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Dušan Rajić – Beautiful but Ugly

The practice of self-documenting nowadays is a field of mass production and perhaps mass obsession. Social networks provide the possibilities of presentation of photographs, video, and text in the manner which cannot be differentiated so easily from any post-conceptual work. Mallarme said in 19th century that everything in the world existed so that it could end up in a book. Nowadays it seems that everything exists only to end up in photographs (primarily the ones of social networks). Having the experienced is equalized to the creation of the photograph of such experience.

How then to understand the artistic practice based on instant, snapshot photographic recordings? Nowadays, when the photograph is the crucial part of the social ritual, one of main instruments of experiencing anything.

In the exhibition “Prelepo al’ ružno” Dušan Raijć presents a portion of his opus based primarily on snapshot (instant, spontaneous) photographs, but also paintings, objects and installations as recordings of events, experiences and observations of “whatever” moments. It is the work which reevaluates our ideas of what is worth seeing but also what we are entitled to observe; which reevaluates grammar, but what is even more important, the ethics of observation. It is not about calculated transformation of Rajić’s urban expression into gallery expression, but autonomous part of his creativity which naturally moves among various fields of visual expression and artistic practices.

One of fundamental qualities of snapshot photograph is the impression that these recordings are closest to the truth. These photographs are not technically perfect or carefully composed or thought, and it is exactly a part of their appeal. For the vitality and immediate expression of life season emerge from this innocence and honesty. Therefore, its goal is to demonstrate life as it really is, not as a constructed representation. Surely, there is also certain manipulation – the photographer, however, chooses where the camera lens will be directed and when the button will be pressed.

And Rajić’s lens, most frequently of analog camera, records and documents repetitive, undefined and perhaps endless present. It records events on the margin and moves through the panorama of diverse worlds and events with great agility. The visit to peripheral parts of the city is raised to the level of esthetical pilgrimage.

The author chose marginalized beauty of vehicles, houses and villages pieced together, excessively decorated shop windows, plastering at the facades of decrepit houses… He chose everything a big city publicly rejected, but what continually flows in underground waters and vitally contributes to its energy. For these works are based on the dialectics of the big and small. Both in the spaces of urban on landscape structure, but also in the spaces of intimacy.

Rajić is also known as graffiti artist, an artist who knows the street well and who moves with fluidity through various segments of visual scene. It is the walker who scouts, follows, circles around city streets, discovers the city as the landscape of the extreme. This flaneur of the 21st century is not attracted to the official reality of the city, but its unknown corners and neglected parts.

At the very beginning of the history of photograph, by the end of the 30s of 19th century, William Fox Talbot noticed that the camera was quite suitable for recording of “injuries created by time”. Rajić’s camera also records bodily scars and scars of the city, buildings and nature. In his photographs urban landscapes become abstract compositions. Architectural still lives are build using facades, corrosive materials, mortar and walls. It should not be forgotten that the artist is educated architect. Therefore, Rajić’s photographs frequently problematize the presence of absurdity in architecture, anti-architecture, architecture which does not rely upon topographic texture of an area or district.

On the other hand, Rajić’s interiors make the value of reality more complex. The values of our protected intimacy. For interiors are our corner in the universe. In his photographs people find sanctuary in the city. Occasionally even high in the branches of the trees, neglected wild gardens of big urban areas.

The artist perceives the world on the side of the beautiful and ugly, important and trivial. Every discrimination is slavish and snobbish. Therefore, even when the class is problematized, it is not done in an ideologically trivial manner, but as the deepest mystery. Because it is when the files of human dramas are opened, of people who sleep in the street and suffer emotional tragedies in clubs or public spaces. What connects them is surely that they are recorded in various levels of their unconscious relations towards themselves and the situation, with the absence of the self-awareness of the pose.

The photographs pack the world, but also invite for packing. Rajić prints them in textile, manipulating with their sizes. It is an orchestrated meditation on the photograph, because it observes all moments as equally important. We are not conditioned by certain sequence of observation. Rajić suggests a different manner of packing of photographs, which contributes to their visual readability and emotional charge. As if the goal is not to present individual contents and images, but to emphasize their cumulative impression. In this manner the work gains such supernatural relief, which can no longer be interpreted only by life. The artist prints them on canvas, because he emphasizes that the photographic image is essentially the surface, and what is behind it is the matter of intuition and speculation. During the process of work the artist literally cloaked himself with these photographs in textile, informally carrying them around his neck. He does not approach them as precious object either during his work or at the exhibition but manipulates them.

Dušan Rajić is a multimedia artist, who beside photograph uses also drawing, painting and installations in combined media so the range of the media and their elusiveness and irreducibility themselves are a judgement. As an artist who created his relation towards art in the public space, the author naturally uses visual language, fine art elements and compositional principles adopted in the urban life environment. In this exhibition he presented the images where he combined media, created fusions and new hybrid techniques. A part of the exhibition is therefore based on drawings realized in acrylic color and spray on the glass and images for whose basis different textures are used, mainly the material found incidentally. The works combine ambivalent sentences and quotations from everyday life, internet meme (such as the very title of the exhibition) as an authentic and frequently precise sign of time, with motifs executed from the current media culture or with the phenomena from the immediate environment. The esthetics and directly taken characters from comic books, animated moves and popular culture are also a natural part of the repertoire of Rajić’s paintings. Although they are random and raw, psychologically intensive notes of the process of current thinking, the inventory of his reality is delirious, and the esthetics is marked by irony.

A special attention is drawn to diptych, which with the renewal of innocence and spontaneity, introduces monumental human figures, like totem-paintings. On the one hand, it is stylistically simplified silhouette of a contemporary shaman with cowboy hat and poncho, who seemingly invokes ancient images of humankind and on the other a painting of a female nude of a contemporary goddess. In this painting parts of woman’s body become maps of entire life areas, filled with notes and drawings resembling ornamental patterns. These red canvases were waxed by applying numerous layers and deposits and by the same principle, in another part, from the images of naively simplified drawn characters he creates an expressive relief plastics, which receives also the quality of an object. The close things need to be reached and for this it is necessary to revisit the areas of archaic, anonymous and naïve.

However, the rawness of his expression cannot blur the convincing knowledge of all dynamic expressions of the space. Namely, it is necessary for the knowledge to go simultaneously with the oblivion of the knowledge as great as the knowledge, as an aware act of overcoming of the learned. Therefore, he travels lightly, unburdened by the rules of technique, skill or tradition. it is in fact the reduced form of expression that enables fluid crossing of the borders of disciplines while covering the spaces wired by the same tone scale. What is evident is that in any media where he worked, he chose innocence and honesty rather than smoothness and affectation.

Finally, posters, as a quite separate form of graphic expression and communication, where the author had an immediate in situ intervention, were the natural season selection both for the announcement of the exhibition, and as the extended exhibition polygon in the public space.

Dušan Rajić is a true participant and friend of this time. Therefore, his work is contemporary (con-temporary) and he is the associate of time. Behind randomly taken or depicted scenes and sights there is the affirmation of life. Therefore his life is fluid, casual, naturalistic.

At the time of abundance of photos as mental waste, Rajić rehabilitates the strength of photograph and paintings creating the sight itself as a new type of project, which is that the very act of observation, if we deal with it with sufficient passion, desire and focus, really can reconcile the request for the truth and the need to experience the world as beautiful.

Anica Tucakov