About the Artist
The artist says:
“Being from Macedonia, the influence of Byzantine art is present in my work: figuration and symbolism are dominant. My individualistic approach comes from inner explorations and my personal struggle to initiate a symbiosis between tradition, my deep thought and beliefs. This includes the emotional. This rational thought and this treasure of irrational and subconscious information are brought together in a certain intuition. Based on anthropology and mysticism, intuition was explored in the 20th century by Gustav Klimt and Odilon Redon, but for me it is Byzantine simplicity that remains my spiritual and visual modus.”
“How do we achieve the beauty of simplicity and the existence of a world of values and virtues that we must not forget? The paradox consists in, simultaneously, preserving tradition through figurative representation, and being turned towards the new. Trying to be free in my artistic expression is my main motto. Art is a problem of freedom. I create a bridge between abstract and figurative realities by combining them in my authentic way, which consists in translating the intellectual approach to return to a symbolic expression.”
The critics say:
One of the most famous art critics of the former Yugoslavia, Ljupco Malenkov writes: “Irena is an artist who demonstrates aesthetic ambition. Through drawing, composition, relationships with colored surfaces, she creates sensitive works, works full of drama of the lived element, with emotional tremors that show the reliability and power of artistic language. A magical realism that emphasizes destruction. A warning, a whimsical charge with visual suggestion. Visions, shapes and volumes, seamless parts with nuanced invention, thus achieving visual artistic creation. Her art represents a desperate focus on verifying reasons and how she expresses her personal inner upheaval an extremely interesting way to deal with the past, the culture of that time, revealing its intuition and volatility Scenarios and symbols on eroticism feminine, but also about the ironic weirdness of the world. Her works emanate from the power of the spectacle (drama) where emotion is the force that unites and creates emptiness. Hence narrative landscapes as the result of her visions and dreams, all in an atmosphere of hidden memories.”
The famous art historian and critic Maja Kуankulovska-Mihajlovska writes: “When one discovers the works of Irena Gapkovska, it is certain, at first glance, that she has impressively mastered the elements of painting – line, color, shape. One of the peculiarities of Gapkovska’s figurative representations is the transfer of anatomical details to the ideal human body, unconsciously applied rules and great knowledge and study of anatomy. Returning to the beginning, the drawing (which according to the author is “the basis of everything”) comes from the line that is fast and dynamic, but at the same time soft, light and characteristically wavy. From the intuitive dynamic line emerges a multitude of forms that suggest free movement and which, in the designs, develop into a lyrical graphic design with a pronounced affinity for detail and reflections of Byzantine ornamentation. From the striking intertwining of contrasting elements, the artist solutions are born precisely from the ease of the intuitive gesture or the self-reflective line that forms a continuous game in which the fusion of figurative representations and abstract details is integrated. The freedom the game offers with all the items listed speaks for even a desired escape from everyday reality into various fantasy worlds where the emotions of “joie de vivre” are at the forefront.”
During her studies, numerous group exhibitions in the former Yugoslavia
1988 Graduated from High Art School in Skopje, Macedonia
1995 Master’s degree in Graphic Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts of St. Kyril Methodiy University in Skopje, with a thesis on symbolism in art. During her studies, she was a graphic designer for the newspaper “Elena” and for the magazine “Nova Makedonija”, receiving a national award for the best artistic illustration.
1997 Scholarship to study in Auckland, New Zealand.
1998 Founded NGO Art Studio, a non-governmental (non-profit) open art studio in Macedonia, where she continues to mentor students.
2001-2003 Specialization in traditional Byzantine techniques of frescoes and icon painting, at the Monastery of Veljusa, Macedonia.
Exhibitions and publications:
1998-1999 Exhibitions at KIC-QIK Cultural Information Center, and MKC Youth Cultural Center, Skopje
2001-2004-2005-2006 Exhibitions at Holl Army Center and Univerzitetska Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Skopje
2004 Exhibition in Eindhoven, Netherlands
2006 Exhibitions at Reusel and Jan de Bouvries Tiburlg, The Netherlands, and at the “Peace One Day” exhibition at the Univerzitetska Biblioteka Sv. Kliment Ohridski, Skopje.
2007 Organization and participation in “Ars Vivendi” at the Macedonian National Gallery “Mala Stanica”. Coordinator of visual arts and theater projects for the Macedonian Ministry of Culture, including the European premiere of the American opera “The Captivation of Eunice Williams” .
2008 Exhibition at Shangri-La Art Gallery in Houston, Texas, USA
2009 Moved to Miami Beach, Florida, USA, establishing a Studio at Bakehouse Art Complex in Miami, while continuing to mentor at NGO Art Studio in Skopje, Macedonia.
