Cultural Panorama: In Memory of Artist Leonid Šejka

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 17:14 -- MRS
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The Belgrade Haos (Chaos) Gallery is staging an exhibition of drawings of artist Leonid Šejka (1932-1970), thus observing the 80th anniversary of his birth. Leonid Šejka was one of the most significant and intriguing representatives of the 20th century Serbian art. More from Milena Gluvačević.

Leonid Šejka, the son of a Russian emigrée to Serbia, a painter that graduated in architecture, an art theoretician and a visionary, was not only one of the key artists in Serbia of the 1960s, but was also one of the initiators of the famous Mediala art group, which tried to merge traditional values with modern trends, modelling upon the art of the Renaissance and Classicism. The artists – Mediala members – filled this blend of classic and modern art with their own personal sensibility, thus creating an authentic view of the world. The Mediala members included the following artists: Leonid Šejka, Miro Glavurtić, Olja Ivanjicki, Siniša Vuković, Dado Đurić, Uroš Tošković, Kosta Bradić, Milić Stanković, Vladimir Veličković, Ljuba Popović, Svetozar Samurović, Milovan Vidak, Vladan Radovanović. The artist and writer Miro Glavurtić named the group Mediala by combining the Serbian words med (honey) and ala (a word signifying a dragon). Honey, which has healing properties, is synthetized as a product of beings united in a single idea and work process, whereas the dragon symbolizes darkness, conflict and destruction.

The owner of the Haos Gallery, Borka Božović, emphasizes that the exhibition includes 90 drawings of Leonid Šejka, which have been borrowed from 31 private collections and two museums – the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Historical Museum of Serbia. Some of the works have been displayed in public for the first time. The exhibits have been divided into the five basic thematic categories Šejka was engaged in: Multiplication of Objects, Dumps, Warehouses, Interiors and Still Lifes.

The best-known works of Šejka belong to the Dumps thematic unit and, according to artist Radomir Damjanović Damjan, it is that unit that reflects the highest artistic achievements and visions of Leonid Šejka, for, since Šejka’s death, the world has actually turned into what was the subject of Šejka’s forebodings and obsessions.

However, speaking of the Dumps thematic unit, Šejka himself said that it was significant for him as a transitory temptation of modern art, but that modelling oneself on the old masters and creating paintings with meaning, rather than originality, was a source of the greatest joy. By the way, his favourite artist was Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, who, incidentally, was born in 1632 - exactly three centuries before Šejka. Painting is a form of prayer, wrote Leonid Šejka.

Art historian Irina Subotić emphasizes that Šejka was aware of the fact that a drawing is a more spontaneous form of expression than a painting or graphics, which is why he took up that form of art. In the beginning, he was not skilled enough and his drawings were almost childish, but later they became more refined and free. His drawings were suggestions, rather than true descriptions of a theme, Subotić says, comparing his later drawings to colourless paintings. The drawings expressed very complex ideas in a subtle manner, which is why this exhibition is so important, Subotić concludes.

And last, but not the least, another contribution of Leonid Šejka to future generations is the fact that, at the end of his art adventure, he left a door open for various and complex interpretations of his art.