Image courtesy of OSTEN BIENNAL of DRAWING Skopje
OSTEN BIENNIAL of DRAWING Skopje
OSTEN BIENNIAL of DRAWING Skopje 2018 – OSTEN Award
Angel PANEVSKI, Germany
From light to dark
The first, elemental part of an artwork is the context of the colors or the color with which it is created. The way the colors are touching the basis is the second main theme in the artistic creation, whether formal, abstract, or realistic painting. As third dominant, an important creative component is, of course, the method of the color application: with a brush, with a roll, with a spray, directly from a tube, with friction, pressure, spilling, with a print technique, syringing, with a light projection, in a liquid, moist or dry form, oil, watercolor, water, pigment…
The colored structure that originates from the stated above, documents the direct touch of the artist with the media he works in. The transfer of colors and their previous state, regardless of the way in which it occurs, simultaneously represents the materialization of artistic thinking.
For each artistic work, some (mental) friction occurs between the artist and the artwork. Yves Klein has formulated the following: “Artistic creations are the ashes of artist’s thoughts.”
The method of applying colors is so important, because its lively transfers the way the artist thinks. The deletion of the color previously applied on the medium is a friction which requires the basic state of the medium to be reached before the artist’s intervention. On the white background, light returns to the surface, while on the gray background – neutrality. On the dark background, shadows or total darkness appear. If the colors would turn into light (white) and shadow, (gray to black), an atmosphere between paradise and hell, sky and cave will inevitably be created… which proves that at a first glance abstractly worked formalistic works are suddenly suggesting feelings at theobserver. With the applied transitions of light and shadow, with the addition of a colorful elevation of the state through the structure of the application of colors, a high-quality level of classical painting develops.
The small distance between the applied colors in the works of Panevski proves respect of the color fields among themselves, their autonomy, character and expression. At first glance, they act as a community, which viewed longer is spreading on the canvas individualistically, like the Caribbean Island in the Pacific.
The colored line surfaces also have a distance at the end of the format, so they merge in the observer’s mental eye as a whole. At the same time, the fact that the background is not primarily color-coded, it gives the impression that the image cycle shows a part of system or a large color galaxy of individuals that have common cosmic origin. By the fact that the separate parts differ from the neighbor parts as the characters shown on Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” are different and still belong to one whole. They can by using the same distance to the ends of the picture format, as Rembrandt’s figures, to form themselves in various compositions and collect themselves in one work or one coloristic complex. Thus, individual works can become a new coloristic community, as the previous linear fields from which they were created. In the initial working phase hundreds of drawings with countless coloring solutions where created, where the meaning of the whole in conflict with the individual has become a system.
The form is standing in a service to the color. The observer gets the opportunity to concentrate on the theme of the exposed works – the colors. These characteristic colorful compositions by Panevski are free from illusionist painting, from the challenge of presenting anything from the real world. They are free from artistic dogmas and from various expressive feelings or subjective dilemmas and coincidences. They mainly enter a dialogue with art history and associate for some time or an epoch with synchronized coloring, such as the pop art of the 60’s, Bauhaus of the 20s, minimalists of the 50’s, and so on.
In a subtle way, in the works of Panevski, the positive atmosphere of the Macedonian area is felt, where apples or dark red peppers ripened on the sun still can be found. The observer can relax in a variety of colorful shades that are so synchronized, which associate the boundless wealth of the diverse artistic tradition of the native country of the artist.
OSTEN BIENNIAL of AWARDED ARTISTS 2017 – GRAND PRIX
Elpida HADZI VASILEVA, UK
Walls and Veils
It is a particular honor for an artist to be invited to show at the Venice Biennale. Every two years, since 1895, international artists have exhibited there and the most prestigious invitation of all is to represent your country in a national pavilion. In 2013, Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva, trained and based in Britain since 1992, was selected to represent her country of birth, Macedonia, in a solo show. A second and rare honor was conferred when she was subsequently invited by the Vatican to be one of three artists to represent The Holy See at the next Biennale in 2015. The Vatican commissioners’ biblical theme, “In the Beginning… the Word became Flesh”, made Elpida a perfect choice to respond to, and interpret, this complex idea. For many years her work has looked beyond the surface, deeply into the Beauty of nature’s constructions, celebrating the hidden through the use of materials from tree roots to animals’ internal organs.
