This is the last post on the arts scene in Belgrade and I want to use it to focus attention on the creative print-making of Leka (aka Alexsandar Mladenovic). His latest exhibition was inspired by the music of the British punk rock singer Vic Godard. The project evolved collaboratively, between Vic in England and Leka in Belgrade. The geography was bridged by the lyrics. Vic sent them to Leka: the original sheets, hand-written, and from 5, 10 or 20 years before. These words and the music to which they belonged inspired in turn a series of prints: Leka’s equivalents to Vic’s songs. This cross-cultural collaboration even extended to the catalogue, where one entry was written by me and the other by a Serb and historian of rock music. A double Anglo-Serbian, transcultural project. The exhibition was open at the Ozone Gallery in Belgrade from 10-20th July, and to rave reviews. You can read the catalogue text here: VicLeka text in pdf and you can find a very extensive account of the project here, on Vic Godard’s website in two parts: part 1 and part 2
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jovana Čavorović was born in Gornji Milanovac, Serbia 1985 and has been working in the field of ceramic art for the last five years. She graduated in 2010 from the department of ceramics at the University of Applied Arts in Belgrade. She has been exhibiting since 2007 and has participated in many solo & group exhibitions, symposiums and art related projects. These enormous illuminated sculptural projects have been selected for exhibition in France at the Terralha Festival, a European festival of ceramic art held every year at St Quentin la Poterie, Gard, for more information see http://www.terralha.fr/
Bojana Ristevski was born in 1985 in Belgrade. She graduated from the ceramics department at the Faculty of Applied Arts and Design in Belgrade in 2009. Since then she has participated in many exhibitions and projects both in Serbia and abroad. “The point of departure in my work is drawing. I try to transpose my drawings into ceramics. So you could say that drawing and form are my means of expression. I use a white surface for it to be clear and clean for the drawing. I like to build a form and play with it, searching for the right proportions and decoration, and getting the form back into its right position. I try to be personal in my work but the themes are changing, though the central inspirations remain: people, animals, food and my relationship towards them.
Ana Jakić Jevtović
Graduated from the ceramics department at the Faculty of Applied Arts and Design in Belgrade in 2003. She acquired the status of an independent artist in 2003 and has been teaching in the ‘Tehnoart’ professional school in the department of pottery. ‘My work is primarily oriented in two directions. First is the design of home-ware, based mostly on minimalist basic geometry – circles, cylinders, cubes etc., that have a multi-purpose character. This means that a cylinder may represent a vase, a candle-holder or a pot in one collection of items, all depending on the proportional relations of their simple geometry. I prefer earthy, natural colouring and an accent on subtle textures, comprised of text or other abstract shapes. Apart from home-ware, I’m involved in making porcelain jewelery and accessories in combination with other materials such as rubber, wood, silver and other metals.
The other aspect of my work is panel ceramic paintings. I experiment with various techniques and colouring on two-dimensional and mildly three-dimensional surfaces, raku and porcelain being the most common. I like the unpredictability of raku in combination with porcelain’s clarity and it’s susceptibility for rich textures.
for more information on these artists contact http://blatobran.com/
“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 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
‘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
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
A fascinating exhibition of thirty-two drawings by an artist who completed his post-graduate studies in 2010 (Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Belgrade) and who has already won several awards and sent his work to exhibitions abroad (Italy, Slovakia, Switzerland and Japan). He uses lead pencil or black charcoal on white paper and his technique gives the drawings a monumental, sculptural quality that make them stick in your mind. Many are of children shown in ordinary ways – sitting, eating, reading or playing but there are also submarines at sea or drawings of nothing but the sea. The subjects are oddly varied; some relate to cinema (Bergman, Tarkovsky) while the blur looks to Richter. About 80% of the drawings have already been sold. The exhibition continues until February 16th 2015. At the Haos Gallery, Dositejeva 3, Belgrade http://www.gallerychaos.com/
