Blesok no. 56, September-October, 2007
The new and (un)known Čemerski
Or: In the name of the painting
I guess it is not a coincidence that Phillipe Davett, art critic of the respectable “Le Monde”, while writing on the Macedonian exhibition “Dialogues: The Art in Macedonia Today” in Paris in 2003, especially pointed and “recognized” Gligor Čemerski and his expressionism as an authentic European expression among the artists. This is because Čemerski’s art has been for four decades “… an adventure whose objective has been to overcome the seemingly unbridgeable gaps of the distant spaces and times, which, as the work of this artist shows, are not unbridgeable for the spirit” (Vlada Urošević).
The work of Gligor Čemerski is objectively unique, unprecedented in our country. Although strictly expressional in its surface layer, his art seems to “stay away” from too narrow standardized determinants of the typical art divisions to “expressionism”, “surrealism”, “symbolism” etc. The artists of Čemerski’s kind, by rule, can be clearly recognized outside the stereotypes, in broader philosophical/cultural dimensions. In such a broad context, his art can be accentuated as precursor of the postmodernism in our country today, and Čemerski as an “artist who has been carrying on the alphabet of the postmodernism in his genes for many years before it 'appeared' on the European scene”! Notably, Čemerski's artistic reflexes “… explore, research, interpret, rework… artistic experiences of tremendous times, of great individuals and anonymous artists. In fact, it is his natural habitus – the Antiquity, Stobi, the satires, mythology… and the cultural heritage – the Macedonian version of the Byzantine paintings, Kurbinovo, Saint Sophia… while, on the other hand, it never remains limited to the national and the traditional only, very openly seeking for a dialogue with the Civilization in general – the South American culture, El Greco and the Spanish artists, Delacroix, Picasso…“! Or as Čemerski says himself, „the Antiquity pastorals, the biblical drama, joy, fertility and abundance are alive today. The suffering as well. I am equally inspired to paint out of everything that makes me happy or troubles me (…) I carry inside me the knight and the snake, the princess, sirens and the women, the apple trees as Eva's descendants”.
It is usually believed that the artistic passion with most of the artists decreases as the physical maturity comes. This “principle”, if it exists at all, works in a completely opposite way with Čemerski. In the last years – in the years of his physical (and artistic) maturity – Čemerski seems to have been working more than ever! Like being under a constant “artistic temperature” which cannot be decreased with regular means used for the average people. Not only in his active painting, but also in his everyday, usual communication, Čemerski (still, or even more!) becomes completely involved in conversations about art, in the description/explanation of his own art and art in general. This must be some kind of a gift given by God – a privilege of those who are chosen.
In this context, the artistic passion and creative oeuvre of Čemerski, not only his recent one, but in general, is probably the most fruitful one in the Macedonian art. It is equal to the one of Martinoski and Mazev – strong, passionate, courageous, magical… Or, as the great Petre M. Andreevski once concluded, “It is rare to have visionaries like Gligor Čemerski who has devoted his life to painting so fervently and with such a passion”. Today's creative rhythm and oeuvre of Čemerski is so intense that it can hardly be followed. Practically, every minute is transformed into painting!
It is in such a context that this exhibition of Čemerski happens; it is multi-meaningful and it should emphasize several important aspects.
It is, first of all, an exhibition by an (un)known Čemerski, i.e. an exhibition of pieces already presented worldwide, but not in Skopje and Macedonia. A great part of them are created out of the country (in the USA, France, etc.) during his working visits to those countries. They are interesting in many aspects. For example, to see how the “artistic logic” of Čemerski functions outside the “sunny Macedonia”; or, similarly, to see what and how other environments emanate, to notice the other potential sources of inspiration in the artist's work; whether the apple trees are equally impressive in Prespa and on the Bald Head Island and whether the sirens in this environment are similar to the ones in Ohrid; to see how the apocrypha and the knights behave in their eternal struggle with the snakes in distant worlds, etc.
On the other hand, this exhibition also shows two (most) important segments in the artistic oeuvre of Gligor Čemerski: the painting and the drawing. No matter how different they are in their (conditional) treatment, they almost ideally supplement each other, mix with each other, explain each other…, while the drawing is not “just the beginning” or “a sketch for…”, but it is a full-colored, autonomous and self-sustained piece of art.
At the end, this exhibition by Gligor Čemerski should definitely remind us and show us that we need a more serious, more profound cultural policy (not only) in art. This exhibition should suggest us that we need representative, monographic, retrospective, luxurious… editions/monographs on Macedonian artists of Čemerski's type (and, of course, many others!). It is not an obligation of the artist; it is a debt of the society, of the state towards the artist and his work! Only in this way can Macedonia approximate the serious European/world culture states!
