Darkness Light Darkness:
an introduction to the genealogy
of the process of Đorđe Stanojević
In the preparation for the exhibition “Darkness Light Darkness” by Đorđe Stanojević (1974), I departed from the standard gallery format that takes an overview of the works from the exhibition as the starting point for a look into the poetics of the artist. Instead, this catalogue represents a somewhat broader choice of works from the series with a joint title Fantastic Landscapes, which number 123 paintings to date – as well as a short overview of the documentary, photographic and video material that has been accumulated alongside the more familiar artefacts. This approach is justified by the method of the artist whose praxis of observation and learning from nature is inseparable from his creative processes. In a similar way, the artist’s statements that occurred during the conversations about his work – “If I did not learn anything new from making an artwork, that work has not been finished” – “A flow as a dialogue and as a recognition of matter”– “Let it happen” – also serve as a concise illustration of his personal philosophy and work ethics inseparable from life, which “deliberately inadvertently” brings cycles of life and nature closer to the cycles of artistic creation.
In this way, the catalogue in your hands represents a brief look into the genealogy of the artist’s creative process in order to at least partially expose the extent of the longterm sedimentations which, “experientially, not via abstraction” participate in creating of his body of art.
The art of Đorđe Stanojević is a palimpsest of energy imprints of the natural world. All paintings, sculptures and installations rooted in this process are the direct result of the decision to work in harmony with nature–notconceivedbut perceived –and captured as reflections of its endless rhythms. In rediscovering the earth he finds connections with flows and fluxes of its greater nurturing powers, and ultimately the connections between the external world and the world within.
Stanojević observes two parallel realities, one materialising in the external world and another taking shape as a deeper inner calling. His curiosity in flow and in earth – as matter, as a metaphor, as alchemic element, and as a state of mind which follows and records the pulse and recurrence of life, ‘the tingling of matter’ (De Quincey) – shapes his formal approach to art. The similarity with Land Art can be observed in the process of discovery as well as the historical biography: Stanojević returns to nature at the time of the breakup of Yugoslavia when, similar to the post-WW2 era that defined the start of Land Art in the USA, the circumstances of the destruction of the “country” required redefinition and concretisation of the ground beneath one’s feet.
Every stability is illusory. Hence the title of this exhibition “Darkness Light Darkness” implies the cyclical nature of change: so naturalthat we no longer register it as peculiar, and so fluid that it is often difficult to see it as sublime. And yet this is the key pattern of life. Without light there would be no life, but without darkness there would be no other kinds of life that demand rest and recuperation, growth and healing, reassembly of the building blocks that constitute our unconscious and our dreams.
During the conception of this exhibition darkness, light, darknesswas the metaphor that served as a possible focal point for a look into the artist’s methodology. When we think of art, we think of darkness and light: the darkness of coal, ink and graphite that become an idea only when contrasted with the whiteness of paper. Their union constitutes a line. When we think of photography, we think of light that activates the colloid emulsion on a film, and darkness that helps develop and actualise it. When we think of sculpture, we think of the contrast that sculpts contours between form and space. When we think of poetry, we think of ‘braided rhythms and flows’ that belong to the everlasting flow of time in which a poet is only “a permanence composed of impermanence”. When we think of memory and forgetting, of myths and histories, of theology and philosophy, our minds turn to darkness and light as guides for our reflections.
Night is the time when hundreds of insects, birds and mammals emerge when their predators are asleep. This is when the nocturnal migrations of owls and nighthawks take place; this is a time when does swim across streams to feed. Dark has its own language: for fireflies this language is light, for crickets sound and for moths, pheromones. The energy of the night enriches, nurtures and records all life.
Black – as Andy Goldsworthy says – is energy of earth made visible, that “cure of ground” that reflects the cycles of life and death, putrefaction and renewal. Darkness, light and darkness again reflects the artist’s profound relationship with the landscape and its elemental beauty. Stanojević’s main source and subject is the earth – its plasticity, materiality and energy, its elemental and symbolic value. His art is inseparable from mud, clay and pigment exposed to the elements over extended periods in the open air, allowing for an undirected intervention, and for binding time within materials and places that “reveal the stone in the flower and the flower in a stone” (Goldsworthy).
Just like Joseph Beuys, James Turrell or Andy Goldsworthy, Stanojević understands art to be a part of a more comprehensive process that extends beyond the safety of a studio or conceptual purity of a gallery, but belongs to a wider creativity which concerns itself with (as Rilke wrote of Rodin’s sculptures): “The strange documents of the momentary …. of the unnoticeable, of the unnoticeable passing.”
The act of painting through minimal influence over matter is what gives these works their elemental, meditative quality. Each artwork created in this way is unique, lyrical, intense and mortal. Each seeks purity and shows tactile skill that seeks to be an extension of the natural flow, a moment in an infinite creative process where nothing is fixed, nothing is permanent, “so that morning and evening are like promises kept”, where “reality is the beginning not the end”:
These are the edgings and inchings of final form,
The swarming activities of the formulae
Of statement, directly and indirectly getting at,
Like an evening evoking the spectrum of violet,
A philosopher practicing scales on his piano,
A woman writing a note and tearing it up.
It is not in the premise that reality
Is a solid. It may be a shade that traverses
A dust, a force that traverses a shade.
Wallace Stevens, Excerpt from An Ordinary Evening in New Haven.
Alexandra Lazar, 2017