Quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic made us all experience heightened feelings and altered emotional states. Isolation and risk of infection created a spectrum of negative emotions such as loneliness, anxiety, fear, panic, tension, frustration, feelings of uncertainty, and worry. In critical and turbulent circumstances, art has always provided either the alternative perception of the problem or served as a means of the explicit visual expression of what we feel. In that respect, this exhibition aims to showcase how art endures critical times, revealing the themes and ideas it employs, as well as the way in which changes in every-day reality influence its formal elements and expression.
Contemplation of social circumstances is easily noticeable in the works of Tadija Janičić who, in his typical manner, offers humorous commentary on current developments. Mark Brogan makes collages of visual comments, which are the result of his reflections on political circumstances, historical legacy, and aesthetic experience. Nađa Stamenović’s installations represent her ironic commentary on consumerism in times of the crisis of the neoliberal economy. Installations by Olivera Parlić re-examine the crisis of collective and personal gender identity, sexuality, and expressions of desire, particularly in the above-mentioned situation of imposed limitations and centeredness on oneself or the others. Aside from the allure of colours, humour, and charm, these works are, however, imbued with feelings of loneliness and discomfort caused by the quarantine.
This is why Stefan Lukić, Nataša Teofilović, and Mario Kolarić find refuge from these feelings in the imaginary spaces of their fiction, be it Lukić’s memories or travels, or Teofilović’s imagery inspired by nature and its forms. On the other hand, some artists, like Mario Kolarić, continue with their visual experiments as if there were no quarantine and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
Moreover, aside from the social commentary and escapism, we observe the need to question emotions and their fragility. Marina Milanović in her drawings juxtaposes self-portrait and elements from nature and every-day reality, illustrating feelings of alienation and contemplation. Similarly, Miša Filipovac employs the motif of a fawn abstracted in a geometrical space which, apart from fragility and vulnerability, generates the feeling of loneliness.
For those who spent most of the quarantine “locked” in their homes, drawings by Olivera Parlić and Nađa Stamenović resonate with familiar feelings; by focusing on every-day activities and objects which are part of our home interior, they suggest how some people, artists especially, start to perceive them differently. Tables, chairs, and sofas, which were never worthy of our attention before, have become part of our every-day visual experience we now know down to the smallest detail. Emilija Radojčić also uses the technique of retailoring every-day reality into art, opting to do her drawings on the old sewing patterns from magazines. Adrienn Újházi started her series of drawings titled “Compost me” just when the state of emergency was announced, so her works represent some sort of a diary—her personal reflections on social circumstances.
Thus, isolation makes us not only endlessly revise our experiences, memories, and identities but also slow down and shift the focus away from ourselves to the examination of nature, its manifestations and their beauties. When observing the works in this exhibition, we get the impression that the artists’ main thematic preoccupation stemmed from the questions of alienation, isolation, social issues and mental challenges, as well as the escapism to either imaginary or real, but in any case unavailable, spaces.