Art of a ‘Rotten Variety’

Culture Visual Arts

“Rotten Variety” is the project of two Victoria-based artists, Gart Darley and Iva Jelovina, who incorporate their art into zines (self-published art magazines) or silkscreen it onto t-shirts. Jelovina, born and raised in former Yugoslavia before immigrating to Vancouver Island, studied at Emily Carr, and later went to Madison, Wis., where she would paint religious icons. Darley, while not formally trained, has created his own distinct style, blending collage, photography, and drawing. The two of them have recently published their first full-length zine issue consisting of work from local artists, for which they held an event at Talk’s Cheap and Cavity Curiosity Shop on Pandora Ave. in Victoria, on Sept. 6. The show was packed, serving “Doritos fruit salad” containing every flavour, and swamp water (mixed pops) in plastic wine glasses. I sat down with the artists to ask what makes their variety of art so rotten.

Jelovina usually works with India ink, painting dark, surreal portraits with heavy detail around faces and hands. “I like to draw people,” she said, “and with the type of portraits I do, I usually strive for making a window between people in a recognizable, physical form, and another world—however you want to view that other world, whether it’s a different dimension, an altered state of mind, or a spiritual world.”

Although her art may be dark and the characters unflattered, the exaggerated figures are not without humour. Darley tends to use brighter colours in his collages, and they may be comical on the surface, but his work can often have depressing undertones.

“I don’t think it was a conscious choice,” said Jelovina on collaborating together. The team originally created art separately, but the two bonded over their shared love of music, photography, and collage. They further solidified themselves as a team through the production of the zine. They originally decided to showcase their own work, but soon began taking other submissions, and collaborating with other artists.

“I’m really interested in spreading the word, and other people’s work,” Darley said as he flipped through his record collection. “It’s become more of a variety. Silkscreening is usually the two of us,” but the zine, which Darley formats because he works in printing, is the combination of everyone’s work.

The art show, which was displayed at Cavity Curiosity Shop, seemed to be an art piece in itself; it  definitely re-envisioned the idea of the modern art gallery. They covered the walls of Cavity in their framed submissions, and onlookers in the exhibition tentatively drank pop from plastic wine glasses.

“It was supposed to follow the rotten theme,” Darley said, “and people calling us rotten because we do rotten things. It’s the idea that everyone’s so serious about everything. We want people to be comfortable; they should be able to drink from plastic wine cups, or eat Doritos fruit salad, because it’s funny.”

I asked them why they decided to publish other artists in their zine. Jelovina said, “It would be more interesting for people to see. There’s a lot of people doing interesting things that don’t necessarily have an output.”

“I heard,” said Darley, “some people say they hadn’t made anything in a while, and now they seem to be more active [when it comes to art].” “Even though this is just getting started, I do think that in a way it will connect more people.” The zine helps to promote artists who would not normally be seen.

“Anyone who submitted wasn’t denied,” said Jelovina.

“As long as it’s not offensive to anyone,” Darley reiterated, “and they enjoy what they’re doing, they should have the chance to be seen.”