Voj Stanić's Mediterranean chords: Three creative phases

It was formed in the period when abstractions represented the ruling vocation in our and European art. He remained completely immune to abstract trends and contemporary trends

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Vojo Stanić: "Balance", Photo: Herceg Novi Cool
Vojo Stanić: "Balance", Photo: Herceg Novi Cool
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

In his early works, painting mostly people in the margin, in the elegiac-melancholic mood scale, which is projected by the gloominess of the tonality, the author expresses a humane agreement with the sufferings and poverty of man. An almost unique series, as a result of the indicated concept, is represented by pictures from the life of boatmen and fishermen, a breviary woven from dreams and hopes, good deeds and infidelities, fateful dares. A lonely fisherman with an apathetic face, on his dilapidated boat under a furled sail, holds a bowl without any food in his hands; in a sad procession, in a coffin suitable for a boat - fishermen carry a deceased comrade; anchored fishermen and the liveliness of boatmen preparing to hunt on the open sea; light-winged seagulls hover over an old sea wolf while resting on a coastal pontoon - fragments from part of the creations of the given thematic circle. In a series of variations, such typical genre-scenes from the fisherman's biography, often anemic, Stanić created canvases of extraordinary vitality in their simplicity. There are doses of sincerity and sentimentality in these seemingly prosaic scenes, painted without shadows and with a free thin layer of paint - for the sake of its expressive function. The painter's passion for all kinds of seagoing ships, present in many paintings as a scenographic element, or as a place of events, should be especially emphasized: sailing ships with one or more masts, trading and harbor boats, barges with oars, leutes and pasares, barges with manual and with motor drive, are confirmation of knowledge of the typology and elementary technical characteristics of various ships. (...)

Stanić's painting, complex in its character, cannot be categorized, placed within the framework of one art-thematic expression, without falling into mere formalism. In various analyzes of his poetics, parallels and analogies with spiritual predecessors, i.e. the anatomization of "cultural memory", we find identical statements that try to define his own unique and artistically significant painting world from the aspect of a certain aesthetic category. The scope is large: surrealism, modern primitivism, naivety, narrative, magical realism and many more determinants, which only enhance the layering and sublimation of his artistic thought. It was formed in the period when abstractions represented the ruling vocation in our and European art. He remained completely immune to abstract trends and contemporary trends.

Documentary, especially in the realization of rustic realities, simple composition in the midst of which intertwine satirical, grotesque and surreal elements, and above all Hegedušićevo striving to combine folk spirit and modern painterly expression encouraged Stanić's artistic research. The indicated experiential procedures, from temporally and spatially different cultural and spiritual frameworks, united without syncretism, build an original aesthetic dictate.

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 the thematic chronological classification of Voj Stanić's creative oeuvre, 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. The paintings: Boat, Man on the Terrace, 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 being 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.


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.

(Excerpts from a more extensive text that was published in its entirety in ART in three installments in 2023.)

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