Exhibition Double Moon introductory text for the exhibition catalogue at Galleri Brandstrup by Christen Sveaas, OSLO, January 2023.
In the spring of 2017, William Flatmo and I visited the Venice Biennale, and I was immediately captivated by Dragan Zdravković’s paintings that were exhibited as part of the Serbian pavilion. One of the main works exhibited was Barocco, a juxtaposition of an urban motif from Belgrade and a classic interior. The absence of people, the mystery of the composition and the ongoing silent drama piqued my curiosity and fascinated me. The work became part of my collection. I also acquired several other works, and then embarked on a journey to meet Dragan in Belgrade. It was here that the idea of an exhibition in Norway was born. For over two years, Dragan has produced new paintings for this first exhibition in Norway, and I would like to extend a big thank you to Kim Brandstrup and Marit Gillespie for also seeing the quality in Dragan’s artistry, and for giving him the opportunity to exhibit at Galleri Brandstrup. The artworks are a timely reminder of life in Eastern Europe, and how Dragan, like many of the people there, has a unique ability to create glimpses of light through art. Dragan’s work is created to transport viewers into dreamlike realms, inviting them to escape reality and lose themselves in imagination. I hope others will also be excited by Dragan’s art and that this will be the beginning of a long-term and fruitful relationship with Norwegian collectors and Norway.
A Trojan horse
Between painters there is often a common language, an understanding of process through accumulated time in studio practice. Hours spent in front of a canvas reflecting, while conveying illusions on a surface, creates a dialogue between painters through history in a form of collective consciousness. It’s a consciousness that can sometimes afford an insight into the references and construction of each other’s work.
At first sight Dragan Zdravkovic’s large scale paintings of fractured fields of information immediately steers one towards the genre of pop art. Much like Richard Hamilton, the founder of pop art who outlined its aims and ideals, Zdravkovic incorporates commonplace objects that float seamlessly free in a landscape of rearranged architecture and interiors, to create new images that never existed before. While the pop art movement in the 50s used household objects and imagery from mass culture to revolt against the dominant highbrow-view on art at the time, it seems the underlying motivation in Zdravkovic’s works stems from a different place.
Freeing ourselves from the obvious connotations collages have to Pop Art and its mass media as a tool for critique, we are left with the rearranging itself. From an artist’s perspective, it seems that this is what draws Zdravkovic towards collage as a painterly tool; the subconscious room that it affords the artist and the freedom to rearrange reality within a recognisable environment filled with what surrounds us everyday.
As a narrator Zdravkovic tells us stories through the lack of people, empty rooms or areas containing objects of human nature left behind. These objects become like clues chosen by the artist, all together mapping out a place or an event. Like in Zdravkovic’s painting Natasha’s Home, the canvas is horizontally split in two, showing a house from the outside looking in, while the other part shows us a white tiger fur, like a detail of an interior. One can imagine these visual fractions as fused visions of history and memory. A spiritual remembrance of a situation told to us from a new angle; a visual inventory of a specific place in time.
In the large horizontal work entitled Double Moon, Zdravkovic continues to portray moments in a fragmented fashion, but this time it’s apparent that the surreal is afforded a greater role. In this painting, our line of sight seems to be from within an apartment. We gaze past a white lounge chair in between grey curtains out towards a winter landscape. From the right side of the canvas a spoon like object floats in the air reflecting the room back at the viewer. The reflection tells us of an empty room, which makes the viewpoint of the image impossible. In the dark winter sky a yellow ochre moon hovers, to the right of it another moon has taken place in the interior, by doing so it is interfering with the illusionary constructs of the painting, tearing us between reality and the irrational.
Through Zdravkovic technical ability his canvases convince us we are watching a realistic setting, when in fact we are being shown a construct that defies a linear reading of time and space. Much like the Italian painter Giorgio De Chiricho known for painting the Florentin piazzas with endless shadows and landscapes seemingly void of time. This metaphysical surrealism often furnishes us with the beautiful on the surface, while showing us the cracks of reality in the shadows — intertwining the artist’s internal and external realities. Although Zdravkovic’s ouvre lies deeply rooted in the metaphysical aspects of painting, there are clues within his titles that lead us towards a more personal side of his universe.
In the work entitled Hibernation, Zdravkovic refers to a specific state which he calls Hibernation mode. More than meditation, this is a state of mind from which he gets ideas, describing it as an extremely quiet place where he can listen to an inner voice, a sense of connecting with the subconscious. In Zdravkovic’s own words, these are places in which time loses its strength and energy, where the heart ‘decelerates’ and its rate decreases — places of melodic silence and eternal play.
The Night Kosta Passed Away is a work dedicated to Zdravkovic’s friend and Belgrade legendary underground artist Kosta Bunusevac. It recounts the night when he was informed about Bunusevac’s death. According to Zdrackovic the painting describes the gate between two worlds he passed through that night. These stories help us further understand Zdravkovic works on a fundamental level, peeling away at the surface of the first impression. What first may seem as obvious references, can in retrospect be seen as a vehicle operated by the artist as a way to enter our subconscious. Behind the shield of Pop Art’s polished surface Zdravkovic constructs a metaphysical narration combined with deep personal stories from the artist’s own life, thus making the paintings operate like a Trojan horse entering your mind silently, but leaving a lasting poetic impression.
(Text for the exhibition catalogue, Galleri Brandstrup Oslo, 2023)
THE EXPERIENCE OF SPACE
By Ksenija Samardžija
„Here we are, thus, at the bottom of the abyss. It can’t be known why evil exists in this world, for all that exists neither has meaning nor reason. Goya in an eerily naive way uttered his last word on the subject of and gave the full measure of his nihilism by negating the existence of the next life having denied the meaning of this one: in one of his etchings, we see a slightly raised tombstone with a skeleton appearing from un- der it and pointing to a piece of paper that reads: “Nothing”. So, there is nothing there either. That is the dead man’s message and that is the deep- est point of Goya’s despair.”
