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Avgust Černigoj
(1898-1985)

Avgust Černigoj was born on 24 August 1898 to Slovene parents in Trieste. After finishing at the Secondary School of Arts and Crafts in Trieste, he set out for Munich in the Autumn of 1922 where he continued his studies as the only Slovene at the Academy of Fine Arts. 

From there his craving for knowledge brought him to Weimar - to the famous Bauhaus school, where under the visionary direction of Prof. Walter Gropius and in cooperation with other outstanding professors on the staff (such as Johannes Itten, László Moholy-Nagy, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, etc) they tried to bridge the gap typical of 19th century between fine arts and practical art, art and technique and join them together.   

"EL" Sculpture

The reconstruction of an object dating from 1924 from the first Constructivist exhibition in Ljubljana, and which is most probably dedicated to the Russian Constructivist El Lissitzky is on display in the Černigoj Gallery in Lipica. 

The sculpture represents some sort of a synthesis of architectural details and waste elements, and contains Constructivist as well as Dadaistic elements in the typical black - white - red Bauhaus style colouring. 

Similar objects have been produced in the Bauhaus workshops, where they came from an object freed of historicism and where new images were shaped from known forms.

  •  Slovenia 1998.  Avgust Černigoj: Sculpture "El", created 1924.

The short, but intensively spent Weimar period had a profound influence on Černigoj's artistic development and gave an indelible and recognizable character to his personality as well as to most of his works. 

He became enthusiastic about Abstraction, represented in those times by Kandinsky and Klee at the Bauhaus, and above all about Constructivism, which was brought from Russia by Kandinsky (the author of the first abstract painting) whose class was also attended by Černigoj. The latter remained more or less freely faithful to Constructivist principles for his entire life. 

As early as in Munich period, Černigoj started to correspond on the basis of his acquaintance with the pianist Mrs. Karmela Kosovel with her brother, the revolutionary poet Srečko Kosovel. Černigoj recognised in him a soul mate - a man aspiring to development and search for new values - and returned to Ljubljana instead of Trieste. Infused with Constructivism, he prepared the first Constructivist exhibition in the premises of the Secondary Technical School (where he also lectured the following school year). The Baroque Ljubljana, as he named it himself, which had barely accepted Expressionism, was shocked by the sight of exhibited architectural models, reliefs and sculptures, but most of all by parts of machines, overalls and numerous politically artistic slogans, some of which were even hanged upside down, and was not in a position at that time to understand correctly, critically appreciate and contextually place Černigoj's work. 

Nevertheless, Černigoj pursued his search for new ways (and similar-minded people) tenaciously and courageously and was not afraid to step off the well trodden ways. In his most intensive and avant-garde creating he left behind many different traces and inspirations. 

As a political exile he was forced to return to Trieste in the Autumn of 1925. There he created a number of theatrical costumes and Constructivist scenes through which he broke the illusion of stage space for the Slovene Theatre at Sveti Jakob called "Public stage". It is also noteworthy to mention his cooperation with the avant-garde stage manager Ferdo Delak and his "New Stage" and magazine "Tank". 

In the period between 1927 and 1937 he found himself a job in the Trieste shipyard where he worked as an ordinary painter and decorator of oceangoing ships to make his living. During World War II he painted several churches in the Primorska region (Drežnica, Štivan near Devin, Knežak and Košana, etc). Also important is his pedagogical work extending over several years. From 1946 and up to 1970 when he retired, he taught art at the Slovene Secondary School of Natural Science and at the College of Education in Trieste. During his life he participated at numerous exhibitions both at home and abroad. He also won some awards for his work, among them the Prešeren Award for his life achievements. Černigoj spent the last five years of his life in Lipica, where in a gallery bearing his name approximately 1,400 of his works are kept. Avgust Černigoj died on 17 November 1985 in Sežana, where he is also buried. 

He introduced into the Slovene fine arts an important novelty: collage, through which he created not only new artistic values but also changed the way of understanding artistic work. Černigoj accepted fairly early on - from the Slovene point of view at least - abstract art and he quickly came closer to the world initiators of "art informel" (informal art). 

And yet, just as 40 years had to pass from the creation to the publication of Kosovel's collection of poetry - Integrals, likewise it seems that Černigoj's time is yet to come. As a person and artist Černigoj faced hardships for the most part of his life, which was marked by the constant struggle for existence and confirmation of his own artistic place in Slovene art. But in spite of all that, he kept his characteristic fighting spirit, cheerfulness and untiring diligence throughout his entire life. 

Source: Slovenian Post Office. 


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