In the 1850s, the leading Victorian art critic John Ruskin wrote The Stones of Venice, three influential volumes, which describe the buildings of Venice in the context of the city’s pivotal position between East and West, between Byzantium and Rome. He discusses the importance of craftsmanship and his belief in the decline in art and morality since the start of the Renaissance. He champions the work of early craftsmen who were not concerned with smooth finish but in the joys of life and religion. He writes at length about that he calls the “wall veil”, having seen what he believed to be perfection in the effect of light and shade in the geological colors and textures of an Alpine mountain side. Ruskin remarked that “sometimes more valuable lessons are to be learned in the school of nature” than in the work of classical architects. He admired simplicity above all and noted that: “The first conception of any given story of a house in the Byzantine mind is that of a space enclosed by a wall-veil crowned with a simple cornice…”
By “wall veil” Ruskinmeant architectural surface and his ideal was the stone face of that Alp, naturally and powerfully simple. In this regard, if Ruskin were an art critic today, he would have celebrated much of Elpida’s work. He always felt that artists create their best work when inspired by the natural world and he wrote of “changefulness, savageness and naturalism” as essential to art and society, anticipating today’s concerns for the environment, sustainability and craft.
Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva was born in the former Yugoslavia during the communist era. The Republic of Macedonia has two main religions, Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Islam, but she is not a religious person. Her family name contains Hadzi which might seem to suggest that one of her ancestors was Muslim and made the Haj or pilgrimage to Mecca. In fact, it is a nickname which the family have kept in reference to her great-great-great grandfather, a wine grower, who was imprisoned in Asia Minor. Originally the name was Adzi – Asian – but, during the communist era, the H was added and has been kept. Elpida means “hope”.
Macedonia is a Balkan country, landlocked, and bordered by Kosovo to the northwest, Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, and Albania to the west. There is a strong heritage of architecture from Roman and Byzantine onwards and the National Gallery, where Elpida has had a solo exhibition, is a beautiful 15th-century hammam (or Turkish bath complex) in Skopje. Elpida has a deep interest in architecture and its echoes in the structure of the body and trees. Her work is characterized by a powerful mixture of challenging materials and architectural scale, responding each time to the place in which she shows – its structure and form, culture, economics, trades, history and other reference points. This enables each showing to be newly considered and most of her work is best described as installation. More than simply “large-scale sculpture”, the word installation implies thoughtful and responsive placing and a formality, almost theatrical, in so doing.
Her project for the 2015 Venice Biennale was called Haruspex. Responding to the ideas of both word and flesh, Elpida took her title from the ancient prediction of the future through reading entrails (a rather more dramatic version of seeing a tall dark stranger or foreign travel in your tea leaves). She stood back from a religious response, and with great respect and integrity, created walls, arches, columns and capitals from waste materials of the meat industry. The references to the part that domesticated animals have played in world religions were explored more fully in an essay by Professor Ben Quash, describing how animals are celebrated, cherished and rejected in religion. They often act as a defining factor to demarcate one religion, ancient or contemporary, from another. Islam and Judaism avoid pig meat; Hinduism holds the cow in high esteem. For Christians, the Lamb of God is another name for Christ but eating roast lamb is part of the celebrations at Easter, in the Western and Eastern Church. Roasted entrails are part of religious holiday feasts in the Balkans, Greece and Turkey. Animal sacrifice placated the classical gods and the God of the Old Testament and even now we speak of a scapegoat, the animal cast out into the wilderness carrying our sins, todaymeaning one who unfairly takes the blame for everyone else’s mistakes. All of the organic material that Elpida uses is a by-product, carefully treated, certified and preserved.
