Slavko Kopac, Shipwreck - 1947/48
Shipwreck – 1947/48

Slavko Kopac must have encountered some kind of god on his path during childhood. I can imagine him playing in the pebbles of summer at a distance from his playmates – daydreaming no doubt – not exactly lost but straying somewhere for a while, no longer finding the way and being obliged to discover a new path. And here he encounters a god. Do not laugh, these things happen. At least to children who know not to wear blinders. It was a young god, too luminous for the child to see his traits. Yes, a young and radiant god who appeared on his path and called to him.

“Hello Slavko, I am here to give you a gift. What would you like?”

“Tell me the way home.”

“Go before you at your desire and do not search for your house. Your house is anywhere that you want and when you want. I offer you these soles of wind, they will permit you to always return home, whenever you want.”

Slavko Kopac, Deer at watespring - 1947/48
Deer at watespring – 1947/48

Since then Slavko always wears his soles of wind. Also, wherever he is, he is always at home. This is what gives his work, four decades long, its familiar tone, its apparent spontaneity, its freshness, its smiling naïvety, its optimistic fantasy, its poetic sensibility, its gracious imagination

It is not easy to give him an epithet. Naïve? He does not have this application for minute detail which is generally attributed to the naïve painters. Primitive? Yes, if we allude to this first movement which he continues to have confidence in, but this word is also too ambiguous. Brut? Yes, by allusion to this art brut which with his friend Dubuffet he was the principal initiator in constituting the famous collection now in Lausanne.

The problem is that the form of art we are concerned with and which more or less designates the three preceding terms is generally the work of rough, wild, or even people on the verge of a nervous breakdown who cultivate their strange genius in private. Kopac is not like that. Surely because of the god that had given him the gift of lightness. Surely he is on the side of this strange art which he breathes but in his own manner – and this is a particular quality in his way of holding himself at the edge of dreams without losing himself within.

Slavko Kopac, Tree + birds - 1964
Tree + birds – 1964

Morever, Kopac had a dream one day (but was it really a dream?). He was playing truant hiding in the bushes in rocky hills and since he had been walking in the sun he sat down on a rock to rest. He looked at the sheep half-way down the hill grazing for some dry grass and all of a sudden he saw in front of him, without having heard him coming, the Green-Bearded Shepherd. The Shepherd smiled and looked at him without saying anything. He then took the stick he was leaning on and put it to his mouth. It was a flute and he played a limpid, bright, airy, luminous air. Then he disappeared the way he had come. A source was now flowing where the Shepherd had been standing. Kopac drank from this water, and feeling refreshed, climbed higher. As the night fell, he found a cabin and passed the night. The walls were white and he was not sleepy. The moon was rather clear and he covered the walls with drawings which he did with the coal from the fireplace.

Later, an adult, wearing his soles of wind, he tried to find the cabin on the mountain but no one had ever heard of it. Or of the Green-Bearded Shepherd. But we know, of course, that they exist, because Kopac exists. Kopac exists with his light hands out of which, like joyful bubbles, come drawings, paintings, collages, and sculptures; each piece of his works is an unexpected apparition, the awakening of an original being on the surface of a wall. Here is the very purity of life.

Slavko Kopac, Oak, 1985
Oak, 1985