Ivo Andrić – “Conversation with Goya” 1
In the series of etchings, The Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra), Goya records dis- turbing scenes of suffering from the Iberian Peninsula during the War of Independence. On copperplates, he prepares a series of engravings which will only be published later on, in 1856. In one of the prints from this series three soldiers are torturing a man whom they had previously beaten into a terri ed scarecrow, a noose around his neck. Goya inscribes under the image: POR QUE? (Why?).
In his later years, Goya (a painter from the court of the Spanish king) lls the walls of his home Quinta del Sordo (Villa of the Deaf One) with ‘im- posing’ dark murals called the Black Paintings
(1819-1823). The author so it seems is left to the mercy of the demons and horrors of war that abduct and undoubtedly pull him into to the depths of the abyss from which despair issues forth. Why?! We rightfully ask ourselves a second time: why instead of heroic representations of battle does war in consequence become the scene of Goya’s tragic chronicle? Goya is a master artist with an interest in social affairs (politics) in his paintings, whether this is implied by a surreal bizarreness, or used as a pivotal point for the fact that “no one and nothing” is more phantasmagorical than “life itself”. The examples abound.
For those of us who experienced war in direct proximity, from behind the front line, in a city in whose genealogy history has an excessive tendency to become an unpleasant and constant feeling of déjà vu, conflict and discord come to determine identity. With no conflict there is no difference and that which is essential melts into generality. If Goya understood the world of the nineteenth century through nihilism and he opened the door to modern art in a time of persecution and inquisition which regarded him as a “perverted painter”, a time of wars and misery but also dishonourable wealth, vulgar opulence verging on the loathsome grotesque, then today these testimonies and our still vivid experience are additional reminders of humaneness, whilst the orientation which excludes politics and treats the sensibility of human beings outside of any ideology and category seem to be a mute ideal.
Nature often interacts harm on us with its ‘strategies of survival’, carrying out in harsh conditions its plan for the ‘species’: the body responds to stressful changes to its organism by slowing the metabolism, reducing the body temperature to the lowest point that will not bring on death and lowering the heart rate so it does not damage the brain or the other vital organs, and in doing so induces a specific, dormant state of hibernation as its modus vivendi. It is in the lasting state of meditative dormancy, in the form of a hi-tech region of a synthetic paradise in which elements of science and nature cross one another, that Dragan takes refuge: ‘From a symbolic point of view, Zdravković seeks in this way to displace himself from the reality and socio-political system in which he lives. ”He conserves” personal and creative energy so that via the process of artistic creation he can give his maximum to creating a world of experience of this private reality isolated from the quotidian and therefore exist- ing on the edge of metaphysical understanding.” 2
In the painting bearing the title Hibernation the anatomy of a time capsule is shown, a recent phenomenon in the aesthetics of mass-surrealism 3. It is placed centrally in the composition and in juxtaposition to the surrounding environment that is a landscape presented in the negative and executed with dynamic brush work and contrast- ing white, azure blue and black paint. Via the use of textural richness Zdravković places one space within another, and these different spatial systems, without a clear and singularly linear connotation, suppress time as a concept (a notion in philosophy, science, art, as a linear continuity, or an irreversible sequence). The snowy light emit- ted from the painting’s surface stands out for its whiteness, leaving the objects of the central zone occupying a peaceful landscape. The light falling across the monitor brings into play a unique mis eenscène which is the only recognisable object within the multitude of elements suggested and hinted at, possessing the technical possibility of a transition to the state of an ‘uncanny’ dream (or moonwalking?), or of a dream as a hybrid simulation (the regime of hibernation vs the regime of sleep).
Every inch (millimetre or centimetre) of the linen canvas is subjected to a surgically skilled craftsmanship and meticulous control, creating a painterly quality that possesses a certain quality reminiscent of the old masters’ workshops: from those of the 16th century Flemish-Dutch school to the Byzantine icon painters who for their artistic vision depend on the power of prayer as a modus operandi. Like for example Samuel van Hoogstraten’s Perspective box with Views of a Dutch Interior (1663), housed in the National Gallery in London in which an abundance of details and meanings overlap in an enigmatic painterly miracle. The painstakingly composed interior in which a perfect peace prevails is an examination of the various (significant) perspectives and places the viewer in the position of a “miraculous observer” captivated in the act of ending his/her way about the rules set by the artist. The unfathomable world that conquers by rejecting is hypnotic in its sense of harmony, but stays outside our sphere of influence. It is exactly then that Venus with a diadem on her head unsuspectedly buds out before us, reclining on a bed and in the company of Cupid, like a corporeal embodiment of hospitality in a state of absolute submission, or exaggerated solitude. The good and evil fate of Eros is here taken over by solitary objects in their multitude.
Photorealism, elements of pop art, the combination of the craft-based and tactile with the expressive for the artist have their stronghold in the movement of the New Leipzig School, the influence of whose most eminent representatives, Neo Rauch, David Schnell, Tilo Baumgartel and Matthias Weischer’s early works, becomes evident only in the background of Zdravković’s work4. What is common to these artists is their mixture of geometry and landscapes, multi-layered narratives that encroach into various time
zones, surrealist abstraction and the eclecticism of models and templates. However, Zdravković retains an ambiental neatness, a clear symmetry in the division of the painting accompanied by the aesthetics of beauty, which additionally enhances the sense of painterly self-assurance. With precise strokes, controlled and planned in advance, a hyper-realistic imaginary painterly order of landscape elements and architecture is created.
The fragility and sensitivity of the painterly eld is as noticeable in the work titled Turn of the Century in the format 205×125 cm as it is in the much smaller Siena Room (35×50 cm). A collage- like proliferation and overlapping of planes in which the fragments of the narration are retained creates the sense of spatial ambiguity: a synthesis of impressions that acquires the psychological character of a Rorschach psychology test. “By observing, we are confronted with the experience of the contemporary state of life as it has been conditioned by technological baggage, and by what ensues, after the burden of information overload and the canceling out of all sensible explanations, on the paradoxical edges of existence in the void of our current post-history epoch, outside learning and in the elated action of enlightenment.” writes Nikola Šuica in the fore- word to the catalogue for Dragan’s exhibition Gazdinstvo (The Farm) in Belgrade.