Remarkably, one of the names for a cow’s third stomach chamber or omasum (which forms the crux of Haruspex and is also celebrated in her earlier work Bad Hair Day) is “bible”, from the way inwhich the layers fan out like pages of a large book: word and flesh. Elpida has developed fluency in working with discarded materials, using highly skilled craft techniques which are very labor intensive, and has made these materials her personal vocabulary. When invited to show her work, she embarks on a long period of research into the area. This approach sprang from a residency in Berwick-upon-Tweed in a 17th-century army gymnasium where she created Epidermis from salmon skins and fishing line, exploring the relationship between two local industries: the armed forces and fishing. Reoccurring Undulation is a related work where the dapple of the salmon skins evokes lines in landscape, the beautiful mathematical regularities that nature creates in waves, snowflakes or crystals. Ruskin would have seen these as perfect wall veils.
Another residency was in Valenciennes in Northern France where Elpida contacted people working in the traditional craft of lace-making for which the city, like Nottingham, is world-famousand she began to explore their designs in her drawings. A chance walks past a butcher’s shop revealed to her similar patterns in both lace and the locally-prized tripe. She celebrated the intricacy and time-consuming craft of the lace tradition together with a very basic food stuff that is (or was) popular in so very many cultures. Butterflies in the Stomach was a lyrical labyrinth of caul fat, translucent and lacy, where delicacy – food stuff and decorative skill – is highlighted. The sustenance of the region was linked with its creativity and its industry.
Subsequent venues for new work, full of reference and challenges, have included Gloucester Cathedral; Nymans and Mottisfont, both National Trust gardens; a university department and Pied a Terre, a Michelin-starred restaurant. Often the installations are re-made for gallery venues and do not lose resonance: this survey in Nottingham provides an opportunity to see how the strands of her work constantly weave and extend. Haruspex is shown in Britain for the first time, re-made especially for the Djanogly Gallery, but is given an extra dimension in the way it is now connected to a second major work. As if it were not enough to be invited to represent the Vatican at the Venice Biennale, Elpida was also preparing to create another work only one month later. Elpida lives in Brighton and was asked by a public gallery in the city, Fabrica, to create an installation for their deconsecrated church as part of a series on the end of life. Elpida chose to reflect on the near-death experience often talked about in terms of light, glimpsed or experienced at a distance. Fragility is architecture literally made of fragile material; the artist worked with delicacy and sensitivity to create translucent veils of pig caul fat, transforming the membrane that contains vital organs in a chemical process similar to embalming. The effect was ethereal, gauze-like and precious; changing in every light, it entranced visitors to Brighton some of whom asked if they could marry there.
The material used in each of her works delights the eye; then visitors become involved, provoked into curiosity, wanting to understand the making process. The poetry of the experience transforms the rejected, oftenvery peculiar, material into something “rich and strange” and unforgettable.
For Nottingham, Elpida has brought her two major works of 2015 together allowing her to expand the ideas that were running in parallel. They share many ideas: architecture, unlikely materials, a respect towards religious ideas, metaphorical response. She elevates her material from the everyday or overlooked and takes her audience beyond the fabric to think of transformation and wonder, making beauty out of what is thrown away or unappreciated. The emphasis on the elegance of the web-making effect of lace is particularly appropriate for Nottingham, as it was for Venice and Valenciennes. The patterns of the caul equally resemble tree roots and she has produced several outdoor works where trees are gilded with a lace pattern or upended to reveal the webbing of their roots.
