Awaiting Venice Biennale 2024: Jure Kastelic

We met Venice based artist Jure Kastelic in his studio in Castello.
by Lara Morrell
Lara Morrell
Jure Kastelic

Tell us a little about your background and genesis as an artist..

I was born and bred in Slovenia. I’m from a town that used to hold a documentary photography festival, so I got into photography from an early age, I learnt the basics and about the narrative behind documentary photography. The festival hosted photographers such as Martin Parr and we did various courses for a week in August, I think that kicked my artistic interest into gear and got me to start thinking about art in general. I won this little open call through the local National Geographic magazine, and I was given a camera as a prize, this was at the age of 12 or 13 years old.


After I finished high school, I moved to Brighton to study photography and after about three or four years, I moved from Brighton to London to look for a job. I was looking for jobs that would sustain my art practice, a studio and also keep me afloat with life in London, which as you know, is very expensive. I was lucky to get a job at Massimo De Carlo Gallery, where I worked as a registrar, I learnt a lot about why people buy artwork; I saw the insights of lot of artists, their practice and I became more and more educated in contemporary art, not just photography; and that shifted my interest to start painting.


After a few years, I managed to quit and follow my dream to keep working as an artist and began to commit 10 to 12 hours to my own work. But that also meant that I needed to get out of London. Covid was the perfect bad situation that led me to leave.

During Covid, we produced an exhibition in Tenerife – in our apartment where we were stuck at the time; I then virtually shared my new works that I made in Tenerife and that kickstarted a series of events and exhibitions that I produced together with my wife. After the first show in Tenerife, we then went to Milan, where we worked with a space called Fabio Gatto Showroom and we showed 21 of my paintings – that proved to be a good springboard to then move to Lecce, where we produced a very hyper-local exhibition with lots of Italian artists and artisans, mixing design, fashion and technology with my own paintings. We stayed there for about a year and a half; and then afterwards we were looking to settle, we’d tried different places and we loved Venice the most and so this is where we are now.

What is your main medium, and are there recurring themes or motifs in your work?

So my practice is now focused on painting and all my research stems from three main topics: Desire, Values and Mythology. This goes back to my own profound interest of existing as a millennial and understanding how I can use finance as an adult to get on the ladder of owning a home or real estate; and it’s something that proves to be more and more difficult, especially for our generation.


So we circulate around these topics of desire and value, as in the sense of why do we ascribe a certain value to a block of gold and looking at ways to see value as not just as a currency that we use, but also what do we assign value to, that will hold value for the future and not just for now. I do a lot of research around contemporary currencies, I look at the evolution of money – I read back through things such as why did people use shells as the first concept of money, why they were using salt and then it eventually came to gold.


Then as a millennial, I’m obviously very interested in new shapes of money – cryptocurrencies. So I look at the whole phenomena of the communities that are formed around these new philosophies of why we ascribe values to something that is absolutely digital, but it has a very real physical value.


I follow a lot of dissidents, for example Edward Snowden or Julian Assange, people that are prepared to absolutely sacrifice their own private lives for something that is, perhaps hard to hear, but has a certain truth to it that gets revealed. So, it’s basically just the idea of having such strong commitments and values to follow them through, also for the sake of your own private life.


I like to utilise motifs that are timeless, something that cannot be placed in contemporary. For example, in Classicism, where painters were looking at ancients like the Romans or the Greeks, in order to apply the ideas of their time as something that is less spoilt, pure in a sense.

Because we are in Venice and there’s never much space to be creative, I’ve tried to adapt and have started producing paintings where I don’t need to stretch them until necessary. I paint on jute which is a very structured, hard and absorbent material and rough. I really like how paint responds to it, lots of paint is needed, I use a lot of washes, a lot of layering, essentially.

What is your relationship like to the city of Venice?

The story of Venice started when I met my wife, we used to live together in London and after all of our trips around Europe and going around doing projects, we started looking for a place where we wanted to be more permanent or just have a proper home finally. So we chose Venice because of geography and because I’m from Slovenia and she’s from Veneto.


For us it was very important to be closer to family and bigger groups of friends that either live here or are very close. Then, there’s also the consideration of work, we both work in the arts and at least twice a year Venice is very relevant, beside the quality of life.


We are planning an exhibition during the Biennale in April and I’m also working on a group exhibition in a newly formed foundation here. We love Venice, we love the people, we love the geography, we love the history of it. We used to live in Lecce in the historical centre.. we love the feeling of living in a museum; and so, now, Venice made absolute sense to create our lives here and do #adulting here.

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