From the moment you meet Đorđe Stanojević’s works, you meet a passion for nature, not as an abstract quality but as a place of belonging. Orchard, his new sequence of works, continues his artistic research into the vitality and volatility of matter, through close reflection of symbolic intersections that he finds at the conjunction of the cultural and the natural.

An orchard does not simply stand for the cornucopia of a rich harvest, but a space defined by year-round labour. Like the Vergersof Rilke’s poem, it is all that has weight and that nourishes. Like art, it is a space of unceasing and uncomplaining attention, a space that also represents our gentle re-creation of nature. Its function is receiving consciousness through affecting empathy with the natural phenomena. In the words of herman de vries, “What is the difference between beaux arbresand beaux arts? … A botanical garden is, then, art – for it has to do with being conscious in the process of becoming conscious – and in the botanical garden you can sense (see, smell, feel, and sometimes hear and taste).” If making art is the process of becoming conscious, then these works seen here can be seen as a document of the process.

The horticultural history finds its most fruitful expression in the orchard. The orchard can be seen as a metaphor and a discourse: it is a space that is at once emblematic and real. The garden, and especially the fruit orchard, is the noblest expression of our cultivated relationship with nature. In many cultures, the garden is symbolic of a state of human happiness. It is the image of the enclosed and protected nature that speaks of the possibilities of harmony with the natural world. By containing both art and science, it is the opposite of wilderness: it has been tamed, harmonious, integrated. Within it, the macrocosm of nature is analogous to the microcosm of the human being. In the Renaissance, salvation was found through symbolic nature: hortus conclususwas a guide to paradise (and the word “paradise” is derived from the Persian word “pairideaza”, which when literally translated means “surrounded by walls”.)

More than just our mirror and our paradise, the garden is a collaborative living construction, created through the union of human and non-human actaints. It is an insight into a tamed landscape without familiar domesticity or uncritical sentimentality; a reflective seeing preceded by multigenerational experience. The philosopher Bruno Latour wrote: “The most urgent concern for us today is to see how to fuse together humans and non-humans in the same hybrid forums and open, as fast as possible, this Parliament of things” (What Rules of Method). The concern for Stanojević is to trace these hybrid forums in the process of creation that involves living solvents, ferments, bacteria. As observed by Michel Serres in The Birth of Physics: “Nature declines and this is its act of birth. And its stability. Atoms join together, conjunction is the strength of things, through declination. This signifies the whole of time.”

In a departure from the previous series (Flow, Sonar, Magical Forest), where the focus was on the flow of energy through landscape, in Orchard Stanojević uses the plant bloom as a metaphor to examine entelechy (the self-organising principle of matter, Driesch) and the creative agency of materiality (Bergson’s élan vital). The colour of ripening fruit thus gains another dimension (“the green of Osiris and the white of Saturn”, as in Derek Jarman’s lyrical meditation Chroma), reaching its peak in ethereal violet. In the past, plums were gathered in baskets lined with nettles to avoid smudging their bloom. This way the fruit would preserve its flavour and freshness. Again, we have the process of maintaining the immaculate: the chaste and untouched that preserves its purity.

The bloom of the fruit – the thin waxy film of natural oleanolic acid – is thus a representation of living breath. When talking about his work Soffio de Creta(Breath of Clay, 1977), Giuseppe Penone said: “When we breathe we take air in and then expel one body of air into another body of air, and this is already a sculpture, because you are changing the space, you are enclosing one form in another form. (…) Breath has a form that is very close to that of the interior of the body, like the negative form inside a coffin.” The frail bloom on fruit serves to enhance the true nature of life in plain sight. Through fermentation and sedimentation, via the sacral dips and baptisms of colour, aiming to manifest bloom through painting, Stanojević aims for a transfiguration that only the close union of art and nature as equals can obtain.

Alexandra Lazar, 2019