Dragan Zdravkovic: Hibernation Mode
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Along with skyrocketing progress made especially in the IT industry, that nowadays permeates all facets of human existence, identifying himself with his time as an immediate witness to the development of digital technologies, Dragan Zdravkovic creates his own space, which, following contemporary tendencies in the society and conditions imposed by new technologies, he describes as a hibernation mode wherein, like a computer, he puts himself to “operation” but he is not doing his best because he is saving energy and gathering strength, so as to keep away from the harsh social reality. Thus, in a symbolic sense, Zdravkovic attempts to relocate from reality and socio-political system he lives in, and “saves” personal and creative energy aiming at giving his utmost, through the process of artistic production, and forging a world of experience of one’s own reality as isolated from the flow of everyday events and, thereby, at the verge of metaphysical insights.

Today, information reaches us in the form of images which hold an extremely powerful sway in our world. It is not only that the conundrum of language and representation remains unsolved, it, in fact, becomes increasingly opaque. Language and representation are not transparent mediators anymore; instead, they have become enigmatic.1

Presenting non-verbal transcripts of space, his paintings are reminiscent of another kind of time gate intended for entering into empty expanses – sites of another dimension of reality, a reality isolated from social reality, where all of us can come in, meet each other and identify, singling out the sites where time is dispossessed of its force, slowing its pace, describing the visible, outer manifestation, which does not define the inner mode of mental activity but rather a mode of personal hibernation, like the processes used by technological products of contemporary society. Behind these seemingly perfect sceneries on his paintings devoid of human figures, Zdravkovic aims at discreetly emphasising and prompting reflection on the issues of contemporary man and his alienation, caused by the pressures of everything that the speed of living and the imposition of socio-political norms bring about today. His paintings are dominated by tranquillity and silence leading the spectator to wonder about what really takes place behind the realistic depiction of the situation in a painting, thereby introducing us to our own mode of hibernation. Beside being a form of protest, for him art has also become a site of artist’s refuge from hectic and insecure reality into the Arcadian worlds of “ideal” order and harmony, of the dignity restored to Mankind and Nature.

The spaces featured in his paintings are stylistically done in the realistic manner, but we are occasionally surprised by the emergence of an object misplaced in what at first glance seems to be a completely realistically rendered scenery. These are primarily objects aloof from a clear symbolism, untainted by wears and tears of time, freed of any narrative and functionality, dislocated from their natural or expected context, through which the effect of the surreal is attained. In place of a logically and linguistico-analytically founded understanding of the painting as a symbolic transmission of ideas, forms and contents immanent to the painting, we witness a turn that radicalises the established notions of seeing and perceiving a painting as a visual event. Thus, the painting is liberated within itself via the possibility of grasping the real and not as a mimetico-representational model of the reality as defined by logical and grammatical rules of language in the understanding of the world.2 For instance, in his painting a lamp is represented with a desire that it should be nothing other than a recognisable shape, not involving any contemplative engagements whatsoever about its function within the everyday life. And other purposely „misplaced“ objects in his paintings emerge before us without a burden of the functional and symbolic meaning, which in the artist’s creative process gain a dimension beyond the boundaries of experience. Appropriating the items from pop culture and advertising, as well as from the respective magazines, Zdravkovic transforms them to the point of abolishing their identity and translates them into the realm of the metaphysical, and as a result they lose their original function along the way since he turns them into the objects from the imminent future. Although they belong to the iconic language of mass-media, he “tames their formal stereotype, thereby coming near to the youngest generation of the Leipzig school”3.

As mentioned above, the point of departure for his paintings he finds in photos from advertising press, influenced by the omnipresence of the media and TV-produced reality. These are mostly photos of objects from the everyday usage. He intentionally picks motifs with no human figures(the consumerist class these products are made for)and puts them in sophisticated and purified spaces. By cutting out photos he perceives as interesting and readable, striving for bringing forward some personal reflections on the world he lives in, he creates collages and produces the building blocks for a painting he later on reworks using photo processing computer software, whereby he changes their colourism and perspective, and then goes on to transfer the final version drawing it onto the canvas, often further modifying original composition.

Also recognisable are the elements of the painting inspired by De Chirico’s work, given that he insists in his paintings on the strangeness and surprise looming beneath seemingly peaceful surface of a painting, which consists of realistically depicted objects in unusual and unexplainable relationships expressing the author’s emotional and irrational experiences of these realistic snapshots.

