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A storm of Balkan art brut

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Joca Geringer, “Untitled” (2013), 42 x 30 cm, pencil on paper, (private collection, image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

PARIS — A particularly fervent place in Paris for obscure, obsessive and excessive inclinations is the Halle Saint-Pierre. Created in 1986 to affirm the wonders of the hidden secrets of contemporary popular arts, their current exhibition Turbulence in the Balkans (Turbulences in the Balkans) presents 26 imaginative outsider artists from the peripheral art scene of the Balkans: the cultural space that stretches from the Serbian-Bulgarian border to the Black Sea in Eastern and Southern Europe. East. The curator of the exhibition is Martine Lusardy, director of the Halle Saint Pierre, with the assistance of Nina Krstic of the Museum of naive and marginal art In JagodineSerbia.

In Art Brut, political content is generally subordinated to a sequestered superstructure – an attitude that portrays artists as intense but somewhat dark. I have long feared that such isolated art encourages artists and viewers to turn inward on themselves and their segregated identities, amounting to an obsessive apolitical narcissism that is typically encouraged in consumerist society. Indeed, some of the inscrutable artwork on display here resembles the kind of self-obsessed artwork used on the covers of overly indulgent, noodling progressive rock concept albums of the early 1970s. But there is also a lot of fluidity, hybridity, intersectionality and transgression here which, in the context of the Balkans, both criticize the insensitivity of the Soviet regime that once dominated the region (during the Cold War, most countries in the region) The Balkans were ruled by Soviet-backed communist governments), and the superficiality of American materialism and pop cultural desolation awaited it.

There are some naive artists, like Sava Sekulić and Matija Staničić, whose work is characterized by a childish simplicity of execution. But with gratitude, Turbulence in the Balkans focuses primarily on the seductive and immoderate whirlwinds of the marginalized whose phantasmagorical approach to life deprives them of their rights, as was the case with Vojislav Jakić. However, to really get to the heart of this exhibition, you must allow yourself to be seduced (or at least intrinsically linked) by the mythological belief that these non-artists/artists are in direct contact with their strange imagination of a professional manner. artists cannot be. (Which is a mistake.) Certainly, this constructed permission allows each self-taught (i.e. visionary) artist to communicate a sense of belonging. representation error based on their “authentic” sensitivity and their unconventional cultural contemplation, as we will see with the bitter obsession mori memory work of Jakić. It is therefore worth putting aside the fact that the “naïve” psychic complexities of these non-artists carry with them a whiff of elite mystical fabulism. I can accept it.

Dragan Milivojević, “Untitled” (undated) 29.5×18.5 cm, ink on paper (image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

The sound of turbulence is the chosen metaphor for these exterior images that productively break down the difference between foreground and background. For example, Joca Geringer’s eerie drawing “Untitled” (2013) is a stoner’s delight: a fluid wonder of recombinant spaces and faces hiding and emerging from a hectic cosmic mind meld. It’s ripe for raving and will sound familiar to anyone who experimented with drawing and weed in high school. The “Untitled” drawings by Jovanović Ljubiša Kene and Dragan Milivojević are also notable in a sly surrealist vein. They remind us that much of the outsider art of the Balkans is not so crude – for it does not stray very far from that of the Belgrade Surrealist circle (arguably one of the most dynamic bastions of the beginning of surrealism in Europe, as detailed in the book). “When the margins cry: surrealism in Yugoslavia” by Sanja Bahun-Radunovic). Active from 1922 to 1932, the surrealist movement in Yugoslavia gave birth to a generation of poets and numerous individual and collective creators of works of art. Exquisite Corpse (exquisite corpses), automatic texts, collages, decals, assemblages, photographs and bizarre theoretical propositions published in the almanac Nemoguće-The Impossible (The Impossible) and the magazine Nadrealizam danas je ovde (Surrealism here and now). These publications, like outsider art, examined the possibilities of acting spontaneously and irrationally when creating art. Thus, although some of the works presented here, such as Kene’s tumultuous drawing and Bojan Đorđević’s (aka Omča) “Bestiary” (2014), are contextualized as non-academic and untrained in art, they are not conceptually very different from the work. unnatural images based on collages from the Belgrade Circle of Surrealists.

Jovanović Ljubiša Kene, “Untitled” (2010), 70 x 50 cm, ink on paper (image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

Bojan Đorđević (aka Omča), “Bestiary” (2014), 21 x 15 cm (image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

Cooler is the incredibly enigmatic, complex and detailed drawing “Normandy Landings” (2004) which at first glance looks like an automated abstract network, but is in fact a representational osmotic membrane composed of tiny invading soldiers. We could easily hang it with the painting by Henri Michaux mescaline drawings because they share an obsessive and uncontrollable vibrational quality. I also enjoyed Vojkan Morar The quixotic painting “Angel Portrait” (2014) and Igor Simonovic’s knotty self-portrait (2013) because they have similar overall visionary qualities that problematize the front, middle and background. “Angel Portrait” depicts in exquisite detail a swarm of long-legged, naked yellow women, surrounded by their beatific winged sisters who appear to be taking flight. But take a step back and you’ll see something like open sunflowers.

