Blesok no. 93, November-December, 2013
Gallery Reviews

Osten Biennale, 2013

Safet Ahmeti

“Golden Osten” is an artist-in-residence biennale program aiming to provide room for several weeks of work, collaboration and exchange between artists who are recipients of the above mentioned award at the “World Gallery of Drawing”.

The sheer diversity of authors and artworks, winners of the Osten prize illustrate the broadness and thoroughness of the gallery's approach to the subject of contemporary art creation. However, it is not just about the diversity of styles in treating the canvas, but about opposed, even confronted theme philosophies. Altogether, they speak about the current state of art production as a kind of ‘nowadays’ phenomenon. Why a phenomenon? Preeminently, because it still exists. In an era when everything, art included, has been reduced to advertising and design in service of advertisement, artwork still hangs on. Or, at least, that’s what we might think. Isn't it just enough to simply ‘enjoy’ the artists virtuosity; the aptitude of those ‘blessed few’? Or has art since gained something of a different role society? By this I also consider the highly problematized phenomenon of artistic “genius”. The numerous quotation marks and question marks in this introductory paragraph clearly attempt to say that art can and probably must continue with its educational role, at the very least. Artwork is work that can open our eyes and can point to the problems of the contemporary as well as of any other previous society. No matter if the artwork is a swipe social critique or one that is apparently self-sufficient within its own enclosed world, they all describe in a very precise manner the relation to reality.

Probably the most expressive relation to the world and life we find is in the work of Vladimir Veličković. Not so much a painter of the human form but of human nature. Aggression, brutality, destruction, alienation, eternal escape. These are civilization issues the author constantly confronts us with. They are additionally stripped bare by the precision of the details and the expressiveness of the stroke. As if that were not enough in itself, Veličković ‘throws’ the mighty, tough body into a vast, empty dark space.

As a matter of fact there is a question mark as to whether or not the work of Zlatko Glamočak is more or less aggressive-expressive compared to the work of Veličković? In any case, it is created to compel discomfort, uneasiness or as Jovan Despotović had stressed, “a feeling of disgust, queasiness, a highly unpleasant witness of reluctant scenes.” (Vreme, Beograd, 23.8.1997, pp. 48-49) Glamočak's oeuvre is contained with an autobiographical note that afterwards spreads itself to the same human-civilization issues which Veličković deals with.

The feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty informs the artwork of Tijana Kojić. Yet presented a little differently, not through swipe expression, but by multiplying figures in space while coloring them in a gray scale. We further see their graphical imprints through which we can follow the strong or the pale trace they leave in life.

The main subject of Niče Vasilev's oeuvre is loneliness, or even melancholy, given through mannerist elegance, and geometrically drawn faceless female figures. The impression is complementary stressed by the intensity of colors, and by evidently accentuated wideness as well as depth of the space the figures are placed into.

A different kind of escape from reality, a kind of obsessiveness with the past, Byzantine one above all, has long ago been crystallized in the work of Gligor Čemerski. To his view, Kurbinovo or Nerezi are not only the source, but the answer as well, to the questions contemporaneity poses.

In his own way, Pavle Kuzmanoski realistically approaches issues of the past. His witnesses are timeless old man characters who saw and witnessed many things.

Among several artists we can find a variety of obsessions with the world of imagination, of dreams, of the eerie and unreal. The surreal world is characteristic for the work of Vasko Taškovski[1], and for Toni Šulajkovski as well. While the former builds his fantastic world upon organic bases, the later makes use of geometrical forms so as to bring order out of chaos.

In a completely different medium, a metal sculpture, we find the very same effort to stop and to turn the always somewhere glowing, looking for a way to be realized chaos. Maybe in this artwork by Pavle Pejović the nucleus of that chaos is in the center of the sculptural composition, but the traces of its attempts to rule the whole can be recognized all around the surrounding surface.

Despite his explicitly realistic approach to painting, Marc Frising is intimately close to a certain surrealistic atmosphere. He builds recognizable ‘symbolics’ by subtly intertwining the inner and the outer world. Stoimen Stoilov, on the other hand, is absorbed into his representation of the primordial, the fairy tales and the mythology. The graphical processing of the paintings is highly recognizable for both of them. Somewhere in between those two authors we can place the creations of Nevzat Bejtuli Kica. Artwork containing a lot of ‘symbolics’, a dose of the surreal, and above all rooted in the primordial.

The graphical processing is particularly recognizable in the artworks of Venceslav Antonov, Simonida Filipova Kitanovska, Mirjana Krsteva Maseti and especially Dragan Karadžić. The creations by Karadžić are permeated with the subject of associative landscapes, with a highly stressed graphical approach, even when he slaps the color ‘expressively’ into an already projected space. In a similar spirit we can see the work of Krsteva Maseti, replete with multiplication of graphical signs and of color hues. The abstract artworks by Filipova Kitanovska while painted in robust strokes they hide in themselves “a concrete, extremely personal touch with reality, thus becoming a deep expression, comment and critique of it” (the reality) (Kokan Grčev, in Simonida Filipova Kitanovsk and Marija Svetieva exhibition catalog, Skopje: KIC, 2009). A line as a basic building element is specific for the artwork of Antonov. The network of quickly stroked lines brings forth a dynamic to the fragments of body parts scattered through the canvas. Yet, another, more remarkable weave brings them back together.

In the artworks – objects by Jeongmin Suh we see a specific “network”. If the “working space” is not fully accumulated with traditional hanji paper rolls in different size, so characteristic of the technique Suh is applying, then we are facing an exhaustive pencil finish juxtaposed with a single detail represented by a wisp of color pencils.

Oval organic or inorganic, amoeboid or stone like forms by Mice Jankulovski are also creating an associative net. No matter which way they will be interpreted, it is their tendency to restore an order to the chaos that becomes notable.

Exhaustiveness, in a sense of treating all parts of the canvas without omission, is noteworthy in Zoran Malinovski's oeuvre. The analysis of the stone, the wood or the wildlife tends to become an almost radiographic representation of Nature. In a very similar art manner, yet with dynamically more tranquil compositions, Novica Trajkovski realizes his own search for answers on the relation between Man & Nature. Vlatko Ilievski's questioning of contemporary issues is distinguished by the richness of his strokes as well. Whether he is challenging a nightlife subject or the relation to the history of modern art is of less importance.

The main subject in Tatjana Maneva's oeuvre is the relation among the present and the past. Questions Maneva is interested in are posed through the continual interplay between Eastern symbolism, Macedonian folklore, impressionism and abstract expressionism.

By using real radiographs Blagojče Naumovski opposes the reality of life to the reality of technology. Or to be more precise, he opposes the visible to the invisible.

The relation between the visible and the invisible makes a starting point for the artistic statement of Atanas Botev. It further allows the author to use the quasi medium of advertisement for asking questions referring to the current state-of-affairs regarding ethics, morality or any other social value brought into question.

It is exactly through advertisement, as a basic communication tool of our hyper-consuming civilization, that nowadays all political, economical, and social norms are not even brought into question anymore, but are simply erased. What is valid is only the possibility to raise the capital. Therefore, all aforementioned poetics, artistic and not just artistic, are trying to answer the question: how to continue? They are struggling to pose questions that the common man/woman – the consumer, doesn't seem to have any time to think about, or to construct his/her own point of view. So, yes, art production still exists, in its own way it still points out towards reality, but the number of quotation marks and of question marks as well, will continue to grow. Hyper-actively.


1. Awarded Grand Prix at the Osten Biennial of Awarded Authors – World Gallery of Drawing, Skopje/Gevgelija 2011.

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