Elpida uses both traditional and highly exploratory techniques and this is where, as a contemporary artist, she would have left Ruskin a long way behind, still searching for nature in the old stones of Venice. She has recently sought out medical scientists working in the area of digestion, the stomach and the bowel, to learn more in collaboration. While working on her Venice and Brighton projects, Elpida was also in London, Norwich and most recently in the NIHR Nottingham Digestive Diseases Biomedical Research Unit to understand more about new materials developed for use in reconstructive surgery and also to offer her thoughts on beauty to help medical staff discuss difficult, intimate topics more usefully with patients. Contemporary social pressures have given riseto many eating disorders and distorted ideas of body image so, in her latest work, Elpida’s seeks to create objects and images that might help to challenge accepted notions of beauty. Her most recent sculptures include a large panel of stitched copper wire whose lines are derived from analysis of action in the humanbowel and a “bible” transformed into a listening point in which digestive sounds are heard privately. The involvement and responses of patients have been an important element in Elpida’s research; a Nottingham Digestive Diseases BRU Patient Advisory Group member wrote:
“…after I got hoe yesterday ad sat down with a cuppa I started to think about things that Elpida had said (and this brought a smile to my face and hopefully to yours) I drank the tea and lay down with my mobile phone on my belly and recorded sounds THEN drank a can of coke and did the same…different noises! Am I mad, I actually laughed out loud :-).” Haruspex and Fragility were forming in Elpida’s mind while she has spending time invarious medical laboratories and travelling between Brighton, Venice and Nottingham to produce a new group of smaller sculptures, seen here for the first time. She has used ideas from many religions, architecture and innovative medical science to give her very simple materials a power that comes from their own visceral origins, her craft skills and the transformative nature of her imagination.
OSTEN BIENNIAL of DRAWING Skopje 2018 – FIRST AWARD for PRINT
Olga TOBRELUTZ, Russia
I’ve been experimenting with collage (virtual visual semantic windows) for 30 years. Every series of mine registered a change in the perception of modern mind. My first research started in 1989 in the suburbs of St. Petersburg at Sablinka River. We were looking for nature’s fractal prints in order to dissolve a particular image and create its further visual fragmentation and symbolic transformation, with its original meaning replaced. A performance was a way to reach that objective.
Recording of the performance on film and video did not allow for complete dissolution of the character in the environment and her or his annulment. This idea was never fully implemented because the flaws in technology. Film and video technologies as well as photo collage didn’t allow for complete dissolution: with its obsolete visual narrative, the seams and joins of the collage brought the viewer back to reality. With new computer technologies in 3D modeling, collage turned into an illusion of reality. It was now possible to dive into a virtual fantasy space, a real-life image without seams and joins. This artificial space was visually more real than the real world. Modern mind had already been fragmented when the new digital reality appeared and changed the properties of its visual apparatus. I register the changes in the visual perception of modern mind caused by the influence of the information flow and social networks; the way a fragmented perception is formed and how it hampers the freedom of choice; the loss of the ability for structural and functional analysis; formation of a reflex and sign-based consciousness that may well be a modern form of totalitarianism. The structural changes that music, architecture, theater, literature, language platforms, poetry, and data storage systems underwent in the 20th century are a sign of the change in the perception in general and the formation of synthetic perception and a new visual code.
Our world has no immunity to change. The 20th century was a precursor to great shifts in perception and the transformation of mind. The main indicator of this change was collage, which was so popular throughout the 20th century, before it was replaced by virtual reality in the last decade. Human eyesight keeps evolving. Unlike dinosaurs and reptiles, human eye can perceive a static image. The neurobiologists of the MIT have published the results of their recent studies: “The modern mind can identify an image in just 13 milliseconds; not a long time ago it took 100 milliseconds.” Such a high speed of processing the information by brain helps control the eyes and choose an object to look at. The eye can make three movements per second while the brain identifies the visual information and takes a decision what to look at next, which enhances the reaction and perception speed.
