‘toilet’ and began to think about the canvas”. Everything that he kept in his sketchbooks which previously saw life on the street, he began to remake on a much larger scale. His first paintings, I’ll Give You More Bread (2001), Lowe ‘n’ Lowe (2002), Lowe ‘n’ Kraft (2002), and Lord, It Was a Sin to Unleash Pigs on Us (2001) were still influenced by street-art work as well as heraldic composition (not considering the iconography), centralised like blazoned shields. But the typically subversive brutality of Šille’s small works gained a new dimension. In contrast to the installation Slovak National Certainty (2001), which told the same story and was made in the same period, the narrative is presented rather differently in painting. His composition and construction requires a different approach, knowledge of the rules of composition and principles of colour theory, building pictorial space – quite simply, the alchemy of painting.
At the same time he made paintings which deal with issues from the music as well as art scenes. In I’ll Give You More Bread (2001), I’ll Give You More Hope (2001), Arbeit (2001), and Founder of the New Front (2001) he utilises the iconography of totalitarian aesthetics, which he places, from the viewpoint of their readings, in uncertain contexts. A detail of a handle turned so that it evokes the swastika on a dotted matrix background, or a pink hammer placed on the edge of a table, introduce a restlessness into seemingly straightforward paintings. Clearly, the gestures of Laibach, bands from the EBM scene and Neue Slowenische Kunst (NSK) were close to him, probably also because this subversively aggressive approach demands critical thinking and questioning the nature of manipulation and totality, of where national pride ends and dumb nationalism begins. His first attempts in his search for a unique painting language are evidently heavy with his previous home environments, but the recent experiences are helpful. He also admits: “I waded into things that were not very painterly, I did not look for light, and colour depth. I was not concerned with how to paint it, but with the way in which I would place it there. I was interested in what colours do when next to each other, but only in the sense of – for instance – what a red does with a pink. How two colours break up, and the eye is unable to process it. I was more interested in optical games, breaking the gaze with some kind of symbol – a complex and hard one. And that probably comes from the staunch rhetoric of the music I listened to at the time.”
Likewise, his relationship to the comic book narration of image stories was uninterrupted, and apart from drawings in sketchbooks he used it in a series of several smaller paintings (and plenty of drawings), which were all connected by a story – the fate of Mr Potato as the artist’s alter ego since the latter’s secondary school. Mr Potato is a rather sad and introspective guide who finds himself in various situations, and is quite removed from the streetwise exhibitionism of Otex and Owad. During that time, Erik Šille apparently discovered that he was not a ‘logotype’ artist, who constructs paintings purely from signs and symbols. He realised that by their duplication they gradually lose much of their power, and one day may possibly end up being an empty gesture. The figurine of Mr Potato became a kind of mental assistant – a guide who takes the painting’s story upon himself. Erik Šille is no longer the storyteller; the figure ‘takes responsibility’ and the painter becomes like someone important in the background – a director or set designer. In You Don’t Know When It Will Blow (2002), the clumsy little figure of Mr Potato fearfully balances on the ledge of a house with a kite tied to one leg, with only a gust of wind to topple him into the depths below. The painting title plays on the double meaning of blowing as taking drugs, and the standing on the edge of a ledge is an eloquent commentary on the environment he knew so well. It was a time of touching dangerous things, of discovering the city’s dark energies. With similar imagery he worked on a series of smaller paintings, which with their petite formats approached a diary as a sketch of the seen and experienced. On the painting God, Thanks for the Heroin and the Policemen Who Guard Our Children (2001) he said: “That trash crept under my fingernails. And in the studio I was interested in nothing but painting the edgy stuff I saw over the weekend. The flashing, clubs, techno parties, the lights of nonstop bars: I did my time in that kind of dirt and beauty of a city at night.”
In the third year at school, he gradually abandoned the influence of ‘the street’. He retained something of the iconographic vocabulary, including Otex and Owad, Mr Potato, Kokotor – pit-bull, headless deer and angels, or a winged spaceship. Others joined later, such as Igráčik, a plastic figurine with a myriad of expressive possibilities – as a many-layered symbol of the transformation of a human being into a mechanical toy. The final BA work, with which students assess two-thirds of their studies, was a symbolic ending of a period during which he absorbed everything from his past life and stood before another decision that ‘sealed his fate’. He exhibited the paintings Monobublic (2003), Dragon (2003) and the surprisingly expressive Wawawaw (2003), which could be understood as the crossroads of two possibilities. Should he go down the road of expressive painting, or work on ‘clean surfaces’?