For Zdravković, silent human absence is felt most in spaces which aren’t fundamentally places for human beings. The viewer is locked into action based on virtues and objects which only gain their full sense with man’s absence. In this way he con- structs a personalised relationship with the can- vas as is evident in the painting The Night Kosta Passed away, dedicated to the Belgrade-based artist Kosta Bunševac a painter who like a magus5 worked across lm, theatre, marketing, television, leaving behind cult TV shows and was influential in the underground culture scene. The art historian Dejan Đorić notes yet another peculiarity which he defines as “the elitist Belgrade view of the world”, linking Zdravković’s painting with the element that survives in Serbian painting as something sophisticated, decent, peaceful and mild, profoundly intellectual, inherited and retained from high Byzantine art.
The “comfort” that is offered however leaves after itself elements of fear and anxiety. In the painting In the Name Of an emptied-out landscape shines like a desert in which a ame ickers ominously like a flag. The “frame” is frozen in a moment that does not offer any answer, so that we are left expecting, anticipating and wonder- ing where to go and how to proceed. Has the situation come to an end, or is change coming? Is there a line of transit? We are left and pulled into a frozen and insecure state, like the art theorist Stevan Vuković who in his text “Between sense and meaning” leaves the possibility of different readings of Zdravković’s work: “With the vision they offer, their formal organisation, and their material execution, those artworks bear in themselves the potential to evoke an experience, that is on the individual, personal, unique and idiosyncratic level, that is the type of experience which activates the entire personality of the viewer, and in doing so instigates the need to respond to them with a personal interpretation.”
1 Ivo Andrić, Serbian writer and diplomat of the Kingdom of Yugolsavia (1891-1975), who won a Nobel prize in Literature for the novel The Bridge on the Drina (1961); in his essay “Conversation with Goya” he engages in an “intimate” dialogue with the artist, introducing the reader to the painter’s obscure world, in which the writer discovers the origin of modern art.
2 Hibernation Mode, curated by Mišela Blanuša, Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, 2016.
3 Massurealism is a term coined in 1992 by the American artist James Seehafer, who described a trend among some post-modern artists to mix the aesthetic styles and themes of surrealism and mass media, including pop art.
4 In 2011, Dragan Zdravković resided in Leipzig for the International Art programme
5 Magus: Zoroastrian priest, an astrologer, sorcerer, or magician of ancient times, from the Old Persian magus magician.
(Text for the exhibition catalogue, Galleri Brandstrup Oslo, 2023)
BELGRADE IS A COLLAGE
By Sverre Wyller © October 2022
About Dragan Zdravković’s hometown
According to one British politician, who is prob- ably quoted too often, the Balkans have more history than it can digest. This certainly applies to Belgrade, a city that has been destroyed several times throughout history. But despite this, or perhaps because of it, it has retained its trajectory as a meeting place. The city’s identity seems to be surprisingly little affected by brutal political changes. The buses zoom by, the people are more than friendly, the houses are worn down between tall construction cranes, while the Danube flows calmly by. Conflicting impulses overlap each other, giving the impression of an urban collage. With its unofficial three million inhabitants, Belgrade is the largest city in the Balkans.
And among these three million, there are those who are proud of a surprising concentration of early-modernist buildings, erected during what was once the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. To mention a perhaps random example from the last visit to the city: a comprehensive presentation of the work of a single architect, Nikola Dobrovic, a modernist who first practiced in Prague and then Dubrovnik, shown in a gallery in a distinctly Art Deco build- ing, the Academy of Sciences SANU, Srpska akademija nauka i umetnosti.
After the Second World War, Yugoslavia – now the Socialist Republic – launched major construction
projects. The expression of these uctuates from Corbusier to stark brutalism. The projects are significant in a European context and were, among other things, dedicated a documentation exhibition, Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, at MoMa in 2019. The exhibition shows examples from the Novo Beograd district, which has a utopian character, but which simultaneously is a popular district. The exhibition also included sculpture projects, so-called Spomeniks, which are incredibly special. In their program, they were traditional war memorials, but executed in an abstract idiom, and in gigantic sizes. They were, perhaps for that reason, collaborative projects between architects and sculptors and often included park facilities. They are worth a visit, but can be a challenge to found, tucked away in the countryside, that is, where the specific historical events took place.
Belgrade’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Muzej Savremene Uvetnosti, was also built at this time. When it opened in 1965, it was one of Europe’s rst of its kind. The museum, which was closed for 12 years, was renovated and reopened in 2017. It is a beautiful building, detached in a park. Today, the museum plays an active role in the city.
In other words, the sculpture scene was both busy and internationally oriented in the 60s and 70s. It could be mentioned that Henry Moore travelled with an itinerant exhibition as early as 1955 with stops in several cities in Yugoslavia, not only Belgrade. Women also asserted themselves as sculptors, e.g. Ana Beslic, Olga Jevric and Olga Jancic. They worked in an abstract idiom at the same time as Aase Texmon Rygh in Norway, they were recognised during their lifetime, actively exhibited, and deserve to be brought forward again. Among artists from this period, I would also like to mention Bogdan Bogdanovic, responsible for several spomeniks. He was an architect, sculptor, wrote and taught throughout his life and engaged students in the production of his sculptures. Bogdanovic was obviously a central gure. An early work by him in the Jewish cemetery in Belgrade is particularly expressive, based on re-use from ruins after the last world war, hand-hewn stone that otherwise ended up as lying material in new wharf facilities along the Danube. The shape is not beautiful, but generous.
Although Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column is situated in another country, Romania, it is only a few hour drive from Belgrade. This work was also initially a war memorial, from the First World War, completed in 1936. There is reason to believe that the 30-meter-high column may have been a source of inspiration for the Spomenik generation and Bogdanovic, two or three decades later.
Marina Abramović emerged f rom a performance
environment in Belgrade in the early 1970s. This was largely an off-stage activity, partially with dramatic experiments. At the time, her arena was among others the Studentski Kulturni Centar (SKC), a centre established by students, inspired by the student uprisings in Europe and the USA. SKC will eventually be able to show exhibitions by a wide range of well-known artists, such as Joseph Beuys and Claes Oldenburg. Good artistry rare- ly comes alone, and Abramović made her rst experiences in this radical environment. After her international breakthrough, she returned to Belgrade in 2019, with an extensive retrospective – after a 44-year absence from the city of her birth. An important event in Belgrade is the Oktobarski Salon, annually from 1960, today a visual art bien- nial, often with 50–60 artists and often with an invited curator from abroad. October Salon 2020, for example, was curated by Gunnar and Daniele Kvaran. This and other of Belgrade’s cultural events surprise with their size and are packed with spectators. People are used to big events.
