Art in the Balkans

Terralha: European Festival of Ceramic Art, 2015

 

This four-day festival of ceramic art – which has now been around for more than 30 years – takes place every year in the picturesque town St Quentin-La-Poterie in the Gard region of France. Pottery has long roots here: it reaches back to at least Roman times but today still many artists make St Quentin their home, living and working in the old stone houses of its medieval centre and selling directly to the public from their studios. Looking, buying and talking about ceramics has long been one of the unique pleasures of this very special place. ‘Terralha’ is the name of St Quentin’s Ceramic Arts Administrative centre. The purpose-built premises include a museum, focussed on the historical dimensions of this type of art and an exhibition space, dedicated to changing displays from all over the world. It is this interface between the precisely local and the broader international that makes the St Quentin festival so distinctive.

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To be selected as an ‘exhibitor’ for the annual Festival is an achievement: the field is highly competitive: every year only 40 artists are selected by a jury and on the strength of a ‘dossier’. Twenty exhibit their art in the dedicated Terralha space; 20 more are given spaces and niches in the town ad these imaginative locations are chosen to highlight the unique aspects of their work.

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And so it came to pass that Jovana Cavorovic from the Blatobran Studio in Belgrade became the first ever Serbian artist to be invited to the Terralha Festival. Her enormous, illuminated organic constructions were transported across difficult borders and re-erected in the special settings of St Quentin where amateurs and professionals, buyers and sellers, locals and tourists – no less than 4,600 festival visitors for the four-day festival – could see and experience their dimensions and beauties for the first time.

Jovana Cavorovic’s ceramic installation at the Terralha Festival, St Quentin La Poterie, France, 2015

Jovana Cavorovic’s ceramic installation at the Terralha Festival, St Quentin La Poterie, France, 2015

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Jovana (far left) along with her fellow artists, including this year’s prize winners: Zélie Rouby, Ismaël Carré and Nathalie Jover and Qihui Huang.

It is exactly these sorts of creative connections that have been the principal animus of my blog: writing about as well as actively creating networks between artists in the Balkans with those living and working beyond. In August I left Serbia for Tel Aviv and thus I travel towards new artistic horizons….But there is one more post about Belgrade that I need to make before I close. Once again it will commemorate some recent cultural networking, this time using print as the artistic connector between Serbian art and British punk.

 

 

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Blatobran Ceramic Artists (i) : Lana Tikveša, Aleksandar Vac & Nemanja Nikolić Prika

lana tikveša
Lana Tikveša

“My works often come to life in different styles, shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are large and colourful and resemble imaginary sea creatures or geological formations; sometimes they are complicated structures made of many different objects, with different surfaces and shapes that interact with one another. But for me they are always about the same thing: capturing and freezing a moment in time, with its special atmosphere and emotions that are hard to describe in words. In that sense, my objects are a quest for the true essence of feeling and movement. By modelling magic materials – clay and porcelain – that can change in structure, size and colour through different technological processes – is how I try and capture the true essence of life.” (Text from the artist, my thanks to Jovana Čavorocić)

aleksandar vac

Aleksandar Vac 

Aleksandar Vac was born in Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia in 1973. He graduated from the Department of Ceramics at the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade, where he now lives and works. Vac has participated in many national and international exhibitions and has been the recipient of many awards. His work combines the ancient technique of terra sigillata with a modern approach to form.

nemanja nikolić prika

Nemanja Nikolić Prika

‘I’m an artist who lives and works in Belgrade, Serbia. I graduated from the Ceramics Department at the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade in 2004. My art is expressed through different forms and shapes, from sculpture to illuminating objects where I use and combine a wide range of techniques and materials. I’ve been publishing and exhibiting nationally and internationally. I find paper porcelain as the best technical solution for presenting my interest in illuminated objects and experimenting with the integration of ceramic and light. When the light runs through the paper porcelain it creates a warm feeling in the spectator through the natural palette of colours from yellow to orange and red. I enjoy playing with the interventions on the surface which in the final product result from the extraordinary dance of light and shadows.’ (text from the artist, my thanks to Jovana Čavorocić)

All of these artists are exhibited at the gallery. For more information on these artists, contact www.blatobran.com

Ceramic Art: Blatobran Galerija, Belgrade

A new gallery dedicated solely to contemporary ceramic art has just opened in Belgrade. This light, bright attractive space, located in the fashionable Dorcal area, has been designed to showcase the work of a group of artists some of whom are directly associated with the Blatobran Workshop, a loose but ambitious group of ceramicists who teach and work in a shared studios. The selection currently on display is notable for its eclecticism and as such demonstrates the extraordinary versatility of clay as a medium: the pieces shown here are at once aesthetic, practical, sculptural and ornamental, criss-crossing categories so that lights, bowls, animals, objects and constructions harness light and shade, void and surface, colour and texture, size and technique in brilliantly creative ways. Artists exhibiting at the moment include professionals and amateurs as well as new and established artists, and many of whom are increasingly being recognised internationally. The display will change regularly and most pieces are for sale. The gallery is open daily. Gospodar Jevremova 38, Beograd, www.blatobran.com