From the first moment Erik Šille decisively projected his ideas into painting his drawing and painting approach was in opposition to the traditional perception of painting, meaning the mixing of colour tones on a palette and the cultivation of impressionistic or realistic conventions with colour. Apart from his empathy for harsh digital visuality, this was also a subconscious opposition to the ‘brown Bergers’, painting students from Ján Berger’s studio and their dark palettes. He sought a clean surface, intensity in colour tones, and the acerbity of acrylic paints, which according to him succinctly sum up the dynamic nineties. Along with similar artists he was compared to a painter decorator that channels the brightness of benches, or to a pasteboarder who just puts up the pictures of others. Up to a certain degree this could be correct, since traces of comics, music subculture or web community aesthetics were fully admitted in his new paintings at that time. Another important step was the enlargement of the painting format, since a clean surface resonates more powerfully on a larger scale. A large format enabled him to “increase the volume in the speakers so that the bass rips the ears apart”. Paintings of this new beginning include Ejectorr (2004), Otex and Owad Family (2004), We Also Have Our Own Supermarket (2004), TV Show (2004) or In the End You Are Alone (2004). These are the first works painted on those clean surfaces, and their visual space was an illusion of a fictitious city. The colour surfaces are built up so as to evoke the appearance of a 3D space. He often utilises the high viewpoint, and he invigorates the action in the image through precise draughtsmanship, which together with expressive and seemingly accidental ‘splashes’ created an identifiable artistic technique, becoming his ‘signature’ style for the next few years (Massive, 2005; Blue Noise City, 2005; Three Monkeys Can’t Dance, 2005; Silence, 2006).
Already in his early paintings he worked on the principle of opposites, between the lucidity of the colour field and the presence of fretting movement. The latter is seen not only in the actions of his figures, or messy colour marks or in long diagonal lines, but also in the transfer of energies within the urbanism of a city. The streets of his cities flow with unidentifiable currents that gush and surge. Spaces are submerged and drowned. The theme of energy flows is even more urgent in paintings where the liquid flows occupy ‘interiors’ (The Eyes of Stanley, 2003; My Hero Is, 2003). The physical shells of hybrid figures become an odd type of machine where the cannula and the incubator are not just props.
In My Hero Is (2003), he used for the first time the eyes typical of Japanese manga comics, with which he broadened his archive of expressive elements so that it could further develop the carefully cultivated concept of ambivalences in individual painted situations and stories. Citation and the tackling of appropriated motifs have played a relatively important role in the history of Slovak art. Šille’s approach, however, is different, as it does not use citation as a means to an analysis of the medium. He appropriates the expressive methods of consumer and pop culture, or emulates the visuality of the electronic world in order to draw near to it, and then subversively confront it. His citations are not wholly appropriated ready-mades, but more ‘hybrids’, collected from details and particulars whose originals function in the real world.
The shift towards painting. The art scene after 2000
Shortly after its opening in 2001, the Fourth Studio of Ivan Csudai in the Painting Department and Other Media became the visible proof of a return to painting, not only on the international scene but at home, too. After decades of neglect, painting once more became part of a lively (and not only polite) public discourse on the Slovak art scene. The first students of the Fourth Studio created a strong group, gathering from other studios at the end of their foundation course in the first year. This first generation of studio alumni - Michal Czinege (1980), Andrea Bartošová (1977), Martin Sedlák (1978), Juliana Mrvová (1979), Rastislav Sedlačík (1980), Erik Šille (1978), Eva Činčalová (1982), but also Monika Kompaníková (1979) and Markéta Lámošová (1980) were the co-creators of the studio’s character – with which Ivan Csudai also agreed. In the early period of the studio’s existence, painters focused above all on working with the computer, particularly in vector programmes and the manipulation of the image in various digital environments, even though later this approach in the painting process became just one of the options or, as Ivan Csudai suggests, “one of the kitchens”. The contemporary responses to the debut of the Fourth Studio also noticed this aspect in particular, even if it was an unremarkable one to the young painters. Erik Šille explains in the publications Discussions on Painting: “I like new media and I knew that painting is able to absorb the language of new media, and is able to work with it. Everyone knows that painting is a very static visual means, but because it exists in layers it can carry the information, image, or message for longer than new media. Today’s painting is able to assimilate not only the forms of new media, but thanks to computer software the painter is able to process the image and push it towards a new chromaticity... I grew up with new media, so they were a normal thing for me.”
