Vladimir Veličković 1990.-2011.


An approach to the art of painting by Vladimir Veličković

Creativity in the visual arts by Vladimir Veličković, which is exceptionally coherent, well-balanced regarding its motifs and morphologically condensed, has had a half century of continuity and almost universal reverberation as a convincing testimony of dramatic human fate and an indisputable tragical sign of time. In order to realize a necessary degree for such qualifications and to gain the status, i.e. the reputation that he enjoys, the painter had to surpass the limitations of ''common places'' by his own means and block out the mere rhetoric of the iconographic choice. In other words, he had to verify his commitment to figurative visual idiom, stressed antrophomorphism, to the iconism of spatial and ambiental designations by investing his individual expressive stakes.

From the very beginning of his drawing and painting career, Vladimir Veličković has been distinguished for an essential un-equanimity of his style, his passionate need for the presentation of the seen and guessed by the dynamic linearism and polarised (a)chromatism in a ''maniheist'' manner, his vehement wish to oppose the violence, repressiveness, apocalypticness of the thematic basis or the narrative layer by using the cathartic brutality of a gesture and stroke, spot and print. Every stroke brings the energy of the non-conciliation with conventionality; indeed, it brings the power of evocation being simultaneously an aspect of exorcist sagacity or a rite of appropriation, a sort of neutralisation of malignant acts and scenes. It would be incorrect to say that Veličković ''brings to heel'' the aspects of death and decline, torture and destruction, as he presents them with the utmost naturalistic persuasiveness. However, the fact that the gruesome and macabre scenes are running through his hands and imagination, so to say, through his lifeblood and brains, means by itself that the artist has somehow mastered them by offering them filtrated as a peculiar cognitive challenge for us to create appropriate images, antidotes, fruits of the defense reflex in our counsciousness.

At his exhibition in Split, in the halls of Milesi Palace, Veličković offers the survey of his more recent cycles of the creative phase from the period of the last two decades. From the very beginning, he has systematically developed his scope of motifs and very gradually moved from one topic to another, thus integrating his acquired experience into new challenges and achievements. However, if there are no more scarecrows and guards, orators and aggressors, execution sites and births, rats and dogs on his current and more recent paintings, which used to be so typical for his artwork, one may suggest that they were adequatly transformed in similar ''high voltage'' motifs, after experiencing metamorphosis in characters and situations of much the same brutality and intensity.

Having carefully and skilfully organized his exhibition programme, the author used two floors of the exhibition space in Split to represent his prevailing commitment as coherently as possible. The first floor is filled with the works focused on the treatment of the human body, on the interpretation of vulnerability and mortality, with symbolic figures, whose existence is being in endangered condition, with icons depicting downfall and end. Contrary to this, the second floor is mostly devoted to the images of the waste and scorched land with wide panoramic views of an apocalyptic atmosphere showing just a few inanimate traces that used to be human beings, whereas the ground and the sky are covered with enormous birds, ravens and crows in their flight pouncing upon the meager prey.
Upon performing an appropriate differentiation of the interior and intimate plans of the exterior and landscape perspectives (all large-size paintings), the uniqueness and the unanimity of his mental universe and visual expression were not jeopardized. The artist has just pointed at the range of the imaginary motion throughout the space of queasiness and anxiety in search and in finding the correlation for the unenviable condition of the world and the planet Earth itself, in making a diagnosis of the position of the human race in society and in the universe. However, it is not related to the questions of narration, nor is it dealt with preaching, but it is related to witnessing, by using the method of an intuitive suggestion and emphatic verification.

Since the exhibition layout offers a gradual and systemic observation of the obsessive motifs, it enables inventiveness among variations and permutations of the main thematic scopes or iconographic constants as well. Therefore, one shall use the opportunity to approach to a certain number of the most characteristic artworks. For instance, the painting entitled Hook (1990) is exceptionally expressive in the combinatorial skill of its linear directions and “haptic” ideas of voluminous subjects and bodies. A certain paradox concerning spatial relations has a considerable effect on the experience of thrill and uncertainty: Dramatic knot and entangled combination of the diversity of painted elements is occurring both in the foreground and background with somewhat brighter surface (backgrounds are similar to curtains), yet the foreground is completed with “a black hole” in its lower part, (with the entire contents of the frame entering it or going out of it), and with the background painted in black on the upper part of the painting into which a smallish man-like figure, (proportionally inadequate in relation to dimensions of the hook and hanging stuff), is running. However, the painting suggests an abyss, a chasm on the bottom and a gloomy infinity on the top, which, so to speak, absorbs the little, helpless runner, who, running from the horror of the foreground is falling into the space where “all the lights are switched off”. Still, the morphology and the semantics of the frame have not yet been exhausted. In other words, in the intersection of the vertical, horizontal and diagonal transmitting “threads”, which are precisely held together by the said “hook”, it comes to a pronounced contrasting of organic and geometric flows, colder and warmer colours, biting and incisive reflexions, and everything is done with the effect of sublimed violence, stabbing and decaying. On another painting with the same title (dated from 1991), similar contents (hook, runner, abyss and the infinity of darkness) will, as a result, be somewhat more eligible with the free flow of plans, although its presentation will be as convincing as the previous one.

