Rastislav Škulec, Trijenale skulpture / Triennial of Sculpture, Pančevo, 1996.
At the beginning of the '90s two generations of sculptors met on the visual arts scene in Vojvodina. One, somewhat older, who had started its investigations in mid-seventies, and achieved full energy in the '80s where it also left a certain imprint and tone influencing the overall visual climate of the period. It entered the nineties with an already adopted personal poetics, with an artistic maturity, large experience and justified authority. The other group comprised younger artists who emerged onto the scene at the end of the '80s bringing along a new spirit and a new plastic concept.
The preceding decade was marked by the works and projects of, primarily, Mladen Marinkov, Slobodan Kojic, Mira Kojic, Sava Halugin. The events that took place in the art of the '80s (new image painting, new expressionism, new scene painting, free figuration, trans-avantgarde, new eclecticism...) was not directly visible in the works of these sculptors, but, on the other hand, they could not stay immune to or fenced out from the new artistic practice and the atmosphere it created. Although they were not characteristic representatives of the art of the '80s in Vojvodina – since the breakthrough was done by some other, new artists, mostly painters, who expanded their paintings into space and made the crucial step forward after which the strict boundaries between painting and sculpture began to fade – this group of sculptors appropriated the reckless neo-expressionist enthusiasm of the '80s art. Strict in their choice, they used classical materials (bronze, terracotta, stone) and were not particularly attracted by experimenting in different "non-sculptoral" material, so characteristic for the '80s sculpture. Only a few projects of Mladen Marinkov with straw, pipes and plastic-bags made a short excursion into experiment. However, the very process of work, the relationship toward form, spontaneous interventions on the surface and the very mass of sculpture, carried elements and new incentives of a step forward in comparison to the sculpture of the preceding period. And although each individual opus had the personal imprint of its author, all of them shared an expressionistic spirit. The emotional had priority over the rational.
One should not neglect the general contribution of this generation of sculptors in making sculpture popular in Vojvodina where its history was very modest. Their activities made the life of sculpture in the eighties more active and affluent. Slobodan Kojic even initiated the annual International symposium of sculpture Terra in Kikinda, in 1982. The specific feature of this sculptors' colony has been work in clay and a chance to produce large spatial forms. Another contribution to the favourable artistic atmosphere of the eighties came from Pancevo and its exhibition of Yugoslav sculpture, established in 1981. Its biennial character has facilitated good surveys of current sculpture in Yugoslavia and an appraisal of individual sculptoral achievements. Since the exhibition hall could house sculptures of large format, it turned into the space of permanent experiment where sculptors could indulge in large spatial forms. All of this contributed to a better understanading and treatment of sculpture in Vojvodina, its greater populatity and appreciation.
The emergence of a very young generation of sculptors, at the beginning of the nineties, was the beginning of a new chapter in the world of sculpture in Vojvodina. This generation turned sculpture – otherwise playing second fiddle to painting – into the progenitor of new artistic manifestations. The art of the '80s and the events that marked the preceding decade had its influence on the formation of the youngest generation of sculptors in Vojvodina, like Dragan Jelenkovic, Rastislav Skulec, Zoran Pantelic and Dragan Rakic.
These artists do not rely much on the preceding generation byt try to find their foothold in other ideas. Their incentive could be traced to the time when painting entered space in the eighties, most successfully done in Vojvodina by Verbumprogram (Ratomir Kulic and Vladimir Mattioni) with their asserted geometrism, and Laslo Kerekes, synthecizing pictorial and sculptoral elements in his picture-installations.
The Sixth Exhibition of Yugoslav Sculpture in Pancevo, with works by Dragan Jelenkovic, Rastislav Skulec and Zoran Pantelic, showed that new sculpture applied a more rational approach, with reduced forms, geometrism, neo-constructivism and echos of the minimalist tradition. The new sculpture proved that eclecticism was possible, if combined with good knowledge of art history. The postmodernist atmosphere from the eighties continued in the nineties through an expressive individualism and emphasized subjective attitude – the artist-individual had a key role. There was no uniform direction or identical style, but aesthetic pluralism made legitimate through the existence of certain personal intellectual concepts that together built the spirit of the nineties.
Dragan Jelenković, Bijenale skulpture / Biennial of Sculpture, Pančevo, 1993.
An emphasized intellectualism and the primacy of ideas and concepts as basic instigators and creative impulse (significant for the final realization of a work) and the choice of material, represent yet another distinguishing mark of that period. The idea seems more important than the final result and intellectual efforts become the imperatives of this art. Sensibility and sensitivity are of secondary importance. Sculptural works of the young artists from the beginning of the '90s show a common tendency of a conscious relocation of emotion, their controlled articulation and subordination to a particular idea. The emotional serves the rational.
As compared to the sculpture of the preceding decade, which rarely diviated from the classical definition of "volume in space", with terms like "sculpting" and "modelling" still applicable to it, the new sculpture is no longer just form in space but contains space within itself as its integral part. Space becomes the area of most intensive artistic contemplation. It actively participates in the construction of a certain plastic concept and its effectiveness is equalled to that of the material objects, thus contributing to one particular whole. The already adopted modern sculpture terminology seems to be appropriate for the artistic practice of the '90s as well – object, body, installation, fragment, environment, building, constrution, composition... Sculptures are no longer placed on plinths. They stay on gallery floors, hang from the walls or lean against them, or even hang freely from a vault or the ceiling.