The new painting began to be seen and perceived in interim shows between 2003 and 2004, and soon after its presence on the Slovak art scene was sealed in a series of exhibitions heralding the position of new painting. The first of a dozen more significant ones was Farbisto/dikobrazovo. Súčasný obraz – obraz súčasnosti (Colourfully/Imagerily. Contemporary Painting – Image of the Contemporary) in the Galéria Jána Koniarka in Trnava in 2004, which was organised by the curator Vladimír Beskid. The experienced painters Ivan Csudai and Bohdan Hostiňák were joined for the first time by students - Michal Czinege, Martin Sedlák, Erik Šille and Boris Sirka from the Department of Fine Art and Intermedia from the Faculty of Art of the Technical University in Košice. The second key exhibition in the country was Prievan v súčasnej slovenskej maľbe 2000 – 2005 (A Draught in Contemporary Slovak Painting 2000 – 2005), a show comprising 53 painters in the Považie Art Gallery (Považská galéria umenia). But perhaps the most seminal generational presentation was not organised by curators and institutions, but emerged from their own ranks, put together as a studio show (with guests) in the generously spaced Tranzit halls on Bratislava’s periphery by a painting student from the Fourth Studio – Juliana Mrvová. Without curating and spatial concerns, it revealed the potential of the new painting on its own, and in the following years it continued to be reassessed. But the Slovak art scene is also always a sensitive seismograph of trends abroad, which is the normal response of all smaller and local environments. On the eve of the millennium, the global art scene also witnessed a ‘return to painting’, buttressed by large international exhibitions, the publication of various surveys and monographs, and, last but not least, a heightened interest from galleries and collectors.
In painting’s golden cage?
In this regime of frequent exhibition activity Erik Šille prepared to complete his studies. Even though his and his colleagues’ work was extolled as a strong generational statement, the artists could not know how much of a burden this could be. They were not consciously struggling for a return to painting, and their youth made them an unknown quantity. “I myself did not have the chance to experience either a return or ‘unreturn’ of painting, I just came into something that already was. I did not paint as a programme. It came to me like picking up a fork at lunch.” Erik Šille’s words show that a conscious effort was an artificial construct, and if they were aware of anything it was of an environment that was sleepy and uncertain. A decade had passed since the fall of the Iron Curtain, and art scenes in post-socialist countries were in a kind of half-time, or even a non-time between what should have been, and what really was. The fact that the scene was fragmented in its interests and opinions is the natural order of the art world, but its retro-backdrop was the protracted burden of a previous age. The lost past from before 1989 was still being re-evaluated, while the present looked beyond itself, into the future. The young, ‘post-revolutionary’ artists were bonded neither by a romantic fascination with ruins, as the previous generation was, nor by any futuristic ambition to build new utopias, typical of the 60s and 70s avant-garde artists. In the uncertain world of art, they could just about seek personal prestige, since the social kind was no longer expected of them. But surprisingly it was in painting, which according to prognoses was only good for decorating living rooms, that something unexpected did happen.
In the breakthrough year 2006, Erik Šille not only finished his studies but also won the Igor Kalný Prize at the IV. Zlín Salon of the Young and secured third place in the closely followed competition for young painters under 35 years old, the VÚB Painting Prize. This focused attention by awakened institutions became the untypical accompaniment to the new generation’s entry on the art scene. The growing interest in painting was reflected not only in institutional support, but also in various financial stimuli dedicated to painting in particular. Apart from the annual VÚB Painting Prize awarded to a young artist for a painting, itself established in 2006, it was only a matter of time before the potential of young painting would begin to be assessed on the art scene.
When curator and critic Vladimír Beskid looked at Erik Šille’s paintings, he placed all that is happening in them into an apparent opposition to the imaginary golden cage. Indeed, however, the then forming construct of Šille’s paintings could signal a warning of possible snares. He often touched on this conflict: “It is as if I dressed a little figure, which carries some negative message, in really beautiful clothes. The image can be very critical in its subjects, but my handling makes it appear sweet. This discrepancy attracts, entertains, but also horrifies me.” If we take a moment here, we should probably begin with the idea that Šille’s image world is neither surreal, nor utopian, nor a fairytale; it is the image of the everyday seen and transformed by his visual logic. He transcribes reality into the language of painting and into a dialogue of two opposing worlds. He clothes the infantile in the cruel, and the ostensible harmony in his paintings is often a harbinger of calamity. Destruction hovers above it all, as an omen of the end of order (Silence, 2006; Downloading, 2006; My Sweet Home Europa, 2007). As in the painting Silence, where in an atmosphere of a sleepy town someone, on the side, “inconspicuously” draws water with a straw. But the water is a river which slowly disappears in the innards of this stranger. What will become of this is unknown, but the open ending is full of dark foreboding.
