The gallery of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Belgrade, in cooperation with the Rima Gallery of Kragujevac, has staged an exhibition of paintings in pastel technique by Ljubica Cuca Sokić (1914-2009), one of the most distinguished representatives of Modernism in Serbia in the 20th century. Most of the works, painted in this delicate and very demanding art technique, have been found in her atelier. The authors of the exhibition and the catalogue are art historians Irina Subotić and Nevena Martinović. More from Dusica Maticki.
Some 160 of the pastel works were found after the artist’s death in her studio on the top floor of the Kolarac Endowment building. They were found by her nephew Branko and grandson Miomir Miša Gatalović, said Irina Subotić.
Most of the newly-discovered pastels have been taken over by the Rima Gallery of Kragujevac for their collection. After the restoration works were over, the pastels were first shown to the public in Kragujevac in 2010 and then, in 2011, in the Memorial Collection of Pavle Beljanski in Novi Sad and in the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Smederevo.
The first encounter with the newly-discovered paintings of Cuca Sokić raised a number of questions to which no one could give exact and clear answers, remarks art historian Irina Subotić. When exactly did the artist begin painting in pastel technique? Few of the pastels were dated, signed or contained inscriptions, notes or names. This proves the pastels were not intended for the eyes and judgement of the public, but represented part of the artist’s personal treasure – part of a sentiment or atmosphere known only to herself, as if the artist had wanted to conceal their true essence and significance and preserve it for herself only, said Subotić. It seems that the pastel technique was her favourite one and that she was intensively dedicated to it in some periods of her life and maybe even for the rest of her life, says Irina Subotić.
To Cuca Sokić, as to many artists before her, the pastel gave a chance to explore her own potentials in art, explains art historian Nevena Martinović. The newly-discovered thematic circle of nudes provided the artist’s engagement in pastel with an emphatically mysterious and intimate character, she says. The interiors and still lifes the artist continued painting for the rest of her life confirmed that, dealing with abstractions, the artist only wanted to break free from narration and description, but to return to the subject anyway. The discovered pastels of large dimensions belonged to an abstract researh the artist herself called a purgatory, in which she was able to release herself from any connection beyond her painting, but within which she would not remain. On the other hand, the pastel technique provided her with an unlimited freedom in exploring light and using its mild, but varied presence within colour to truly enrich the form. Thus this group of abstract pastels provided a possibility for understanding the genesis of the artist’s recognizable pattern – reduced in nuances, but lush in shades, which was especially expressed in her compositions from the 1970s, wrote Nevena Martinović in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition.
Irina Subotić aslo remarked that the available documents, the published catalogues and awards Cuca Sokić received for her pastels had shown that it was at least occasionally, but not regularly, that the artist included pastels in the exhibitions of her art. The exhibition in the gallery of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts is open for the next two months.