The Great Exhibition 100 Years of the Slovenian Puppetry Art

100 Years of the Slovenian Puppetry Art

Agata Freyer Majaron, painter

There are but a few enlightened artists who know that creating puppets is a specific branch of visual arts, that it is a comprehensive work of art in motion, in space and in time, hence the artists create all performing “persons”-puppets for the given puppet performance according to their idea, set them in an appropriate space, while the figure and the space mutually create the impression of harmony or oppositeness.     

Visual art dramaturgy is a complex type of art requiring from the creators general knowledge about the rules of art, the essence of theatrical costume design and scenography, though, first and foremost, they should fully be aware of the heart and soul of the puppet theatre, which is by no means a diminished form of the “main stage”, but has its surrealistic, surprising rules and demands spatial performability. 

The artist is the director's chief associate in the course of making the puppet performance. Together, the two of them make decisions about the most important elements of artistic styling: about the selection of puppet techniques, materials, colours, shapes and proportions in relation to the puppeteer-interpreter.  It is also vital that all elements are brought into harmony, blended in a unique artistic language.

The puppet is a metaphor, a sign for a being on the stage, who, using artistic elements, suggests the viewers the understanding of his/her role in the performance. The puppet is an ideal “actor”, who - if well-made technologically - will not frustrate the creator's ideas, thus the reflection of the shaped creative skill is in harmony with rational decisions in all aspects. 

The key challenge is the director's idea: what would be his/her message to the audience by the selected topic, in other words: WHAT and WHY, and, of course, TO WHOM.  The artist answers the question of “HOW” by presenting a distinct and easily comprehensible puppet: the basic lines and colour nuances of the sketch are a search for style, whereby selecting the right technology is a significant part of artistic dramaturgy, since it is the skeleton of any puppet performance.

Slovenian artists have always been readily contributing by their personal “handwriting” to the directors' requests for staging puppet performances.  Often times, they implemented their own sketches themselves, of course, guided by  puppet makers. Puppet makers provided suggestions to those, who were “freshmen” in the visual dramaturgy of puppet performance. Their knowledge and creativity enabled that, on the stage, life is given to puppets made after sketches. The first one in the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre who technically invented a unique marionette control bar, the horizontal “Ljubljana-type balance” was Ciril Jagodic. His work was continued by Mitja Ritmanič. Among significant puppet-makers were: Anja Dolenc, Zdenko Majaron, recently settled in Slovenia Ivica Bilek, Breda Varl, Branko Caserman, Slavko Rakuša, Jože Lašič, and the younger ones: Žiga Lebar and Zoran Srdić Janežič. 

The exhibition displays a selection of puppets created by the most outstanding Slovenian artists, who have been designing puppets for Slovenian puppet theatres since the early 20th century. 

The founder of the puppet art theatre Milan Klemenčič (1875–1957) was educated in Europe and transferred the Italian and German tradition to Slovenia. He committed himself to Venice-style marionettes.  He pointed out several times, that his puppet performances were his most important exhibitions at the same time.  

Dr Niko Kuret(1906–1995), our well-known ethnologist, the pioneer of hand  puppets, in the 1930s introduced in puppet theatres a Slovenian hero, Pavliha  instead of the “German” Kasperle. He advocated that hand puppets should be present in each school, each home.  

Sculptor and painter  Nikolaj Pirnat (1903–1948) had sketched a number of marionettes for the Partisan Puppet Theatre (Partizansko lutkovno gledališče), which were then shaped by the sculptor Lojze Lavrič (1914–1954).

The artistic image of first period of the new, professional Ljubljana Puppet Theatre (Lutkovno gledališče Ljubljana) led by director Jože Pengov, was lent by three outstanding artists-sculptors: Ajša Pengov (1913–1983), Mara Kraljeva (1909–2011) and Slavko Hočevar (1927–1996), who committed their art work to designing puppets.

In that period, puppet sketches for the Ljubljana Puppet Theatre were also made by the most renowned painters: the symbolistFrance Mihelič (1907–1998), the expressionist Tone Kralj (1900–1975) and the illustrator Marlenka Stupica (1927).  

During the 1970s, the puppets were created by excellent painters and illustrators:  Tomaž Kržišnik (1943), Kostja Gatnik (1945), Eka Vogelnik (1946), Matjaž Šmit (1948–2010), Marjan Manček (1948), Marija Lucija Stupica (1959 – 2002), Danijel Demšar (1954) and the film director Jaka Judnič. Among the best Slovenian visual artists, who devoted part of their work to puppet art are: Jože Ciuha (1924) and Jože Tisnikar (1928–1998) and the sculptor Peter Černe (1931–2012).

An important contribution to the excellent visuality of the Slovenian puppet performances was given by artists who devoted most of their creative work to shaping and building puppets, not only in Slovenia but elsewhere in Europe, in the well-known puppet theatres: Agata Freyer (1945), Breda Varl (1949), Silvan Omerzu (1955), Alojz Zorman Fojž (1952) andBarbara Stupica.

The exhibition is made complete by the puppets of outstanding artists:  Igor Cvetko (1949), Jasna Vastl (1971) and Gregor Lorenci (1973).

Translated by: Erika Papp


Narodni muzej Slovenije, Ljubljana / Slovenia:

21st of March - 8th of June 2014

Etnografski muzej u Beogradu, Beograd / Serbia:

15th -  30th of June 2014

JU Muzeji Kotor, Galerija solidarnosti - palata Pima, Kotor / Montenegro:

3rd - 11th of July 2014

Galerija "Velimir A. Leković", Bar / Montenegro: 

July, August 2014

EtnoArt galerija, Zagreb / Croatia:

1st - 15th of September 2014

Moderna galerija "Likovni susret", Subotica / Serbia:

21st - 27th of September 2014

Koós Iván Gallery, Budapest Bábszíház, Budapest / Hungary:

1st - 15th of October 2014

Galerija likovne umetnosti - poklon zbirka Rajka Mamuzića, Novi Sad / Serbia:

17th - 31st of October 2014