• 17.04.2007. - 06.05.2007.

    Zlatan Vehabović, " North "

    I intended these images to be saturated with variety of our memories. Should they succeed being visually effective it is precisely because they do not show any one specific place, or landscape. Looking at them evokes a film-like movement of images, which is a movement from memory, and might best be associated to Jorge Luis Borges's idea that all art strives towards the state of music. They are simultaneously representational, narrative, and abstract, recalling familiar elements from art history and from reality. (Zlatan Vehabović)

    In the book “Poetics” Borges says that the epic sensibility has disappeared. Although he refers primarily to literature, I think we are not mistaken if we recognize that statement as a general assessment of contemporariness that, in Lyotard's words, has left great stories in the past. Still, Borges leaves door opened by claiming that even if any of the epic sensibility from the past has remained it cannot be found in literature or art anymore but in film.

    Zlatan Vehabović's references to the art of film, Borges and music are not random. Until the dawn of the Internet, as a multimedia text that combines image, sound and movement, film satisfied our need for “reading” both art and the world around us in a multi-sensory way. The film, being the art of time, took the aspect of narration and turned it into one of its basic principles.

    His painting is not a film, it is not happening in time, does not contain sound and instead of story it presents a vague atmosphere only outlining potential story. However, he aspires to something like music. Where does this trace of music in the painting come from and what is its relation to film?

    It seems to be a Proust-like situation, mentioned by the author himself when talking about “evocation of images”. To start evocation he, besides large-scale formats that re-topicalize the body in the process of perception, selects and presents childhood motifs that contain a certain amount of universal meaning. By this, I mean personal, social, political, economic and other aspects of childhood, the phenomenon that always meets with different reactions. It is of no importance whether we discuss the groups of abandoned children in the African and South American suburbs or the meaning of adventure literature for children and their upbringing based on the stories about Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer or we have doubts about their upbringing in the context of entertainment industry of television and the Internet. It is always about activating different, often forgotten attitudes and evoking memories.

    As laid down by contemporary ethnographical research it needs to be said that childhood is a cultural product made by the adults for children. This unveils not only ways of “taming” the youngest members of society but also the imagery that the adults possess by creating the images of childhood. The imagery of such a slightly perverse situation, in which adults decide what it is like to be a child, changes together with the overall culture. Therefore, it is hard to believe today that the image of a boy running away from his parents to catch a fish is a model of a well-behaved child (as far as fishing is concerned).

    When it comes to escape things are different. Namely, the image of childhood as a careless world of idleness separated from the world of adults was created in the late 19th century when the western civil society of high capitalism was on the rise. According to that image, men worked separately from home and family, women took care of household and children played, shortly interrupted by school obligations. This culture of childhood existed only in the upper classes. Nowadays, adults' perception of childhood as a period devoid of worry is not only normal but also necessary for our own sake. That image, despite the changes that global society is undergoing, is still determined by the aspect of escape. Illusion about escaping the grey everyday life, in which we cannot find the meaning, about going to unknown and distant places (modern tourism is a surrogate for this), is probably one of the longest living cultural phenomena of modern age. In the field of art, the martyrs of adventurism, escape or departure lived already in late 19th century and the most famous were Rimbaud, Conrad and Gauguin.

    There is more in that than narrative canons of the adventure literature. What more, there is something of epic sensibility found in film mentioned by Borges or something of the music effect suggested by Vehabović. It may even be a transgression of the everyday that can be committed against different bases: political, psychosocial, imaginary etc. Vehabović's representation of the transgression is not political except on the margins where we face social representation of childhood. It is poetical and, in the best manner of pop music, escapist. The childhood myth crossed with the alternative space of communication such as My Space. Music, a mystic signifier referring to itself, arouses feelings, evokes memories and the virtual space of the eternal adolescence where adults are unwelcome.

    His paintings evoke experiences swarming above spaces of childhood characterized by play, curiosity, idleness and illusion that, no matter what happened after and what is today, we lived without the mediation of culture and language. (Klaudio Štefančić)

    Zlatan Vehabović is born in Banjaluka (Bosnia and Herzegovina) in 1982. He graduated at The Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Among various awards he received Erste Bank Award For Young Artists in 2006 and Essl Award in 2007. He lives and works in Zagreb.