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Three borrowed aspects of viewing and perceiving Biljana Kekovic’s painting
Sava Stepanov


I

       Biljanas Kekovic started her artistic adventure in early nineties of last century in the atmosphere of epochal crisis which dominated then Yugoslavian society, and then continued it in the context of all transitional developments and changes characteristic for exciting turns of centuries and millenniums. Since those fatal nineties until today, her art, just like the opuses of others from her generation, exists in specific environment of political, social and cultural turmoil in conditions of permanent transitional reforms.
Such circumstances, maybe against all expectations, have initiated emergence of a dynamic scene which proved to be good environment for creation of authentic artwork. Those circumstances imposed the need for artistic autonomy, for what was the most endangered thing in a society obsessed with existential troubles which completely ‘forgot’ about the art. Biljana Kekovic, unfortunately like all her peers, has never worked in benign circumstances. That is exactly why she intuitively and consciously sought to stay in her ‘trade’ and to comply in her work with basic principles and postulates of art and painting. [1]

       In this way, during almost two decades of work, Biljana Kekovic formed a truly authentic pictorial concept and her own personal expression. Her artistic expression is abstract and expressionistic. Indeed, it is a kind of painting in which an inner necessity generates results which at the same time speak of perception and state of the picture (built out of primary effects and meaning of pictorial elements: colour, line, gesture, subject matter…), and also of the kind of painting that presents expressive states of the artist – to the world in general and the world of art…

       What is distinctive in Biljana Kekovic’ work is a thematic framework which is discretely realized in domain of abstract painting. Surely, this is not a descriptive method and interpretation, but a pictorial rebus. Without anecdotic qualities – uncommon in abstract concept withal – the painting establishes gestural, colouristic and formal relations by which in a suggestively plastic manner the idea of dialogue is promoted. Actually, compositional confrontation of coloured stains in these pictures, apart from visually-plastic, opens possible metaphoric indications, and still it does not hurt or interfere with the primary pictorial quality – which, to tell the truth, is the main goal of Biljana Kekovic.

       Biljana Kekovic’s work is loyal to one pictorial concept, one artistic philosophy – abstraction. And her loyalty is devotedly consistent and persistent. It is obvious that this kind of painting satisfies her creative reasons, allows her to brandish her brush and to freely express her personal artistic potential and her own pictorial sensibility, and to convince viewer in the effective functionality of her artistic projects and messages.

       Her language has universal character and that is why it makes it interesting to see and ‘check’ the effectiveness of Biljana Kekovic’s artwork by applying different analytical methods. Those methods are used for critical evaluation of authenticity of pictorial structure and semantic notion of picture (Souriau), modernistic attitude (Menna) and relational position (Bourriaud). Those are methods by which we can get a complex view of artist’s position and her work in this world and this current moment.


II


       Good painting must have three clearly visible levels: a) level of content, b) level of pictorial-plastic elements, and c) level of emotional charge.

Etienne Souriau


       a) In a marvellous manner, using the method of referential indicators, Biljana “introduced” a particular content in her abstract painting. Two related coloured stains, forms and pictorial structures render artistic contemplation of dialogue and communication between people. This contextual initiation, skilfully woven into the plastic structure of painting, is very significant for its conceptual constitution because it defines artist’s relation to those manifestations in our lives which come as consequences of crisis, psychological weariness, alienation and frustration.

       b) In her abstract paintings, Biljana Kekovic obsessively tries to comply with postulates of authentic artistic expression. Her art is based on the primacy of emancipated effect of well-composed pictorial elements. Expressionistic abstract picture complies with Biljana’s artistic sensibility because it gives her the freedom of artistic creation, intensive colouristic composition, free sway and gestuality, and completely uninhibited freedom of action and manipulation inside the painting.

       c) Surely, such pictorial creation with its colourism, powerful combination of clean colours, a certain kind of artistic elegance, texture with distinct tactile values, dynamism and gestuality defines true emotionality of Biljana Kekovic. This is the definition of pictorial poetics whose openness and brightness provide viewer with optimistic belief that it is possible to overcome spiritually all those hardships that our everyday life brings.