Balancing between realism, pop-art and metaphysical painting, Zdravkovic’s painting, in the compositional and formal sense, is brought to the level of the maximum equilibrium of visual elements dominated by orderliness, symmetry, but also the contrasts of strong lighting and sharp shadows imbuing it with a special atmosphere. Also, superb drawing and composition, based on linear and geometrical construction and abstracting, never go beyond the framework of realism as the firm hallmark of this artist’s work, which in his visual expression creates the reconstruction of reality and its re-staging through “frozen long shots” of reality. Among that structured agglomeration, consisting of carefully poised heaps of objects and surfaces, embedded in the very centre of the spectacle as an axis of a sort, one no longer distinguishes the boundaries between the real and the surreal in his painting. The balance between the reality and the painter’s interpretation, expression and harmony, synthesis and metaphysical experience, is fully elaborated in one whole.

His paintings are freed of narratives, and if we at some moment recognise one, it is not easily identifiable, and only through symbolism and associations suggested by a depicted object. Regardless of how much a particular object is realistically rendered, the people are never able to perceive it as real; instead, they at all times see it as an image, since neither words nor images are capable of revealing the essential component part of an object, and therefore it, as such, persists as a mistery.4 Through slight modification of proportions, or through dominance of a particular object, his painting is a search for a balance on a strange frontier between an interior and a still life, i.e. a landscape and an interior.5

From time to time, the artist himself spontaneously depicts an abstract object without knowing its true meaning, nonetheless in the moment of its creation he introduces it in the painting’s field so as to set in motion an interesting interplay of signs, and also compositional balance and symmetry, extremely important to him because they represent well poised spaces, just as the hibernation mode brings the artist to the peace and harmony with himself. In his paintings he transforms everyday objects into “non-objects” and creates an essential space and time of mental and spiritual image of his innermost being.6

A spectator can interpret a painting and a specific object within it in his/her own way, based on his/her own perception, which is a relevant thing to the artist since, in his views, everyone has the right to understand a painting in his/her own way, like a person in Rorschach test, and to find him/herself in that painting creating one’s own space of hibernation where s/he can come across him/herself, which is the first and foremost outcome the artist aspires to awaken within the spectator. Zdravkovic has a peculiar manner of stirring the spectator’s visual observation and disturbing the everyday perception and identification of a mass consumption object so as to introduce it into a situation as if it is caught in some imaginary timeless space, and all of it in order to provoke a specific interpretation and sensation.

At first, Zdravkovic’s paintings very accessibly present some kind of still natures from the era of consumerist society, where we recognise various objects we are familiar with in our day to day surroundings, such as lamps, furniture pieces, stuff for our intimate usage, from our bedrooms and bathrooms, which the artist takes from the world of advertising and consumerist society mass media. However, if we go deeper into the analysis of his hibernation mode painting, we come to notice the representations of the psycho-dynamical spaces of existence and the non-verbal signs within which we genuinely recognise ourselves.7

Pondering on Zdravkovic’s work, indeed very diverse from its beginning to the maturity of its singular visual expression he nurtures today, one can not help but notice a symbiosis of the most disparate artistic influences and tendencies. Starting from the expressionist-minded creations, by “purifying” the painting the artist comes to a kind of original realism which goes hand in hand with certain elements of surrealism, cubistic treatment of objects, metaphysical painting, magic realism, minimalism and pop-art, photo-realism, and mostly “the New Leipzig School” current in contemporary painting. Nevertheless, realism is the term that encompasses the work of Dragan Zdravkovic the best, especially given its multitiered meaning that at the same time suggests both its common and highly individualised keys, covering the whole of the differentiated layers of his style and content which are simply impossible to put under a single and unequivocal heading.

Notes:

1. W. J. Mitchell, Mi a kép?, Kép fenomen, Valósg, Budapest, Kijárat, 1997, 338.
2. G. Boehm, “Das Wiederkehr der Bilder”, in Wasistein Bild, Munich, 1994, 11-38.
3. Lj. Gligorijevic, “Slikanje i bacanje strune”, pref. cat. (solo exhibition), Galerija ULUS, Beograd, 2009.
4. M. Foucault, “Ovo nije lula”, in Plasticki znak, N. Mišcevic & M. Zinaic (eds.), Izdavacki centar Rijeka, 1981, 298.
5. Lj. Gligorijevic, ibid.
6. L. Gehrmann, “Dragan Zdravkovic "Metaphysical Pop Art. An Option on Contemporary Art”, Monopol, Berlin, 2013.
7. J. Nam, “Gallery Run: Subjective Objects”, The Vienna Review, vol. 11, no. 4, Vienna, 2013.

