Far from the road there are trees... - Ljiljana Karadžić
“Far from the road there are trees...
The key concepts in the artistic work and exploration of Gordana Kuč are: contemplation, processuality, the conceptual, repetition, variation, monochromacy, minimalism and appropriation.
In the program text Art as Technique (1919), Shklovski formulates the artistic process as a process by which an object appears from an unexpected angle, in an unusual way, with certain deformations, and as something strange. Shklovski introduces the neologism of defamiliarization (“ostranenie”) as a denominator of this phenomenon. According to the author, the artistic process never serves to simply display the object, but rather to present it in a particularly unusual way and then infiltrate that into our experience of reality as such. The consequence of such a procedure is that the object is “in a certain sense constructed”, because it looks different, and it becomes strange. This creates unexpected and unpredictable slippages in the structural logic of the artwork that results in an aggravated perception for the viewer. The outcome of the procedure is the removal of the capacity to automatically observer the work, through changing the viewer’s aesthetic habits, and ultimately increasing sensitivity in the perception of the world. One further radical step is taken by Duchamp, who, as Boris Groys writes, builds his authorial credo clearly showing that he did not make the object but rather “he used it in a particularly interesting way”. So, the emphasis shifts from the production of the new to the reception of what already existed within the object, and formal innovation gives way to repetition. Even Baudrillard, who defined the entire postmodern culture as a simulation, determined in the early 1980s that every possible art form is exhausted and that artists can only deal with the recombination and simulation of what has already been produced. The art of Gordana Kuč follows these paths, with a profound need and devotion to investigating that which exists “behind”. By choosing a continuously autonomous, reduced, silent language against the cacophony of the real world, offering an exciting encounter with the intangible nature of interior spaces as opposed to the glitter of the material transiency of the tangible world, the artist makes us perceive the world in a different, unknown way, encouraging us not to hesitate when faced with “objects we do not see”. Using non-artistic materials and objects, most often impersonal, inconceivable, serialized, and not for the purpose of their executions, but rather the realization of the idea, the artist consciously abolishes expression as a gesture, as her personal handwriting and mark, which in some way leaves her absent from the works. Thus, she denies authorship in the classical sense, and the very act of negation is understood as a personal attitude, something “original” or that introduces a change in our perception of the objects taken from the sphere of everyday life, as well as the connotations such objects “are impregnated with” by the artistic act itself.
The exhibition “Difference and Repetition” consists of several installations that are thoughtful, finely-tuned and synchronized with the gallery space, in order to maximize their synergy and create the impression of integrity, and again, every artwork within the whole setting, smoothly, purely, radiates its own, special atmosphere. At the same time both monumental and bodiless, powerful and brittle, the installation “Reverse Paths” consists of rolls of perforated paper wound and released in free fall over the construction. It occupies the centre of the Gallery, but with its ease and virtual transparency, it allows a free view of the space. It can be seen at once, encompassed by one glance, but it is possible to make progress step by step in the succession of time. On the rolls of paper (tens of meters in length), the artist has repetitively, as though a mantra, made a long period of time of perforation in dense and regular intervals, using an office drilling machine, the creating a complex structure of holes. By itself, the use of something so prosaic and ephemeral, such as a drilling machine, which in everyday life serves to drill a hole at a defined distance from the edge of the sheet, with the purpose of storing paper- document in the registers, is something of a strange act. The resulting holes are associated with encoded messages, and their deciphering opposes the logic that operates in terms of place, time, proportion, and perspective. Although the small voids almost dissolve in the whiteness of the base, they remain in the sense of the art, being recognizable as “a certain event in the field of drawing”. The artist, with refined reflexivity through her ascetic, minimalist work, and by favoring formal economy over material content, induces in observers a state of meditation. Through an asceticism of utterly ritualized action, the work becomes an echo of the weightless rhythm that contains life, lasting beyond all time and boundaries, invoking internal journeys and uncontrolled freedom, beyond the apparent dualism, the binary of visible and invisible, fullness and void. Therefore, the “Reverse Paths” do not articulate as a first-class aesthetic, poeticized experience, which they could be and which they at first glance appear to be, but as a “non-place” that symbolizes the turning away inward from the outside world.
