A poetic combination of mysteries and everyday scenes

Regardless of the thematic milieu, constituted primarily of coastal and mountainous motifs and interiors, there is always something happening on Stanić's canvases.

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Photo: vojo-stanic.com
Photo: vojo-stanic.com
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

(Continued from last Saturday)

All aesthetic research in the process of defining artistic syntax, certain changes and exceptional fruitfulness, are the basis - although not a completely precise reference - for thematic chronological classification of the creative work. Voj Stanić, since there are no completely consistent stylistic-motive cycles of an essentially homogeneous work. He is changing in continuo but slowly, without radical metamorphoses of his thought, all with the aim of perfecting his style and a more consistent visual embodiment of his philosophical premises, rather than formal requirements. In his epistolary - At leisure, the artist himself notes: “I read that someone said that 'only idiots don't change'. I'm one of those idiots. I don't believe in changing people and I don't believe in people changing. Man only improves and becomes better or worse, but he is always himself.”

For these reasons, each periodization is partly conditional, even the generally accepted one, which makes a distinction between three creative phases in the overall work. The first phase is sculptural, and it is precisely demarcated. The second creative circle, in fact the first painting circle, consists of early works with the already expressed characteristics. Narrative as the relevance of the essence of painting is obvious, but unlike the works from the third phase, in which fragments of reality are arranged on one canvas, in this one, one painting carries one story. The gro of creative production is related to the third phase, which with certain modifications as objectives for the formation of subgroups, lasts until the end of creative achievements.

Stanić's first solo exhibition in Montenegro, in the Art Pavilion in Titograd in March 1966, and the fourth in a row, but the most comprehensive and significant presentation up to that time, actually established the third phase. Pictures: The ship, The man on the terrace, The wind and many others from this exhibition are permanent representatives of this creative cycle. Emphasized thematic diversity of the creation is integrated by stylistic principles. The effect of spontaneity, the sincerity of the author's introverted view of the motif, and the sense of play - present with a strong intensity in this art, which undoubtedly has its roots in childhood - are important communicative elements and starting points for an objective interpretation of the work. The marginality of naive premises, the transposition of a real event into a magical plane, the identification of expressive means with intention, the level of generalization and contrast, the more attractive arrangement of colors in the respective color, are clearly read. The author realizes unusually warm gray-green, yellow, orange and blue, blue and blue-green tones, not always in agreement with real stimuli, because now he subordinates reality and painterly canons to the idea. Thus, azure, as an expression of the lofty and nostalgic beauty of the sea, is increasingly replaced by yellow, and green increasingly dominates the processing of human figures. Indeed, "all the works of the masters form one great myth, which has neither past, nor present, nor future". In fact, "there is only a mythical poetic reality, comprehensive, whole."

The qualitative dimension of Stanić's canvases was given by the systematic conquest of space, more than by changes in color orchestration. Thus, he "enlarges the scene and adjusts it to a divine vantage point from where he 'spys' on vital places and the life of coastal towns." Aware of the importance of stage architectonics for the complexity of the composition, both in the interior and the exterior, he places them in the depth of the space, with figures and objects modeled by form and volume, whose counterpoint is contributed by light-dark relationships and nuances, and the undoubted impression of object three-dimensionality. He realizes the space in an expressionist manner, and faced with the valid rules of perspective, which do not conform to narratives in the statement, he consciously modifies them in a unique way. This undisciplined perspective and the absence of stereometric norms often reproduce disturbing and fantastical effects. With the reduced linear perspective (which registers the illusory reduction of the dimensions of the object in the background), the author achieves spatial depth, while the "atmospheric perspective" (based on the fact that the viewer is bothered by the absence of absolute atmospheric purity in the clear perception of distant figures) is almost never used.

