The annual opening of the Macura Museum has just happened with a new display of works. Situated 10 kilometres from Belgrade, with a dazzling look-down view at the Danube this is the must see of the serbian arts scene. ‘Galleriste’ Vladimir Macura commissioned the building about 10 years ago to house his art collection and serve as a temporary home when he returns to Serbia from Austria. SInce then, he has added a Malevich-type chapel with a scarlet ceiling that opens to the sky, and accommodation for an artist in residence. This was the first private museum to be built in Serbia since the 1960s. The collection, for someone who has long-time interest in surrealism is – as you can imagine – a medley of painting, prints, sculpture and things, important things (the Zenit printed paraphernalia apparently) or odd things, and from everywhere. The furniture too is used in interesting ways. There are no labels, but hand-written pencil descriptions are occasionally scrawled on the walls, if identification is what you are interested in. You walk into the museum through the kitchen or past a bedroom, or leave to linger on an outdoors terrace and enjoy the view. Public crosses private and this ordered informality is a large part of the charm. Last Friday for the opening, guests were greeted with wine and platters of cheese with apples laid out on leaves taken from the nearby orchards. A live performance involved the singing of some existentially anxed up French, set to music and presented as dance. The doors of the museum opened and the crowd sailed in to view the new selection along with dogs, kids, the young, the old, friends and strangers. People run about, stop, chat, climb, touch and rearrange. An artist was not happy with his painting (a large square abstraction of beautiful colour) because it seemed to slide down to the right. So he sorted it out: got a chair and propped it up on one side, stood back and thought – yes maybe that’s better.
Musej Macura, Zenit 1, Novi Banovci, Saturday to Sunday from 1st May to 1st October 2014. 20 minutes by car from Belgrade.
Eight ‘Postcards’ by respected Serbian artist Goran Kosanović, painted in acrylic, enhanced with ink, framed in heavy gilt frames and hung against a crimson strip of wall. Each painting is derived from a photo taken with a mobile phone. Translated into bright colour and flat, simple form the effect is whimsical. The paintings play to local traditions of naive art, but instead of serbian farms and folklore we have tourist sites and European cities: Florence, Barcelona, Nice, Athens and Budapest – a lake in Austria, a balcony in Serbia and Renoir’s house in Provence. Galerija Zvono, Višnjićeva 5, Belgrade until 6th May 2014
Collage was on display here and combinations of coloured abstract, geometric form. The most absorbing: a rectangular assemblage of photos cut down, pasted together to produce an urban patchwork. Or, in a different mode, pieces of cut and coloured plywood (the paint is nail varnish) which gives carefully combined rhythmic forms. The artist: a philologist and philosopher studying at the University of Belgrade. At the same time a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Displayed at the Studentski Culturni Centar, Belgrade see http://www.skc.org.rs/izlozbe/3708-jelena-micic.html
Still Life, 1929-39
From the retrospective of a highly regarded Greek artist, Konstantinos Parthenis (1879-1967) who was ten years younger than Matisse, two years older than Picasso and who learnt to paint in all the happening places of Europe, as if he was following modernism as it moved around. On display, the sort of the works that made him famous: religious and/or historical subjects where modern aesthetics have been applied to old Greek themes, symbolist and fauve-like versions of local landscapes and post-cubist still lives. These look frugal, seem simple but according to the dates were reworked over significant periods of time. Born Egypt, trained Vienna and Paris, lived Athens. Esteemed as an influential professor and official, decorated artist. Corfu, 1917 and Still Life, 1929-39 at the B & M Theocharakis Foundation, Athens. Until 1st June 2014
‘Appropriation’ puts existing images into new contexts. It deliberately draws attention to original sources, and once you recognise the bits that you know you start to think more about the ways they are being transformed. The digital prints on show here by Vladimir Milanović (a final year PhD student at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Belgrade) offer particularly beautiful examples. The prints are technically superb, seamlessly integrating a range of visual sources (the digital, computer generated part) yet at the same time presenting themselves as works of art in their own right – as prints with painterly effects and inky splurges, as images that have been thought through and pressed out, but onto high quality, super absorbent paper which has been cut rough to leave frayed edges. The level of detail reminds us that the creative process is long; the end result how appropriation is essentially about humour and irony in art. Old paintings live on, Raphael’s School of Athens, but reframed by the iconography of the recent Athens riots. Sometimes, rather than working with single iconic images, the digital collage is used to yoke together fragments from a range of thematically related materials relating to war. Thus in Time Warrior Ares meets Spartacus; Napoleon meets Apocalyse Now, and Ben Hur rushes past Goya’s Third of May. Average size 1,20 x 80cm; average price 300 euros for more info see email@example.com. Seen at the Fine Arts Gallery, Knez Mihailova, 53 Belgrade http://www.flu.bg.ac.rs
General Law of Gravity, 2013-4
An exhibition of constructivist sculpture by an artist born in Zemun in 1939, trained by the university of Belgrade and exhibited widely in the 1970s. The pieces are rock solid and look expensive. They must be. These are ambitious mixtures of precious metals, fine wood and coloured plastics that have been carved, soldered and connected into material form. A quotation from John Updike provides a preface to the catalogue and speaks clearly of contemporary disenchantment:’Durability is exactly what new artists cannot reach, and money goes to all these spectacles, clips, videos, presentations and installations that are dismantled and thrown away the following week.’ Ulus Gallery, Belgrade.
What makes us read painting as landscape? Colour as sea? The question comes to mind when viewing the 30 oil paintings by artist, print-maker and professor Milenko Žarković, This is painting within a narrow spectrum. Subjects are condensed and colours reduced. Mostly, we are looking at land, sea or skies painted in blue, beige or green, with the addition of white. The method flattens out and simplifies: a beach becomes a line; sea or sky a coloured space. But if it looks rigorous and seems repetitive, the effect is subtle and intense. The paint speaks through patterns, hues and textures. Land is emptied of life and built back in paint, and in pure herzegovinian light and space. A selection of these paintings were on display at Gallery ‘Beograd’, Kosancicev venac 19, Belgrade see www.galerijabeograd.org
Subway Sect Nobody’s Scared B Flat
Two sets of six prints by a master serbian print-maker and professor living and working in Belgrade. Each is a graphic hybrid of identical dimensions (1,44 x 96cm), a large silk-screened print composed from four equal parts, each containing 6 mini images. The end result is a grid of 24 where photographs, text and hand-written lyrics are presented simultaneously, as identically-sized pictorial equals with no centre or hierarchy. Colour is simple but produces contrasts that clash so the total effect is intricate and powerful. Colour and print are used to mesh together a variety of materials relating to British punk, and more precisely to Vic Godard and the Prefects. Leka is seeking a visual equivalent to music and to the sound of the songs referenced in the imagery. Thus, the regular bullet-like circles – 3, 4, 5 or 6 – reproduce the chord of a guitar superimposed upon the imagery as printed coloured sound. The consistent imposition of order upon an imagery of disorder, anarchy and rebellion is carried over in the precision of the titles (Subway Sect-Nobody’s Scared, Chord B flat or The Prefects-VD, riff E5 A7-E5 A3). These ambitious prints were the subject of a solo exhibition at the Ulus Gallery (Belgrade) in 2012 and can now be seen, along with other recent works, in the artist’s studio, by personal appointment. Leka is a Professor at the Printmaking Department, Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Belgrade, see www.amleka.com.