Among several private galleries in Belgrade, I would like to mention two. Galerjia Rima is a small gallery dedicated to local artists primarily from the last century. The gallery publishes monographs and shows art at a high level. They have a few contemporary artists in the program. Furthermore, U10 is a non-commercial gallery, created by a group of art academy graduates ten years ago. This is the young art scene, and I promise: packed openings. Sympathetically, the founders consider themselves lucky and so well established that every year they organise an exhibition entitled Masterworks, with selected works by the last year’s graduating students.
The Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade opened an exhibition this autumn with Mrdjan Bajic, a sculptor and again typical of the place an educator for many years at the art academy. His work is juxtapositions of everyday objects and sculpturally processed form. They are humorous, among other things, in their dealings with the region’s former socialist ambitions. And again, the work has clear features of collage. Interesting about Bajic is, among other things, a collaborative project he did with the British sculptor Richard Deacon, where they simply put their sculptures on top of each other and built a bridge connecting a disused wharf, Beton Hala, full of restaurants, with Kalemegdan, a historic fortifications corresponding to Akershus. This project, which was completed last year, is in many ways a continuation of the connection with British sculpture, begun by the contact with Moore in the 50s.
Of artists from Belgrade, I know of only three who are represented in Norwegian collections. Marina Abramović, of course, in the National Museum,
Dragan Zdravković at Kistefos and Mrdjan Bajic in the Nordea Art Collection.
Historically, painters from the Balkans differ little from Scandinavian artists in their orientation towards Paris from the beginning of the last century. Several stayed in France and, as in so many other places, impulses f rom French painting dominate the city’s National Museum. A couple of skilled painters of the later generations can be mentioned. Petar Lubarda forms a parallel to our own Jacob Weidemann, but is consistently superior, characterised by powerful nongurative compositions. Petar Lubarda became so popular during his lifetime that he received an honorary residence from the state – today, of course, a Lubarda museum.
Surrealism as a direction has had a better foot- hold in the Balkans than in Scandinavia. In 2020, the Contemporary Museum in Belgrade showed an extensive exhibition of the work of Vladimir Velickovic, who lived most of his life in Paris and was a professor at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts before he also taught in Belgrade in his senior years. Velickovic has a deep emphasis on morbidly surreal scenes, and it’s challanging to see more than a few pictures of him at once. But if the expression is demanding, the painter- ly technique is impressive. Velickovic saw a lot of Francis Bacon and had contact with him, but the role model was milder. Velickovic is mentioned in more detail because he forms a link with the exhibitor here, Dragan Zdravković. Dragan was one of Velickovic’s last students when he did his PhD at the Academy of Arts in Belgrade. They share an interest in surrealism.
Now to Dragan. The reason we met was an event held in the Norwegian embassy residence in Belgrade. The ambassador at the time, Arne Sannes Bjørnstad and his wife Hager Jemli Bjørnstad, took a appreciated initiative to create contact between artists in Norway and Serbia. Dragan was one of three artists who represented Serbia in Venice in 2017, but describes himself as a loner in Belgrade, citing Joan Miro and Cubists such as Braque and Picasso as clues in his work. His paintings definitely have a touch of surreal- ism, and are painted with an economy of strokes that could resemble Magritte’s. His pictures are as empty of people as de Chirico’s cityscapes. Dragan’s starting point is small collages of paper that eventually end up as large-format paintings. The path from one to the other is a complex work, according to him, and obviously personal. He must have previously been interested in American pop art and super-realism. There is no comparable point of view in Norway, perhaps apart from Roald Kyllingstad’s pastels, but Dragan’s paintigns have a resonance from his own hometown. Nor is there any need for him to use the medium’s tactile
tools. The expression lies quietly inside the canvas, almost like an illusion of a digital reality, a surreal virtual collage. There you have your hometown. I read about the ever-growing IT community in Belgrade, that the city attracts start-ups with its low cost of living and its energetic way of interacting. The paradox of Dragan’s work is of course that it is done in an ancient technique, oil painting.
(Text for the exhibition catalogue, Galleri Brandstrup Oslo, 2023)
BETWEEN SENSE AND MEANING
The scenes presented in these drawings and paintings are based on models isolated from the constant flow of media imagespassing through the author’s visual experience,which in the act of selection itself are not excluded from the experience of the typical observer. Fragments of visual representations of interiors and objects from the everyday surroundings which constitute these models are extracted from the context of consumer culture, freed from the inertia of constant renewal, introduced into enigmatic surroundings and wondrous reciprocal combinations, transformed and hybridised. At the same time they are not systematically sought out, that is they are not selected because they fit some research project whose aim is to detect stereotypical media images. They are observed by chance as they float atop the flood of media content, and are recognised for their potential as elements in the collage of newly organised entities, and they are taken up in the form they are found, their directly mediated form, in order to be subjected to further levels of processing, during which they are first incorporated into a specific collage structure, and then through a process of retrograde remediationare integrated into the visualconnective tissue of the drawings and paintings. Through a process of production the works are multiplytransposed, whereby the objects which figure within these scenes become stripped not only of the functions for which they were originally made,or of those for which they were used in the media sphere, but also any other unequivocal determination. While however still not being reduced to signs. Their referential connections to the world beyond the frame of the drawing or painting, no matter how much these scenes can actin an allusive way upon the observer, are replaced by precisely conceived reciprocal relations between the elements constituting the compositional arrangement, an act which assures thework’s internal coherence. In these scenes there are no people. Even though we find in them typical instances of the human environment, they act as if they haven’t not only been momentarily depopulated but rather thathuman presence has permanently lost any purpose in them. There are also no clear indicators of the time in which they are fixed. It seems like theyhave beenarrested in some type ofsuspension, non-static immobility, in the hint of a future event which will form a part of a completely different, non-teleologically determined future, the actual contours of which we not only are able not to control, nor predict, but can’t even imagine. All that, however, does not have to mean that there isn’t some visual form that can be suggestive of them. In order to ariselike a new horizon, it was first necessary to free the scenes of the sediment binding them to the past, as well the ballast of the various expectations never realised and through their very unrealisation rendered stillstronger, and of the predetermined, and so confined through this determination, demandsfor a now fully dominant and shaped opinion. The scenes, extremely cold and seemingly absolutely alienated from the human world,which Zdravković creates are placed at a clearly determined distance from the heated passions of everyday life, as well as from the traumas of the past and utopic projections of the future, and they do not find their place bybecoming the object of exclusively formal analyses or in expert interpretations striving for scientific objectivity. They bear the potential in themselves through the vision they offer, their formal organisation, as well as the material ways by which they perform, to challenge experience, and that is individual, personal, singular and idiosyncratic, and is the type of experience which activates the observer’s entire personality and in doing so instigates the need to respond to them with a personal interpretation.
