Milan Stašević

I

At a first glance, Stašević’s works in the cycle Return to the Beginning seem to represent a return to abstraction. A superficial impression suggests that these seeming abstractions were achieved by trimming, i.e., reduction of the visual, in the threefold quest: for the smallest quantities/values, for the instructive minimum, and for the thin limit that is not crossed. The impression, however, is false. In this cycle, the art of painting is returning to its beginning, its origin. A fundamental question is posed: How is the act of painting at all possible? This is an investigation of the original causality of the very visual phenomenon. It is an inquiry into primordial sedimentations, primordial cataloging of visual traces. And this, one must admit, is quite different from the process of abstracting!

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The starting point is – nothingness, the painter’s blank canvas. This is the initial situation – nothingness that potentially can become everything.This transformation, however, cannot occur right away, because every gesture in this inquiry into the biginning is difficult and problematic. Question marks grow in the beckground of the picture, alredy in the preparation of the canvas. It is no longer clear whether this preparation is a part of the visual phenomenon or, rather, a prerequisite for it.

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Even a completely white canvas is not white enough, because the ’’blank’’, which also means ’’empty’’ (as in ’’empty canvas’’), is an idealized construct, a nonexistent thing. In a visual text, this thing occupies the place of color, because it is the spectrum and a part of the spektrum. White is the precondition for the possibility of all colors and of itself as a color. Whatever else the visuality may be, it is also a tension between the white and nonwhite. This tension existes even when one white is cancelled/coated whit another white. Stašević’s preparation, which is always layered, from the beginning is a visual puzzle, a certain trace or directional sing.

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For Stašević, the question about the beginning, about a (painterly) origin, is primarily a question about the preparation. About the color, and then about the blot, the point, the line. In short, it is a question about certain elemental determinants of the visual. Both approach and retreat are movements. Every hue of white (and these surely are countless) always deviates from the previous white. This painting by means of the preparation creates the impression that the picture constitutionally is in the state of the previous set-up. That the picture is obsessed with the problem of the beginning. That the picture is unwilling to accept dogmatically, without prior investigation, any assumption, be that assumption visual or extra-visual. In this way become possible precipitations, sedimentations, traces. Also possible becames a cartography of the visual ground.

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II

How did the question about the beginning, the origin, occur to the painter? Is it not enough to begin, without wondering about the reasons for the beginning, as has always been done? It is questioning not a temporary, ephemeral experiment within a different, far less questioning continuity, in which is preserved Stašević’s recognizable visual handwriting? At present, as usual but not always in the same way, we are witnessing a crisis in art, particulary a crisis of the that which is specifically visual in art.

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In the realm of esthetic immensity,a unifying, dominant direction or a governing idea is impossible. Also impossible is any general syndrome (except as a construct, almost a prosthesis), which would be drawing a demarcation line among the various positions marked chronologically. In fact, such a syndrome would be merely a concealed totalization, which eventually cancels the idea – better yet, the counter idea – of the immensity. Only individual appearances, interventions, and strategies are possible in the immensity. The individual option cannot avoid the question about its own initial assumptions, its starting point, its origin. The immensity brought with itself a crisis of the visual in art, so that the return to the beginning must be understood as a particular reponse to the challenge of the crisis, as a reply to the question not how the visual gesture is possible, but whether it is possible at all.

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The artist is the archivist. He works in the archive (this term is borrowed from Foucault) that is necessarlly structured supraindividually. And yet, the artist makes individual interventions there. The artist seeks from itself a place in the archive, but as a rule finds it not where he seeks it but elsewhere. The visual gesture is not an absolutely sovereing, lawgiving gesture, which establishes the archive. The gesture merely characterizes an individual appcoach, but it necessarily finds an aechive as it is. According to Derida:’’The archive has always been a pledge, and as such, it has been a pledge for the future. To put it trivially:What is no longer archived in the same way does not live in the same way. The meaning which lends itself to archiving a priori allows itself to be codetermined by the archiving structure.’’ [Mal d’Archive, Galile 1995, page 37] Return to the beginning/origin for the purpos of rediscovering that which purpose of rediscovering that which is elementarily visual, as Stašević’s dose it, indeed appears as a deposit for the future. In additation, it appears as a confirmation that the visuality, understood as archive, remains as a conditio sine qua non of art.

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III

At first, life was a trance on some ground, other side of a vanished happening that has wandered away. In fact, life is a testament, a pledge by the ground itself, a pledge of its creases and folds and of its scattered text. Less geology or geologics, sedimentation of nature or spirit, and more geographics – a mode of visual recording, of making traces. Life is a visual cartography of the ground, ground that is devoid of a grand, sacrosanct image, shape, color…

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Seeming quest to touch the other side of eternity; not only recording the text but also erasing it. Scattering of the cuts, imprints, broken strokes. Repeatability of the acts, gestures, strokes. Archived evidence of the presence that occurred and presence that was postponed; of the nearly erased trace; of new traces, searches and quests. All of this is scattered and spread on a ground that is without firmness and compactness, that is transparent, bottomless, and without fundations.

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There is pleasure in the absence, in the lack of any story whatsoever, in scattered gestures that anticipate meaning but offter only the uncertainty and the back side of the meaning. There is field of vision without anything visible happening in it. Something, I do not know what, that is at once squeezed and stretched between the image and the sing. Trying to archieve everything with almost nothing, optimum with minimum, full visuality with an almost complete lack of the visual. Eliciting speech not so much from the image as from its back side, its trace.

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This is not new abstraction, new slimming diet, progressivity of some hastily concocted disappearance. This is only a testamentary treatment of that which happened. Beyond the exceedingly obtrusive opposition of the figurarive and the abstract. Shadow precedes the image, shape, color, light, spectrum. To use Plato’s shadow of a shadow, agony of a trace in the moment of its vanishing, in the presence of a repeatable and forever different, displaced meaning.

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                                                                                          Milorad Belančić