Picture Crnojevica River from 1967, which marks a definitive breakthrough in space, simultaneously includes the specifics of Stanić's landscape. The topographical components of the pastoral landscape of miraculous changes are not primary, since this medium also reveals a combination of observation and intellect, and the omnipresent figures are an expression of the author's thesis that creative nature (natura naturans) has meaning only in dialectic unity with human activity. Therefore, the landscape does not reduce the characters to a marginal role as in northern painting, which first of all evokes the "uncivilization" of the area, untouched but harsh nature. The liveliness of the bazaar, the anchored chuns, the houses and the bridge, in an equilibrating unity of miraculous objects, show that man found refuge and organized life there already in ancient times. A fine misty mood (sfumato) poeticizes the scene, creates an atmosphere of unreality and produces a melancholic sound.

In Stanić's integral work, the landscape in a quantitative sense does not occupy a prominent place. It is a consequence of unlimited trust in the figure and its identification with the essentiality of the painting. Picturesque imaginary-Brueghelian landscapes, without emphasized description, are executed in a harmonious color tonality, in which yellow prevails with accents of mostly dark and green. Extraordinary composition of figural motifs and landscapes, episodic scenes and fantastic details into a unique and functional whole, symbiosis of color and light, characterize this art form. Fish, hooks, birds and all kinds of objects from an almost totemic register, calligraphically processed and intuitively sorted by image, do not have a decorative effect, but a meaningful effect and a symbolic function.

The fundamental determinant of Stanić's artistic and philosophical views is anthropocentrism - putting man in the center of the world, explained at the beginning of the "creative adventure", in the time of aesthetic radicalism of modernism, when figural content was almost prescribed as a synonym of artistic retrogradation. A problematist of life's antinomies, whose reflections have their origin in the famous Protagoras attitude - Man is the measure of all things (homo men sura) and a fantasist of wild imagination, Stanić is the creator of a new reality: a poetic combination of mysteries and everyday life scenes, in which the figures exist according to the laws of the newly created universe.

By following a man in all situations, real or unrealistic, and thoroughly analyzing him, he reveals himself as an extraordinary connoisseur of individual psychology. Ambiguous critical analyses, intoned with humor and laughter, satire and irony, but never moralizing and mere apology, reflect the recognizable Hellenic ethics of measure.

It would be a wrong statement that Stanić paints the greatest hedonistic manifestations, full of lasciviousness, incarnated in carnival festivities, pub debauchery and other social follies, in which the complex deformation of form and figures and a somnabolic appearance emphasize the comic and melodramatic, transforming it into the fantastical and grotesque. Under the apparent veil of Dionysian passion, a melancholic undertone is felt.

Balls, balloons, various flags and signs, emblems and companies, always legible, early registered in this painting - in a symbolic-decorative combination and compositional role - present in the given thematic frame, confirm the unrepeatability of the author's creative game and an almost infantile view of reality. Stanić also shows an affinity for the visual perception of the atmosphere of spiritual confusion, human alienation and everything that ends. In the space itself, often filled with local ethnographic objects of past times, one feels the fluid of restlessness and disappointment due to unsatisfied life's desires and ambitions. There is no pessimism and consternation on canvases with such a plot and characters whose characterization reveals the fate of malice, lost illusions and failure in life. In the exaggerated seriousness and character peculiarities of the participants, the author is looking for naivety and gentle humor. Omnipresent optimism, chorus viva la vita, the life of the spirit and the life of the body, and "lyrism between a smile and melancholy", that is what captivates in Stanić's work and what makes it maximally communicative.

The author's mastery in placing the figures in the picture and their rhythmic relationship in the compositional structure is impressive, which often represents a staging of miraculous elements. The cohesive factor of a series of episodic stories, combined on one canvas, is not an identical activity, but a psychogenic plane. A typical example of this statement is a picture Contrasts from 1967, which shows simultaneous scenes in the house from which the facade was removed in the magnovenje. Intimate company in a carnival atmosphere; a slovenly wife abuses a servile husband; the agony of a lonely moribund guarded by faithful dogs; a drunkard in the final bacchanal act - in the center of it all some constructor solves the formulas of the cosmic mystery. Such a mosaic of human destinies of surrealist audacity, in a sad-funny atmosphere, gives the work an apparently compilative character. The fact about the independent existence of sequences within one content, extraordinary artistic miniatures, in fact the absence of a rational hierarchy and logic of events - a feature of the age-old method formulated as "connected storytelling" - is the subject of various critical interpretations, from affirmative to negative.

