Gligor Stefanov – Grabbing of the Space: Retrospective exhibition 1981 – 2019

Gligor Stefanov – Grabbing of the Space: Retrospective exhibition 1981 – 2019

Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje

19. June – 16. September 2019



Chronology of the creation of the works

At the end of the 70’s Gligor Stefanov made his attempts  through a variety of sculptural materials for him, such as gypsum, casting hemp, waste wool, and the like. It is the most important sequence that refers to the directions to the ambient placement of his works that coincides with the moment that initiates his determination practiced further.

The period 1980-1981 was mainly devoted to the series “Nizi” and “Denki”. The first is in the sign of a combination of coal or ink with collage solutions, while the second one is with jute, ceramics, etc. 1981 is important since then the two works found in the MSU from these two cycles were created, regularly treated as benchmarks of the relevance of his work in his youth. However, the most important moment was, as he says, the performance at the square in Kavadarci. In fact, it is about four individual installations realized with fresh leaves strung on branches and hemp, “constructions” placed on wooden beams.

In 1982 tries to decode the “Denki” in several works called “Sandak skulptura” in which the terracotta is mixed with straw “framed” by wood. Further spirals and objects are created as variants of the bond of cotton with other materials, most often wood. Thus, he comes to “Vrteno”, i.e. the cotton intervention in the yard of MSU, Skopje, with an exceptional characteristic marking not only of the vertical object, but also of the whiteness of the dominant material. In the same year, he created the grass intervention in the barracks’ ambient in Pazin (Croatia), for which the negatives were destroyed, so we illustrate it only as a sketch.

Therefore, in 1983 he is again invited to have a solo exhibition of drawings at the Pazin House of Culture. They are applied to a wall in the form of sequences. For the colony in Krusevo he creates smaller objects with branches, hemp, cotton and grass. However, that year and the next year are marked with the so-called “Linear interventions”. The first one took place in the House of Youth “May 25”, Skopje with coal, vineyard branches, metal wire and a fishing line, and the intention is to avoid the two dimensionality and to unconventionally conquer the space. The second is conceived in the Student Center in Zagreb (1984) with similar materials, but also with pastel paints applied to the walls of the brick, and then with identical approach through spiral “lines” into the space. This type of considerations is most explicitly expressed in the third exhibition in the small gallery of the Student Cultural Center in Belgrade.

Following is the exhibition “New phenomena in Macedonian fine arts in the last decade” when in the House of Youth “May 25”, Skopje mounts the monumental installation with previously made objects in 1982. From 1984 also originate the several aircrafts included as “spatial mark”, but also with individual titles, and some of them are made in the following years. With them he also presented his master’s thesis in Belgrade in 1985. He also took part in significant events, and the emphasis was placed on the independent exhibition at MSU, Skopje, and his benchmark work “An aircraft over the aircrafts” (1986) was also shown at that time.

In the previous 1985 were created “Grabbing in space”, “Break through space” and “Walking in space”, individual works that function as a group (at the exhibition “Art and criticism in the mid-1980s” in Sarajevo in 1986). In Zagreb the same thing happened on the exhibition shown in the Gallery of Contemporary Art titled “From the miraculous work of the meadow to the joy of life, six Macedonian artists”, then in Skopje, Belgrade and Kavadarci, 1986. That year, within the frames of the exhibition “Shemov-Fidanovski” with Dragan Petkovic, they make an integral work (sculpture-painting). This type of integration and ambient placement emphasizes the correspondence that offers a look at his relatively complex concepts (applied in the installation at the Youth Biennale at MSU, Skopje, in 1987). In 1988 he created the sculpture from teracota called  Gate in the outer part near the entrance of the House of Youth “May 25”, Skopje (without any occasion it was removed after a certain time).

Straw and wood (occasionally the acrylic are his basic material of the aircrafts that were made after his departure in London in 1989. At Whitechapel Art Gallery he exhibited the “Landing Aircraft.” Then, “Heavenly Forces 1 and 2” were created, a series of drawings from the cycle angelic acts “Seraphims”.

In 1990 he shaped objects with straw on wood or with acrylic on canvas, such as “Angel Throne (Wheel)” and the other three entitled “Seraphim 1,2 and 3”, and finally “Spacious Seraphim”. With branches and stems in Grazdel he realized the largest installation “Cherubic Wings” (15x11x27 m), adding the one-night installation with candles. In 1991 he created the installation for Cirencester through the works entitled “Angel-Cherubim” (with several shades of straw, grass, wood and torches) and “Angel Energy” (with straw, branches and acrylic on canvas). In Dublin (Ireland), he makes with straw the installation on a wall “Angel Guardian” (straw and wood), and then in Lechester (England) he sets the installation with fresh and dry leaves bound and leaves strung on branches.

After more than one year, in 1993 through sketches he was preparing for the participation in the Venice Biennale (together with Petre Nikoloski). It was the first presentation of an independent Macedonia. In the immediate vicinity of Jardini at the very entrance he placed his objects with straw on trees with straw, grass and cotton whose associations were already defined as Seraphims, Cherubims, Thrones. Their visual power was reflected not only through the dimensions, but also through the reflection of the used material, which is the main factor of the signs.

In 1994, in Germany, he participates with “Angels-Thrones” (straw, grass, cotton on wood), and this work is now owned by the National Gallery of Macedonia, Skopje. Similar challenges with an identical title were transferred  in the cycle of drawings created in 1995/96. They were already created in Canada where  he lives.

After a long pause he continuesd his artistic career not only in the galleries in Winsdor, but also in other locations. He presented himself with the “Linear Seraphim” and “Angel Wing with Four Wings” (straw on wood and acrylic paint on wall), and in 2003 he seems to go back to the former forms of wood on straw in the work “Fighting with the Wind”, 2005 in the United States, Cazenovia NY he displayed the installation “Nesting Structure” (grass and garden net, 8x3x2m), and then in the Winner Gallery in Windsor, with grass and hemp thread he shaped the “Aspen nest”. Whereas in La Seyil (Canada) perfomatically on the ground he set the “Snake shape” (of straw and a 17m long net) and then he lit it up and the last act is the “impression” of the black line due to the burned form. In this period he continued with “Spatial Nests” as elliptical forms of movable structures (straw, mud glue from rabbit skin, clay on wood, with a unified dimension 62х62х10).

A number of works have been conceived with similar logic since 2006. called “Space Nest” with slightly larger dimensions. It’s also true for the 2008 “Space Nest”,  prepared according to his draft for the Venice Via MKC exhibition, this time with two segments of fresh peppers and tobacco.

Again after a couple of years he intervened with straw and garden net on the work “Nesting Structure 2” in Cambridge (Canada). Two years later, for the Articite Gallery in Windsor, he built the “Nest” with a straw and garden net. In 2014 we completed his activity with the installation that is part of the manifestation “Days of Macedonian Culture” at the Macedonian Church Cultural Center in Mississauga, Canada.

For the new inscriptions made for the retrospective, it will be analyzed in the monograph, while this partial overview offers information that is needed at the first contacts with them.

Stefanov, according to what he shows, is confirmed as one of the most important Macedonian artists, whose alternative attitude to sculpture has left a mark on our art scene in the last 40 years.

Marika Bocvarova Plavevska