Towards the end of his studies the character of Šille’s storytelling changes. One can discern a more focused effort to a concentrated expression, not only with a leaking, light playfulness or bellicose anarchy. He cultivates ‘his words’ so that the dark message is still present, but is no longer on the surface, but cunningly hidden in various formal and thematic layers in the painting. Since it is not shoved into the foreground, poster-like, it can fade away in the many sketches and sequences with which Šille’s image story is always richly embroidered. But getting lost in a story is the natural danger of reading paintings, and so we stand before it knowing the risk. Besides, since Erik Šille uses a relatively intelligible iconographic and symbolic vocabulary, he tries to layer it with meaning in order to avoid an automatic and simplistic reading. He does not follow the path of suggestion or hints. On the contrary, he wants to thicken the plot even more and cram “into the painting as much as it can hold”. It is a joyful experience for many to move within his paintings with such freedom, in a non-linear and multilayered story, without the possibility of peering into an ‘enclosed manual’. Šille’s revolt is also felt here, his opposition to painting stereotypes originating in Modernist canons which rely on cultivating the image towards abstraction. In stark contrast, he contaminates his paintings with details, a myriad of accompanying trivia and seeming dead weight. And furthermore without distance, with an evident personal engagement and faith in the experience of painting. For him painting is “nervousness, hesitation, overlaying, overpainting and an unholy mess through which I walk.”
The first more focused and significant formulation of a legible and properly developed critical attitude came with the paintings We Are Going to the Supermarket (2007), Where Are You Going, Europe? (2006), or Sweet Home Europe (2007). The sense of uncertainty, from what could come but also what has perhaps already come, is reflected in the frightened ‘tiny eyes’ of the Europe figurine or in the violent attack of the suicidal customer. In a loose thematic series from 2007, If There Is Oil, We Shall Find It, If There Is Religion, We Shall Find It, If There Is Information, We Shall Find It, the land is assailed by hovering explorers, colonisers or demons who, in the name of something ‘higher’, occupy the country, territory, dwellings or people through their minds and souls. Another important change came gradually and inconspicuously. The palette darkened with gloomy colours, accompanied by a different means of constructing space and the painting’s entire staging. Earthy colours hark back to the memory of oil paints, which for Erik Šille represents the decelerated state of painting. It began with the slow withdrawal of demons in I Changed Clothes and Your Ideas Came Too Late (2008), and when he ‘fully’ used Van Dyck brown and placed it next to purple, it was a “declaration of death”. The personal and delicate appeared in I Really Miss You (2007) and If You Came to Us (2007), which found continuity and development in later motifs of sailing, departure, misplacements, as in Last Boating (2009) or Amethyst Deceivers (2011). He no longer built his pictures like a building set, from a plan or map. The new feeling required a new stage in fairytale gloom, nostalgic landscape and new personnel. A new motif also appears – mirrored surfaces and objects mirrored in them, introducing a new, almost meditative painting experience.
We are searching for a livelihood, happiness, something...
Almost immediately after completing his studies, Erik Šille won several prizes and worked on finding his recognisable place on the Slovak art scene. Apart from a short-lived interlude as an assistant at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design he lived ‘freelance’, which meant living with his painting as day-to-day work in order to survive as an artist. He moved several times and changed rented studios. Gradually he built his private (and so more secure) creative base, and slowly began to divide his time between the studio and his family. ‘The street’ slowly evaporated from his life, but its vestiges survive in his work as protected and still-active factors. A melancholy and sinister sadness entered his paintings; he stepped back from the strongly critical and ironic contexts which he dwelt on in the past. “I never had long periods in my life without something happening that would bring sadness along. They stay with me and rather than going to a psychologist, I say it all in painting. This emotion does, I think, play a stronger role in my practice than the feeling of happiness. I tell myself – you can’t be such a soft guy, so sensitive, your subject is steam engines and love in space, but after a while of drawing alone I find that the sadness is real and nearby. The sadness flows from me and things are easier to put together, it’s a powerful motor. And in the end it’s also a part of my favourite subjects like feeding, searching – something that we all do: searching for a livelihood, happiness, something.”