       Therefore, all the three levels Etienne Souriau talked about when he searched for “good painting” are clearly visible in Biljana Kekovic’s paintings.


III


       Art has the right to its own individuality – not to become dissociated, but to offer its own example to serve as model for other arts and practices.

Filiberto Menna


       The artist is interested in pictorial structure. In her paintings, she paints broad, clearly defined coloured surfaces. In fact, she is obviously aware of the fact that the surface itself is that exclusive characteristic that painting doesn’t share with other systems of pictures – in this world of our, replete with pictures of various contextual and technological origin. In her pictures, whose origin is expressionistic and actionistic, there are no analytic ontological discussions on the being of painting, but the practical results are obvious consequences of her concern for the purity of pictorial expression. Biljana Kekovic has modernistic approach to her pictorial model because she is conscious of changed circumstances in which today’s artist works. Her painting is not a direct product of modernistic strategy, but it is strongly based on primary, well set and implemented, modernistic principles. Today, the status of painting is changed – the influence of screen is extremely strong. The world is dominated by concept of non-hand-made technological pictures. Painting increasingly includes new conceptual and operational techniques in its “extended field”.
In that sense, Porempski’s old premises on iconosphere are applied in universal measures – the picture has truly become everyday pulsating part of our reality, and its overall representation is multiplied via global network and universal visual-information system. In such context, though unassumingly, and almost discretely, painting receives a renewed respect. Biljana Kekovic is one of those painters who strive to preserve the dignity of classical picture, the reputation of painting-as-being, vitality of painting-as-organism based on its own pictorial postulates and authentic principles of pictorial art, instead on derivatives of visuality.
That is the reason why the (pictorial) surface in Biljana’s paintings is a product of consciously enforced manual action. Colour is applied layer by layer, and the painted area is satiated with colour, sedimented with layers of colour. The colour is here truly central element in the structure of painting, and such structure contains artist’s nature, her emotions and her sensibility. This painting contains its own code. Anyway, painter such as Biljana Kekovic has the right to individuality of her own rendering whose aim is – “– not to become dissociated, but to offer its own example to serve as model for other arts and practices” (Menna).


IV

       The real goal of modern artist is to produce an action-condition.

Nicolas Bourriaud


       In transitional period, in time of transition from postsocialism to liberal capitalistic social regime, art is experiencing numerous changes. Those changes are essentially dramatic. At the global level, today’s painting deals with politics, society and culture more then with its own being. Today, painting can be viewed from many aspects, but maybe the best one is to interpret it using the method of relational aesthetics by Nicolas Bourriaud. According to him, the most precise definition of art is the one that says that “Art is an activity consisting in producing relationships with the world with the help of signs, forms, actions and objects”.

       It is very interesting to view the position of Biljana Kekovic’s artistic renderings in this context. Her painting – with its conceptual propositions (abstraction), way of defining the plastic thought (expressionism) and its semantics (meaning and identification of painting as structure of signs), from its absolutely intimate point of view, definitively “comments” the time in which it was created. The plastic meaning of these paintings is showing us the artist’s state of mind in more condensed, focused and deliberate manner, and also her coded recommendation (the idea of dialogue and conversation) which directs viewer to establishing its own relationship with world in which he/she lives and acts.
If we accept Bonami’s doctrine according to which “paintings are not just paintings any more, but also anthropological, political and social statements” and that “artists are not political leaders, but they are visual leaders and through their visions we can achieve greater awareness of the politics of the world around us”, then the pictorial creations of Biljana Kekovic can be viewed as authoritative statements, even more so because this artist simultaneously deals with the state of picture and the picture of state of the society in which she lives. Therefore, her real goal is to establish the relationship between her own art and reality in which she acts. Or, more precisely: “to produce an action-condition” (Bourriaud).


