The Power of the Earth

History took a strange course in this region of ours. A meeting place of different cultures and religions was in equal measure a place of conflicts and wars. The numerous armies and conflicts that passed through this territory left visible traces and marks on the culture and lives of the people who experienced them. After each battlefield, we started over and the lack of continuity resulted in art that never went through its classical period, because it always started from zero. Along with all the issues and problems, art in this region, apart from fighting for its own expression, has fought for the right to exist in an environment that always had other priorities.

In his latest cycle of works, Djordje Stanojevic brings us back to the earth, trying through certain objects and experiences to make himself and others aware of the existential feeling of creating art. In that process, which is often unconscious, primaeval and unadulterated, he has one thought, or better yet one feeling, which is, in a way that is crystal clear, transferred into each of the materials he works with. Be it wood, metal or the earth itself, Stanojevic manages to carry existential restlessness into the material and thus reach the essence, the viewer. His message is clear and simple. Everything passes, everything changes, art records, carries and is the only one capable of taking us above the mud we live in. In an essential way, he connects the universal questions our ancestors asked themselves the first time they made drawings on cave walls.

When Picasso saw the cave paintings in Altamira, he said that in all this time we haven’t learned anything. We invented, changed, complicated and in the end ruined everything. What was important and true had always been right in front of us, but we didn’t see it. Nature itself changed very little, rather man’s attitude toward it did. Modern art used nature in different ways. From complete ignorance to having an apologetic attitude toward it and involving all of its potentials in the expressive specter of art. Stanojevic has developed a specific and subjective attitude toward the earth and nature. It stems from a lot of hard work that is the foundation of every creation presented by an artist. That is why Stanojevic asks himself and all of us: “Can it be more difficult?” For Djordje, the earth is a metaphor of art, difficult, sometimes dirty and awkward, unadulterated and honest. The artist contemplates it intensely, draws it into different contexts, gives it new meanings. On the one hand, it represents years of thinking and reaching fundamental laws and properties of artistic practice as the only possible field of activity that is capable of dealing, in the most honest manner, with all that makes life itself and nature a unique and unrepeatable experience. Without the trivialities and banalities of everyday life and daily political affairs, the artist through his works creates a reality in which the earth and nature are again part of our lives.

Even though he does not insist on the aesthetic moment, the paintings and objects from this series, full of raw power and energy ingrained in matter, are beautiful in a way. However, their beauty does not emanate from liekable forms or sophisticated materials or refined processing; their beauty comes from nature itself. These non-aestheticized “gnarly” objects carry within them a life force that has been passed from generation to generation, leaving marks in time and material. These works don’t need to be beautiful to sell, they are such because they are, because they exist.

We are increasingly often witnessing criticism of modern art, claiming that it has lost the honesty and desire to tackle concrete existential problems, and existential is precisely the chief characteristic of Stanojevic’s work. It is not just a platitude or just another concept around which a certain poetics or theory is built. The artist truly wants to create a link with the earth and thereby leave his mark in time. Nature and the earth as an environment with concrete historical features and the existential restlessness that environment creates is his starting and finishing point.

That may be best reflected in the soil rakes, tools that are constantly in direct contact with the earth and nature, the works that demonstrate that in a symbolic way. They are the instruments of our survival, witnesses to the tears, blood and sweat from which our civilization and culture arose. They are like some strange collector that gather the experiences, memories and stories of our region. Another important element in Stanojevic’s work is iodine, which is in some way the pattern and model of life in these parts. It is strong, hard and bitter, just like the artist’s struggle and the process of creating a work of art. The paintaings created through a chemical reaction, by eroding matter itself, provide a unique visual experience. That incredible battle between the base and the elements reflects all the natural processes and the paradigm of the struggle for art.

The earth in its natural form and state is the key element present in nearly all of Stanojevic’s works. It is raw and real, it cannot be copied, simulated or made. It is what it is and precisely therein lies its power. The earth is our link with the past and our hope for the future. The connection man created to nature and the earth is complex, unique and eternal. In the overall race and chaos of everyday (non)life, that connection is slowly disappearing. Stanojevic’s art is not created at an order, or on a whim, but rather from a need to re-establish that connection and make it current again. It is created from the artist’s necessity, from the inevitability of the moment in which the artist does what he does primarily for himself.

Sasa Janjic