Aleksandar Denic, “Landing in Normandy” (2004), 100 x 70 cm, pencil on paper (image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

Igor Simonovic, “Self-portrait” (2013), 80 x 60 cm, mixed media (image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

Vojkan Morar, “Angel Portrait” (2014), 50 x 40 cm, oil on canvas (image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

Such works open us to the inner life of obsessive delirium. But fortuitously, the embellished pictorial representation of the works also has a way of addressing atavistic and folkloric meanings, given that it frees itself from the common codes of pop representation. In particular, Geringer and Denic’s virtuoso work in the field reminds us of what the 19th-century mystic, artist and poet William Blake said about seeing the universe in a single grain of sand. Whether or not you want to classify these works as visionary, anti-pop, outsider art, or brutal art; its vibrant visual noise invites a broader view of life that includes spiritual, ecstatic, or mystical attributes that we attribute to both the ancestral past and the individual’s subjective realm.

Like Blake, many artists of Turbulence in the Balkans integrating their idiosyncratic visionary imagination (a psychological process) into their tedious brand-making. The overall quality of production that Joškin Šiljan, Geringer, Morar, Denic and Simonovic share with Vojislav Jakić is that of an accumulated maniac. They are all obsessives who accumulate labor-intensive miniature details, often distributed with almost equal compositional intensity across the entire picture plane. This is how the fanciful art of Jakić and Denic collapses the foreground and the background, thus inviting the viewer to look In something instead of looking has something. In this sense, the work of Jakić and Denic requires a slow active visionary participation on the part of the willing spectator. Something improbable but increasingly necessary as a counterpoint to our brash click-bait culture. It can even be said that the strangely persistent visionary art of Jakić, Geringer and Denic includes the political function of strengthening the imaginative powers of society by opposing clear, quick and obvious pop simplification with veils of agitation visual.

Joškin Šiljan, “Who are you? (#2349) » (2010), 266 x 152 cm, oil on canvas (image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

Vojislav Jakić, “Untitled” (2002), 50 x 70 cm, mixed media on cardboard (image courtesy of Halle Saint Pierre)

I can also see this noisy inclination exhibited as a networked frenzy of quasi-abstract lines punctuated by wandering eyes in Šiljan’s nonchalant painting “Who Are You?” #2349” (2010). Indeed, the tribal aspect of this painting is instructive: reminding us that the prehistoric pre-literate precedent of these outsider artists is found in the ancestral divinatory activities of the seer/soothsayer often found in nomadic tribal cultures. of the whole world. The intuitive insight of these seers was seen as a path to spiritual understanding useful in guiding decisions regarding the movements of the tribe in relation to weather conditions and the migrations of animals on which the tribe depended for its continued existence. These super-star psychics often did something like “read” the abstract ashes of the campfire; see significant patterns and signs. Such shamanism is still part of the religious life of some Indians in northwest America and still exists among Tibetan Buddhists (the indigenous expression of Bon shamanism and Tibetan Buddhist practices are historically linked, and present-day Tibetan Buddhism is a synthesis of the two traditions). Divination rituals are found in all cultures of sub-Saharan Africa, from West, Central and East Africa and Sudan to South Africa and Madagascar, where people have developed ways of “reading » visual noise to help them cope with afflictions, social conflicts and social conflicts. the seemingly arbitrary destructive forces of nature.

Non-artists/artists of Turbulence in the Balkans let us reconnect with this deeply creative use of visual nihilism, where the fight against excess is recognized as part of the indestructible transcendent force of all homo sapiens. It is this transcendental insubordination which suggests an exalted and divinatory state of mind; a way to understand and respond to the many faces of current uncertainty. In this context, Turbulence in the Balkans is a social corrective feat of strength of subconscious emotional conviction. In his haze of noise art, an intense appetite for atavistic abilities is on full display. Given the prelinguistic potential of visual arts to liberate common graphic codes, non-art/visionary art in Turbulence in the Balkans also disrupts our norms by deepening the recognition and appreciation of the indefiniteness necessary within visualization. Much of the work leads viewers to question how ancestral divinatory excess functioned as a conduit to additional psychic realms. Another non-linear blow to the pop essentialism that is so much a part of the best of contemporary art.

Turbulence in the Balkans continue to Halle Saint-Pierre (2, rue Ronsard, 18th arrondissement, Paris) until July 31.

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