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Keyword: Printmaking

bojan_otasevic

Bojan Otasevic

danja_tekic

Danja Tekic

jelena_sredanovic

Jelena Sredanovic

milena_maksimovic

Milena Maksimovic

This was the first ever public exhibition by PhD students in the print-making department of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Belgrade. The three exhibitions highlight the sophistication with which old and new print methods are being used (and often combined) while the prints themselves demonstrate how the process of print-making is always integral to the conceptualisation of the subject. Shown here, from the top down: Bojan Otasevic reworking themes relating to Durer’s Melancolia in explosive pictorial colour; Danja Tekic’s lithographies (one of six) achieving a subtle interplay of abstract form and tonal hue; Jelena Sredanovic’s monumental wood-cut, minutely worked of celestial heights and Milena Maksimovic using thin rice paper to aquatint human-animal dualities and opposites. The display is huge and was organised across several venues in Belgrade (Galerija Grafički, Galerija Fakulteta Likovnih Umetnosti, Galerija Akademia). Parts of the show are travelling onto Bosnia and can be seen at the Gallery Prijedor in Prijedor, Republika Srpska from mid July to mid August 2014.

Ursula Kiesling, ‘Missing Hero’

A small exhibition by an austrian artist who came to Serbia in October 2012 as artist in residence at Treći Beograd, or Third Belgrade. This ‘artistic collective’ (founded in 2010 by Selman Trtovać) is centered around the Gallery Perpetuummobile, a purpose-built but currently unfinished club/library/gallery and residence of rising brick and glass directly opposite the Danube and close to the Pančevo Bridge. As visionaries of a ‘micro-utopia’, artists of Third Belgrade cluster and network trans-nationally and trans-culturally, using art and fellowship to resist what they call the ‘post-modern fragmentation’ of society.

Kiesling’s new work is directly inspired by the city and most of the exhibition is devoted to a project called ‘Missing Hero’, a witty sequence of 16 colour photos where men and women have been invited to pose as heroes in front of the empty sculptural niche on the Kosančićev Venac. Drawings in pen, ink and watercolour develop the project further and with humour. These include her quest for the missing bust, her search for a visual trace of the (any, all) female serbian hero – the postage stamp – and magnificent drawings of heavy, coiled ropes. These are bell pulls from monasteries in Fruska Gora, whose vigorous ongoing restoration will be the focus of her next project. For Ursula Kiesling see www.iefs.at for Treći Beograd and the Gallery Perpetuummobile, Pančvraki pub BB, 11210, Belgrade see trecibeograd.com

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Jože Ciuha, ‘Mosaics – Paintings – Plexiglass’

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Homage to Picasso, 1985/6; acrylic on plexiglass, 152 x 152cm

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Elegy, 2003; acrylic on canvas, 200 x 350

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Scribes, 2006, acrylic on plexiglass, 100 x 100cm

 

An important and absolutely stunning retrospective to mark the 90th birthday of the internationally acclaimed Slovenian artist Jože Ciuha. The selection starts with shimmering plexiglass paintings, continues with the satirical works, where hyper-realist human or animal faces look out from colour-field paintings. Then come the textured and painterly canvases that teeter back and forth between abstraction and representation. The final part is devoted to the fresco-style mosaics on mythical and religious themes. This is also a journey through 50 years of different national histories and with an artist who was born in 1924, trained in Ljubljana, joined the Yugoslav partisans, travelled extensively in the Far East, then in South America; who taught in Italy, Germany and the US, who has received many different awards and who has participated in 300 group shows and 400 solo ones. He now divides his time between Paris and Ljubljana. At the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts & Gallery RIMA, Knez Mihailova, 35, 11000, Belgrade. Mon-Fri 10-10pm. Thursdays 11-4pm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum of Naive Art, Kovačica, Serbia

 

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A small kooky gallery but worth a visit to see a collection of oil paintings, mostly on rural themes, celebrating native traditions but  eschewing established techniques. The factory interior shown here is the exception to the rule. You need to think peasants, carts, farms and fields, full on colour and flat perspective. Naive art was pushed forward as an important national indigenous tradition from the late 1940s. A short walk from the museum is the atelier of a violin maker Jan Nemček – who exports his instruments to the whole wide world.

 

 

Vilim Halbarth, ‘A World After Us?’

An exhibition of welded metal sculpture by the Croatian artist Vlim Halbarth (b. 1970) who lives in Trogir and produces the work in the shipyard. The sculpture speaks symbolically of well-established ship-building traditions. Metal fragments and discarded pipes are shaped into bows or sterns, or other ship-like shapes. They speak directly and deliberately of an industry now in decline. Lost cultures surface too in the ‘Wall Compositions’ where the metal is used to symbolise old Slavonic writing. This is art as work and as cultural memory. Curated by Jelena Krivokapić and on now at the Gallery Beograd, Kosančićev venac 19, Belgrade www.galerijabeograd.org

 

From the cycle 'Fertility' image

‘Forty Years, Carnation Revolution, Portugal’, Macura Museum, Novi Banovci

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.

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Musej Macura, Zenit 1, Novi Banovci, Saturday to Sunday from 1st May to 1st October 2014. 20 minutes by car from Belgrade.

Konstantinos Parthenis ‘Art and Spirit’

Corfu, 1917

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