Is Political Art Pushing Other Forms of Art to the Periphery?

Fascism, Feminism, Anti-Capitalism, Refugees, Human Rights — these are the terms which are now defining and re-defining postmodern art; and considering the roaring success that political or protest art is being met with by a large demographic of enthusiastic armchair activists, it would not be a bit of a stretch to believe that any budding artist’s secret to create a furore is to jump on the political art bandwagon.

Still, the question remains: are other forms of art being wilfully ignored or neglected by the mainstream art world? Post-Expressionist landscape artist, Tjaša Iris seems to think so, as she believes that the current system subsumes only politically-oriented artworks under the broad and variegated category of art, thus marginalizing those whose style differs. The famous German philosopher, Theodor Adorno once remarked, “Behind every work of art lies an uncommitted crime”, indicating that art, no matter its style or theme, is a force of revolutionary change, a force to be reckoned with. So, Tjaša is indeed bewildered that her sensitive portrayals of nature should be deemed “unimportant” especially in an era where massive technological changes, urbanisation, and overwhelming consumerism have alienated us from nature and contributed to its destruction. And she attributes this dismissal to postmodern art’s scant regard for modern aesthetics, which is more about reflection and contemplation.

Tjaša Iris with her painting, “Path in the Garden”

�,Born in Yugoslavia (present-day Slovenia), Tjaša Iris began experimenting with landscape art rather early in her career as a Post-Expressionist colourist. Despite the political upheavals in her homeland, Tjaša says that she resisted the urge to do political art and instead persisted in losing herself completely in nature. Since then, she has transitioned from painting sultry Southern European landscapes to capturing the exuberant tropical beauty of South-East Asian gardens. Still, the notion that communing with nature is a form of escapism exists. Describing this communion as “normal human relations, Tjaša believes that with the intermittent collapse of political and economic systems, wo/man’s connection with nature, over the decades, has been dissolved much to our detriment. Hence, she has taken the prerogative to paint works that would penetrate the “noise and smoke” of political mayhem, thereby reinstating art’s original purpose: to elevate the human spirit.

Tjaša Iris’s art mainly focuses on colour and the effects it has on the human mind; hence, her compositions are reproduced in different vivid colours. For example, her limited-edition artwork, “Path in the Garden” has the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ orchid archway repeated in lemon, violet, blue, pink, and orange. Tjaša describes this style of art, which is reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s, as surrealistic, for it does not deliberately seek to abide by any strict concept or idea. In other words, she just lets her art take its course, “like the blooming of a flower”.

But, of course, the refusal to cater to mainstream tastes does have its downside: recognition is hard to come by for artists, who do not treat political or social issues or whose works are not deemed subversive enough. Tjaša feels that this favouritism towards politically-oriented works ironically roots out the subversiveness in the said art as it eventually becomes absorbed into the mainstream via mass consumerism. She then cites George Orwell’s “1984”, whose status as a polemic work led people to consume it in droves, only to nullify the dystopian novel’s impact over time as it ceased to excite controversy. However, Tjaša believes that despite occupying the periphery, her art will continue to endure, as it is not only a testament not to human fallibility and impermanent institutions but also a stairway to nature.

“Sunny Stairs and Flowers”

You can find Tjaša Iris’s works at