03.06.2016. - 02.07.2016.

Ljubomir Stahov, "From Nature"

Ljubomir Stahov's world stands out from the contemporary Croatian art corpus as an articulated visual arts oeuvre which exists by and for itself, away from any trends, tendencies and without belonging to any particular group or movement. However, if we were to insist on finding spiritual and stylistic similitudes, we would find them in Ordan Petlevski's primordial, fossil and organic forms, a unique personal world of “organic micro-figuration” (Zdenko Rus), as well as in Biserka Baretić’s oeuvre which also embraces the concept of susceptible matter, a spirit trapped within material confounds of the body, accompanied by frequent references to mythical symbols and archetypes like Icarus, Orpheus, Pegasus, the Gorgons and Janus.

Ljubomir Stahov’s oeuvre reflects the continuity of a fantastic landscape within European art, originating in Mannerism and re-actualized in Abstract Surrealism. The images of concepts – or symbols – materialize as traces on the psychological tissue of a subject, or physical tissue of an object, i.e. an art work, which brings us to the notion of an internal design (disegno interno) or to the pre-existing image (of the world). It is interesting how Ljubomir Stahov’s oeuvre can be so readily interpreted through the theory of Neoplatonist and mannerist Marsilio Ficino, the founder of the Platonic Academy in Florence, who claimed that ideas had metaphysical reality, while physical entities were only mental images of reality. Namely, by observing Ljubomir Stahov’s oeuvre, his totems, signs, idols, time travellers and “terrifying hybrids which, with their dual floral and faunal nature, anticipate the space of monstrous metamorphoses” (Mladenka Šolman), numerous questions arise about the parable of this dimension of existence so vividly sensed and perceived by the artist. Is this Earth, Purgatory or a distant premonition of today’s civilization and the contemporary issue of biomechanical hybrids? Who are these ancient beings? Should we be limited by the metaphor of our fettered souls, trapped within our bodies, which are, in our Western civilization, additionally burdened by Christian iconography and symbolism?

Therefore, it no coincidence that Ljubomir Stahov’s work consistently expresses a seemingly vague and undefined genesis of forms and their iconic ambivalence. Nature is our point of inception, but also the artist’s rich treasury; it is from the nature’s anatomy that he attempts to abstract the genesis and the evolution of man, but also, as we believe – that of a Man-God. However, we are in a way hindered in this evolution and transition of forms, as though a mistake has been made in our DNA. In certain graphics, we cannot be sure if what we are seeing is a cocooned man with wings or a fallen angel, clearly associated with our inner demons which are sometimes difficult to expel. It is in these aquatints, etchings and dry needle works that the path of association leads us to the metaphors and symbols employed by William Blake or Mira Glavurtić, but also by Snježana Kodarić-Ivanković. From the very beginning, from the onset of embryogenesis, anything could go astray, so the artist clearly opposes biological vitalism with the antithesis of degeneration and decline into some darker spheres of existence.

Exceptionally analytical as a graphic and visual artist, Stahov, in the drawing part of this oeuvre, expresses a scientific commitment to his artistic discipline. It is also where a morphologically different part of his oeuvre was developed: dense linear structures, grids of straight and undulating series of black ink lines, interpreted by critics at that time as a parable of existence with a theme of an existential labyrinth (Mladenka Šolman). However, today, in the light of new scientific insights, they can interpreted as the rhythm of a pulsating Universe, as the artist’s vision of cosmic stings and a multidimensional Universe, contracting and expanding beyond our earthly concepts of (primordial) time.

The same as his graphics and drawings, Stahov’s sculptures – perhaps even more than other parts of his oeuvre – play with the concept of time, the genesis and roots of that transience. It is difficult to place them within any particular timeframe or spatial reference because they incorporate experiences and archetypes of well-known ancient civilizations. Their biomorphic and anthropomorphic symbolism – which, at times, can be very complex and uncanny – might perhaps be simplified down to a motif of an object which fosters the energy of creation, growth, as well as the ritual preservation of a certain territory.

If we take into account all forty years of Stahov’s work, we would notice that his oeuvre becomes even more topical with time and opens up to new possible readings, which are not imposed but rather originate naturally from the artist’s complex morphology and iconography. When the 1970s critics wrote about the primordial world of Stahov’s paintings, about the hallucinatory landscape of some extinct geological layer, who could have thought that we would be living in a similar world today – a world full of opposites between light and darkness, the world of total extremes: from environmental and Back-To-The-Land movements to accelerated development of biomechanical reality. Still, this artist is rooting for mankind, for that human core in all of us, as if he believes that there is still a possibility that our civilization will avoid its pending demise and collapse through self-regeneration. (Iva Körbler)

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Ljubomir Stahov was born on January 7, 1944 in Kamičani near Prijedor. In 1967, he graduated from the School of Applied Arts in Sarajevo (BiH). Before enrolling in the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, he worked as an art teacher at a primary school in Kozarac. He graduated in 1974 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, and from 1974 to 1978 he was an assistant to Prof. Krsto Hegedušić and prof. Ljubo Ivančić. Today, he is a retired professor of drawing and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. The monograph of his work, written by Mladenka Soloman, was published in 1982. Biškupić Collection has published three bibliophile books with Stahov’s graphics and drawings: "Hexapoda" (etching and aquatint) with an essay by Josip Depolo; "One reading of abstraction" (etching) with an essay by Đurđe Sinko-Depierris and "Jue de couleur - Game colors" (colored etching) with poems by French poet Edmond Humean. In 1990, he published a bibliophile edition of "Silent white" (with poet Anka Žagar) and another edition in 1991, with poet Zvonko Maković. He has exhibited at over 30 solo shows and has participated in two hundred group exhibitions at home and abroad. He has won several awards for painting, drawing and graphics. He lives and works in Zagreb.