Environmental pollution, climate change and ecocide have been a part of our everyday life for a long time now. Graphic artists from Poland and Serbia have teamed up to demonstrate the reality of these topics in ‘The Elements’. It is worth noting that this exhibition was held from 9 September to 2 October 2020 simultaneously in two cities – in Krakow and Belgrade. ‘The Elements’ curated by Marta Bozyk focused on the illustration of relationships with nature and was part of an international project entitled Nature is my Homeland, the main aim of which was visualization of dialogue between humans and nature. This project included not only the exhibition but also workshops, interview with scientists and artists and publications.
I had an opportunity to speak with profesor of the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Arts in Belgrade Misko Pavlovic, one of the artists whose works were on display at ‘The Elements’ about the logistics of collaboration and how the global ecological crisis affects Europe.
Vera Zborovska: Let’s start with the idea of the exhibition: how did it arise?
Misko Pavlovic: The head coordinator of the project Marta Bozyk and her team had the idea to rally four institutions of higher education foran art project dealing with Nature/Culture, ethics and sustainability. The aim is not only to promote ecological ideas, raising awareness of our fragile equilibrium, but also to bring closer students and professors from Germany, Serbia, USA and Poland to work together on this topic.
VZ: ‘The Elements’ features works by Polish and Serbian artists among others. Since the approaches to the environmental problems in these countries differ, what would you call a common feature of the Polish and Serbian graphic schools, taking into account the exhibition?
MP: I think a common element of the Polish and Serbian art schools is to nurture a traditional attitude towards arts and crafts, with a balanced mixture of traditional and innovative approaches. In addition, artists from both schools could be recognized by a very skillful and high-quality drawing and of course by a certain surreal tendency which is the common denominator of almost all Slavic people. Drawing is often a neglected discipline at art academies in the West. This is justified to some extent by technological advances that have taken over the role of the hand.
VZ: Returning to the topic of ecology: at the end of February 2021 the BBC published an article aboutAmazon rainforest plots being sold via Facebook Marketplace. What do you think about that?
MP: What is happening now with the Amazon forest and what happened in 2019 with all those forest fires across the globe proves that mankind is no longer a reliable entity to keep Earth safe and sound. To sell parts of rainforest could be nonsense if they are purchased by a greedy international polluter, but it could also be a ‘Eureka solution’ if the territory comes into good hands willing to preserve and protect biodiversity.Hungry for more?
One does not have to go farther than Serbia to see how corrupt government and wrong policy cause disastrous environmental consequences through shameful agreements. The obsolete domestic energy sector, the Chinese industrial companies HBIS, Zijin Mining and Linglong, likewise Rio Tinto, these are already threatening to turn the country into a desert, polluting the land, air and water and causing severe health consequences for the population. This is not just the case for our country , it endangers half of the continent because the radius of pollution could be spread by wind and water flow. The sad reality is that ‘Money is the king of all things To protect nature and ourselves we should completely change our priorities. To be clear, art cannot save the world. Because man has turned even intangible things like art into lucrative value, like any other good.
VZ: In your opinion, how the art world should react to such situations?
MP: Art can give hope, comfort, can also educate and raise consciousness. In the meantime if you ask me how should the art world react on this Amazon trade, I would opt for Victor Papanek’s solution — I would bomb them all . . . with seed bombs to reforest all empty space.
Marcin Surzycki JAVREMOVAC, 2 green, cutting and creasing paper, 70 x100cm
Milivoj Pavlovic, Clinging Creeper Plant Highway, digital print, 80×60, 2019
Marta Bożyk, Ujście Wisły do Bałtyku, linoryt, 70x100cm, 2020
Marlena Biczak, 2020
Rados Antonijevic, without title
The Inner Landscape I, Marija Andjelkovic
VZ: How would you describe Polish art?
MP: Poland contributed largely in all art disciplines. Not only in fine arts, but music, theatre, filmmaking, design etc. Many of its contributions are respected not only in present-day Serbia, but across ex-Yugoslavian artistic space. However what made my first contact with Polish art was an encounter with graphic design and printmaking. I remember I was like fifteen or so, in the Design School of Belgrade, and we had great admiration exploring an old graphics review which featured Polish graphic artists and poster designers.
VZ: And what is the structure of ‘Elements’?
MP: ‘The Elements’ is in fact just a part of this huge, complex and well thought-out project, and personally I am quite impressed with the achievements and organization of all segments. ‘The Elements’ has resulted in the creation of two portfolios of original graphics (made respectively by Polish and Serbian artists) and two exhibitions, one in Belgrade, one in Kraków, followed on this occasion by a beautiful catalogue. Of course the whole project was realized successfully thanks to the contribution of the Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA).
VZ: Tell me more about the team.
MP: Generally speaking, protagonists of a good collaboration are above all persons who have excellent relationships and sense of team work, but who are also willing to work and create together.
Marta is well known as an artist printmaker in my hometown and has a strong relationship with the Serbian graphic art scene. We met few years ago while she and her colleagues were exhibiting in Belgrade. She knows the Belgrade Faculty of Fine Arts quite well, and offered us partnership in the project Nature is my Homeland. Each institution proposed a few artists and lecturers for their respective teams. The Serbian team counted members from sculpture, painting, printmaking and the theoretical department.
Financed by the National Agency for Academic Exchange (NAWA)
- HS University of Applied Sciences & Design Trier, Germany
- University of Alabama College of Arts and Sciences, New College, USA
- Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Arts in Belgrade, Serbia