2010 Organization of the exhibition: “Ars vs. Argumentum” at the KIC-QIK Cultural Information Center in Skopje, bringing together the NGO Art Studio and the Bakehouse Art Complex in Miami, Florida. Numerous collective exhibitions at the Bakehouse Art Complex and elsewhere; “Love thy Liberty” at the Sailboat Loft in Ft. Lauderdale, “My Art Art Show” and auction for UTV Television in North Miami, and “Project New Born” at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.
2011 Solo exhibition in Florida and Washington DC. Interviews on Voice of America. Commissioned an icon of the Holy Trinity by St. Thomas University, and exhibited at the Galleria Ft. Lauderdale’s “Spring for the Arts ~ Life Is Art” South Florida Artist Show, while participating in several group exhibitions, including “Sketchy Miami” at the Bakehouse Art Complex as well as other venues in South Florida.
2012 Solo exhibition at the famous Churchill’s Pub in Little Haiti, Miami, (a famous punk club) where she is commissioned to paint three large murals for the ceiling.
Her drawing is published and exhibited at the 40th Biennial of the OSTEN World Drawings Gallery, and she is presented in the “Inside OUT” section of the magazine “IRREVERSABLE”.
2013 Participation in several group exhibitions in South Florida.
2014 Inauguration of the new premises of the NGO Art Studio in Skopje with a collective exhibition. Selected from over 1416 submissions by 475 artists from 53 countries, One of six international winners of the prestigious OSTEN gallery. Her works are exhibited at the OSTEN World Drawings Gallery in Skopje, published in the catalog of the 42nd OSTEN Drawings Biennale and featured on Macedonian Radio-Television MRT.
Appointed Cultural Attaché at the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Macedonia in South Florida.
2015 Gives a solo “painting performance” in conjunction with “Speak Friday” at the Bakehouse Art Complex, and she opens a solo exhibition (running for one year) at the Macedonian Embassy in Washington DC, coinciding with tie events woman celebrating independence day of Macedonia. Selected to be one of 12 artists invited to paint at Spectrum-Miami for a public demonstration during Art Basel Miami Beach.
2016 Collective exhibition at Libraria e Çarshisë in Skopje. Solo exhibition at OSTEN gallery and edition of a limited series portfolio of 10 of her prints and participation in the collective exhibition at Čifte Amam, which is part of the National Gallery of Macedonia. Interview published in the magazine “Life Is Art”.
2017 Second Portfolio in limited series at the Skopje Book Fair. Solo exhibition: “Venus in Vénice: Sequences of Female Illusion” at the Archivi della Misericordia in Venice, Italy, for two weeks during the Venice Biennale, and edition of the book of Irena’s works published by the Galerie Mondial d’Art OSTEN. Exhibition in Rijeka, Croatia.
2018 Leaves Miami’s Bakehouse Art Complex to live and work in Perpignan, France. Continues mentoring her students in a new Studio at the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Slepche, Macedonia.
2019 Participation in an exhibition at La Boîte à Fabrique. Exhibition of 15 works at the BNP Paribas bank in Perpignan.
Many exhibitions planned for 2020 and 2021 are canceled or postponed due to the COVID crisis.
2021 Article in the Spring 2021 issue of PO Life magazine.
Solo exhibition “Metamorphoses: The Chimerical Tree” at the KIC-QIK Cultural Information Center in Skopje.
2022 Solo exhibitions of the series “Irena Gapkovska: The Chimerique Tree” at NIKKEI, a drawing of which is now part of the permanent collection of the Rigaud Museum. Also from the series “You’ve Got Your Reasons, I’ve Got My Walls” at Casa Bento, “Wish You Were Here” at Best Western Plus Hotel Windsor, and the series “Dreams to Remember: The Embrace of Love” at Yucca, all in Perpignan.
2023 Solo exhibition of “La naissance de Vénus : Au delà du ciel (The Birth of Venus : Push the Sky Away)” for the opening of the Grand Salon du Vienne and a group exhibition of the series “Earth and Life” at the Palais des Congrès, both in Perpignan, and Izložba Slika at Knjižnici Savski Gaj in Zagreb, Croatia.
In addition to working in her studio, Irena continues to mentor students at the Monastery of St. John the Forerunner in Slepche, Macedonia, while pursuing exhibition opportunities and renting her work to select companies.
Her current projects include portraits for a limited edition book: “Les Rues de Perpignan: Rien n’est Définie, Rien n’est Aléatoire” and the illustration of a book on American blues music. Also the series of large formats “STIHIA: A Force of Unstoppable Nature”. The name derives from “Hestia (Ἑστία)” which means “hearth, fireplace, altar”. In ancient Greek religion, Hestia is a virgin goddess of the hearth, ancient Greek architecture and the proper ordering of domesticity, family and state – and in Macedonian and Serbian traditions, a Stihia is a person who is supposed to have the ability to protect her village from destructive weather conditions. We need to think about this today more than ever!