These scenes point us towards the constantly opening gap in the relationship between sense and meaning, and towards the significance of those domains which areundetermined by the codes of everyday reality and unmapped by the systems of positive knowledge. They can only be accessed in an adequate way by the productive imagination which is based on a descent into personal experience, and which forms the connective tissue for all symbolic constructions and rational classifications. That, of course, doesn’t mean that it could be arguably claimed by anyone that Zdravković’s work eludes classification and that it is unburdened of its historical heritage. It is very easy to detect the influence of various widely known tendencies in modern and contemporary art, such as realism, surrealism, metaphysical painting, minimalism, pop-art, photorealism and the new Leipzig school of painting, and many texts about his work have already done this is a very precise way. This only means that the logic of immanence proves to be a much more effective way of looking at Zdravković’s work than the logic of predication. In other words, that which it is offering to the individual observer who finds him/herself in front of the work is more relevant to its interpretation than than that which some work through its status and position offers the history of art as well as a humanistic discipline, which itself rests very much on the recording as well as the production of affiliation and difference. That is that excess of sense in relation to meaning, which always exists, and can be experienced in a direct relation with the work, in the impression which is superposed on it by the imagination, but which necessarily reduces the naming and designation of the pictorial appearance, as well as its introduction to the order of meaning.
(Translated by Mark Brogan)
from Sotheby’s catalogue
(text for the catalogue; QSPA Benefit Auction by Sotheby’s, Oslo, 2022)
In describing the approach that he takes to making art, Dragan Zdravković has said: “[I] mostly [use] the objects found in my surroundings, taken from the worlds of advertising and mass media, and then incorporate them into my paintings.” The aim being to endow these found objects with a certain non-objecthood—a radical decontextualization, providing a space, in his work, where time is far less signicant and we can confront our essential selves through what Zdravković has referred to as a state of “melodic silence and eternal play”.
IZMEĐU SMISLA I ZNAČENJA
Prizori predstavljeni na ovim crtežima i slikama zasnovani su na predlošcima izdvojenim iz stalnog protoka medijskih slika kroz vizuelno iskustvo autora, koji pri cinu izbora sebe nije izuzeo iz kategorije tipicnog posmatraca. Fragmenti vizuelnih predstava enterijera i predmeta iz obi?nog okružja, koji cine te predloške, istrgnuti su iz konteksta potrošacke kulture, oslobodjeni inercije stalnog smenjivanja, uvedeni su u enigmaticne ambijente i zacudne medjusobne kombinacije, preoblikovani i hibridizovani. Pritom za njima nije sistematski tragano, to jest oni nisu selektovani u okviru nekog istraživackog projekta sprovodjenog u cilju detektovanja tipiziranih medijskih slika. Slucajno su zapaženi kako plutaju u bujici medijskih sadržaja, pa su prepoznati kao potencijalni elementi novih kolažno organizovanih celina, i preuzeti su u tom zatecenom, medijski posredovanom obliku, da bi bili podvrgnuti daljoj višestepenoj obradi, tokom koje su prvo uvedeni u specificnu kolažnu strukturu, a zatim i putem retrogradne remedijacije integrisani u vizuelno tkivo crteža ili slika. Kroz proces izrade radova višestruko su transponovani, pri cemu su predmeti koji guriraju u okviru tih prizora postali lišeni ne samo funkcija za koje su originalno bili nacinjeni, ili onih za koje su korišceni u medijskoj sferi, nego i bilo kojih drugih jednoznacnih odredjenosti. Pritom ipak nisu svedeni na znakove. Njihove referencijalne veze sa svetom izvan okvira crteža ili slike, ma kako da aluzivno ti prizori mogu delovati posmatracu, zamenjene su precizno osmišljenim medjusobnim odnosima elemenata u kompozicionom sklopu, kojim je obezbedjena unutrašnja koherencija dela. Na tim prizorima nema ljudi. Iako na njima zaticemo tipicna ljudska okruženja, ona deluju kao da su ne samo trenutno depopulisana, vec kao da je svako ljudsko prisustvo u njima trajno izgubilo svrhu. Nema ni jasnih indikatora vremena u kome su fiksirani. Cini se kao da su zaustavljeni u nekoj vrsti suspregnutosti, nestaticne nepokretnosti, u nagoveštaju nekog buduceg dogadjaja, koji ce biti deo sasvim drugacije, neteleološki odredjene buducnosti, cije konkretne obrise ne samo da ne možemo da kontrolišemo, nego ni da predvidimo, a možda cak ni da zamislimo. To sve, medjutim, ipak ne mora da znaci da neka vizuelna forma ne može da ih nagovesti. Da bi se ona pojavila kao novi horizont, bilo je prvo neophodno da se ti prizori oslobode od nataloženih nanosa obavezujuce prošlosti, kao i balasta raznih nikada ostvarenih i neostvarenjem još više pojacanih ocekivanja, te i od unapred determinisanih i tim determinacijama ogranicenih zahteva sada potpuno dominantnog projektnog mišljenja. Krajnje hladni i od ljudskog sveta naizgled potpuno otudjeni, prizori koje je stvorio Zdravkovic postavljeni su na jasno odredjenoj distanci od uzavrelih strasti obicnog svakodnevnog života, kao i trauma prošlosti i utopistickih projekcija buducnosti, ali svoje mesto nisu našli ni u tome da postanu predmet iskljucivo formalnih analiza i ekspertskih tumacenja koje teže naucnoj objektivnosti. Oni sobom nose potencijal da vizijom koju nude, svojom formalnom organizacijom, kao i materijalnim nacinima izvedbe, izazovu doživljaj, i to individualan, osoben, jedinstven i idiosinkratican, to jest takav tip doživljaja koji aktivira celokupnu licnost posmatraca, i time inicira potrebu da se na njih odgovori osobenim tumacenjem.