Through the Funnel of Drawing
Drawing may be a more hidden aspect of Šille’s work but it is still an inseparable part of it. He uses drawing to register and record, but also to think and compose, thus coming closer to topics and themes. This way, in dozens of alternatives, he toys with motifs in their detail, following them in their transformations, and transferring them into action situations. The drawings in his sketch books are also a credible witness to the gradual changes in his techniques and stylisations, and immersing himself in individual topics and problems. They range from his early secondary school years when he was still looking for expression while covering his insecurity by affectation, to the times when lightness and firmness of the line proclaimed a mature artist. However, what we have to say in the context of Šille’s drawing is that it is an incubator for everything which later happens in his painting and pictures. Every figure, every symbol of his iconographic lexicon, every sketch or situation is first born on paper; things are subsequently added and subtracted, characters are created, shapes and forms are fashioned. The sketchbooks filled with drawings are visual scenarios where the hierarchy of individual drawings is not predetermined. A quick sketch, perhaps only an automatically doodled memory, is an equally valid drawing with detailed compositions of the planned images. Although most of the drawings do not appear outside of the sketchbook, their incapability to be used on a big stage does not diminish their quality. Their value lies in the authenticity of the idea, the spontaneity and immediacy being the basis of Šille’s drawing as well as his auctorial approach. Scrolling through the sketchbooks and browsing through the heaps of images, we are becoming surprised voyeurs, those people who accidentally entered the entrails of his kitchen and find out that what gets out is only a fraction of the existing. Here, all the aspects examined in painting are explored in dozens of variations, in romantic, nostalgic, dynamic and aggressive moods, and in styles ranging from the constructive and expressive to the imaginative and comic-like. In his drawings, Šille can capture an invisible gesture such as the lift of an eyelid, and others which shock with the frank depiction of the pathological traits of our personal or political everyday. Hidden, but present. Browsing through the hundreds of drawings and Šille’s probing, introspective approach to the world that he journeys through and observes, it is clear that he evaluates it as not a happy and beautiful place in which to live at all.
A Japanese tale
Certain events become symbolic, however ordinary they may appear at the time. Exchange programmes, symposia and workshops are a part of an artist’s usual existence. They are an opportunity to leave one’s space and be exposed to situations outside of the studio and in different working environments in a scene abroad. Erik Šille also took part in several, but the Japanese residency in Youkobo Art Space in Tokyo in 2013 was exceptional for him: certainly because of the distance and attraction of Japan, but also for him particularly in confirming his proximity with Japan’s visual culture. He returned from Tokyo with a collection of small watercolours titled The Adventures of Junchi and Stillborn (2013) which if compared with his large paintings are only studies, documentation, ‘imperfect’ painting, in other words a missing link between the drawings in his sketchbooks and his acrylic paintings. Šille was chosen on the basis of his work up to that point, and his ‘Japanese factor’ surely played an important part in his selection. On arrival, however, he realised that large-format painting is a theme he brought with him from home, and rather than continue them fruitlessly he submerged himself in the time and unfamiliar space of the new place. On handmade paper he started to note – paint – things and events that he scrutinised and encountered. Again this was done with his vocabulary, but this time in confrontation with Japanese reality. And so he painted dozens of scenes which looked at local – Japanese – conditions and legends, ‘marked’ with his additions which situated each story in the distinctive Šille ambience. And so a Japanese wedding boat (the symbol of wedding rites in Japan) is sailed by Death, riding a three-tailed white fox, the Shinto demon of evil. A dinghy, caught up under a Hokusai wave, carries the Czechoslovak cartoon cats Muf and Puf and a Sumo wrestler holding a Hello Kitty... This Japanese watercolour series, as with other works painted in the recent years, no longer has such a strong subversive current of confrontational criticality. It has a new message of the already mentioned melancholy, and of stories which play rather on the mysterious, on old legends and strange secrets. Here he also managed to touch on the timeless principle of good and evil which, in Japanese culture, is so different from that of the Christian world. Good and evil are not strictly divided into two opposing poles, but are influenced by a long tradition of Shinto, Zen and Buddhist religion where the two forces do not have a clearly identifiable face. Erik Šille accepted this empathetic and non-judgemental understanding into his world view, and brought its possible concept home in his small watercolours. Where the famous Suicide Forest – Aokigahara, the suicidal Junshi who follows her master to beyond the grave, the screaming Toto, majestic Fuji, and the whole strange world of sentient animals, forest spirits, together with an invasion of virtual figurines bound up with human civilisation and the mortal realm, are painted as a vast Theatrum Mundi. Not as an illustration of life and existence, but as an attempt at reconciliation, dedicated to and in harmony with all that is around us.
All those hidden emotions, he wants to be sincere, he wants to scream what he feels and revive the beat with his words, he is looking for answers, and he doesn’t know that he will never, ever find out how to live from books.
