“The Riverman” story

28th March 2017

For those of you who haven't seen this painting yet and ask yourself "what the ...?!" is in the background of my home page - this post should bring some clarity. It's "The Riverman" painting and if there is one painting that I'am really proud of it's this one. Don't get me wrong, Iam proud of a lot of my paintings, but this one has a special place in my heart for a lot of different reasons. And that is why it's the first thing you see when you visit my site.

This painting started out one morning as a vision while meditating. An image appeared of this half frog/fish half man person, sitting on a rock, staring in my direction. It was a clear and vivid image, as vivid as a dream. It got me on my feet instantly and I made a quick sketch of what I have just seen, thrilled by the experience.

It was at that time when I was experiementing with a new painting approach and for this purpose I was learning different poems by heart. One of the poems on my list was "Povodni mož" (The Riverman) by one of the Slovenian greats, dr. France Prešeren.

The poem tells the story of a beutifull, charming yet picky young woman named Urška for whom no one was quite suiting until one day a sexy motherfucker comes by and proposes her with a dance. She happily accepts the invitation and they start breaking it down. The party doesn't last long, suddenly the sky is filled with dark clouds and the river opens up as the handsome guy takes Urška underwater - never to be seen again. It was the Riverman.

For me, the appealing part of the poem has always been the pagan-water-diety-like figure and then when I was treating it with such attention and incorporating it im my work process by reciting it, it spontaneously showed up in my mind that morning. And the cool part was that it did not really show itself. No, it retained its mystery by being concealed amidst the shadows. As seen on the painting.

Pop! And this is how the journey began. For the next year and a half I was intensely working on my vision of the Riverman. And the painting has been waiting "almost finished" for some time when I found out about an international art fair in Oxford that I wanted to attend. Because I didn't have much time left until the fair started I had to take a leap of fate and quickly finalise The Riverman because if I was going to go to Oxford I intended to bring along my best. I finished the painting in time and I got admited to the fair as well.

Once there, the [loud cymbals in the background] INTERNATIONAL art fair turned out to be a joke and a dissapointment (more on this in some other post). But it did nevertheless push me to finish the painting which might as well have taken me another year (or ten or twenty years) and the whole experience was still worthwhile beacuse it was in Oxford that I've learnd about the Summer exibition that is held by the Royal Accademy of Arts in London - every year for nearly 250 years. Even during the war. Nothing stops the british from having an art exhibition, not even Adolf Hitler and the Luftwaffe.

So the RA's Summer exhibition 2015 became the next big thing for me, in fact the biggest one so far might I say. I applied and in the following months got through all three (and the extra fourth) rounds of selection with The Riverman painting. Except that I chose to call it "A Toast" at that time for storytelling purposes. Btw Iam a HUGE story teller [sic].

So, everything transpired smoothly and I got to visit London's Royal Accademy for the first time in my life - as an exhibitor having my painting exhibited alongside Michael Craing-Martin and Olwyn Bowy and the likes - a privilege I did not anticipate that morning when I saw the half-frog-man. Freezing cool. The Riverman was quickly becoming my best friend at that point.

Back home this brought me to the attention of the Slovenian media and after a few interviews and a letter, The Riverman painting ended up hanging in the Slovenian National Assembly for a few days during the Prešeren's day, one of the the biggest national holidays celebrating the great poet. And culture. Needless to say - I had a blast. Just look at my face (standing next to the President of the National Assembly and my painting).

the riverman slovenian national assembly Milan Brglez Rok Slana

Rok Slana with the President of the Slovenian National Assembly, Milan Brglez (photography by Bor Slana)

the riverman slovenian natinal assembly prešeren's day celebration

Painting of "The Riverman" exhibited at the main entrance of the Slovenian National Assembly (photography by Bor Slana)


Now on a more serious note: the unpleasant truth is that no matter how cool all the above sounds, considering the investment, The Riverman didn't earn me a dime. In fact I spent most of the money I had for the two exibitions in Oxford and London hoping secretly for some kind of a break through. But nothing happened. Well, actually something did happen. A stark realization hit me on my way home: Exhibiting abroad is a money hungry beast that you need to feed for a while before it gives you anything in return -if anything at all- and that its alternative, exhibiting in the home village of Slovenia, is just not worth the fucking effort. And that I need to get a job, ha!

So that is the story of The Riverman painting so far and why it resides in a special place in my heart as well as on my site. The painting itself has not been exhibited since and it will stay incognito for the years to come. Thanks for reading.