Descent (1990) is divided by a diagonal into two. In the central part of the picture, there is a flight of stairs, with a naked male figure going down the stairs (with emphasized muscles and shaded head) with his back turned to the direction of motion. It is dealt with unnatural moving, pattering and losing foothold, it is a way that leads to the bottom and degradation, vanishing in the gulf of darkness. Only the topmost part of the painting entitled Wound (1999) is activated by light: A dead body with its head dropped and lifeless, hanging arms, is laid on a sort of horizontal beam or a board. A little card of the coroner’s file is placed on its right wrist, whereas a huge cut with dark red colour of blood on the left shoulder is strikingly being in contrast with silver and grey shades of the incarnate.

Several paintings are made in homage to Grunewald, i.e. to the emblematic Crucifixion of the Isenheim Altar. In addition, Veličković authoritatively adopts the motif transforming it into his own linear stroke, either by positioning the crucified body in an appropriate cutout in the context of chiaroscuro (oil on canvas, 2004) or by covering it with lines, thus making clear outlines and giving flavour with intensive chromatic deposits (acrylic on paper dated from 2003 and 2010). From the presentation of the head of the Crucified, there is only a step to the series of drawings in colour with the motif of wounded, in the massacre state, drastically malformed figures – faces. Three bloodstained and lacerated heads are represented with an outstanding power of the anatomic suggestion, although, on the other side of proportional and descriptive requirements. Slashes in the tissue, gaps in the place of the mouth, eye or nose, cloths of hanging skin – all of this contributes not only to expressive, but to a surrealistic, (or a “sub-realistic”, hypernaturalistic”) effect as well, which is not just an indication of performative skills, but of the painful empathy, too. However, it is a detachment from pathos or the notorious history that the mentioned card with numbers or victim’s name had already been noticeable in his variations to Grunewald, too.

As we got introduced to Veličković as master of the close-up, the painter who is capable to extract the utmost intensity out of a detail or a subject, let us take a look at his broad spacious visions, at the illustrations of moors and deforested lowlands, which are for all that pregnant with roaring fire or harassment of birds of prey. Several polyptychs have been devoted to such apocalyptic or infernal situations with busts of flame and the elevation of the black threatening smoke on the horizon and flocks of flying craws (or spread out on the ground in search for vanished, though vitally important food) in the foreground. Some paintings emphasize the role of Fire (oil on canvas from 2009-11), or the function of ravens (oil on canvas, 2009), and the painting entitled Pit-bull (2006) is probably one of the most vehement among them, representing an enraged dog with grinning jaws, as if it was trying in a threatening manner to penetrate through the canvas and rush in spectators.

Veličković achieves an extraordinary dramatic effect with the three paintings of the same cycle (Craw and Prey, 2006, and Wound from 2007. The whole cycle is painted in oil on canvas technique and all of them are the same size: 225 x 165 cm). These are the sequences of beastly threats, manhunt, and the ultimate human victims painted in dark shades and in suggestive spatial relations with the prevailing, overwhelming bone-black of wide, comprehensive wings, sharpened bills and prick-shaped claws. By the means of the sparest media, having offered coordinates of an uneven duel, the painter established an irreplaceable oppositeness.

The exhibition “is crowned” with two monumental drawings in ink, which can be considered to be the conceptual and morphological starting point of the entire presented opus. They are enormous accumulations or agglomerations of human and animal bodies and skeletons, sculls and phytomorphic signs and all these shapes are started with the gravitational force, initiated with the energy of the unstoppable fall, caught in the air in a range of the most diverse positions and articulations. The virtuosity of the sketcher is combined with the utter vehemence of the spot and stroke being practically coupled with the x-ray sagacity of the essential principles of corporality. The macabric vitality (i.e. the vital macabrity) of Vladimir Veličković’s painting is being born from his passionate drawing, as from the germ and core.

Tonko Maroević


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