What is most important in this moment, besides anything else, is the fact that we see a very complex, energetic, fresh and, sometimes a euphoric Čemerski. His painting (and I also think of drawing here!) seems to be in its full youthful strength– strong and exalted, experienced, but also probing, rhapsodically resonant and coloristically explosive – “a very strictly controlled storm in an artistic manuscript which is always recognizable“. As Pissarro said, it is just like narrating the secret of one's own work to the world, while the world is ready and expectedly opens for it.
The division of the exhibition (in relative terms) in two blocks – paintings and drawings – does not imply anything, but it can suggest “something”. For example, it can suggest a challenge to parallelly “assess”, consider, compare… the two media. Or to consider them separately, independently of each other. It is certainly, not always possible because Čemerski's drawing is a painting and the painting is a drawing! It does not mean that the author of this article does not consider the differences important and that the artist does not know and respect the specific features of the two disciplines. However, Čemerski has always been known by his art, regardless of the discipline/medium in which it has been presented.
These differences are almost insignificant or even negligible with Čemerski. And again, the painting is a drawing and the drawing is a painting in Čemerski's work! The elementary stimulus and inspiration are very similar (or same), the internal tension and the external echo, the magic of the move and the sound of the color. In fact, by giving the (working) title “The Hand Can See” to this exhibition, I believe that Čemerski suggests the inside-outside, stimulus-realization, impulse/thought-move, etc. Because, in this case, the hand “can see” anything that can be seen with the spirit, it will react to each internal impulse, it will register and move (on the canvas or the paper) the excitement of the thought or the feeling, the impound of the sight or the vibrations of the experienced! And it is exactly the hand of Čemerski that “sees” in series: the bloomed fruitful apple trees in Macedonia and the equally fertile and eroticized Evas in them/through them; the reminiscences / syntheses of the mosaic world of Heraclea Lyncestis and the strange, magic birds or the red Cerberus in them, the other wild animals or the sea fauna; the deeply personal and frequently ironic experiences of the beloved Ohrid, the Ohrid men/women and the Ohrid sirens; these last years the favorite topic of St. George and the Dragon, i.e. the Knight and the Snake, as a possible personification of many personal and collective conditions, the eternal topics of the Good and the Evil… etc. In fact, the topics are equally present in the paintings and the drawings. There are no exclusivities, and there seems to be a primary feeling, some kind of a spark which lights in the moment of creation and it is being transferred to the medium – the canvas and the paper. It is therefore noticeable that a topic/series logically begins with the drawing and later on it is being transformed and expanded into the painting and the reverse – it is very frequent that a topic/series might be initiated in the painting first and later on it appears and it is being treated in the drawing. This confirms the thesis that Čemerski does not insist on prevailing of one discipline over another, nor can it be considered that the painting is preferred to the drawing and the opposite. In fact, history of art confirms that this is a case with the great masters!
At the very end, and with an open admiration for the artistic energy, the author of this article believes that it is about time to seriously reconsider some of the general attitudes about the post-war painting in Macedonia, by focusing exactly on the oeuvre of artists such as Gligor Čemerski. There should be a general reconsideration of the state's attitude toward their work. “The art of Gligor Čemerski is genuine because of the author's personality, his ideas and esthetics, the volume and the power of the oeuvre”. In this direction, Čemerski is one of the few, and he already positioned high at the peaks of the historical context of art in Macedonia, a true Macedonian bard whose art can be taken as an esthetic example of the post-war painting in Macedonia.
Translated by: Marina Tuneva
Edited by: Elizabeta Bakovska
1. Philippe Davet, L'art macedonien, ou l'echo violentdes soubresauts historiques, Le Monde, 04.04.2003.
2. Златко Теодосиевски, Вистински посмодернизам, ЗУМ, 2002, Скопје.
4. Alex Krtov, The Fever Overcome, (catalogue Gligor Čemerski & His No Boundaries Friends), Gral Advertising, Skopje, 2005
5. Петре М. Андреевски, Големиот сонувач, предговор во каталог: Чемерски, Струшки вечери на поезијата, 1992.
6. For example, Čemerski has exhibited complete series of art pieces on the topics: sirens from Bald Head Island, the Knight and the Snake, Apocrypha etc., at the exhibition in the Museum of Art in Fayetville, USA.
7. It should not be forgotten that Čemerski is a painter, graphic artist, mosaic producer… essayist, critic…
8. Петре М. Андреевски, Големиот сонувач, предговор во каталог: Чемерски, Струшки вечери на поезијата, 1992.
9. Д-р Кирил Темков, Творец на волшебни дела, (предговор во каталог) Чемерски, Музеј-Галерија Кавадарци, 2006, стр. 19.