ALADDIN'S GENIE, Zagreb, Gallery FORUM, March 15 - April 19, 2014


The Predrag Todorović exhibition in the Forum Gallery comprises two structural elements consisting of four exhibits: three drawings/paintings on galvanized metal sheeting and a large object created on the spot, a serpentine form of varying thicknesses that in its lavish meanders around the ground floor and the upstairs makes a strikingly dominant feature within the gallery space.

Although in the ultimate appearance and impression of the exhibition the two-dimensional exhibits involved undoubtedly correspond as a coherent visual component part, constituting an organic and complementarily supplementary component of a befittingly handled environment, they also serve as objects allowing an insight into the origin of the large central sculpture/installation, didactic material, as it were. For the object that circling around moves from ground floor to first floor and back again, thickening in the centre and attenuating like a snake at its ends is a three dimensional translation of the flat exhibits mentioned above.

After Todorović's early works from the end of the 1980s onwards (in 1990 he graduated from the fine arts course at the Education Faculty in Rijeka), close to neo-Art Informel painting, in which he cultivated the materiality of painting along with the use of non-painterly materials, employing plaster, wire, glass and incorporating various small-scale objects and adumbrating at least a move into the third dimension, the artist later resorted to atypical excursions into narrative installations, however minimal, done in polyester, glass, lead and ready-made materials with the occasional use of sound, then to an ironically treated emblematic iconography of the contemporary industrial and political setting of today.

Still, irrespective of synchronous existence of these different and apparently incompatible approaches, sometimes even coming into the realm of applied art, Todorović seems primarily have to settled problem-wise in the production of his dense ‘maso-mantric’ drawings done on various supports in diverse materials (charcoal, marker pen, acrylic). Here there are systematic, long-lasting, drawings made in little strokes, swarms of circular and undulating, spiral strokes-scorings, spiral agglomerations that well out of the different points of the surface, interfusing at the end in a saturated weave of the surface of the paper, plywood or panel.

In recent years Todorović has used metal surfaces he covers with ink, into which with sharp objects he then inscribes the type of drawing mentioned. These crowded drawn fills of whole surfaces are created with persevering labour, in which, it seems, there is no preliminary plan for the final appearance, which is formed spontaneously and automatically, as a consequence of his mental state at the time of the work, the state of his emotions and directions of thought that are reflected on the surface in a specific rhythm by the drawing. We might describe this kind of activity at the same time as a kind of form of aspiration to an non-utilitarian utopian action, a transcript of his own time, a form of therapy or an attempt at a panicky confirmation of his own presence in the world; a manner of redemptive prayer or a media-wise characteristic practice of a mantra with which the aspiration is to induce his own spiritual essence, the being of a product so created.

Of course, looked at formally, we might find that these works of Todorović evoke the forms of primary, elementary painting of the seventies; but unlike those dry, fundamental operations that analyse just the support, the material and the process of creation of a painting, in this artist there is a clear emphasis on the charms and the decorative effect of the material, as there is a subdued consideration of the representative, extra-media content (if in very stylised form) also present in parallel. The artist has, for example, found an analogy to the texture and rhythm of his drawings in the dense shimmery formations of a shoal of fish that in lightning-fast, amazingly synchronised collective movements, with unpredictable dynamics and changes of direction shift, circle and spiral below the surface of the sea. Indeed, although the author has sometimes explicitly painted fish motifs, shot them with video camera and alluded to their forms in various ways, his works are far from being a trivial illustration of the species and live collective natural phenomenon. This is more about recognition and comparison, the visualisation of correlated structures and the dynamics of abstract categories like the rhythm of emotions or thoughts.

These abstract categories are incarnated in the diverse materials that, with his special sensitivity, Todorović richly varies, inducing in each means and support a different effect and vibration. His work on sheet metal, for example, according to the nature of the material, includes ultimately an illusion of the third dimension, a kind of Op Art effect, changing with the position of the observer vis-à-vis the exhibit, or the effects and changes of the light. This illusion of spatiality or the dynamism of change of a static drawing prompted the artist literally to transmit his drawing into the third dimension And so, as an equivalent, a match to the line or the score on the surface, he found a ready-made object, a plastic straw that in his spatial addition and knitting will be spatialised by the author’s drawing, made into sculpture, and at the same time result in a new associative dimension. Apart from the school of fish that now slip through the space of the gallery, the artist in the new, spatial form has found the possibility of a parallelism for the ethereal fluid, of the spiritual substance or literally of the spirit – the spirit or genie of Aladdin from the ancient oriental tale.

In the words of the author himself:

I experience the inner space of the gallery like my own inner space (within the ribcage or within the consciousness, or inside and close to some centre of mine), which I still, once again, do not know well enough.

Experience of the Being that roars and rushes among the walls inside (and that here has been materialised with the help of the silver-grey straws), is in constant metamorphosis, from the Omnipotent Genie of Aladdin to the captured, trammelled Spirit that cannot seem to be able to break through to the light of day.

This diffused gallery installation, however dramatically it has occupied the space, includes, then, the idea of a blocked energy charge, a substance that is still in waiting for its creative action in the implementation of the deed and the desire. Although it appears to be a liberated and a spatially thoroughly intricate form, according to the author’s interpretation, the interior of the gallery has become a metaphor for the lamp or bottle with the genie, the hardened carapace of the being that makes impossible the fecundation of the imprisoned spirituality. This additionally compresses, or enriches, the signification of the form presented, which at the same time drastically manifests and develops its extension and, paradoxically, has to suffer the deceleration of the flourishing of its own potential. But if we ignore the suggestion mentioned of the metaphorical significance of the central exhibit, in an exhibition sense, Todorović’s appearance is one of those that aim to bring out the spatial fact of the venue, surmounting the traditional attitude to gallery as container of artefacts that are devoid of any relationship with the immediate context.

His exhibition thus takes on the meaning of one of a number of creative versions of a programme that contribute to a welcome emphasis on and understanding of the space, that is, of all the characteristics and special features of the Gallery itself as a medium of the presentation of a living contempoerary art.

Antun Maračić

/translation, Graham McMaster/