Erik Šille’s current work is set up so that the terrain from which he chooses his themes and subjects is well-worn and familiar to him. From one painting to another, his visual language becomes a mutually interlinked image system with permanent or variable iconographic motifs. He has his relatively stable vocabulary of figures, subjects and situations which he stages in various ‘picture games’, mostly placed in opposition, discrepancy and introducing ‘glitches’ into seemingly functional situations. As Noro Lacko already noted in a Šille exhibition catalogue: “Impossibly, we should see his paintings as ‘realistic’, as engaged commentaries and glosses on the communally lived world of the everyday, since they are above all an exact assessment of the loss of the natural, authentic world for a media-fabricated reality.” And this latter is precisely the nodal centre of all action in his paintings, everything worth placing into the image. The fundamental premise of Šille’s paintings is the acceptance of this fabricated reality as its artistic programme, while at the same time being its greatest critic. But if this contradiction is so distinctive of him within his painting generation, on the other hand it can also be an own goal. There are a few of these landmines waiting for him, but he has managed, more or less wittingly, to avoid them for the time being. The manner of storytelling and narration in Šille’s painting language has a tendency towards complexity through various visual angles with an emphasis on detail, but always in shorthand, which can alter it into agitprop or the artist’s moralising. This may be one of the reasons why today he is exploring more universal themes, or indeed even more personal paintings that are more challenging to interpret. The other peril, from quite the other end, is the seemingly superficial beauty and shallow legibility that his paintings could be accused of. But Šille plays precisely with these possibilities, and presents them to the public as an image trap, through which arises the already mentioned conflict as an important instrument of his visual concept. It is like playing with fire, but I believe that without this ‘dangerous’ juggling his painting would fall into proven stereotypes and would lose its urgency and abrasiveness, which is only confirmed by the strongly polarised view of Šille’s practice on the contemporary art scene.
If we return to individual paintings, then now, as in the last few years, Erik Šille works on thematically linked series, to which he repeatedly returns in a continuous time loop. This principle forms the series ‘with trailer carts’ Tattoo and Tears (2011), Burial (2011), News (2011), Loading (2012), which thanks to their contents are transformed into allegorical chariots. The cart load is a theatrical expedition which, on closer inspection, is a micro country all by itself. Similarly hidden representations can also be seen in a series of metaphorical portraits of beings composed of a meerkat’s body with the skull of a male giraffe with its anatomical oddities. Here also belong bird portraits, according to traditional conceit mostly from a three-quarter angle, which depict the birds in their puffed up (chesty) majesty. (On the Road, 2011; Mr. Bird, 2010; Rooster / Mr. Bird, 2016; Mr. Pigeon, 2016; Black Sun, Black Starling, 2017). These begin to approach anatomically precise draughtsmanship, analogous to drawings in educational encyclopaedias. Indeed, he plays with refined visual loopholes, bringing out in this way the ruffled pride of all those cockerels, pigeons, turkeys and other bird ‘bosses’.
His series Sleeping Water stands perhaps at the opposite pole of his painting to date, and is again in Šille’s style a provocation of a seeming celebration of decorative painting. The series leitmotiv is a folk legend about sleeping water, which is able to keep within itself negative energy for decades and then, after being drawn out from under the earth, is dangerous for anyone who drinks of it. In individual paintings this legend is treated in several seemingly unconnected stories, but together all full of the anxiety captured in the detail – in the frightened eyes of a boy carrying a water jug, a frozen cube of sea water with a killer whale, as if drowned in laboratory formaldehyde, or in the red antlers of a sleeping roebuck in a glass of boiling water. The backdrop to these latently horrifying themes is assembled as vegetal ornament which, rather than being a neutral wall, with its poisonous beauty implies a horror reading, reminiscent of the adventures of a carnivorous plant from the now-cult film Adéla ještě nevečeřela (Dinner for Adele).
The Sleeping Water series included paintings in the shape of watermelon slices. They formed semicircular installations, reminiscent of a pie-chart. Erik Šille used and continues to use these triangular formats imitating research diagrams in parallel with some other series, such as hexagon forms, which accompany him since his school days. Most recently he has experimented with the object in space, not merely in terms of the painting and its installation. He is embarking on sculpture, or more precisely modelling. But nevertheless, his paintings themselves are already founded on a virtual construction of space, into which he inserts individual stories, views and situations. Now he simply moved into the third dimension and makes real 3D models, narrative dioramas whose visual vocabulary is identical to his paintings (Greeting for the Hlinka Guard, 2014; Little Deer, 2015; Bismarck, 2015).