Mr. Misela Blanusa

(Curator, MoCAB - Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade)
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(trans. into eng.: Djordje Colic)

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PAINTING AND THROWING THE STRING
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In his first paintings of the new cycle Zdravkovich provided an answer, without the implied fear of technical requirements, to the possibilities of using the photograph of an object and collage freedom imported from the advertising practice according to pop art practice. He was taking over the objects from mass media, but, eventually altered them towards the identity annihilation, thus making these objects unknown in popular culture, although he never abolished their existence in this culture: he converted them into objects pertaining to near future. It is sufficient for him to embrace the glass of water, agitated by a pill, and a hair dryer, located above the glass, and then to stretch it out into the shape of a new object, and then to transfer all his technical perfection into the pill, glass, water… thus moving all these elements and the whole scene into the world of cold fantasy. It may be asserted, taking into consideration a series of previous paintings, that weak-will of water, represented technical perfection, radiance of objects have all served for achieving the dream of surpassing the collage procedure, dream of creating the fluid language. This may be accompanied by the previous attempt to avoid the already provoked discontinuity of space of totality by means of different calibers of masked decorative patterns. In this way, conditions have been made for the objects in later paintings to be at arm’s length, but they also participate in space “leakage” … also it is possible to exist on the border between the interior and still nature, that is landscape and interior. Although he approaches portraying the world as the object of “metaphysical” De Chirico-esque provenance, Zdravkovich does not permit the impenetrability of the borders of that world, but he also does not leave them fully open in the manner of pop art. Namely, he selects, with an emphasis, the motives whose painting interpretation will overcome the stopping of time characteristic of the De Chiricoesque painting. And, no matter how much the object takes over from the advertising lexis he develops them into space, taking into account their origin, changes them, and transforms them into anonymous perfections not requiring an enigma, or establishing an enigma of the first step with them... Although, collage making has survived within the preparation and conceiving of the painting, although it still influences the rigorous creating of space perspective, it does not eliminate the spaces of individual objects, all the more so, it allows them to pour out into space and to participate in the characteristic spatial exhibitionism in which Zdravkovich’s exceptional feeling of appropriate measure obtains the full expression. His predominantly large formats are dominated by lines, narrow and wide lanes of highlighted lengths, as if they were led by the art of throwing long strings away in the distance and by the exciting precision of determining their scope ... (which are necessary in order to pull the balloon, to stretch out the balcony, to establish the lampshade, to banish the shell).When it comes to achieving the inexorably independent directions, it is necessary to discuss the powerful mutual spatial and formal cooperation of the established vectors, the severity of the accordance of the most distant accents as well as the collaboration of the separated spatial departments... Even though, all his painted objects belong to the iconic language of mass media, even though, Zdravkovich always tames their formal stereotype on canvas, by which he approaches the youngest generation of the Leipzig school, he knows that even the most schematic materially sterile photographic model finds the breath of matter on the surface of the canvas. Diffuse connotative elements – colours, reflections, the atmosphere...– remain within the borders of the peaceful igniting of identity ... The secretive fluctuation of geometric purity is coherently generated here. The portrayed structural strokes, as well as the shape boundaries are made ethereal, utterly sensitive in the context of painting. He does not take care of the volume mass. Instead, he is searching for their permanent ambiguity, losing them in space, equating them with the plane of the picture, handing them over to the reflections which play on the border between topical and spatial, object and surface.The significant role in all this was entrusted to simultaneously utterly and clearly directed application of oil and acrylic. The phone was regularly depicted by oil colours, which conquered the softness of the phone, and fostered the flat canvases and the abstract depth was developed, light in space. The precise summaries of objects were painted by acrylic with oil foundation. Acrylic places its separated candidacy for nobility which is closer to the objectivity of the painted object: it is appearing on the spacious oil foundation like the secretively stored porcelain ready to follow the author’s kindhearted fantasy towards the humour and tenderness.

prof.dr. Lj. Gligorijevic
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(Translated by: Milos D. Djuric)

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Dragan Zdravkovic: Hibernation Mode

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Seither versucht Zdravkovic Orte und Situationen zu „portraitieren“, die abseits aller hyperenergetischen Ströme und Tempi liegen – „places of melodic silence and eternal play“. Die Bestandteile seiner „Portraits“ findet er dabei durchwegs in seinem nahen Umfeld, in den Massenmedien ebenso wie in der Welt der Werbung – Dinge, die ihm wichtig sind, weil sie den Gemeinplatz der Wahrnehmung repräsentieren. Mittels geringfügiger Veränderungen und ungewohnter Zusammenstellungen nimmt er diesen Dingen ihre ursprünglichen Bedeutungen und Funktionen, transformiert sie in „non-objects”, um sie „essentially space and time of the mental picture, spiritual and innermost self“ werden zu lassen.

