Remembrance or Warning – by Grozdana Šarčević


Decades long, overall results in the field of artistic creativity have established Vladimir Bogdanović as an artist – an intellectual with a wide range of possible expression; through the language of the plastic arts media, as a poet, a prose writer, an essayist, artistic and literary critic and at last as a theorist and excellent conservator-restorer of easel paintings with the Department for Conservation and Restoration at The Gallery of Matica srpska in Novi Sad. Focal points for all those Bogdanović’s prolific activities focus on and stratify in his understanding of the world and time, his spirit, sensible nature as well as in seeing art as “an aesthetic being, a message left to the future, faith not through words but behaviour”.

In accordance with his complex artistic sensibility, personal “ageing”, experience in hearing the bloodstream murmur, “uncoiling”, connecting matter and spiritual culture, projecting himself through “round-up upbringing”, Vladimir Bogdanović’s paintings involve poetic reflexion. “My creative path has always moved between the light and the shadow, breaching ecstasy by a call of unfinished universe. When creating I encourage myself thinking that nothing ends nor is lost no matter how weary I get by the questions posed before the imperfection of the era and monuments to which I salute. And these paintings form Memorialis liber exhibition belong to a topos of one such removal of life as meaningful surrender at the turn of history”.

The latest works of Bogdanović, dated between 2008 and 2012, are part of artistic continuity in providing answers to some of many questions the artist have been putting forward throughout more than half a century of his creative and research path. These are preceded by a series of 70 paintings, very expressive oil on canvas, which simply had to happen as “an implosion after surviving the repertoire of explosions”, and they were started mid June 1999 as a response to destructive rage against merciless NATO-”mercifully angelic” bombing of Serbia. Memorialis liber exhibition brings Bogdanović back to much sought “cantilenic tranquility” after emotional shock. In the language of paintings, in agreement with the answers already emphasised in realities and drama of the previous cycle, the latest works of Bogdanović are almost as graphy, scrollwork, historical allegory precede of our medieval era and the actors in the time of tough victories and great defeats, disputes as burden scythed, worn and carried (and not only over Croatian and Kosovo fields), and all the way to present days through fraught uncertainties and blurred certainties. Surely, we are talking about the following paintings: Moloch/ Моlоh (2008), Car Dušan/ Emperor Dušan (2009), Lazar the Emperor of Serbia / Car Lazar (2009), Urosh the Weak/ Uroš nejaki (2008), Jerina/ Јerina (2008), Empress Milica/ Carica Milica (2009), Olivera/ Оlivera (2009), The hand of Damian/ Ruka Damjanova (2010), Prince’s dinner/ Кneževa večera (2011), Holy Warriors/ Sveti ratnici (2011), where we need to emphasise the monumental composition of the battle and draw the viewers’ attention to the unusual, enigmatic name 1(2)3(0)8(10)9, which hides the year of the Kosovo field battle and the year when the painting was drawn.

Actually, all that was painted by imaginary-poetic models and mixed with motives of balancing out and connecting abstract geometry with figurative, associative and expressionist characteristics as well as with other artistic streaks which, more or less, played a role in his focus on art as author’s synergetic, layered script.

It is possible to assume that these works represent some regression to a distant blink of light of Bogdanović’s high school days; at the time when he, the son of a sculptor Dejan Bogdanović, and Slobodan Šerban, the son of a painter Milenko Šerban, competed in the skill of drawing, encouraged by their arts teacher, a painter Branko Stanković. This is when Bogdanović reflected upon historical topics such as The Battle of Kosovo, The Battle of Mišar, Čegar, inspired by Petar Lubarda’s The Battle of Kosovo. It is possible that, in this looking into himself, Bogdanović hears the echo of ‘Tamo daleko’ song (There, far away), sung to him and his sister, secretly, quietly, on a mandolin at the tavern in the Old Town on Hvar island, when, by serendipity, they were taken to from Belgrade. It was sung by Uncle Ivan, a man from Dalmatia, (quietly, so that a strict Aunt Magdalena, Purgerka (a woman from Zagreb) wouldn’t hear); a Serbophile, who escaped from Austro-Hungarian army to Serbian, a cripple from Kaimakchalan and Albanian Golgotha, awarded Order of the Karadjordje’s Star with Swords. In those days of austerity after the World War II, Uncle Ivan used to make them toys from boxes and tins received by the UN aid packages. Bogdanović wrote in his novel ‘Suddenly so much space’: “Those were some strange little houses with drawers instead of doors and windows. And we would open those drawers only to discover even smaller houses inside”. Some thirty years later, all that will miraculously get back to Bogdanović as an overtone in large, black and white series of drawings ‘U nišanu olovke / In the crosshairs of a pencil’ (1977). Consequently, we can presume further influence on later created cycle of drawings and paintings called ‘Traženje kome / In search of coma’ (1979) and even later relapses for a cycle ‘Memorialis liber (What serves to be remembered). “Nothing is lost, nothing completed, everything continues to flow through tiny bloodstream threads” cites Bogdanović in his monograph ‘U klepsidri / In clepsydra’ published by “Matica srpska”, Novi Sad, 1997.

In Memorialis liber Bogdanović is consistently working on completing themed cycles without stepping away from the continual line whilst looking for a “clear picture”. In fact, he is even more dedicated, radical, abstracted, cristal clear in his idea and perfectly precise in composition and execution than ever. He steps into sophisticated stylization of shape and form, into synergy of multipolar and multidiciplinary engagement with his own sensibility and understanding the task according to strict form functionality. Hence, “The form” says Bogdanović, “is not an expression of content but a bait towards the content. If the bait is effective, a secret back plan surfaces.” So, the result seems to be a simplified artistic footprint. However, that is just an impression as such simplification comes as a result of Bogdanović’s comprehensive artistic practice, experience gained through “learning from within himself”, his volume, disciplines, visions. As Bogdanović writes “the art is way of thinking, expression, as well as excitement before the game of lines, shapes and colours and it does not matter whether those lines, shapes and colours personate outside world or not.”

In the complex structure of this cycle Bogdanović enlivens the power of specific visual influence of an ornament in the sign and symbolic meaning and by doing so he introduces it not only into the artistic but spiritual space, voicing it out as the basic influence on a viewer. It means that by a deeper analysis of the painting manuscript, in accordance with the topic, another whole series of the practiced elements in the layered contemplative structure is articulated, in the core of his literary poetics. In the Post scriptum to his book of poems ‘The great draftsman’ (2000) Bogdanović points out: “I have epitomized a great deal of existential and spiritual space through which I, infinitely invoked, searched for my identity, trying to keep my integrity, actually writing one poem, painting one canvas. I see that as my personal vestige in overall, eternal human incompletion.”
Ultimately strict, selective when choosing themes and motives, inspired and leaning over an empty canvas, “white as snow surface to be designed not just by a brush but volumes of fullness; subdued to seclusion”, stubbornly out of tune with mainstream trends for decades, and yet again recognisably being himself, always new, unique Bogdanović lives through his master works no more than they live through him.

Grozdana Šarčević