Ti prizori nam ukazuju na procepe koji se stalno otvaraju u odnosu izmedju smisla i znacenja, i na znacaj onih domena koji nisu odredjeni kodovima svakodnevne realnosti i mapirani sistemima pozitivnog znanja. Njima se na adekvatan nacin može pristupiti jedino produktivnom imaginacijom, koja se zasniva na poniranju u licno iskustvo, i koja obrazuje vezivno tkivo za sve simbolicke konstrukte i racionalne klasi kacije. To, naravno, ne znaci da bi bilo ko mogao da zasnovano tvrdi da Zdravkovicev rad izmice klasifikacijama i da je oslobodjen od istorijskog nasledja. Cak se veoma lako u njemu mogu detektovati uticaji raznih naširoko poznatih pravaca u modernoj i savremenoj umetnosti, poput realizma, nadrealizma, metafzickog slikarstva, minimalizma, pop-arta, fotorealizma i nove lajpciške škole slikarstva, i više autora tekstova o njegovom radu je to vec ucinilo na veoma precizan nacin. To samo znaci da logika imanencije u nacinu sagledavanja Zdravkovicevog rada može da se pokaže kao mnogo delotvornija od logike predikacije. Drugim recima, to što on nudi pojedinacnom posmatracu koji se našao pred radom je mnogo relevatnije za njegovo tumacenje od toga šta neki rad svojim statusom i pozicijom nudi istoriji umetnosti kao humanistickoj disciplini koja u velikoj meri pociva na evidentiranju, pa i proizvodjenju pripadnosti i razlika. To je taj višak smisla spram znacenja, koji uvek postoji, i može se doživeti u neposrednom odnosu spram rada, u utisku koji se imaginacijom nadogradjuje, a koji imenovanje i oznacavanje slikovnog pojavljivanja, te i uvodjenje u poredak znacenja nužno redukuje.
KUNSTFORUM: Biennale Venedig 2017
Milena Dragicevic, Dragan Zdravkovic, Vladislav Šcepanovic
Enclavia – Painting, consequence of this kind of life
Србија се граничи са осам држава, од којих четири припадају Европској унији. Драган Здравковић своју земљу заправо доживљава као енклаву, тако и назива свој рад великог формата. Он слика фикцију, као што је сама земља фикција, окружена другима, то заправо доводи до посебних услова за живот, како он објашњава у интервјуу. Друго дело се зове Изгубљени у преводу, једно једноставно Салон. Свој концепт назива хибернацијом, где не треба улагати превише енергије у лошу политичку ситуацију, боље је повући се и сачувати енергију за будућност – у прелепoj утопији која живи и на његовим сликама.
Serbien grenzt an acht Länder, vier davon gehören zur Europäischen Union. Dragan Zdravkovic empfindet sein Land tatsächlich wie eine Enklave, betitelt sein großformatiges Werk auch so. Er male eine „Fiktion, so wie unser Land eine Fiktion ist, von anderen umgeben, was zu speziellen Lebensbedingungen führt“, erklärt er im Gespräch. Ein anderes Werk heißt „Lost in Translation“, eines schlicht „The Salon“. Einen „Winterschlaf“ betitelt er seinen Beitrag, man dürfe nicht zu viel Energie in die schlechte politische Situation stecken, ziehe sich besser zurück und spare die Energie für eine Zukunft – eine schöne Utopie, die auch in seinen Bildern lebe.
SABINE B. VOGEL / KUNSTFORUM International, Köln, 2017.
( Bd, 247, 2017. 57. Biennale Venedig – Länderbeiträge Giardini, Serbien, S. 326)
Dragan Zdravković: Hibernation Mode
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.
- 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.
