July 4th – 20th
If one would wish to imagine how would a specific visual art aesthetic from the Balkans look like, beamed through the prism of contemporary visual culture in which the author is projecting a personal sensibility while also adding the most authentic and relevant influences from the local environment – then you might find yourself trying to visualize the works of Emir Šehanović.
From fragments of local traditions, magic rituals, superstitions and beliefs, Esh manages to build a meta-mythological world of his own – its outlines are often antrophomorphic , but in their true nature entirely aesthetically and metaphorically abstract. He constructs subjective and fictional constellations of breathtaking characters and states of mind, while always staying connected to the specific surroundings in which the author’s artistic language has been growing and maturing over the years. Balkan stories, motives and ornaments are skillfully woven into each particle of Esh’s compositions, and this is always the case no matter if we are talking about digital prints, handmade collages or spatial interventions.
The burnt and blurred edges of his depictions seem to be still carrying traces of the geometrical ornaments and lively color schemes which have marked the author’s childhood and everyday. In such a way, Esh sublimely transposes his personal experience related to a specific, local cultural context into an expression whose associations are purely universal. In the process, he manages to create, develop and realize a visual aesthetic which is at the same time firmly rounded up, but also open enough to be successfully applied and transformed across formats and mediums.
Figures and characters, who seem as they were washed out by time and set in an ambivalent timeframe somewhere between past and future, are transforming into a backdrop for a playful meandering of the “outer” and “altered” states and thoughts. Layers which are feeding in from the banal media residue of abandoned paper are offering a mystical deepness and creating a cutting-edge between the light and the dark – between vivid colors and variations of black. In their sheer physical presence, Esh’s works are successfully maintaining a context for a natural and peaceful co-existence of parallel worlds.
The portrait works of the “Zumra” series are not just impressive compositions of collages that achieve their specific depth due to the crafty but uneven cuts made by the author, but those are also mirrors which provoke the viewer to think through his or her own mental composition of cracks and wells. In this case, the medium and the message do become one – burnt edges of random sheets of paper depict the ever untaimed contours and amorphous layers of an inner metaphysical world.
The bridge between choices and experiences of life and the very act of creation is achieved in Esh’s experiments with lead, which is used in the traditional healing rituals characteristic of the part of Bosnia he comes from. The spirits built into his “treated images” slowly gain space and transpose a tangible artist’s experience, a life experience which enriches the images by mixing the real and the imaginary up to a level in which is it is almost impossible to differ one from the other.
A specific relationship to depth and space is a strong common thread connecting any of Esh’s interventions. If we look at some of the installations prepared specially for the Belgrade exhibition, the motives previously known to us from the collages are boldly entering the third dimension through the use of various local materials and ancient techniques, at the same time keeping all of the specifics and qualities of the previous works. There is no single Esh composition which is content in the second dimension, even if it is in an inherently “limited” medium of digital print. Esh’s specific approach to composing layers will make a piece of paper reach unexpected depths and depict the play of surfaces which seems to be unfolding right before our eyes.
Esh subtly directs the viewer to walk across this thin line him or herself, which is one of the strongest powers of his impressive compositions. It is hard to think through them, they are impressive enough in their own right that they will immediately create a synapse to the viewer’s subconsciousness, regardless of whether we, the person in front of the work, would like to be aware of that or not. The author carefully weaves a subtle net of lines halfway between illusion and reality, leaving only to us the choice of how deep we want to go.
By writing the title exhibition on the gallery wall, Esh rounds up the process of creation of an intimate personal ambience in which his ghosts are free to wander around undisrupted. Subuhum Kudusum Veruhum are the words which are spoken in homes across Bosnia in order to keep the negative energy away from the walls of the household. It is up to the viewer to decide which side has prevailed this time. In himself.
Curated by Relja Bobić
Sound: Saša Arsić
Photo: Saša Arsić