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System SF: System Stano Filko

Public Space / Poster Wall


Paper, print, ink, felt-tip pen
29,7 × 42cm

Courtesy The Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava

The Slovak universalist und utopian Stano Filko strongly identified with the cosmos and took therein his own transcendent” perspective on the world, free of conventional ways of seeing. The Greek concept of the kósmos stands for an order of the world including the whole universe. The artist developed his own intellectual and ordering system in order to symbolize and express his view of the world. Colors and dimensions are central to this system. Over several decades Filko enriched his system on the conceptual level with further levels of meaning and ascription, leading to a multi-dimensional system that he called System SF. The poster wall in front of the HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark shows a drawing by the artist that was his first introduction to this system.

In System SF Filko connects colors with different dimensions, points of the compass, elements and chakras. In Hinduism, the latter are understood to be the energy centers of the human body and spirit. The color red, for example, stands for the 3rd dimension, the realm of the material world and life. As this exhibition shows, this color is frequently seen in connection with the body or flesh. Filko laid the ground for his actual System SF in the 1970s, beginning with the three colors red (3rd dimension: biology/​material), blue (4th dimension: cosmos), and white (5th dimension: ontology/​spirituality), and then further colors were gradually added. The chakra system came later, during Filko’s time in New York (1982 – 90). Up to the late 1990s the chakra system comprised seven colors, and was expanded to a total of twelve from the year 2000.

The multi-dimensional System SF subdivides the twelve colors into chakras with a clearly defined order. The reproduced drawing illustrates the series using vertical rods from left to right: red (1st chakra, earth/​east), orange (2nd, fire/​south), yellow (3rd air/​west), green (4th, water/​north), blue (5th, cosmos), and black/​indigo (6th, ego). Filko places the first six chakras in the realm of the 3rd dimension, that of the material world and living organisms. The first four chakras also indicate points of the compass. There follow violet (7th, altruism), pink (8th, faith), and silver (9th, transcendence) as components of the 4th dimension, that of the universe and cosmic consciousness. The 5th dimension is the highest level and comprises the colors gold (10th, singularity), white (11th, essence), and transparent (12th, entity). Each higher dimension contains all those beneath it.

Behind the lines denoting the order of the chakras this drawing also refers to Filko’s famous Snežienková studio on Kamzík hill in the northern outskirts of Bratislava. Even the rooms there were ordered according to his System SF, with works in a certain color predominant in each room. Filko used the studio as his personal archive and showed how inseparable art and life were in his work.

System SF seems at first sight to categorize artistic creation and thus also to serve a meta-function for Filko’s entire oeuvre. The artist’s use of this system can be seen in countless of his works. Seeing the artworks shown in this comprehensive retrospective in dialogue with each other, however, makes it very clear that the individual works, just as the artist in his lifetime, often resist any kind of ordering structures and instead provoke the imagination and critical faculties of the beholders. This permits a contemporary reading of this historical body of work that enacts utopia.

Paper, print, ink, felt-tip pen
29,7 × 42 cm
Courtesy The Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava