Milan Stašević

The latest cycle of paintings by Milan Stašević, all rendered in a smaller, identical vertical format, is presented as an unbroken series which is simply complemented,and has the possibility of lasting…infinitely. Like stones in a mosaic-as the artist himself said. Although, at first glance, the themes and techniques seem to be linked to the previous cycle of very large works, certain differences can quickly be ascertained, as well as shifts which are the result both of further development and distillation of the artist’s concepts.

The recent painting of Milan Stašević has in the last few years been the subject of valuable texts in which Milorad Belanić, Ješa Denegri, Stevan Vuković, Andrej Tišma, Jovan Zivlak, interpret the origin and method of his way of thinking and working, and especially of his use of quotations from the total history of art, and of  civilisation in general. Some inevitable statements (that in his “imaginary museum” he “dreams of the simultaneity of all worlds”, that he has understood “there is no more promised and guaranteed artistic Meaning”, that in the spirit of still present deconstruction he “disassembles the ideological matrices of the visual and their narratives”, or that his paintings present a palimpsest sui generis) points to the basic reading approaches which allow us to recognize the sprit of the present and modern sensibility which marks Stašević’s painting today. In this regard,it is possible to follow his new cycle, as well, with the difference that the reduction of format has led to a further fragmentation and simplification of composition, making possible partial representation as rounded poetics of each separate piece. In these paintings, namely, Stašević disassembles certain works of famous artists (e.g., Picasso’s Guernica) and thus disassembled, their fragments appear in several paintings, combined with other fragments of diverse origin. A multi-directional dialogue is established, giving always new combination and new possibilities for interpreting meaning.

As before, Stašević still uses recognizable shapes from ( but not illusory copies of ) the paintings of those artists whose sensibility is closest to his, so we can still find quotations from the modern masters-Picasso, Klée, Miró, Mondrian, Matisse, Braque- but from the old masters, as well –Leonardo, Giotto, Piero della Francesca. Stašević says that when he first saw the works of the latter in Arezzo he was “infused” with the subtle chromatic play of grey-blue – the colour of stone fossils of sedimented memories of time – and of the warm tones of the local earth – the colour of burnt umbra.

The other segments of Stašević’s works are made up of signifying elements, primeval shapes and signs, especially those shapes which are on the border between the linguistic and the visual, various ideograms of ancient civilisations, forms from archaeological finds, cultic objects, Chinese and cuneiform writing, Egyptian hieroglyphs and mandalas, prehistoric, Palaeolithic drawings and littleknown ornaments of  Pygmy women from the Mbuti tribe in Africa’s Ituri forests, minimalist, full of fascinating energy whose meaning is ineffable for us. Stašević also lingers over computer characters and signs which represent nothing outside of computer language. And thus, the whole trajectory of civilisation is rounded off.

In paintings of a uniform large format, which he exhibited very successfully in the Cvijeta Zuzorić Art Pavilion in 1995, Stašević used newspapers as the background for his representations; whether we wished to read these newspapers or not, they carried their messages full of meaning, and were at that moment a dramatic chronicle of unhappy living. Nowadays, the artist has excluded the quotidian and everything that could bring in the association of ephemerality, of disposable meaning and disposable materials: the grey background of his paintings reminds us of the stability of stone. It is as if he manifestly rejects ephemerality, showing the desire for his works to persist, and to speak of stable values, which are only confirmed by the passage of time. First of all – naturally- these are the unsurpassed achievements which make up the history of global culture and artistic heritage, and which he rightfully appropriates, feeling himself a member of this general, multilayered civilisation. It is in these recognizable configurations that the artist establishes a dialogue with tradition and undeniable values as component parts of his own existence and of man’s  community in general.

Thus, easily recognisable configurations of diverse origin, disassembled and placed in new contexts, meet in Stašević’s  paintings – from museum relics to living canons, like his Babylonian Misunderstandings, which the artist frankly says came about at the moment when he realized that all about him (and us) was repeating itself, that saturation with information had come about, and that it was, therefore, useless to further search for novelty, which had burdened nearly the whole modernist 20th century as the decisive criterion of value and significance.

To a confessional statement about lost illusions, which is the key for a new painting of great potential, Stašević has joined an important formal characteristic of this new period: his paintings have been done in a markedly tow-dimensional manner, on a surface which abolishes any thought of the painting being a mimetic “window into the world”. Thus, Stašević’s  newly formed world is, actually, a new angle of observing, perceiving and combining of everything we know that exists around us, even when, unlike him, we are not aware that it belongs to us.

 

                                                                                                                                                                         Irina Subotić

Belgrade, January 1998.