Charting the Impossible: The Intrepid Mission of Slobodan Miljevic

Written by: Martin Freund

Such is the influence of postmodern inclusiveness that some of the most interesting abstract painters today employ a much broader vocabulary of forms and manners within an individual work than their predecessors in previous decades, when sharper distinctions were insisted upon between hardedge abstraction, lyrical abstraction, and other subdivisions of nonobjective painting.

A fine case in point is Slobodan Miljevic, at Agora Gallery, 530 West 25th Street, from October 24 through November 13, reception, Thursday, November 6, 6 to 8 pm. A widely exhibited artist from Serbia, he states, "I am trying to create balance between diversities and dimensions." Although an autodidact, Miljevic is a consummately sophisticated painter, conversant with a broad range of techniques, which he combines in a manner that gives his compositions a multidimensional quality. Mediums are mixed liberally in order to lend his paintings a plethora of textural and coloristic contrasts. Often, he combines oils, acrylics, sand, and even digital prints to striking effect.

Color often functions as light in compositions such as "Flash," a digital print and acrylic on canvas in which glowing auras radiate from areas of deep red and nocturnal blue. In many of Miljevic's paintings, as titles such as "Star Landscape," and "From the Earth" may indicate, one gets the sense of being projected into outer space. Light and movement are evoked to suggest the unsettling velocity of a highly technological sci-fi age in which virtual reality holds as much sway as the world one walks around in every day. Yet while his colors often suggest the unearthly glow that emanates from computer screens and video monitors, and the precise linear elements in his paintings smack of technical diagrams, there is also a lyrical element in his work that harks back to the gestural traditions of tachisme, the European counterpart of Abstract Expressionism.

One thinks particularly of predecessors such as Hans Hartung, the German painter who settled in France and fused the colors of the Fauves with the improvisational spirit of Klee and Kandinsky. Similarly, Miljevic's intense layerings of line, coupled with radiant auras, charge his paintings with great chromatic and tactile vibrancy, pushing their contrasts a step further. It stands to reason that Miljevic cites both the Constructivists and the Abstract Expressionists as influences, given the eclectic nature of his paintings, in which elements of those diverse schools converge in a harmony that would almost not seem possible.

Perhaps the complementary contrasts in this regard are most immediately evident in "Net" and "So High," two related works in acrylic, oil, and sand on canvas, in which his synthesis of line and color is most dynamic. In both paintings, respectively, intricate concentrations of lines are layered over areas of blue and yellow in a multitude of interwoven or adjacent brushstrokes. Here, the tensions that animate the compositions seem to result from an almost compulsive need to chart the unknowable, to impose a systemic armature upon a fictive expanse suggesting the vastness of the sky.

The Quixotic effort hints at nothing less than the frustration of our ineffectual position vis a vis the solving the mystery of existence. Indeed, it is Slobodan Miljevic's willingness to bite off more than any artist can reasonably chew, combined with his ability to delight our senses and capture our imaginations in the process, that makes his work vastly ambitious and ultimately valuable.

Image Credits: Runway Acrylic on Canvas, 8.3" x 11.8"

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