Creating a work of art is a process, a journey from an idea to its realisation. When the artist completes it realising that he has succeeded in translating everything he has imagined and desired into an artistic, visual state, he signs his work. The signature on the painting is like a stamp that reads “completed”.

To begin the story of Simon Tratnik’s artistic work at the end of the process may seem unusual, but at the same time his final act tells us a lot about his artistic expression and opens up our view of his creative horizon, revealing his fundamental characteristics, contained in the diversity of his work. The spiral with which he signs his name is truly a kind of a seal, an emblem in which is concentrated the artist’s creative identity, oriented towards symbolism. In the serpentines of the spiral, we can also detect the initial letters of his name.

Artistic expression, empowered by talent, inclination, feeling and joy, has been present in his life since childhood and has left many creative traces. Although his career path took him to pharmacy, his connection with painting has remained and continues to deepen and deepen. Like a kind of contemporary alchemist, Simon Tratnik entered this exciting world and began to systematically explore the possibilities of artistic expression in terms of colours and shapes, lines and points, compositions and painting techniques. He analytically approaches the technical and technological possibilities offered by acrylic paints, to which he sometimes adds other media in order to discover new and different effects so as to better express his imagination.

His works are stylistically diverse. Interpretations range from the real to the expressive, pausing at different levels of stylisation, encountering cubist solutions and reaching geometric abstractions. Symbolism runs through these solutions, as the artist wants to say something in a deeper, indirectly cognitive, metaphorical and associative way. He also wants to turn the invisible into the visible. Doing so, he uses
both general symbolism and personal, intimate symbolism.

Simon Tratnik’s paintings are recognisable above all for their expressiveness and the strength of their colours. The artist is a colourist who loves colours, which he takes from a wide-ranging colour palette. He favours the intense, concrete, glowing ones, which he brings into dynamic confrontations to realise tonal gradations that lead him from panels in dark edges to bright and illuminated centres.

To him, colours are not only the material for creativity, but he also uses them to express his thoughts, his states and his attitudes, which is why his palette is symbolically meaningful. Drawing is important to him as well, as this most elemental means of expression appears in his works in both an active and a medial role. However, decisive and fluid at all time, it sometimes appears even as a superficially exposed contour trace.

The author creates out of himself, revealing what is inside him. To him, painting represents a world of freedom in which he follows only his inner call, his heart, without censorship, distanced from the current trends. His creative ritual, however, has an important and solid essence, a thoughtful and deliberate organisation in which artistic beauty is encoded. Namely, the foundation for the conception and construction of artistic compositions lies in the golden ratio. Thus, paintings are built with symmetry and proportion, which are generally considered the most beautiful and harmonious proportions. The spirit of aesthetics is also present in the dialogues of opposites between dark and light, light and shade, smooth and structured, soft and rough, rounded and angular, present and absent, and is established in the relationships between detail and the whole.

In painting, he follows his personal perception of space, time and life, his own philosophy and a kind of energy painting of the interspace – painting things that are often invisible to the eye. His work also echoes feng shui, and when painting trees, he even associates his creative actions to the principles of bonsai. These are all ways and approaches to establishing balance, creating rhythms and harmonious concordances which manifest themselves in his painting. Alongside all this, science, especially mathematics, and numerology, also plays an important role in his works, as the golden ratio is often blended into the vibrations of the numbers 3, 6 and 9.

The artist is very fond of combining his paintings into multi-part units, most often triptychs, but also diptychs and other polyptych forms, as he is unable to tell the desired story by only one single painting. Indirectly, this way of painting brings to mind multi-part altarpieces. In painting, the artist is also constantly confronted with the question of how far in space the image reaches. He addresses this reflection, otherwise linked to the creative practices of modernism, in a personal, philosophically supported way. He creates paintings which invite the viewer to enter into them, but at the same time the paintings also provide an open flow into a wider space. His works also involve another ingenious solution that most often remains hidden, namely the duality of the painting, comprising both the front – the visible field, and the back, where the artist creates a single detail, a symbol, a kind of a gist or mental concentrate. Simon Tratnik’s works are created on panels, as the painting screen also acts as a palette for him to mix colours.

The varied oeuvre includes motifs with a recognisable subject matter, some of which also belong to abstraction. The artist most often depicts roosters, fishes and trees.

The rooster is known as an emblem of pride. It is a sunny symbol and the Japanese attribute courage to it. In the Bible, it is a symbol of wisdom. In the works of Simon Tratnik, it is presented in various ways and in various roles and meanings. Applying a symbolist approach, the artist observes the process of rooster creation in an egg, then leads the rooster through a series of artistic metamorphoses and also paints it as an exaggerated image, with strongly emphasised attributes.

Likewise, not only is the fish part of the animal world, but it bears its own symbolic significance, both in different cultures and in Tratnik’s creativity. It is a symbol of the element of water, life and fertility. It is associated to both Christian iconography and Chinese iconography, where it represents a symbol of good luck. In Tratnik's paintings, the image of the fish is varied, artistically articulated, imagined in various colour and design concepts, and in some solutions, it even provides a grotesque effect due to the distinctly sharp details of the form.

Trees hold a special place in the paintings of Simon Tratnik. In form, they consist of a strong trunk and balanced branches arranged in a triangular form. The branches most often end up spiralling. Such is the artist’s archetypal image of a tree, within which he unleashes his own imagination, which leads him to motivic transitions between tree and man where the trunk becomes a corpus, but also a fairy world. And above all, the painter accentuates symbolic meanings through numerous details.

The paintings dominated by the tree cover a wide range of various contextual accents and deeper meaningful contents. Namely, the tree is otherwise considered to be an extremely energetically advanced and rich creature, and is the element of the natural environment which bears special and numerous symbolic values. It connects earth and sky and thus ascends into the spiritual world. The artist deals with the scenes in question by introducing various, even numinous themes. Alongside the plethora of small-format works in which he is preoccupied with the aforementioned motif, there are no fewer than twelve large-format paintings which he has planted with a different tree each time, and not just one single tree. Instead of looking at the root system, he has created yet another tree as a mirrored variation. This concept allows us to look at the image in two ways; reversing it we get two variants of the same image. Thus, in the artist’s symbolist ecosystem, a whole forest of unique, inimitable, one-of-a-kind trees is created.

Despite vibrant colours and forms, despite the special power that the paintings exude, despite their fascination and communicative quality, a lot remains mysterious about them. Simon Tratnik’s ontological ambivalence leads him to establish a discourse with geometrically stylised forms, with primal shapes that carry divine geometrical power, and possess eternal wisdoms and symbolic messages. In this way, the author demonstrates a desire to transcend the reality. It is the elemental forms, signs and symbols that are the building blocks of his works which allow him to create his own intimate reflections. The spiral or vibe that accompanies us throughout the painter's oeuvre, evoking the development of power, also indicates the artist's progression, his own evolution and the wide-open possibilities of new creative beginnings.

Author: Anamarija Stibilj Šajn, Slovenian art historian, curator and art critic