[1] In an earlier text on Biljana Kekovic’s painting, I wrote: “In his essay on work of American abstract expressionists Edward Lucie Smith said that for them ‘one of the most significant questions was the question of artistic morality’…These artists dealt with authenticities of painting: they reduced it to a plane, to pictorial surface (which painting doesn’t share with any other system of pictures), they relied on authenticity of pictorial elements…That is exactly what Biljana Kekovic is doing.” (Biljana Kekovic, Paintings, catalogue from exhibition in Bel Art Galery, Novi Sad, 2004.)


Milica Radulovic
Biljana Kekovic's paintings



       Biljana Kekovic's painting bears an unusual excitement, unique and wondrous feeling of extraordinary spirituality and energy. Present on Montenegrin art scene since 1990s, her painting now established itself as artistic phenomena with exquisite, nurtured artistic signature.

       Biljana’s painting becomes inexhaustible space for transmitting her own intimate, irrational impulses, but also completely conscious, deliberate searches and discoveries of pictorial requirements of the visual field of painting. A painting becomes space where meditative and rational are merged in an inspired plastic unity, where the visual form is brought down to its semantic essence. This essentiality and emphasised intensity of colour facilitate the interpretation of content, thus setting a new spatio–plastic effects which further deepen the impeccable harmony of painting.

       Contours of portrait in her paintings are only hints or traces of someone’s presence, always jiffy, and foreboding or in expectation. This unassuming figurativeness bordering with abstractness is an expression of the inexpressible which can only be hinted or felt. “Talks” series therefore should not be viewed as portraits of personalities. Instead, we should view them starting from their substance.
Colour - the most sensitive and delicate primary substance of painting is at the same time the most susceptible and the most suitable for reception and transmittance of inner impulses which artists transfers in its application. Colour is not just an artistic mean, but a live organism which artist tries to tame, restrain or release. The colour in Biljana’s paintings becomes reality: the artist identifies herself with it and infuses it with her personal impression and emotion.
The same way she enters the area of painting, the author takes over and accepts every value and definition of colour. In colour, she recognizes and keeps the finest sensual impressions and deepest shudders of her inner being. She imprints in it both space and time and then the colour delivers endless fields of intuitive revelation and foreshadowing of its meaning. In other words, if “matter becomes memory” (Bergson), then in Biljana’s paintings, the interplay of colours which move from bright to tawny and from cool and mild to nervous and dramatic, lives the interchangeable rhythm of movement of inner impressions: her own state is thus being materialised in colour. Having in mind that “feeling should be expressed not described”, this generates complex contents of painting, at the same time real and imagined.

       According to the theory of colour, when viewed, warm colours tend to spread and move forward, while cold ones are contracting and retreating. In Biljana’s paintings they do more than that. Every colour transmits a feeling and lives special emotion. Red, yellow and orange “set the painting ablaze”, ravish it; green, blue and white restrain and calm it, and then purple refines, inspires and spiritualizes it… Further more, confident and strong artistic gestures break down the surface of picture, move in and out of it, while respecting each of its determinants and nourishing its specific nature. The enformelian manner of incorporating different materials in the body of picture – her, texture, sand – additionally materialises the idea of the picture; suggesting thus the dramatic and enigmatic – visual event. In this way, the entity exist in the spirit of associative expressionism in which colour as live and independent matter, condenses, flows, splatters and spills, transferring thus the unrelenting, primeval, essential energy, perceivable in every swelling on the canvass, in every leavening of colour where it abides as spark or the purest breath of Creation.

       To experience the work of Biljana Kekovic, passionate and sophisticate at the same time is to experience the emotion of a truly creative act; In front of her paintings, one grasps the moment of peace and quiet. That is why the painting of Biljana Kekovic is a joyous and respected art work.