Face to Face, Shoulder to Shoulder


It is not a secret, and it is not a surprise. When looking into the world of
paintings by Peter Ojstersek, it becomes evident very very soon. Our man has a
mission. Our man has an obsession. And his mission and his obsession is faces.
You know, an unknown face in a crowd, a familiar face in the mirror, a face
that haunts you through the memory lane, or a warmly smiling face next to you
when you wake up. Yes, that’s what he is about: faces and the hundreds of
thousands of nuances, implications and openings that come along with them.

But why? The answer is self-evident. Ojstersek is fascinated, he is caught in
the middle of the riddle. It is all about identity. Who we are,where we are,
how we are when we are alone, together next one another in a bus or emotionally
confused and entangled while dancing the night away. It would be silly to say
Ojstersek’s theme is identity as such. It is much more complicated, and at the
same time much more simple than that. He is not so much amazed by identity as a
general concept but about the small changes of character, the tiny little
alterations of the rhythm of our live, our love and our hate. In short:
anything and everything that arrests the eye. For Ojstersek, if anything, it is
about details. Connotations and notions that make us ache, burn and heal.

And yes, as said, his chosen focus so very often is a face of a person. A face
as in an opening, as in an invitation to come closer, to be with - to talk, to
walk and the sleep with. A merry-go-around of collisions and caressing,
mesmerizing beauty and bizarre hardships. It is the constant back and forth
movement. A certain kind of physical act during which the particular face in
question gains its force and substance. It slides and shapes into something
else, something that we are accustomed to call a painting.

It becomes more, much that just another face. It turns into a singularity of a
version of a subject. An identity that extremely convincing, but not
sentimental. No no no. It is not an address to another view of the sentimental
season, but yes, always a sensual set-up, a moving and caring contextuality.
Something that is not scared to be naive, but naive in a sense that allows
conflicts and confusion. It is somewhat strange to witness Ojstersek’s ability
to put the atmosphere right, and to put it right on the spot. It stands for the
hearth-felt necessity to share, and to trust what you got in - there and then
and nowhere else - in your hearth and in your soul.

What we see is faces on a surface. A surface that is not taken for granted.
Interestingly enough, Ojstersek’s obsession with the rigid framing of the theme
has motivated him to experiment instead with materials. It is a long and
absolutely continuing journey during which he has materialized, for example,
his versions of singularities of given faces on wood, duplicating the other
half with mirrors, and adding a tough florescent light on them. It is a body of
work that almost with a certain hurry has tried wide variety of strategies how
to pin down and then to lift up again what he sees in these faces - faces
picked up from magazines, old photos or people invited to stand in as a model
at the studio.

It is a collection of material strategies that end up causing a bit of
confusion. One could claim that little less change and little more staying put
with one format and matter would have helped to bring the painting together as
a whole. However, this sensible claim is not valid. It is perhaps logical, but
thank god and anyone who is willing to listen, paintings are not about logic or
rationality. In other words, Ojstersek definitely needs that room to move, those
different surfaces to play around. He needs them to get the needed air of
perspective to the very powerful theme he so well has anchored his paintings
into. He needs them to set the movement of identity process into a motion. He
needs the eminently lurking failures, the possibilities of burning his fingers
and his touch. He needs, in the words of the classical pop song, to get down to
get up.

And when he gets up, what we have is something that cannot be traded off or
traced back. We have a face, a site, and a situation. We have an example of
identity as a process of moving back and forth, constantly back and forth. It
is a face that does not derive its power from the glossy magazines, or from
some kind of extraordinary event of attitude. Like the interiors Ojstersek has
been lately experimenting with - works combining possibilities of painting with
tongue in cheek ways of doing installations - his theme park is embedded deep
inside the everyday structures and habits of our hearth. It not a fancy
restaurant, but a perfectly normal kitchen. It is not about jet-set items, but
utilities such as toilets.

Ojstersek has the eye, he has the hearth, and he has the hand. And it all leads
into the domain of everyday practices. Not necessarily towards a glorification
of daily maters of making tea and sharing cookies but the raised awareness of
who we are, where we are, and how do we conduct our everyday practices in our
lives. It is about being aware of how that where we are and find ourselves at
always affect us, but also about being aware how we can also at the same affect
those sites and situations, structures and systems.

Paintings about faces, paintings about interiors. Face to face, shoulder to
shoulder. They all come together, they all sing together, and they all swing so
so slowly together in the tune of the message that spells the joy of
acknowledging the bits and parts, the details and nuances of our being in the

Mika Hannula