Zdravkovic bedient sich neben einer der Montage verwandten Technik letztlich der (fotorealistischen) Malerei, um seine „Portraits“ auszuformulieren. „Selbst wenn alle seine Gegenstände der ikonischen Sprache der Massenmedien angehören, die Zdravkovic auf die Leinwand zwingt, wobei er sich dem Stil der jüngsten Generation der Leipziger Schule annähert, ist ihm bewusst, dass auch das sterilste und schematischste fotografische Vorbild auf der Oberfläche einer Leinwand zu atmen beginnt.“ (Lj. Gligorijevic)

Die Galerie white8 hat auf der Art.Fair in Köln im November 2012, zwischen 2006 und 2012 entstandene Arbeiten (Öl und Acryl/Leinwand) von Dragan Zdravkovic gezeigt und bringt im März 13 die erste Solo-Schau dieses international anerkannten Künstlers nach Wien.
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Lucas Gehrmann (Curator, Kunsthalle Wien)

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Dragan Zdravkovic: Hibernation Mode (full version / En)

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Lying dormant, in the hibernation mode, the neutralized calculator is completely isolated from the power supply. Upon turning the computer on, the previously stored in the working memory disk image may be loaded back, so you can continue working on the identical location.

Academy Professor Dragan Zdravkovic, a painter and performance artist as well as set designer, who was born in Belgrade in 1969, considers himself to be in a state of this kind for a period of time. More precisely, several years after the democratization of Serbia (which started in 2000) it was clear that the pace and intensity of the then expected changes, either political or social, have been brought “almost to zero.” While he had previously invested the precious years of his life into hopeless ideas and wishes, the more fundamental view of their own inner world had been lost at the same time.

Since then Zdravkovic has been trying to portray and depict places and situations, which are bereft of all hyperactive trends and tempos –“harmonic places of silence and eternal play.” He finds the constituents of his “portraits” in his environment, in the mass media as well as in the world of advertising. He considers these things to be significant and noteworthy, because they represent the prevalent perception. Professor Dragan Zdravkovic returns the original meaning and function on behalf of these things by employing both minor changes and unusual combinations. Then, he transforms them into “non-objects” in order to make essential space and time of the mental and spiritual picture of the innermost self.

Zdravkovic uses mostly photo-realistic painting in order to implement his “portraits.” “Even if all the objects of the mass media iconic language belong to the Zdravkovic’s forces shown on the canvas, where he approaches the style of the latest generation of the Leipzig School, he is well aware that even the most sterile and even schematic photographic canvas surface model starts breathing.” (Lj. Gligorijevi?)

The gallery white8 launched exhibitions at the Art Cologne in November 2012. These exhibitions comprised art work of Dragan Zdravkovic, created in the period between 2006 and 2012, mostly oil and acrylic on canvas. The first solo exhibition of this internationally recognized artist was organized in Vienna on March 13th.
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Text by: Lucas Gehrmann (Curator of the Kunsthalle - Vienna)

Translated from German into English by Milos D. Djuric

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Gallery Run: Subjective Objects
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white8 Gallery: Dragan Zdravkovic, Metaphysical Pop Art

Growing up in turbulent Belgrade, the artist Dragan Zdravkovic describes his experience as a “hibernation mode”. Even afterwards, he stayed in that mode, a place within himself that allowed him to feel safe, but also closer to others.
At first glance, Zdravkovic’s paintings appear to be straightforward still lifes of ordinary household objects: lamps, cabinets, faucets, etc., objects typically “found in my surroundings, taken from the world of advertisements and mass media”. As in most pop art, they are ordinary, perhaps even banal, as they “represent the commonplace of perception”. But upon closer viewing, they are not what they seem. In his hibernation mode, Zdravkovic finds “nonverbal notes of space within which we… truly recognise ourselves”. Where pop art meets the metaphysical.
The philosopher Peter Sloterdijk identified three concepts of space: 1) the physicist’s or mathematician’s neutralised space with equipotential points between which arbitrary sets of lines can be drawn, 2) the living/dwelling space of natural subjects, which can be described as one’s environment, and 3) the ‘psychodynamic’ space in which existence takes place.
This last space is not about being “contained in nothingness”, but rather “in the field of souls of others”. Pop art is about making the transition from the second to the third concept of space, and perhaps this is what Zdravkovic has achieved.

by Janima Nam ("The Vienna Review", April, 2013)

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