Friday, August 10, 2012

Gallery of Naïve Art Kovačica Serbia

Cari Amici (Dear Friends),

Northeast of Belgrade about 50 kilometers is the city of Kovačica, Serbia. It is home to the Galerija naivne umetnosti or the Gallery of Naïve Art, a place visited by many famous people, including apparently, The Rolling Stones. Dragana’s parents, Srecko and Smiglia, treated us both to this experience one afternoon. Here is a photo of me with them inside the gallery.

There are currently over 20 member artists of the gallery, working with lots of color and depicting the daily life in Serbia in a manner that is full of heart, sentiment, and a sometimes not-so-simple charm. Their work is a joyous celebration of their lives, childlike in its enthusiasm. These artists are said to have had no formal art education and yet one can see that their art is born of observation and passion.

One thing I found surprisingly consistent is that their compositions had a peaceful kind of balance, often using symmetry and repetition. In some ways, their art seemed to be the kind an engineer’s brain might make. But then, I was married to a mechanical engineer who could see all the lack of straight lines and symmetry in my own work or something that just did not feel right to him for some reason (and he was therefore one of my favorite critics while I had works-in-progress). I did not always agree with his opinion, but I was grateful to have the balance of it.

The Gallery of Naïve Art opened in its original location on May 15, 1955. It moved to this pretty blue building in September 1989. I thought the lighting was pretty cool and smiled to myself as I remembered the first time that Srecko and I had our first real communication without his daughter Dragana translating for us. As I sat outside one evening working on my art in their courtyard where we ate most of our meals, he asked me if I wanted some more light. He communicated this by pointing to the light and saying, “Tesla?” It was a wonderfully clear and happy exchange for both of us, as I accepted his offer.

My favorite artist on exhibit inside these walls was Martin Jonaš (1924-1996). He was a co-founder of the gallery. My favorite painting that day is this one of the woman in the blue dress pulling a load. One can just FEEL how hard she works.

Martin Jonaš thinks like an artist. While looking at his works I was remembering a conversation that I had with my friend and mentor Vasily Fedorouk so many years ago. He said, “When you are learning to play the piano, you learn how to play each note. But when you actually play the piano, you do not play all of those notes at the same time. That is not music, it is noise.”

The discussion evolved into why artists will play down some parts of the anatomy or landscape even, and play up, or make larger even, the parts that contain the emotional idea in a work of art. Jonaš has taken this concept and run with it. I hope you enjoy the art of the farmers in Serbia.

While Smiglia, Dragana, and I were visiting Pančevo, Serbia, I was interviewed for their local newspaper. Dragana just sent me this link to the article that appeared yesterday. It is a funny translation via Google; not horribly far off, just at times nonsensical. For example, near the end of the interview when I spoke about the old buildings. I actually said that I loved the crumbling parts in the architecture. That while some people might think it was horrible, I found it beautiful. Enjoy…
Pančevac Press

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