Erik Šille has, for a long time now, been an inimitable character on the Slovak art scene. Although he came to prominence from the collective phenomenon of new painting, the virile post-2000 painting generation, he could no longer rely on that successful start today. The empty space which they filled at the time is now navigated by them individually. Šille’s path explores the vanishing traces of the real world and its insatiable occupation and deformation by the media illusion of consumer culture. Despite his eccentric manner, whether in painting or indeed talking, he is a careful observer. He ‘transcribes’ his experience into a symbolic, allegorical visual system from painting to painting, in the discipline of painting every day. In this most simple fact is the point of his existence with painting. Without it he probably wouldn’t exist.
 In Slovak art the characteristic of being illustrative, narrative or storytelling typified Fantastic Realism, which found its place most particularly in Slovak print and book illustration of the seventies and eighties. The Fantastic, whose sources should be seen not only in Surrealism but also in literary Magical Realism, became almost the generational testament of the graduates of the Department of Free Printmaking and Illustration of the School of Art, studying under Albín Brunovský. Many took up the imaginative-fantasy model of depiction without any amendments, which in the end led to its degradation.
 After finishing primary school he attended the SOU commercial school in Revúca in 1993 – 1996, and then continued at the Applied Arts secondary school in Košice in 1996 – 2000.
 According to Erik Šille, he worked on the magazine with Peter Demek, Ján Vasilko, Peter Beňo, the Priehyb brothers, Noro Lacko, Ondrej Bober, Peter Dubovský, and Tomáš Szekely.
 Interview with Erik Šille. 31/8/2016.
 Erik Šille: “I wanted it to be misleading and schizophrenic. Like two characters but at the same time with something that localizes me. Otex was the name of a shop, and ovad (horse fly) the unpleasant insect, but I inserted the ‘w’. The association arose when I bought a scanner, which in 1997 was a huge thing. And I scanned whatever I got my hands on. We placed things under the glass and those ‘squeezed’ images came out. And meanwhile I was scanning a horse fly and had an idea to use it in my tag.” From an interview with Erik Šille transcribed by the author on 31 August 2016.
 Interview with Erik Šille. 31/8/2016.
 Interview with Erik Šille. 31/8/2016. He is also quoted in an interview for the digital magazine Hemmet: “I listened to everything from noise to folk, indie to classical. For instance Coil, Download, Xiu Xiu, Mum, Legendary Pink Dots, Dead Voices on Air, Maria Callas, Hood, Einsturzende Neubauten, Mi and L'au, Tyske Ludder, Kraftwerk, Klinik, Dive, Apparat, The Balanescu Quartet, Ebm Industrial, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Vivaldi, Architect, Nonconformist, Joy Division, Punk rock, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Bat For Lashes, Animal Collective, Disaffected, Joanna Newsom, CocoRosie, Slobodná Európa…and lots of others.“ In: Hemmet.sk/blog/umenie/erik-sille/
 After a year, the School of Art opened three painting studios led by Ján Berger, Daniel Fischer and Rudolf Sikora. The planned fourth studio was led by Rudolf Fila for just a year, and it then remained empty for almost a decade.
 Ivan Csudai (1959) is one of the key personalities of the painting generation that arrived on the Slovak art scene in the eighties, and which was known for expressionistic painting. In the mid-nineties his practice underwent a fundamental change. He appropriated varied imagery, adjusted it digitally and then transferred it onto the canvas surface. He created a new iconography (teddy bear, skull, hare, historical interior with elements of old prints), and with thrifty use of symbolism in various layers and guises he built up his painting.
 Interview with Erik Šille. 17/1/2017.
 Interview with Erik Šille. 17/1/2017.
 Interview with Erik Šille. 17/1/2017.
 In the 2005 interim show at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, he exhibited an installation of smaller paintings titled Sweet Life, which was a kind of revision of figurines and themes from those in his paintings. Albeit there were a few ‘painting sketches’ which were also made later, e.g. Where Are You Going Europe? (2006).
 Interview with Erik Šille. 17/1/2017.
 Šille is naturally experimental with format. He compares it to increasing the sound volume. He also works with a thicker stretcher frame which converts the painting into an object, whose sides can be painted. Apart from classic formats he also uses hexagons, for instance.
 See GERŽOVÁ, Jana: Rozhovory o maľbe. Pohľad na slovenskú maľbu prostredníctvom orálnej histórie (VŠVU, Slovart, Bratislava 2009) p.361
 Quotation as a creative process, in which an artwork incorporates part of another artist’s work, was in Slovakia a frequent strategy especially for the circle of artists on the Slovak scene in the seventies. This context includes the practices of Rudolf Fila (1932-2015), Milan Bočkay (1946), Daniel Fischer (1950) , Marian Mudroch (1945) Vladimír Kordoš (1945) and Ladislav Čarný (1949).
