Blesok no. 75, November-December, 2010
Gallery Reviews

The Forehead on the Finger

Ana Martinoska

“Krug”, café, fine company and good mood, enough for me to agree to write a few lines on the latest from the brush of Miro Masin. But, the way from the graffiti on the café's wall “Better on a branch than stuck in an elevator”, through the hours spent in the painter's atelier and the later effort to evoke the experiences of the numerous earlier encounters with his works, all the way to coming up with something that could be put down on paper, appeared to be bigger a challenge than I could imagine. Not only because I was slowed down by a medical check up and an empty car battery, but mostly because writing about the art implies that it has a meaning that can be determined and articulated, while for me painting has always been rather an impression than theory, rather an emotion than an elaboration. And what now, I wondered, facing the new revisits of the seemingly old topic – Masin and the monkeys, again!

    This is the topic that not only pulled Miroslav Masin out of anonymity at the very beginning of his artistic career, but it became and remained the first association which relates the public to his name, a kind of a trademark. It is questionable whether we could call this a revisit of this topic at all, because he has never completely abandoned it. In the meantime, his works underwent several artistic cycles where he played with the techniques, forms, formats, even with  the media, but it still seems that all these other preoccupations, all the kisses, fish and birds were only a continuation of the same topics on the origin, the meaning, the future…     Since the first appearance in the “Half a million years since the apelike ancestor came down from the branch”, through the video “Circle (monkey-man-monkey) and the so called artistic-evolutionary processes “Miro and Emil” and “Man”, all the way to his latest presentation before the Skopje public, at the beginning of this year with his art-kitchen, Masin has been telling the same story. Maybe we could say that this is about an obvious and constant dedication to a topic, we could even call it permanent obsession or refer to it as a research of the possibilities for constant transformation of the same metaphor, but we can not help considering the sustainability of the innovation which Masin performs over Darwin's theory, pointing to the possibility of a reverse process of a counter-evolution which would mean a return of the modern man to his roots, to nature (despite the culture, or maybe despite the science and technology), actually to his real nature, to his own essence… Because, if Duško Radović used to say that the man has not become man overnight, but after a long battle with the monkey in him, Miro Masin clearly sees that the sweet little monkeys have outsmarted men and proved to be better perfected creatures, so becoming a monkey in his world meant becoming a man, once again.

    Can this tendency be interpreted as an escape from the contemporaneity and the alienation it brings along, or if we use the vocabulary of the culturology, as an invocation of the discourse of primitivism? Namely, if primitivism is an anti-rational and anti-materialistic philosophy, a search for the origin and the absolutes, for the intact and not contaminated humanity and a rebel against the linear, measurable, capitalistic logic, then Masin certainly follows the line of the foreign supporters of primitivism like Picasso, the Cubists, the German Expressionists, the Dadaists and the Surrealists. Let us remind that in the heart of the German Expressionists' program lies Nietzsche's romantic-dialectic supposition that one must turn back in order to go forward.     According to that logic, the escape from contemporaneity means a return to the primitive man, unspoiled by the advancement of civilization, or, in the eyes of Masin, to the first man, the prehistoric man, the monkey. This is why the monkey from the painting has its finger on its forehead and looks at the egg (another universal symbol of the origin and creation) wondering how to regain the lost dimension of the humankind. Its vision is not a resistance against the technological advancement, nor is it ironizing or ignoring the achievements of modernity, but rather a warning of the direction the humankind is taking today. This is why this thinking monkey (maybe even unwillingly) uses the arguments of the American theoretician of culture Stanly Diamond that the way towards the future leads through a communication with the primitive, both in the past and in the presence, i.e. that “The search for the primitive is an attempt to define the primal human potential. Without such a model it becomes more and more difficult to evaluate or understand our contemporary pathology and our possibilities.”

    Probably in the same context can we interpret the fact that Masin's latest works are framed in old frames, marred and slightly peeled, found in the basements and the attics of the painting ateliers of his colleagues of the older generation, or frames for Gobelin embroideries and mirrors from the family heritages, as if he wants to show and prove once again that his paintings are new, fresh, innovative, but that they also, concurrently and literally, metaphorically carry the patina of the values that could be found only in the past, as if only the return to the roots means a step forward.

    Made especially for the exhibition at the Skopje gallery “Oko” (“Eye”) in November 2010, these twenty odd drawings include this, already familiar, symbolic of the egg and the monkey, as well as the references to many answered or implied mental and emotional states, from deeply reflexive to utterly romantic and heart-shaped, nevertheless very human. Through them, the symbols, the species, the metamorphosis and all their figurations and narratives imply a very personal esthetic which is varied through different forms, from almost classical portraits and geometrically multiplied images to completely abstract forms; yet all of the variants inevitably suggest the idiom of their author. Even if it happens that the audience doesn't see the signature which is a trademark by itself (and it might happen, considering the fact that it is most often in transparent-whitish-shiny hues), I am sure that even the less informed won't hesitate to say – this is Masin, this is an art that speaks louder that any words we could use to describe it. For all the rest, we'll stay for a little longer with our finger on our foreheads. And this is the beauty of it.

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