“Grabbing of the Space” (retrospective exhibition 1981-2019)
Gligor Stefanov appeared on the Macedonian art scene in the early 1980s when the primary characteristics of the then current art practice convincingly denied the assumptions about the entropic nature of the so-called art of reaffirmation of ideas the “absolute circulation” of time and of the acquired beliefs about the need to erase the differences between the justification of misconceptions that are subject to different types of revision, modification, or reinterpretation of “neizisms” or of “postmodernism.” It is a period characterized by erosion at a position that maintains a “specific object” with external factors that, as an undistorted, partially non-evocative shape, allows the surface to be read as a physical substance. At first glance, we always assume that it is a traditional presentation of sculptures or drawings, so we presume the deliberate misinformation. The modern aspect with sufficient narrativeness results in unexpected combined effects of objects the context and references of which are recognizable. The act on which plastic forms arevorganized produces situations that, as postmodern distanced quotes, are constructed by the way that simply becomes an artistic or social norm. From there, it directs its own ideas to a concrete act intervention, that is, installation. This way, which contains the essence of his views as a testimony for the tendentious distance from the relation with the traditional forms of artistic expression, confirms that his approach to the presentation with the acceptable distance from the traditionally established sculptural language is not rebellious against him. The conclusions are focused on Stefanov’s sculptures tendentiously materialized without any particular irony, without specially contained references to the then current moments with an emphasis on openness and lighter readability. In fact, he constantly goes back to the heat of the straw, rarely of the cotton, clinging firmly on the ground of the semblance of the concrete. Before the sight of elementarily created shapes with “sketches” of already known dynamics and their formal meaning he achieves the goal. He marks the distancing from the conventional organization of works, through the articulation of the ideological combinations in the process of finding solutions in the specifically chosen space and the use of unusual material.
Skopje in the 1980s, in parallel with the other centers of Yugoslavia, was a very lively art center, involved in the pluralism of artistic poetics, which was more or less reflected in our scene, in terms of the individual attitude towards the part that least expected the situation that escalated to “cynicism”. Such seemingly determined chaoticness was not a direct challenge to touch in the true sense the artistic production of the time, which, fortunately, was aware of the tolerance that was in contact with the freedom of artistic expression, with reservations to what preferred the indifference of the individual related to creativity.
The world of his imagination is almost analogous to the image of the inserts of the speech of their deliberate objective dimension that has a kind of a modified modus to a totally different existence than the one that is caused. The universality of the comparative directions to seeing this opus is a kind of absurd, when we are in situations to be able to absolve it as a true “argument” of the previous and current developments in the country of his origin. His vision of the particular events is equated with a call to unite with what the very work itself “thinks”.
The used elements bring it closer to the benchmarks related to the simple transmission of the plastic thought into the system of direct communication between the observer’s awareness and the , the meaning of the work. The very actions of addressing the object are tied to the full respect of its programs realized with extraordinary energy. His main preoccupation is to connect with the common side of the object reality that then, but now also receives the actual sense of acceptance of the works as a whole.
The sculptor’s idea is to leave the untouchable values of the surface or texture. Simply Stefanov distinguishes them from conventional rhetoric and incorporates them in the context of the ideas of “returning the sculpture”, but as an ambient (as a specific installation) brought to the threshold of demands, the space in which it is set to fit it. Therefore, his sculpture is adaptive as an installation in different ambients (interiors or exteriors), retaining the important properties of the material and form.
The narration is ranked below in the discovery of meanings, yet with a clear idea, merged with the intentions of the artist who does not want to be neutral, that is, an ordinary observer. Through the narrative metaphoricity (following the traces of the iconic), the paradigm of the global hint is opened in parallel.
Chronology of the creation of the works
At the end of the 70’s he 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.
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