The simultaneous flow of images on one canvas - the memory frieze in Stanić, with a theme chosen for the relevance of the artistic tribute, and not for the division of motifs into minor and classical - is an element of their fantasy and the backbone of their stylistic uniqueness. At Stanić, we find a whole series of creations with many figures. Sometimes it is an undifferentiated anonymous crowd, without the main protagonists, sometimes a group portrait, while individual portraits represent rare achievements. This is how a gallery of various characters was created, each of which, in its own way, reveals the complexity and depth of human nature.

Such specificity of his art and the consequent thematic repertoire, exceptional in contemporary Yugoslav painting, caused a certain amount of skepticism among some theoreticians. The degree of concretization of the figures and the humorous-anecdotal context confronted abstract and "thought-puritanistic" aesthetic concepts, hermetic for humorous themes and especially for creative intentions invoked by the peculiarities of "resurrected folk art." In the midst of such an atmosphere, Stanić stands out as a rare and striking phenomenon with his Rabelaisian instinct for laughter and comedy - "laughter that is unique only to man" - and his epicurean infatuation with life. Stanić's persiflage of the legend of Don Quixote, the "knight of a sad character" (fig Don Quixote from 1972), a symbol of the conflict between ideal aspirations and harsh reality, who wears a painter's cloak and brush instead of knighthood, is actually the deepest motto of this painting. Only with a radical reaffirmation of figuration did his creations become the focus of interest, and he became the laureate of a series of important and high awards and recognitions for truly classic works of Montenegrin painting, for works of general importance in contemporary art in the Yugoslav regions.

The degree of involvement in a series of significant art and cultural manifestations in general is gaining intensity, but his modus vivendi remains unchanged. In summer, boatmen and fishermen congregate in taverns, and in that "creative leisure" he absorbs impressions and defines ideas, and in winter he paints, develops his expression and enriches his work with new themes, new "knitting". Thus, after a stay and affirmative exhibitions in Oslo in 1967 and 1968, Norwegian motifs appear on his canvases - in the middle of icy silence, conceiving a unique thematic segment. Image A memory from Oslo from 1969 is a confirmation of the artist's panoptic view: from sea cliffs and ships to architecture and lifestyle, everything is evoked on this canvas.

Current events in the world - new spheres of human interest and research - are the subject of his humorous comments. In particular, cosmic research, the journey to the stars and the radical demolition of the idyllic idea of ​​the Moon are the starting points for shaping new fairy-tale ideas about man. The marionette world, the world of dolls, gives the performances an illusionistic component and with its shaped range contributes to the labyrinthine complexity and magic of Stanić's theater on many canvases. The strings for conducting the mechanical movements of the puppets are controlled by the artist's imagination. Depersonalizing manipulations, various phobias and life's absurdities are symbolically signified by the puppet scene. Allegorical canvas Fear from 1974 has a suggestive effect with a ritual play of puppets amidst an atmosphere of eeriness and nightmarishness and general object destruction. The fear of the unknown sea or the fateful day of atonement for sins, to which the present saintly figure is associated, is a causal force that interprets and builds the infernal rhythmicity of the figures.

Regardless of the thematic milieu, constituted primarily of coastal and mountain motifs and interiors, there is always something happening on Stanić's canvases, along with the inventive structuring of the story, which is often characteristically literary. Correspondence with literature is noticeable, narrative is not entirely secondary, but this conditionally literary approach to painting, which is the subject of critical remarks, does not minimize artistry and creative lucidity, but confirms them. Literary weft is one of the starting points, although not dominant, for a versatile understanding of internal and external expression and a wonderful atmosphere in a series of achievements. Apparently Rabelais, Stanić's work is full of "fantasy and spirit" and the pulsation of life, and under the grotesque and humorous guise in the depiction of man, human nature and life events, true humanistic ideas and philosophical layers are hidden. This kind of content separation gives his best works the power of a kind of "purification of the soul" (purgatio animi).

(Ends next Saturday)

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