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Why. Now. Ship.
Gallery "Zvono"

The title Why now ship sounds like one of Vladimir Mayakovski’s poems, coming to life a couple of years before the appearance of conceptual art and Duchamp’s Fountain. The thing connecting Uglješa Vrcelj, the pioneer of conceptual naïve art in our contemporary scene, with two visionary creators, is the avant-garde character, both in the approach and in the ideas, so essentially important to all of them them. Each of them could be identified as a typical representant within the area he is working in. All of them stay the determined course, directing them to the transformations, metamorphosis, evolution, (re) discovering themselves and the world they exist in, the world attributed to them, and to which they are attributed. In that world, it is the artist’s mission to act according to the principles of pure internal intent, extremely emphasized, unleashed, carefully nourished, free, and independent enough to be able to act individually (here individually refers to the unconditional releasing of the inner content on the surface, the one that is going to be proclaimed a work of art).


Even though it is not young – it exists long enough to be in all the history of art reviews – conceptual art in our part of the world still provokes some suspicion, lack of understanding, and the urge for clearly defined meanings and messages. And it’s especially intriguing when conceptual art is executed by someone originating from the field of naïve (and marginal) art, which is a starting point for Uglješa Vrcelj Albeit lacking formal artistic education, he manages to reach various levels of conceptual and artistic. A new series of works (Why? Now, Ship) has its starting point and its origin in almost abstract discourse - quarantine. Uglješa managed what many wanted to obtain, to identify in one place (literally one place – at home) all the themes and ideas that in a subsequent whirlpool will be transformed into works of art that warn, calls to action, ask questions, if we are lucky offer answers to (those) questions, making us wonder. Why are we sailing that particular ship, and not some other?


The author, at times completely unconsciously, and in the very next step very consciously, chooses the reference points in the history of art that visualize the poetics of pop art and neo-dada, movements that marked the art scene in the second half of the 20th century. He is permanently, subtly, and finely balancing between two poetics, which are occasionally overlapping, even though it might be precise to say, they are flowing in parallel. Much like superstars of the American and European scene, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Tom Wesselmann, Kurt Schwitters, Yayoi Kusama…the artist puts the known everyday objects into a different context, transposing them into works of art. Ephemeral, dispensable objects, worthless at the first sight, are being transformed into permanent artistic values.


Why? is created with disposed cans, which became the basis for artistic expression. Using freehand drawing, tools and materials, the artist writes and asks the question why (each why opening a myriad of possibilities leading to the “actual” why opening at the same time the possibility of perpetual asking the same question which is being multiplicated) sometimes as a word, others as a symbol clearly referencing the question, followed by a total demystification of the artistic process, recorded as a video essay. At the end - which is just a formal end, not the actual one – the cans are given a new (artistic) dimension, executed by a mechanic and thoughtful metamorphosis into a compact, equally important part of the new entity – the cube. A metal cube, the third work of art derived from one idea, reminds of Schwitzer’s work created with parts of old and disposed cars, assembling at the same time all the whys.


Now is the opera of art used by the author for the extension of research and expression, through experiments with various materials. Different kinds of materials that are being used are firmly positioning him into the multimedia sphere, which is one of his typical features, opening the way towards postmodern eclecticism, very resilient to the interventions of various premises and references. Now, situated by the author into the liminal area of sculpture – installation, standing freely in space, presenting at the same time its antipode. A hyperdimensional passive now is placed into a “decorative” cage, limiting and conditioning it. It may be the perfect moment for it to become a loud call to action, for every now to become the best now ever. Smooth edges, a simplified design, and practical execution are “threatening” that another word – referencing the sculpture Love by Robert Indiana, by an extremely simple content result with the iconic recognizability of the universal kind. Why not set us free right here, right now?


Uglješa’s Ship has sailed to a neo-dadaistic concept, with its quintessentially provocative and engaged character, whose purpose is to provoke a reaction. In this particular case, the author wants to stress the importance and urgency of high ecological awareness, which is obviously at a very low level. The initial sculpture of a ship is created with material found in the sea, and it is aquiring the status of artistic opera through minimal interventions. It has been established long ago that whatever object is proclaimed work of art is becoming one, whereas the space context – gallery – is providing additional validation. The same goes for the thesis of what is a work of art, because, especially in this case, it can be discussed. The ship is followed by little ships, plastic colored castings. Based on the repetition principle – one of the fundamental features of performance, a media familiar to the artist – the number of independent artistic operas is being multiplied with a simple machine-driven method, under the supervision of the artist himself, which once again confirms the status of work of art. Each little ship will promote the individual to the captain of a colorful fleet. Courage, creativity, the avalanche of ideas, and the urge to execute and share them, make the art of Uglješa Vrcelj, being so sincere and open, particularly important. With this approach, the author himself is becoming a work of art, permitting various interventions in the concepts he is publicly sharing, disclosing various layers of sediment and sentiment of his existence.

review - Selena Andrić

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