Vanishing Fiction, 2018/2019 (photo: Hong Gyeong Kim)

Films' Rhythms Remediated (text from catalogue of exibition Vanishing Fiction, U10 Art Space, 2018)

Author of the text: Stevan Vuković 

Besides their flat, smooth surfaces devoid of obvious brushstrokes or hints of the artist's hand, along with their nonhierarchical, mathematically regular compositions, often based on a grid, as well as their reduced palettes and geometric shapes or lines, one of the major characteristics of the paradigmatic minimalist paintings is that they not only address, but even tempt to fully isolate the phenomenological basis of the viewer’s experience, and focus it onto a pure self-referential form. The composition and the structure of the minimalist painting is to be perceived as it appears to the viewer, by solely visually engaging with it, without looking for any reference beyond its literal presence. That means, no representation, no artist’s biography, no emotional or energy-filled content (be it abstract or not), no social agendas, and no visible trace of the process that brought them into existence. As Ad Reinhardt wrote in the golden age of minimalism, back in 1962, in such works there should be no traces of typical abstract expressionist ‘gymnastics or dancing over painting or spilling or flipping paint around’. Later on, in his most radical phase, he has even formulated the Twelve Technical Rules, in which he has extended those restrictions even further, to include: no texture, no brushwork or calligraphy, no forms, no design, no colors, no light, no space, no time, no size or scale, no movement, no object, no subject, no matter, no symbols, images, or signs, neither pleasure nor paint, no mindless working or mindless non-working, and even no chess-playing (which was the obvious reference to Duchamp). Minimalists were always obsessed with cutting whatever might influence viewers’ pure experience of gestalt, but the trends of neo-minimalism that are actual today are less radical than the historical ones. They only insist on the reduction of the language of painting, and on maintaining the essentials.

Even though this series of paintings appears to be “a continuation of the practice of abstract and minimal art”, as Nemanja Nikolić himself has previously stated in his reflections on his works presented at the exhibition titled Samples of the Liquid Book, his inspiration for them came from “the avant-garde practice of Yugoslav artists with a focus on experimental research in the field of moving images”. In that respect, he has pointed to the film director and visual artist Slobodan Šijan, and two of his drawings – diagrams from 1974, titled In the rhythm of Howard Hawks (1974) and In the rhythm of John Ford (1974), which he saw at the exhibition of his works Around Film, curated by Dejan Sretenović for the Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, in 2009. Until then, during his studies at the department of Painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade, Nemanja Nikolić has already made a stop-motion animation titled Insert, as a turning experiment to determine the referential frame of his future works, and Šijan’s exhibition has perhaps shown him that he was on the right track. Insert will later become part of Nemanja Nikolić’s short omnibus titled Inserts, with Insert II, and Marnie in the Insert. Quite similar to some of the works by Šijan, they were using films as resources both of visual content and of the patterns of its framing and showing movement. They were quoting scenes and the manners of their framing from: The Birds and Marnie by Alfred Hitchcock, Irma Vep by Olivier Assayez, Peeping Tom by Michael Powell, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre by Tobe Hooper, Nosferatu by Friedrich W. Murnau, Frankenstein and the Bride of Frankenstein by James Whale.

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