Mr. Misela Blanusa
(Curator, MoCAB – Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade)
(transl. into eng.: Djordje Colic)
TRA SENSO E SIGNIFICATO
Le scene rappresentate in questi disegni e in questi dipinti sono basate su opere ispiratrici selezionate da un usso continuo di immagini mediatiche attraverso l’esperienza visuale dell’autore, il quale, al momento della loro selezione, non ha escluso se stesso dalla categoria dell’osservatore tipico. I frammenti di rappresentazioni visuali di interni e di oggetti della vita quotidiana, quali opere ispiratrici, sono strappati dal contesto della cultura consumistica, liberati dall’inerzia di rotazioni permanenti, sono introdotti in ambienti enigmatici e in combinazioni reciproche bizzarre, trasformati e resi ibridi. Inoltre essi non sono stati ricercati in modo sistematico, ossia non sono stati selezionati nell’ambito di un progetto di ricerca attuato con lo scopo di individuare immagini mediatiche tipizzate. Sono stati individuati per caso, mentre stavano galleggiando nella marea di contenuti mediatici, quindi riconosciuti come elementi potenziali di un’unità organizzata di collage e presi in questa forma originaria attraverso l’intermediazione mediatica, per essere sottoposti a un’ulteriore elaborazione multigraduale, durante la quale in primo luogo sono stati introdotti in una struttura di collage speci ca, per essere in seguito integrati nel tessuto visuale dei disegni o dei dipinti anche grazie a una rimediazione retrogada. Essi hanno subito multiple trasposizioni attraverso il processo di elaborazione delle opere mentre gli oggetti che fanno parte di queste scene sono stati privati non solo delle funzioni per le quali originariamente erano fatti, oppure di quelle per le quali erano utilizzati nella sfera mediatica, ma anche di qualsiasi altra determinatezza univoca. Tuttavia non sono stati ridotti a segni. I loro legami referenziali con il mondo all’infuori del quadro o del disegno, per quanto allusive possano sembrare queste scene all’osservatore, sono sostituiti da rapporti reciproci di elementi precisamente ideati nell’ambito della composizione, i quali assicurano una coerenza interiore dell’opera. Queste scene sono prive di persone. Per quanto in esse troviamo tipici ambienti umani, questi sembrano spopolati non solo momentaneamente, ma anche come se qualsiasi presenza umana abbia in essi perso perennemente senso. Non ci sono neppure chiare indicazioni del tempo in cui sono state ssate. Sembrano fermate in qualche sorta di riserbo, immobilità non statica, nel cenno di un futuro avvenimento, che farà parte di un futuro completamente diverso, determinato in modo non teleologico, i cui contorni concreti non solo non possiamo controllare, ma neanche prevedere, e forse persino neppure immaginare. Tutto questo, tuttavia, non vuol dire che una forma visiva non possa presagirle. Pur di farle apparire quale nuovo orizzonte, era necessario in primo luogo liberare queste scene sia da depositi sedimentati di un passato vincolante, sia dal peso di diverse aspettative mai realizzate e per questo ancor più intensi cate, sia anche da pretese di un pensiero progettuale ormai completamente dominante, pretese anticipatamente determinate e limitate da tali determinazioni. Estremamente fredde e apparentemente in toto alienate dal mondo umano, le scene create da Zdravkovic sono poste a una distanza ben determinata dalle passioni infuocate della semplice vita quotidiana, nonché dai traumi del passato e dalle proiezioni utopistiche del futuro, senza però trovare il proprio posto neanche nel fatto di diventare oggetto di analisi esclusivamente formali e di interpretazioni da parte di esperti che aspirino all’oggettività scenti ca. Grazie alla visione da loro o erta, alla loro organizzazione formale, nonché ai modi materiali di esecuzione, esse hanno del potenziale per suscitare emozione, individuale persino, particolare, unica e idiosincratica, ossia quel tipo di emozione che attiva la personalità integrale dell’osservatore, iniziando in questo modo la necessità di rispondere attraverso un’interpetazione particolare. Queste scene ci indicano le crepe che si aprono in maniera costante nel rapporto tra il senso e il signi cato nonché l’importanza di quei settori che non sono determinati dai codici della realtà quotidiana e mappati dai sistemi del sapere positivo. A esse si può accedere in modo adeguato unicamente attraverso l’immaginazione produttiva fondata sull’immersione nella propria esperienza che crea un tessuto connettivo per tutti i costrutti simbolici e le classi cazioni razionali. Ciò ovviamente non signi ca che chiunque possa a ermare fondatamente che l’opera di Zdravkovic sfugge alle classi cazioni e che sia liberata dal patrimonio storico. È possibile persino con molta facilità individuare in lui gli in ussi di movimenti ampiamente conosciuti nell’arte moderna e contemporanea quali realismo, surrealismo, pittura meta sica, minimalismo, pop-art, fotorealismo e Nuova scuola (di pittura) di Lipsia, e numerosi autori di testi dedicati alla sua opera li hanno già evidenziati in modo molto preciso. Ciò signi ca soltanto che la logica dell’immanenza nel modo di valutare l’opera di Zdravkovic può mostrarsi molto più e ciente di quella della predicazione. In altre parole, ciò che il pittore o re all’osservatore singolo che si è trovato di fronte alla sua opera è molto più rilevante per la sua interpretazione di ciò che un’opera con il suo status e la sua posizione possa o rire alla storia dell’arte come disciplina umanistica, la quale in gran misura è fondata sulla messa in evidenza e quindi sulla produzione di appartenenze e di di erenze. È quell’eccesso di senso di fronte al signi cato, che esiste sempre, e che si può sperimentare in un rapporto immediato con l’opera, nell’impressione che viene arricchita dall’immaginazione, e che per forza è ridotto una volta che all’apparenza gurativa viene dato un nome e un marchio per cui essa viene introdotta nell’ordine dei segni…
ENCLAVIA – Painting, a Consequence of This Kind of Life
(part about: Dragan Zdravković)
The three-dimensional illusion of the object exposes the technologically advanced interior control and dominance of systematic diligence. Dragan Zdravkovic painting’s contains the mechanisms of the appearance of non-objects, outlined in a state of intercepted standstill and hibernation. The creation of evocative and imaginary material objectivity emphasizes the interception of time, which, at first glance, brings closer the pictorial heritage of metaphysical avant-garde art. In the case of some of his paintings, there is an indication of the metamorphosis of materiality and an atmosphere of highly controlled wide range. The representations incorporate environmental moveables made of new composite materials, as well as polished and shimmering reflectional metallurgical forms, in the narrative metamorphoses of their standstill.
The two-part scene Barocco indicates a chronicle of fusion between landscape and interior design. The painting is characterized by an ancient stylistic suggestiveness of picture planes and visibility, with the added illusionistic effect of a film. The exterior scene hides the diagnosis of a paradoxical yesteryear. Although, in some sections, one can discern playful moments referring to Pop Art and New Figuration, Zdravkovic creates pictorial entities bordering on a range of transparent hyperrealities. Nevertheless, fitted within the synchronic sequence of picture planes, a reversal of the visual syntax occurs and compositions of semantic evasion are created.
The artist’s personal escapism is represented in the painting Barocco as a view into the typical environment of Belgrade’s urban landscape. In contrast to an interior scene containing a baroque stage curtain in the right half of the composition, one perceives the position of an observed inhibited reality: the brightly lit panorama of Belgrade, with a transformed view to its past history, the recognizable building of the Party’s Central Committee and the aerial view onto the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, as an attempted departure from or presentation of the world of reflections in its obsolete reality.* (The stance assumed against the absence of meaning is in line with the humanistic message of the theorist of media, matrices, observations and history, Günther Anders and his key work on the search for the degree of social progress – Günther Anders, Die Antiquertheit des Menschen Über die Seele im Zeitalter der zweiten Revolution, Verlag: Beck, München, 1961.) The effect of uniting perfect digital control systems inclines towards the inclusion of a different anthropological reality. If the iconographic determination of what is presented were more open, the painted exposures would outweigh the changes that have befallen the world as a consequence of the development of technology.