 The graduates of the Fourth Studio were often called ‘the Csudais’, which at the beginning was a positive thing as a mark of the next generation. But it is also often used to denote a type of painting that utilizes digital tools and becomes a model for a proven type of painting.
 ČÚZYOVÁ, Silvia: Pár slov k fenoménu „Štvrtý ateliér“. Professor Ivan Csudai’s words were transcribed by Silvia Čúzyová. In: Profil, 16, 2009, nos. 1-2, p.51
 See GERŽOVÁ, Jana: Rozhovory o maľbe. Pohľad na slovenskú maľbu prostredníctvom orálnej histórie (VŠVU, Slovart, Bratislava 2009) p.361
 A Draught in Contemporary Slovak Painting 2000 – 2005. Curated by Beata Jablonská and Richard Gregor. Považská galéria umenia in Žilina, then exhibited in the Štátna galéria in Banská Bystrica and the Galéria P. M. Bohúňa in Liptovský Mikuláš, and again between 2005 and 2006 in the Galéria hlavného mesta Praha.
 The exhibition Večne hladní! / Forever hungry! Organised by Juliana Mrvová. Haly Studená 12, Tranzit workshops. 2005. Participating artists: R. Badrelin (AT), D. Baffi, A. Bartošová, M. Bodorová, A. Buchmayer (AT), M. Czinege, M. Grolmus, D. Hanvald (CZ), M. Mališ, J. Mrvová, A. Mulabegovič (BiH), O. Margaret (AT), M. Sedlák, E. Šille.
Whether it was the painting section in the 2003 Venice Biennale, organized by Francesco Bonami and titled From Rauschenberg to Murakami, or Examining Pictures: Exhibiting Paintings in MoMA Chicago and the Whitechapel Gallery in London in 1999, Painting at the Edge of the World in the Walker Art Centre v Minneapolis in 2001, Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Urgent Painting in the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in Paris in 2002, and certainly the exhibition mega project of the Saatchi Gallery in London, The Triumph of Painting, which began in 2005.
 See GERŽOVÁ, Jana: Rozhovory o maľbe. Pohľad na slovenskú maľbu prostredníctvom orálnej histórie (VŠVU, Slovart, Bratislava 2009) p.363.
 The Igor Kalný Prize for young Slovak artists began at the Zlín Salon of the Young in 2006.
 BESKID, Vladimír: ‘Diagnóza ŠILLERIK – iná krajina maľby.’ In: Erik Šille. Noir Wellness. (Krokus galéria, Bratislava, 2011) p.49
 See GERŽOVÁ, Jana: Rozhovory o maľbe. Pohľad na slovenskú maľbu prostredníctvom orálnej histórie (VŠVU, Slovart, Bratislava 2009) p.363
 See LACKO, Noro: ‘Erik Šille: Od piety z cukrovej vaty k epitafu.’ In: Erik Šille. Noir Wellness. (Krokus galéria, Bratislava, 2011) p.53. “But the making of this symbolic language moves incessantly between two pitfalls. On the one side is the danger of cryptic illegibility, a creation of a coded sequence that comes from an individual, eminently intimate experience or emotion and is understood by Šille alone; the other pole is a chasm of illustration, or poster art. The first extreme leads to the ‘paradox of a private language’ which negates the possibility of public communication and comprehensive understanding of Šille’s works. The other extreme is the opposite of thought, is a rejection of the effort to individually tackle a problem and can easily descend into affirmative illustration of public truths or public secrets. While Šille accepts the first mischievously and with verve, he tries to avoid the second.”
 See GERŽOVÁ, Jana: Rozhovory o maľbe. Pohľad na slovenskú maľbu prostredníctvom orálnej histórie (VŠVU, Slovart, Bratislava 2009) p.366
 Interview with Erik Šille. 26/1/2017.
 In 2006 Erik Šille won the Igor Kalný Prize at the Zlín Salon of the Young, and in 2009 he won the VÚB Painting Prize.
 Accessible at <Hemmet.sk/blog/umenie/erik-sille/> (retrieved 14/02/2017)
 Marian Benkovič, Pavol Remiáš: Býk. Modré hory Dobré slohy. (Artforum, Bratislava, 2016) p.128
 See LACKO, Noro: ‘Erik Šille: Od piety z cukrovej vaty k epitafu.’ In: Erik Šille. Noir Wellness. (Krokus galéria, Bratislava, 2011) p.54
 Adéla ještě nevečeřela (Dinner for Adele), Czech comedy film from 1977 directed by Oldřich Lipský, as a parody on films about invincible detectives. The carnivorous plant is a suspect.