The works/installations from the cycle “Difference and Repetition”, “Portraits” and “The Horizon of Expectations” are connected by the colour purple as their common denominator. All the works are monochrome, covered with a thick, saturated layer of long-sought specific shades of purple, which is for the artist a symbol of spirituality. If we look for it in the Glossary of Symbols, we will see that purple is a colour of moderation, composed of equal amounts of red and blue, the colour of visibility and thoughtful acts, of the balance between the earth and the sky, the senses and the spirit, passion and reason, love and wisdom. This colour is considered to be the symbol of alchemy, the continuous exchange between the heavens and the earth by means of a rise, followed by a descent; in other words, the cycle of periodical renewal. Given the preoccupation of the artist, her tendency toward spiritual, erudition and interest in literature in the field of philosophy, the selection of purple as “the cover” and as a colour itself seems to be a deeply thoughtful act. The meaning and symbolic potential of the monochromy of purple can, in a certain way, also establish contact points between the arts of Yves Klein and Gordana Kuč. Klein compares the use of line in the space of painting to clouds that interfere with the endless blue sky. Lines and forms block, congest the space/surface and become an obstacle to energy, not allowing it to flow freely, leading to disturbance and imbalance. The “cure” is to erase the lines using monochromy, or meditation, in order to restore the mentally purified space. Therefore, monochrome is an experience similar to the experience of emptiness. Having painted different objects purple as Klein painted various objects IKB (International Klein Blue), the artist expresses the idea that life or the spirit soaks, permeates, and impregnates all things. This permeation, the impregnation of matter by the spirit, results in the expression of an intangible substance through material signs.
In one of the “purple” series, the artist applies to the canvas small consumer items, usually made of plastic or metal, taking one element as a module, a sample, which through repetition and invention at the same time becomes the constituent element of the whole work. The rhythm of repetition not going out until it completes the whole surface determines the structure of the entire work. In this process of work, nothing changes in the object - a repetition module, but there is a change in the mind that begins to understand this repetition as an essential state of being. In a language that is in a formal sense close to Purism and Neo-Geo art, by the recirculation and recombination of one element, geometric relief images are made that resemble complex architectural constructions, machine schemes or symbolic ornaments. The thick, cathedral net of non-expressive, almost technical forms that completely cover the surfaces, is impregnated with a concentrated layer of purple. Therefore, this is a total closing of the scene by continuous repetition of the module that forms the basis of the iconic representation of the plastic state of these hermetic works. The constitutive principle of difference and repetition that characterizes these works is actually based on Deleuze’s book on Difference and Repetition, in which he writes that “difference and repetition have taken the place of the identical and the negative, of identity and contradiction. For difference implies the negative and allows itself to lead to contradiction, only to the extent that its subordination to the identical is maintained. The primacy of identity, however conceived, defines the world of representation. But modern thought is born of the failure of representation, of the loss of identities, and of discovery of all forces that act under the representation of the identical.”
The wall installations are again made from ephemeral, serial items, but also used trivial things like nut screws, crosses, empty frames, hooks, rubbers, dropped off pigment layers, or a child's flute, all covered / impregnated with saturated purple. Thus, the intervention of the artist releases the poetic potentials of the objects used and empties them of the original meaning and purpose. According to Freud's theory, unconsciously found/selected objects serve to overcome the obvious and discover the latent content of the psyche by realizing a hidden desire, but at the same time this process launches creative energy and transforms the banal everyday into poetry. Placing in new contexts “segments”, different both by their origin and by their ontological status, the artist makes a fine turnover, mystifying trivial things and making them both mysterious and poetic. Whatever template she uses, she treats it as a quote that is then incorporated into the installation, whereby her technique and work determine the position, meaning, and role of the quotation. If Shklovski’s terms could be applied to such a technique, it is possible to observe that the artist uses the citation for the purpose of “new vision” or the defamiliarization of non-artistic “text” within her own. The created, one-time installation, which as such exists only on the wall of the Gallery during the exhibition, becomes a conceptual - constructive -decorative whole which, within the viewer, arouses an intrigue twisted with their awareness of the hermetic nature of the scene.
