Jovan Shumkovski: Water | Wall

Museum of Contemporary Art Skopje

17. December, 2020 – 28. February, 2021

Canvas Which No One Paints, 2010, concrete canvas, metal frame, light, 66 x 55 cm

Jovan Shumkovski’s retrospective exhibition, entitled Water | Wall presents the work of one of the most important and influential Macedonian artists, whose almost four decades of artistic practice has been defined by an incessant research and bold inventiveness in the formation and expression of his artistic thought and view of the world and the times we live in.

Rooted in painting, Shumkovski pursues his working trajectory in the continuous innovation of visual language that includes various media, such as painting, sculpture, installation, video, and photography. Always ready to experiment with various constructed and found objects, materials and techniques (scrap wood, pigments, sand, metal, pieces of discarded furniture, epoxy resins, polyester, concrete, everyday objects, photographs, etc.), Shumkovski’s forms and his discourse is in the process of continuous and extraordinarily consistent development. As he often likes to say, he never starts with the realization of a work or project unless he can see a sprout and perspective for several future projects in it.

It is exactly this developmental thread in the creation of ideas and themes in the work of this remarkable individual in the contemporary Macedonian art that is enfolded in the Water | Wall exhibition, laid out in two galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Conceived by Shumkovski himself, the concept of the setting, however, is not presented as a linear chronology of that development, but is rather a kind of a narrative medley of several, seemingly heterogeneous and complex thematic plans, while being connected at the same time along the line of development of forms or contents.

The first gallery combines, on the one hand, the early works of the mid-1980s, in which Shumkovski abandons the modernist principles of adhering to the specifics and autonomy of the art media through a series of highly inventive assemblies and objects made of scrap wood and furniture, approaching sculpture and architectural aspects, and on the other hand, the recent cycle of bricolage installations, objects, models and videos (R = 1: 2 / R = 1: 200 created between 2004 and 2017), in which he critically re-examines the space as a social sphere and the utopian aspirations of modern-day architecture.

Being an art form that unites and spatializes the different art media, installation is one of the most significant contributions of Shumkovski’s work in the recent Macedonian art, including in particular the monumental and impressive ambient projects, such as the earlier mentioned R = 1: 2 / R = 1: 200 (2004), as well as Above the Surface (1997), and Night Visions (2000). As unique and unrepeatable events, some of these installations will be presented only partially through video and photos, but also as part of the modern procedures of the so-called re-enactment, i.e. not as repetition or restoration, but rather as their re-creation, that is to say re-invention in a different context. He achieves this re-creation of his older installations through the amassing or accumulation of objects used in their creation (scrap wood, architectural models, polyester and epoxy tiles, etc.), thus highlighting the specific physical, as well as the symbolic properties of the accumulation as a process of creation and – at the same time – its entropic, chaotic and anarchic deconstruction.

What increasingly emerges with the introduction of glossy and at the same time reflective and transparent synthetic materials – cast epoxy or polyester resin boards – in Shumkovski’s work dating back in the mid-90s are dimmed spaces with multiplied light reflections, mirror reflections and echoes of distorted, blurry, at times unreal and at other times disturbing images and representations resembling a dystopian, post-historical setting (series of installations and works entitled Above the Surface 1997 and Night Visions, 2000).

In the narrative context of these works – housed in the second MoCA gallery – and even more so and more directly in his work between the 2000s and the present, Shumkovski depicts the loss of values ​​and contradictions of the world in the global, post-ideological era that was created following the fall of the Iron Curtain, the brutal wars in Yugoslavia, and especially the traumas of the never-ending transitional state of the Macedonian society (Canvas No One Paints, Jersey No One Wears, 2010, and Icons No One Prays to, 2015). The biting irony and black humor in Three Anticipations (2006) – architectural models of facilities for future major international events in Skopje, as well as the satirical model and video for the Macedonian space program to the moon in The Fourth Anticipation (2008), speak clearly enough of the critical edge with which Shumkovski confronts the utopian expectations for a better future with the hopeless travesty of political reality. The title of the exhibition is taken from one of the works of the artist, as a metaphorical synopsis of the themes and contents included in the work of Jovan Shumkovski.

Jovan Shumkovski (Skopje, 1962) graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Skopje in 1986 and received his master’s degree from the same faculty in 1989. Tus far, he has had over twenty solo exhibitions in Macedonia and globally (Belgrade, Sarajevo, Sofia, Ljubljana, Stockholm, Paris, New York, Alexandria and other places). In 1995, he represented Macedonia at the Biennale in Sao Paulo, and in 2001 he did so at the Venice Biennale. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions and important international projects. He is a professor at the Faculty of Fine Arts since 2002.

Project Curator: Zoran Petrovski

Exhibition concept: Jovan Shumkovski

The project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of North Macedonia