There is an altered relationship toward material. Apart from the classical ones, there are numerous "non-sculptoral" materials (felt, leather, nylon, netting, glass, polyesther, linoileum, rubber...). Anything can be useful and the potential of diverse combinations of totally disparate materials is a challenge for the young who experiment freely and with much self-assuredness. The temporary quality of their sculptures, their incompleteness, indicate the importance these artists attribute to the very process of creation. It is often even more important than the final form.
At the beginning of the '90s young sculptors implement a certain idea more frequently and sometimes exclusively, by means of several separate artistic objects whose chosen distribution in a certain space carries a specific meaning. Each individual object in that case does not represent a work of art in a traditional sense and cannot be singled out of the context, since only within that context it attains its meaning. It is frequently part of a more general process of creation, one item of a totality. New sculpture shows an inclination toward serial works where each of the elements or each part of the whole has its specific place and meaning and could be observed individually as an independent artistic object. Frequently these spatial forms are combined with drawings placed on walls, thus constituting a specific installation, enviornment or a cettain "scenography". Drawing is of exceptional importance for the young sculptors: no longer "the cruch" of sculpture, it turns into an independent work of art expressing the same idea and the same sensibility, on equal terms with spatial forms. These artists do not take drawing as an explanation of the forms executed in space, but as an attempt to transpose the same idea, same internal need and intellectual content onto the background, and thus drawing and sculpture attain a parallel significance. Zoran Pantelic seems to be most openly inclined to environment installations, as testified by his already realized works in cooperation with a few young artists, in the space of the Petrovaradin fortress: Lice znaka (The Face of Sign), 1991, and Viribus unitis, 1992. At the 7th Biennial of sculpture in Pancevo he had a separate room for himself and he tried to organize it with a consistent application of a certain idea. His sculpture, probably more than works of other artists, echos the minimal art of the seventies, but also largely differs from it. Certain sensibility, subjectivism and an emphasis on his own artistic position belong to the sensibility of the early nineties.
Dragan Jelenković, Bijenale skulpture / Biennial of Sculpture, Pančevo, 1993.
The plastic concept of Dragan Jelenkovic assumes a moderate harmony of the rational and the emotional, frequently articulated in such a way that emotions can hardly be guessed. His pronounced personal standpoint and an underlined subjective feature reaffirm the contemporary sensibility of his art objects and their originality in linking the geometric with the expressive. He constructs a certain visual scene, a "scenography" of individual objects, i.e. the same or similar art objects of different dimensions and done in different materials (wood and glass, bronze). The "scenography" consists of a series of elements that can stand on their own, separately, but retain the artist's basic idea. He does not enclose the space by their distribution, nor does he want to create a certain ambience; he distributes them at random, and lets them communicate freely. He has no fear that the original idea would thus be disturbed. He calls them fragments and by them, repeating the same problem, he creates a series of similar objects until he has exhausted a certain idea, until a certain concept has been satisfied, or a certain sensitivity spent. Of his own work, he says, "When there is a larger number of realized works with the same basic theme I feel an internal resistence. Almost masochistically I continue the repetition. Behind this there may be lack of satisfaction, an incomplete expression? Likewise, I don't know why there are Indiana Jones I, II, III ... anyway, regardless of the series, no two works are identical". (An interview with Lidija Merenik, catalogue of his Master's exhibition, June 1992).
Very early Jelenkovic showed an interest in architecture, in the one-story houses of Vojvodina, particularly those built on corners: he is interested in their walls, the relationship between the inside and the outside, in angles. This appropriated inventory was clearly visible at the beginning, but later it gradually became reduced, with sharp edges and an emphasized geometry and architectural construction. In his works the one-story houses from Vojvodina turn into multi-storeyed urban edifices where the original problems are multiplied, geometrism with underlined neo-constructivism.
Rastislav Skulec frequently inserts natural materials into his installations, like earth, sand, branches, leaves ... That anything can be used as sculptoral material and become subjected to artistic treatment, can best be proven in the work of this young artist who also likes to employ ready-made objects. His projects apply rope, brick, glass, old suitcases, fabric left-overs, rejected wall-paper, an accidentally found stone, an old plastic bag, a used chair...
The life of his sculptures is very short – just while the exhibition lasts. His personal imprint and peculiar sensibility may be noticed in his coupling of constructivist forms and sensitivity, giving his sculptures a lyrical and poetic tone.
For the 7th Biennial of sculpture Dragan Rakic chose a work that was freely hanging from the gallery ceiling, freely communicating with the neighbouring space where it moved, vibrated, turned. Without a firm foundation, it floated, drifted, completely devoid of any static element.
The dynamics was complemented by the form of the sculpture: a number of balls (Zero) stuck to one another. The central ball carried the signs of his already adopted system of anumerical values with secret meanings. The plastic concept of Dragan Rakic is built upon his feeling for the mythical, metaphysical, metaphorical, as proven by the sculpture displayed in Pancevo.