The theme of the paintings, which, according to the painter, is revealed in the status of hibernation occupied by everyone involved, as well as in each prominent or concealed detail, discloses the elements of a hidden figurative rhetoric.
There is the multiple tension of an ambient stillness in some sectors of the paintings, created by blending oil, acrylic and mixed media, which Zdravkovic brings together in a two-dimensional potentiated space of powerful inorganic life. The simulations of the centripetal movements of illusionistic formulae correspond to some marvellous perceptual sequencings with their potential or active frequencies. This mostly photo-realistic rendering assumes the precision of electromagnetism and its superior electronic functions. Their state of haltedness, such as in the compositions Lost in Translation and Neon Lights, is not only in visual collision with Giorgio de Chirico’s atmosphere of overall tonal composition, or with Picabia’s mechanization, but also represents consent to the lack of temporal determination. Through various ways of suggesting the depth of space, Dragan Zdravkovic creates a hidden game of geometric transfers of identity. Recognizable objects have reached perceptional reversals, in partings, meetings and retroactive convocations.
This frequency of the position of the artist is quite indubitably also a game with performative qualities. As in the process of creating graded images in the paintings of Milena Dragicevic, it is determined by the interplay of forces. Hence the painter arrives at a position equivalent to searching for an allegorical confrontation with blocks of sensory impressions and his own limits. He adopts them to put his own relationship with the concept and with his own function to the test, which is, speaking from the historical perspective of the liberation of the artist, the most enduring question for the painter. Such a perceptual, and also political, role of representation on his part has resulted in a performative and exhibitionistic parody of the contemporary art industry. The role of personal exposure was performed at solo exhibitions consisting of compiled photographic and video documentations – Spazio per l’arte (2005 and 2007) in Belgrade.
“Approaching stealthily with a box entitled Pavilion made from his own name, Dragan Zdravkovic has no parasitic intentions in relation to the choices and dignity, as well as the triviality and other obstacles on contemporary artistic offer. His engagement consists of a certain existential performance of his own presence, repeated in other circumstances in the direction of a social mutation of anonymity. Personified and photographed as the carrier of his own art space, he unwillingly repeats the strolling figure (or, flaneur, as the French would say) who makes his way along with the late nineteenth-century modernization of the European citizens’ milieu.”*(Dragan Zdravkovic: Spazio per l’arte II – Gallery Ozone, Belgrade 2007.)
A self-aware humour in maintaining his existence is also the painter’s critical attitude to the various levels of reality, sceptically monitored in the domain of the hi-tech polish of the arrested moment. The vertical canvas entitled Salon introduces intersections of reflections and elements of totalization. Utilitarian functions connected with housing, hairdressing and cosmetics, or the hygienic space of high control and shimmering reflectional effects, are associated with painting approaches from other epochs on the basis of accumulated materiality.
A possible reduction of illusionistic focal points, from the Dutch Golden Age, corresponds to the ideas of hyperrealism, but also to the masterly representation of fathomable space by the painter Samuel Van Hoogstraten and his box-image as the core of perspective.* (Samuel Van Hoogstraten, Perspective Box with Views of the Dutch Interior, 1655-1660, oil on panel. the National Gallery, London.) The refined world of concepts of distributed light, or the limitations of the language of painting for describing the world, is determined by the dynamic factor. The use of picture planes, as in the painting Salon, is a reminder of the dual nature of our adoption of visible and perceived reality.* (On linguistic and social concepts related to the final outcome of perspective: Hanneke Grootenboer, The Rhetoric of Perspective: Realism and illusionism in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Still-Life Painting, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.)
The painter’s logic adopts the openness to visible pictorial planes, which are the result of a renewed juxtaposition of recognizable material as well as environmental changes.
It takes place on two separate horizontally organized compositions set in the exterior. The scene of the horizontal, almost panavision painting entitled Sound for Adrian, suggests a monumental extension of the form of creation of the uncanny materiality in a landscape.
The visual sensation derives from the compacted density of evoked physical shape. A perceptional effect of the revelation of structure from the aerial perspective comes to light, different from the technological ambience of the painted sections of the composition of the cycle Hibernation Mode. The piece entitled Enclave (2017), the largest in format, is a compositional chronosign of the overall painting by Dragan Zdravkovic. Much as we might assume the perceived elements of the horizontal picture planes to be an urban periphery, the world of advertising, a border, graffiti, a psychologization of the subconscious or a dream with figurative traces, they are also, in fact, about the psychology of conducted looking. The painting is removed in such a way as to explain the temporality of today’s viewing of the visual arts of collected relations which constitute the image-time. Deleuze recognized such sequenced examples in film frames. Painting, now isolated in the emptiness of its changed nature, like Edward Hopper’s registerings of crisis and the state of transience, enters the simultaneity of the whole as a chronosign.
The term Enclavia is the inside, which in the procedures of painting, is actually located outside. The contemporary direction of the visual arts, for these three different painters, is on the right track to overcoming irrational burdens, obsessions, borders and interspaces. This domain, which is the consequence of this kind of life, is reaching new forms of interconnectivity and sensory fulfillment.
Prof. dr Nikola Suica
(curator, exhibition:ENCLAVIA – Painting, a Consequence of This Kind of Life, Pavilion of the Republic of Serbia, Giardini, Venice, IT., 2017)
(transl. into eng.: Katarina Radovic, Jonathan Boulting)
PAINTING AND THROWING THE STRING
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
(Translated by: Milos D. Djuric)
Dragan Zdravkovic: Hibernation Mode
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.
Lucas Gehrmann (Curator, Kunsthalle Wien)
Dragan Zdravkovic: Hibernation Mode (full version / En)
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. Gligorijevic)
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.
Text by: Lucas Gehrmann (Curator of the Kunsthalle – Vienna)
(Translated from German into English by Milos D. Djuric)
Gallery Run: Subjective Objects
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)