“Horizon of Expectations” is a wall installation named after the term introduced into literature by Hans Robert Jauss within his theory of aesthetics of reception, which highlights the active role of the reader/viewer and his/her expectations of an artwork formed by his/her social background, as well as education, experience and personality. The installation consists of compositionally placed flour sifters, whose meshes are covered in purple, suggesting the horizon line, such as the one that can be seen through a window from below deck, or from the shore of the open sea. The relationship between full and empty differs from sifter to sifter, so that in some places the horizon is lower, and therefore more distant, and in others it is closer and at the symbolic level it points to a greater or lesser cognitive aspect of the consciousness of the observer and his/her reception of artistic expression. The comprehension of this installation is not available to an objective, disinterested view, nor is it understood only by the operation of the thought induction of the viewer. However, if viewed from a subjective, interested perspective, the “Horizon of Expectations” provides an observer willing to mentally invest in the work with a sense of silence, relaxation, poetic experience and purification. The cycle of portraits was created using a specific artistic technique consisting of the application of layers of purple of the same tonal value to one kind of fusion, the unification of the colour with itself, to the sureness. The colour dries over time, becomes bubbled, with cracks, furrows and protrusions; it begins its own autonomous life, and the processual and structural laws of living matter are transmitted into its manifest and internal structure. The fragments of the concentrated matter begin to separate from the basis, creating faces, portraits. Of course, in spite of the anticipation or distant associativity, in this case, the concept of a face does not have to be understood “figuratively” i.e., as a communication of visual facial features, but rather as a registration of psychic and energy processes/states. At the same time present and absent, introvert and hypnotically “gazing” at the observer, these faces arouse opposite feelings, rather embarrassment than empathy, which is a consequence of the exceeded boundary, their physical proximity, close-up and direct, in pure confrontation with the observer. The border area of the close-up of the face has its origin in the disappearance of each performance, or its transfer into abstraction. Pascal Bonitzer writes that the constitutive duality of a close-up carries the highest degree of ambiguity in itself; it is attractive and repulsive, intimidating and seductive. These purple portraits - faces have just such a duality.
The complex series of purple works also include deconstructive “paintings”, making a cycle of the circular, movement without beginning and end, in which the starting points can be the ends and vice-versa. Dried, ragged fragments hang, peeled off and falling down, from the white surface of the canvas of a thickened purple surface, reduced to its pure substantiality, exiting from the painting and entering the space of the viewer. Fragments become self-purpose elements that enter into uncontrolled mutual relationships, emitting their own, suppressed meanings, and their autonomous, concealed life is revealed by the very substance that reflects the essential nature of colour. These processual paintings are subject to the elapsing of time. But the process of decay is at the same time a process of crystallization, as written by Hannah Arendt. The instability and the lack of fixedness of a visual situation, which can change itself in an unknown, unpredictable moment, introduces a category of temporality, making the encounter of the observer with the painting into a somehow unrepeatable experience. He/she plunges into the zones of the opaque, undifferentiated and inaccessible, where language is broken, where life and death become part of the same undefined phenomenon, where being and the world slip into nothingness, and the path collapses into the anteroom of silence.
The cycle of paintings - objects called “Me Is Someone Else” consists of white canvases where the artist, with a feeling of variation sharpened to the highest degree of sensitivity, tightens and stretches black fishnet stockings. Thus, she creates complex, aesthetized, cultivated, geometric, aseptic structures in which, after the eye rapidly adjusts to the optical “trap”, female gender determinants, breasts and genitals are identified. These paintings-objects can exist completely independently and self-sufficiently, and arranged in an identical group are brought into a dialogue and create delicate interspaces in which the semantic potential of the artworks expand and form new meanings. One of the meanings of the cycle “Me Is Someone Else” refers to the issue of identity. When it appeared around 70 years ago, the term identity referred to being as an existential category. However, instead of suggesting a stable sense of self, Richard Meyer notes, this term is often used to indicate the problem of “identity crisis” or “identity search”, caused by the alienation of an individual faced with an ever more anonymous society. This problem is also accompanied by the unsolvable dilemmas of the authentic identity of an individual that opens up a series of questions: Is there a certain constituent that determines personal identity? If our identity is changeable, what do the changes dependent on? Who determines our identity: society or we ourselves? The artist discreetly and sophisticatedly, from a woman's point of view, personalizes these issues, bearing in mind her own childhood and upbringing in a patriarchal environment, which then in the same codes, with almost the same stereotypes and prejudices, is passed on to her daughter.
By conducting long-lasting, inseparable spiritual and substantive research, Gordana Kuč continually creates “auratic” works whose power of activity and unpredictable suggestiveness derive from the fine stabilization of differences, the co-operation and coexistence of the physical and the spiritual, the concrete and the general and the cognitive and the inaccessible. By inexhaustible processes of transferring the material into the spiritual realm, transforming the sphere of the ephemeral into the sphere of the sublime, the transcendent, she forms the spark of poetry that occupies the artworks and seizes the viewer, offering him/her a spiritual light.