A baby sees everything upside-down because its mind has yet to learn to process what it sees. The perception of the world is influenced by the cultural context, and thus the perspective in which we see the world affects our Weltanschauung. In his book The Systems of Perspective in Fine Art, Professor Boris Rauschenbach writes: “Paintings are usually seen at close range when no signs of depth, such as binocular disparity, convergence, or motion parallax, have any effect on the perception of space. So whatever technique an artist would use, these three properties of depth will be crying out loud at the viewers, whatever her or his intentions are, that this is a flat picture, not a deep space. Besides, the views will know that he or she is looking at the picture, not a space, and his or her visual perception will be having a hard time processing contradictory visual data.”
This is correct as long as we are dealing with the image that simulates a familiar reality, but what if we break the realistic outlook with a random computer algorithm and abstract geometric figures? It means that we will break and then reassemble a familiar image in a fragmented form. Will it involve new visual abilities of the views and somehow refer to the original realistic prototype, creating its new interpretation? In this particular task, there is no need for creating a new composition, color layout, and subject as it may ruin the purity of the experiment. Let’s take a well-known museum image that is perceived so uniformly that any new interpretation is highly unlikely. It has become more of a marker and a symbol than a live magic painting or a window that helps to create an individual fantasy reality. Let’s take, for example, Pantormo’s Deposition from the Cross. We will receive an interesting result if we fragment it and reproduce on canvas full-scale. If the viewer looks at it from a distance, it de-fragments itself back into the figurative image; but as the viewer approaches it, it will scatter into abstract color stains. This brings in an allusion that a completely figurative image is only possible in the distant past, and it scatters into abstraction as it becomes closer to the modern time.
Modern mind can remember a few bars of a music phraseinstead of the complete piece. Modern people are used to short messages and have problems with perceiving larger texts, analyzing them, pondering over them; that’s why most websites divide them into smaller pieces with spaces between the columns. A time segment put into an image also becomes so fragmented that it turns into the opposite of lubok (Russian folklore image) that was so popular with the mass audiences of the previous centuries. In lubok, a depicted event could be extended in time and contain a long narration. With digital technologies, every instant of our lives is recorded and make a part of an electronic collage. We are surrounded by signs that encourage us to act. Is mind capable of perceiving sign as an encouragement to create an image? For example, there is no need to show an image of the desert to a modern man; he can imagine one without it. Every person subconsciously stores many images of the desert that he or she once saw. It is enough to draw a line and put a graphic symbol of the camel upon it, and mind turns a 2D image into an individual 3D image. Here, minimalism gives more possibilities for exercising one’s imaginative abilities. Modern man often adjusts his actions to the signs that surround him wherever he goes. Sign becomes a daily guide. Sign is a signal for imagination to start working. Sign is a cue to create new worlds.
During my last meeting with Bruce Sterling, who coined the term “cyborg” and created the cyberpunk genre, we discussed possible scenarios of the future. Bruce insisted on retro futurist scenarios: a nostalgic looking back, a loss of the belief in progress, depicting modernity in the way it could never happen. At the moment, this utopic idea seemed impossible to me, or at least valid for a limited number of people, because modern man has lost identity and can no longer sustain it. Modern man wants to avoid petrification or any fixed form; he is on a constant prowl for transformation. He lives in an eternal happening, producing an electronic collage of his own life. Fragmentation of thought, to the extent of its complete annihilation, has become a new trend, a mental yoga: purging one’s mind enables one to connect to the superior reason. At the beginning of the 20th century, the visionary of the mental yoga Sri Aurobindosaidheld a training course for the transition to the man of the future who would no longer use the obsolete method of thinking with words. In his Letters on Yoga, he says: as we descend below the level of Reason and enter the Matter, we reach the ultimate degree of division and fragmentation; the One is secretly present there, too, but it is beyond the reach of knowledge, for there we deal with Ignorance at its full, or even with the fundamental Unconscious, from which Universe once again must develop cognition and knowledge.
The 20th century saw many experiments with the image: it was cut into pieces and reinstalled as if in a hectic attempt to find a visual language for the future generations. A new powerful weapon appeared at the end of the century, computer, which helped synthetize arts into an integral entity. Synthetized art is the only method of accurate reproduction of ideas.