An Analysis of a masterpiece of contemporary art: Exit, V. Velickovic

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This week, Artsper has a look at the work of a genius of drawing — the only art form that he considers worthy of its name — Vladimir Velickovic.

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Exit, 1988

When he painted Exit, in 1988, Velickovic was 53. 

During his life in Belgrade, he has experienced daily violence, massacres, the war which ravaged former Yugoslavia, the Nazi presence in his city, the abandoned corpses in the streets. One does not come out safe and sound from a “confrontation” with his paintings, which push us to introspection. There are numerous references in his works, and the artist does not hide it. It is impossible to ignore the great masters. In his pieces, we recognize the Grünewald,’s taste for the morbid, Bacon’s consistency of the flesh, the pessimism of Goya, the mutilation of the German expressionists. And still, his work does not resemble anyone else’s.

His ghosts have never left him; the artist doesn not talk much about his work. He has not produced one piece which does not evoke suffering, rapture, or rejection. And he has felt rejection himself, as he has been rejected by the contemporary art system for a long time. Too figurative, too much drawing, too influenced by his personal history, not detached enough from contingencies…

Exit is surely not the the most representative work of Velickovic. We are mostly familiar with his crucified bodies, devoured by ravens, weightless, in precarious balance. In Exit, the human condition heads toward a dark and tortured destiny. Shoulders low, grey skin, contrasting with the red wall of an intensity which forces to a religious silence, the blood that flows from the foot of the character: all the human tragedy is expressed here. A man who turns his back to us, faceless, and therefore with no identity… Is hope still allowed in former Yugoslavia? In 1941, Bertold Brecht wrote:

 

“The nations put him where his kind belong.

But don’t rejoice too soon at your escape

The womb he crawled from is still going strong.”

For Velickovic, carelessness no longer exists.

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