Still on view this weekend in Belgrade is a poignant video installation by one of the most respected performance artists in the region, Dragana Zarevac. Born in Belgrade in 1959, a graduate from the university here, exiled to Paris during the civil war, where she has been a member of the Maison des Artistes since 1992, Zarevac has been the subject of many exhibitions and the recipient of numerous awards. In her own words, she uses performance and video to explore ‘how political and social life affect sexuality’. Early projects like Perfect Marriage (2001) showed the artist standing, wailing while her husband vacuumed an apartment. Ephemeral Memorial (2008) dealt with the body in concentration camps and she was the author of one of the best videos (at least in my opinion!) at the October Salon called Resist: Disappearing Happiness – 12 simultaneous video clips of people dancing or listening to Pharell Williams’ song, Happy. In a totally different register, this installation explores a personal response to her degenerative motor neurone disease. Organised into three parts, it consists of a 3.20 min video (Tango Valido) showing Zarevac in a vivid red dress dancing the tango with her female instructor (‘the dance that combines a passion for life with a feeling of dismay’) to the haunting tango music, and this version recorded in 1944. On the right, are 3 glass shelves with the 270 empty bottles of the drug Mestinon, that slows down the advance of the disease. Behind, is a second video called Peace (2 minutes) where we watch a tear trickle down the side of her face, seen in profile, death-like in its silence. This installation was created for the Sales Gallery and was curated by Jelena Krivokapić. Showing until 22 December at Kosančićev venac 19, Belgrade. For more information see www.galerijabeograd.org
An exhibition connecting Serbia to the American south via the art of Jon Langford. These are prints made from photos and words that feed on country music associations mixed with flat colours and decorative borders. They are mounted on plywood and varnished and stressed to give the image a well-worn look that effectively captures the folksy mood. Langford lives in Chicago but was born in the UK and the roots of this art reach back to the 1960s, and his interests in radical politics, counter-cultures and punk music. He was a founding member of The Mekons and with them was associated with the department of Fine Art at Leeds University. Politics and punk combine with another long-standing interest – popular american vernaculars – country and western music and their melancolic thematizations of the ordinary lives of men and women. This all comes together in the prints. His art dealers are located in Austin, Texas and every year they organise an exhibition to coincide with the South by South West Festival. His latest album (Here be Monsters) was released in 2014 and each song is matched to a painting, available as a postcard or as a set of prints. This exhibition was brought to Belgrade by the Sales Art Gallery. It was curated by Sanja Todosijević. See www.galerijabeograd.org
The novelty here is to make your home into a gallery, organise a grand opening and for eighteen continuous days exhibit the work of ten serbian artists. The formula is Nathalie Boscq’s and this is her third version in Belgrade. Paintings, drawings, photographs and prints are on view everywhere and the informality of the setting, with prints, paintings, photographs and drawings propped up on shelves, or hung from walls or columns, framed or unframed, within the clutter of a busy household works well. She has lots of open space and the party atmosphere of the opening makes the exhibition look more like an art fair, encouraging people to buy when they might not from a gallery. As Santa Claus and everyone else is broke this year, all the art on display was priced at 250 euros or less. Some artists did exceptionally well in terms of sales. The ten selected to exhibit were: Leka Mladenovic, Borko Petrovic, Ivan Jovanovic, Mina Sarenac, Vladimir Milanovic, Maja Djorjevic, Sladjana Stankovic, Tamara Miodragovic, Natasa Krstic and Nemanja Maras. Curated by Nathalie Boscq and Adeline Royer. Opened 5th December, closed 17th December, Kursumlijska 14. For more information: www.nanaopi.com
A striking exhibition exploring Tito’s permanent and obsessive fascination with film is currently on in Belgrade, night-times only and in conjunction with a film festival where you can re-visit some of his famous movies. All of this has been organised in the fitting location of what is now the Museum of Yugoslav history, built as one part of a vast complex for memorialising Tito himself who lies buried on site. The exhibition is simple in conception (film, photos, and Tito related paraphernalia) but very effective in execution. You can see the notebooks that were used to record the daily cinema showings (often several a day) indicating the date and time shown, title of film, origin, language and presidential reaction. Good use is made of the blown-up photographs of Tito at festivals, or cinema parties alongside Hollywood film stars and European Royals. And then there are the films themselves: those that were publically viewed or privately screened, the favourites (American westerns and Hitchcocks) or the films that furnished him with a sense of history, and that were watched on the way to meeting a foreign dignitary (for example, ‘The Battle of Britain’ in preparation for a meeting with Churchill in London in the early fifties). The exhibition leads us through these different cinematographic journeys. Quotations printed on the walls on the uses and meaning of film provide the necessary, ironic subtext for a President who may have banned the distribution of capitalist cinema culture, and who claimed to only watch films of Lenin, but who sat down nevertheless to enjoy Hair. Curated and designed by Dragana Marković, Marija Djorgović, Momo Cvijovic and Mane Radmanovic. Until 18th December 2014, Every evening, 6 Botićeva, Belgrade.