Luka Savić: General philosophy and the confession of an individual man
26. 2. 2020 - 30. 4. 2020
current


Artist: Luka Savić

Curator: Guy Robertson

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Exhibition events:

26. 2. at 18:00: Guided tour with artist Luka Savić and curator Guy Robertson

12. 3. at 18:00: Artist Talk with artist Luka Savić and Jure Dušak

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Informed by his studies in the fields of Western philosophy and aesthetics, Luka Savić uses a variety of media to create enigmatic installations which incorporate and adapt art historical references and philosophical ideas. He is primarily interested in how abstract, universal concepts relate to individual experience: How, for example, can an artist use iconographic motifs – visual symbols and signs which have been used by artists for millennia – to communicate with the world at large whilst acknowledging the specificities of their own experience? Savić leads us to a second question: Does art which strives for a universally comprehensible language have greater expressive possibilities than one which does not? Like the confused muse in Albrecht Dürer’s famous Melancholia I – an artwork which Erwin Panofsky (whose studies in iconography were seminal) described as an “objective statement of general philosophy and the subjective confession of an individual man”[1] – we wander through Savić’s installations goaded by the symbols of an apparently rational and universal world whilst puzzling the role of myth-making and creativity in identifying our place within it.

The Negative Theology installation (2017) provides the starting point for this exhibition, from which Savić’s most recent work stems. It comprises a monochrome painting, a piece of marble cut in two (according to golden ratio calculations), and four walking sticks hewn from wood (Savić says, “The walking sticks were from an excursion I had made with friends into the hills overlooking Spoleto in Italy and which may be thought of as a reference to Moses’s magical walking stick”).[2] Everything is painted white. The artist explains that the title of the installation and the monochrome are direct references to Kasimir Malevich’s White on White (1918), and its critical interpretation as an homage to negative theology – the idea, prevalent in mystical, non-dogmatic religion, that a supreme being cannot be defined positivistically and that knowledge comes about through an ascetic process of emptying oneself or aiming for silence. Read in this way, the whiteness in Savić’s work is not so much an erasure; rather, the subdued objects offer the blank potential of an empty page to which we might begin to tie our own personal mythologies. As Malevich declared in his pursuit of supreme artistic feeling: “Swim! The free white sea, infinity, lies before you.”[3]

In his new installation, Send my love to Gabriel (2020), Savić extracts a stick-man ideogram from the neo-expressionist Standart work of A. R. Penck and fabricates it out of metal, seven-feet tall. Savić’s iteration of the symbol is in the spirit of Penck who understood the stick-man as a pre-historic motif found in cave paintings, which combined text, symbol, and image in a universally comprehensible manner. Penck said: “Every Standart can be imitated and reproduced and can thus become the property of every individual, what we have here is a true democratisation of art.”[4] Accompanying Savić’s stick-man are two wallpapered symbols, which demand our interpretation, and, mounted on the wall, a perspex container in the shape of a mastabah. Its volume is equivalent to a single oil drum, the type of which artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude use in their large-scale site-specific installations. A mastabah is possibly the oldest known architectural construction; found in archaeological sites outside Mesopotamian houses, the mastabah was a bench on which travellers could stop to rest.[5]

The second new installation, Timeness of Time (2020), combines a variety of forms which reappear through the history of art. Amongst them are the five Platonic solids or “regular convex polyhedra” which Plato conceptualized in his dialogue Timaeus. The solids are metaphysical representations of earth, air, water, fire, and ether (Neoplatonic) from which, in Plato’s view, the gods constructed the world. Since the Renaissance, artists have returned to these forms for inspiration, either as metaphysical representations or as significant forms. Savić says: “In my view, the solids contain an idea of the universal and I am using these 3D printed versions to suggest the philosophical and visual threads which run from one culture to another, from one generation to the next.”[6] Also included in this installation are several monochromatic frescoes inspired by the blue used by Giotto and his school in the frescoes of Assisi in Italy. Another artist who was inspired by this blue was Yves Klein: “The blue is the invisible becoming visible”, he said, “I think it is justifiable in this regard to speak of an alchemy of painting, developing out of the paint material in the tension of each instant. It gives rise to a sense of immersion in a space greater than infinity.”[7]

Klein’s words point to a key concern, shared by Savić, regarding a zone of productive tension between the world of thought (universal concepts and personal mythologies) and the contingency of the material world. Describing the marble sculpture in Negative Theology, Savić commented: “I have increasingly begun to initiate my ideas using the intrinsic qualities of materials — allowing the material to produce its own ideas. With marble one can actually observe the material resisting the rational application of an idea: whilst sculpting marble you have to take into account its veins. If they are struck, the sculpture will break. You have to adapt your form according to the characteristics of the piece of marble itself.”[8]

Finally, it is worth noting the recurrent theme of journeying in Savić’s work: walking-sticks and stick-men walking, a mastabah for rest. His enigmatic travellers journey from one topography to another, but also from one era to another: pointing out recurrent, ‘universal’ modes of communication, and endeavouring to put them to use, tempered by their contingent physicality.

Guy Robertson

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Luka Savić (1990) is an artist and a philosopher, born in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He studied fine arts at the Academy for Visual Arts (AVA) in Ljubljana before going on to study philosophy at the Faculty of Arts in the same city. His works have been exhibited across Europe, most recently at the Mahler & LeWitt Studios, Spoleto, IT (where he was artist-in-residence); Arte Fiera Polis, Bologna, IT; 31st Graphic Biennale, Ljubljana, SI; and at DLUL Gallery, Ljubljana, SI. From 2011 to 2017 he was an assistant of Miran Mohar, who is a part of the IRWIN group. Since 2017 he has been an associate of David Gothard’s Studio Archive, based between Ljubljana, London and Gorizia. He has guest lectured at various institutions across Europe, helped to create set-designs and designed exhibitions: most recently a Russian Icons exhibition at the City Art Gallery in Ljubljana, SI. He is currently studying for his MA at the faculty for Angewandte Kunst in Vienna at the department for Transarts (trans-disciplinary-arts).

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Acknowledgments: Universität für angewandte Kunst, Mahler & LeWitt Studios, Mark Čuček, Nataša Djukić, Jure Dušak, Jaka Gerčar, Jan Pungerl, Mark Jo Moggi, Miran Mohar and Gala Alica Ostan Ožbolt.

Sponsor: RPS d.o.o.

Photos from the opening: Simao Bessa

Exhibition view: Klemen Ilovar

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[1] Erwin PANOFSKY, The Life and Art of Albrecht Dürer, Princeton 1995, p. 171.

[2] Luka SAVIĆ, The Cantina, Ljubljana 29. 9. 2017, www.mahler-lewitt.org/residents/luka-savic (12. 2. 2020).

[3] Aaron SCHARF, Concepts of Modern Art, London 2006, p. 139.

[4] A. R. Penck cited in Oliver BASCIANO, A. R. Penck Obituary, The Guardian, 5. 5. 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/may/05/ar-penck-obituary (12. 2. 2020).

[5] A wide stone bench built into the wall of a house, shop etc. in the Middle East, also a rectangular structure with a flat top and slightly sloping sides, built during Ancient Egyptian times above tombs that were situated on flat land, s. v. mastaba, www.en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mastaba (12. 2. 2020).

[6] Luka Savić, email correspondence between artist and curator.

[7] Hannah WEITEMEIER, Klein 1928-1962, Cologne 1995, p. 39.

[8] Luka SAVIĆ, The Cantina, Ljubljana 29. 9. 2017, www.mahler-lewitt.org/residents/luka-savic (12. 2. 2020).