Stanić, painter of diversity: The unusualness that he reveals

The spirit of the paintings is characterized by optimism, even cheerfulness. Things that are latently dark or serious are presented as accidental, as something that is an occasional nightmare but one that must be overcome

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Stanić's picture, Photo: MSU RS
Stanić's picture, Photo: MSU RS
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Vojislav Stanić was born in Podgorica, Montenegro, in 1924. He has been considered one of the leading painters in his country and ex-Yugoslavia for many years.

Stanić is a painter of great variety. In his early works, he seems almost like an old-fashioned painter, who borrowed a motley bunch of drawings from the entire history of painting. He often paints surrealistically, with an ambivalent attachment to Magritte and other eccentric painters from Boša da Looked at. He is a figurative painter who, in terms of construction and drawing, possesses the skill of the old masters and is rarely satisfied with a simple, non-ironic depiction of reality. One could call him a primitive painter, prone to whimsical but touching depictions of the ordinary life of ordinary people of the small town where he lives and its surroundings. Although there is nothing even resembling a linear or predictable narrative in Stanić's painting, at times hints of an apparently close and common landscape can be seen in his work. People are caught in the moment when they are playing games, watching television, in various poses during recreation, in prayer or when they are having fun. Lovers are fleetingly seen or observed through open windows, in parks, and often on the edge of some larger scene or public event. The spirit of the paintings is characterized by optimism, even cheerfulness. Latent dark or serious things are presented as accidental, as something that is an occasional nightmare, but one that must be overcome.

What complicates Stanić's depictions of ordinary things is the ever-present element of the fantastic. Above a well-known street in the summertime, a man calmly crosses a rope, which by the way is stretched between two buildings. People walking on the sidewalk of a city street come across passers-by who have masks on their faces or carry pictures. A naked woman stands on one toe, hovering over a car. A man in working military clothes with a cowl with eye slits on his head is the dominant figure inside the supposed painting gallery, so one gets the impression that the few rooms that exist in the gallery could be torture chambers.

In these diverse images, the earthly and the slightly fantastic intertwine, as if there is no category of diversity that separates them. Incredibly, he is as much a part of the ordinary universe as the figure of an old man dozing in his chair while a cup of coffee floats peacefully above him. Symbolic objects possess the power of unimportant things, and even some ephemeral detail - an empty box, a stray piece of clothing, or a street lamp - can be decorated with the breath of the miraculous.

In fact, Stanić is as close to ordinary as to miraculous things, so that during the war in Bosnia, the eruption of political themes in his works was both extraordinary and terrifying at the same time. Of course, it should not be strange that a Yugoslav artist (even though, living in Montenegro, he avoided the fighting and bloodshed in Sarajevo, Srebrenica and Kosovo) finally felt that politics, no matter how much he did not want it, entered into his life, and therefore, inevitably, into his works. However, when the war started in his country in the nineties, Stanić was already almost 70 years old. Until then, he had lived in a relatively peaceful era of communist Yugoslavia, practically his entire mature life, and if he was aware - and he had to be - that there was always and everywhere politics, he also had to be aware that there was peace in his country. a precious, precarious gift, while the desire for play and pleasure was only possible because the constant struggle for power in his society was, fortunately, largely kept out of public view. When hostilities flared up in Bosnia and when threatening violence, even in a relatively remote part of Montenegro, became imminent, Stanić felt - as we can surmise from his paintings - that his works would in some way record what was happening.

Surprisingly, many canvases that Stanić did in the 90s do not show the expected signs of fear and struggle. It seems that Stanić resisted with all his strength the urge and sense of responsibility to paint scenes of war and to use his images for the purpose of a militant expression of solidarity with victims of terror or dissidence.

Where he would allow politics to interfere with his actions, he apparently did so reluctantly, distrustfully, and indirectly. He watched a terrible scene unfold before him, with the eyes of a naive person who encounters something he does not fully understand, something terrible, perhaps even threatening, but still something that should not be viewed from too close, lest it appear bigger than it is, at least not in the long run. There is something excitingly humane and modest about the extent and treatment of political influence in Stanić. No matter how terrifying his literal markings may seem, the political in Stanić, even when he wears a uniform and a kalshnikov, is only part of a recognizable human landscape, with characters who refuse to fully submit to the violent and inhumane.

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