IT ALL BEGAN WITH CONSTANTINE

18.08.2016
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           In the spring of the now distant 1927 the Second International Byzantological Congress was held in Belgrade with a large number of reputable scholars from all of the world. Their papers were instrumental in making the Serbian frescoes and Byzantine art the topic of the day in public and cultural life. And not only that. The Congress confirmed that Byzantium was at its time the mediaeval country with the most developed culture which produced one of the best arts the world had seen.

           The Congress was accompanied with a number of events and exhibitions were the most important: copies of frescoes from our mediaeval churches, Byzantine coins, architectural designs in the old Serbian style, icons on wood, architectural designs of mediaeval endowments, copies of portraits of our mediaeval rulers and noblemen, photographs of mediaeval churches. On that occasion, the National Museum opened a special mediaeval department. After the Congress, Byzantine scholars travelled to Ravanica, Staro Nagoričino, Gračanica, Kruševac and also to Stobi and Skopje. Since railroads were not properly available, it was not possible to visit Peć and Dečani, nor Studenica, Mileševa or Sopoćani.

           Owing to this, and as opposed to the group Oblik (Form) which was turned towards the West, certain artists thought of forming the artistic group Zograf and look for the source of their art in their national origins, deeper into history and the Middle Ages.

           Therefore, the Byzantine heritage did not leave its trace only in the post–Byzantine era, but spread farther and reached the modern age.

           In the twentieth century the Middle Ages and its history, culture and art used to attract authors, poets, historians, art critics. Artists approached this source in different ways in order to incorporate in their art not only their views of the past, but also its reflection on the present. From among numerous artists who entered modern and even contemporary Serbian painting through their evocations of mediaeval art, the ZEPTER MUSEUM shows the works of three artists, very active in the artistic scene of Serbia and abroad. At the same time, the works of those artists are represented in the Museum collection.

          We have entitled the exhibition of works by Čedomir Vasić, Zoran Grebenarović and Mileta Prodanović – IT ALL BEGAN WITH CONSTANTINE – since one of the exhibitors is Čedomir Vasić whose impressive project THE DREAM was focused on Emperor Constantine, the founder of the new empire that instigated numerous socio–political, spiritual and cultural changes.

ČEDOMIR VASIĆ

          On the occasion of significant commemorations organised in our country in 2013 to commemorate 1700 years of the EDICT OF MILAN with which Emperor Constantine legalised Christian faith, Čedomir Vasić prepared for the Gallery „Srbija“ in Niš an ambience installation (lenticular technique, digital print on canvas and neon) in three parts: CONSTANTINE’S DREAM, IN THIS SIGN and HAND. Having been engaged for a long time in the study of past historical events, Vasić prepared his exhibition THE DREAM in the city of Constantine’s birth and chose as his subject the moment crucial for the following history of civilisation. Inspired by Piero della Francesca and his fresco compositions in the Church of St Francis in Arezzo, he treated this important event in his individual and metaphorical way: THE DREAM Constantine had before the decisive battle for Rome – the dreamt vision of Christ’s monogram or the cross bearing the inscription In hoc signo vinces – in this sign you will win.

          Vasić does not repeat his installation from Niš in the ZEPTER MUSEUM and does not change the essence of the event, but he makes a new ambience situation and entitles it THE DREAM II.

          Vasić’s exhibition  BEFORE AND AFTER AND NOW (video ambience installations), recently held at the Historical Museum of Serbia, has shown his complex interests and development during the many decades of his creative activities in the area of visual arts.

ZORAN GREBENAROVIĆ

          After his four–year long stay in the United States of America (1982–1986) Grebenarović began to study the canons of Byzantine painting, particularly the issues posed by non–Euclidean aesthetics which appear to be one of the most evident characteristics of eastern, Orthodox understanding of space and the visual representation within that space, particularly in our painting. Answers to his dilemmas and research he has found in the canons of Orthodox fresco and icon painting and theological teachings.

         „The authentic contribution of Byzantium to visual arts,“ recorded Grebenarović, „is certainly the relationship to space within the image and the use of perspectival solutions in the representation and emphasis of the subject matter. The predominantly religious topics of Byzantine art required the concept of centralised composition and non–Euclidean vision. The need for the perspective directed the replacement of the depth glance towards the vanishing point towards the burning centre of the event, towards the viewer, the participant... The colloquial term of ’inverted perspective’ acquired its meaning in recognition but lost its basic sense in essentially directing the observer to active participation where the mystery of the image is in fact the scene of real life.“

          His studies of the problems of space and colour (still in progress) Grebenarović has shown at several exhibitions: URBAN ICONS, A PLACE IN ETERNITY, 2007; POLYPHONY, 2012; ANIMA MIA, 2013; NOW HERE – THERE THEN, 2016. Grebenarović’s spaces and colouristic relations, ranging from easily legible scenes to geometric abstraction, always bring something new.

MILETA PRODANOVIĆ

          The region where the artist was born and where he grew up was in the Middle Ages the borderline zone of Eastern Mediterranean and Western Mediterranean cultures. And it was there, in Serbia, that the synthesis of those two patterns was realised.

          As Prodanović has written, „My growing–up, my roots bind me to the Byzantine heritage, but I am bound to contemporary art by my awareness that the duty of an artists is to talk about his own time. The diffuse and divergent model brought by the epoch of postmodernism perfectly suited my temperament and my interests. I felt close to the forms of parable, of metaphor, of many layers... And finally, I matured believing the it is possible to speak about the contemporary world through associations not only of the visible forms of ancient art but that it was quite legitimate to choose as your own expression the language of indirect strategy of the complex Byzantine rhetoric.“

          This complex Byzantine rhetoric has been expressed in different way in his many exhibitions: CANICUM CANTICORUM, 1983; HIERARCHIES, 1991; PREFIGURATIONS, 1993; STANZE, 1996; EULOGY TO THE HAND, 1998... and the most recent EKPHRASES, to understand final things and visit secret places, 2016.

          In his analyses of other topics as well and their critical relations to the past and contemporary events in life, Mileta Prodanović is one of typical postmodernist artists both in image and language (in his literary works) representations and his audiences as well as his readers are always astonished with his new exhibitions and books.