The formation of the Post-Cold-War World Order and the spread of Globalization impel artists to take part in the creation of a new world view, as artists did at the time of the French Revolution, or earlier at the time of the Renaissance and the time of the discovery of the New World. At the present moment technology and science are not as inseparable from philosophy and art as they were in the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Yet, artists with true humanistic concern are not without comment: they caution against this lack of balance, against the fact that science and technology are often used to advance politics and economy, and are sometimes void of ethics and human concern. Dragan Sekaric started to paint full time when he became deeply concerned that “not all is well in the kingdom of Denmark.” For the nuclear world driven by corporate interests, the present drama is a play of “to be or not to be.” The intricacy of global developments and the complexity of human nature are the subject of Sekaric’s paintings, portrayed with deep emotion and powerful use of color. Born in 1957 in Gorazde, a medium-size city in Eastern Bosnia, and educated in architecture in Sarajevo, Sekaric lived in Rome, Italy, for five years, before he moved to Canada in 1995. He communicates his wisdom acquired through this rich international experience using only a spatula. While his oil paintings testify to injustice and brutal contradictions in life, there is also an ever-present capacity for adaptation. He may condemn and denounce, but he keeps a positive philosophical view of life, and portrays human warmth and love amidst various trials. This is what Sekaric says about himself as an artist:
“Everyone knows that to be a true artist one has to be born an artist. However, hardly anyone knows when the person who carries the artistic energy matures into an artist. It is also equally difficult to know what causes an artist to open up. In my case, with the beginning of the war I had to paint. The process of opening up is difficult in any circumstance, and as exhausting as giving birth. But in moments of afflictions it abates the pain and is a means of spiritual and material survival. For me as a painter and for those who observe my paintings art has had the power of healing. It also is a powerful means of communication. My exhibition in Quakertown, Pennsylvania in 1999 gathered a diverse group of people from New York and Philadelphia. I was pleased to hear their erudite, informed comments. But my communication with my viewers was not only intellectual. What pleased me profoundly was the moment in which a businessman and his wife bought their very first painting that I had called “Hermit” and they called “Jesus”. Moved by my painting, they asked if they could hug me.”
There are two types of art. One reflects that which exists and is visible. The other type materializes through colors, structure and form out of that which is imagined or sensed. My paintings are the second type of mimesis. I clearly remember the presence of energy inside me. For a long time I could not take it out of myself probably because it needed time to mature and leave me of its own accord. External events can and do speed up the process of fermentation. I started to paint when I witnessed the beginning of the Bosnian war. This war was not an ordinary war, but a civil war, a war of one street against another, one house against another, one friend against another. To see people change to the point where they long to destroy another human being that just yesterday was their friend is the worst form of witnessing. My work called “Loneliness” is an expression of a desire to live and keep our heads above the ground, and the pain of the burden the present profit oriented dehumanized world has placed on individuals and nations. Like the horse in “Guernica,” my horse attempts to live despite the fact that he is burried alive.
I don’t know if he is burdened by human greed or by human senselessness. I think of Shakespeare’s King Lear who says that like flies in the hands of roguish boys we are in the hands of God and the powerful. They torment us for their fun.
A line in itself is something defined. As such it does not provoke nor disturb but pleases those who observe it. There are no questions, no messages, no enigmas. Energy is harmonized, and one can calmly enjoy one’s coffee next to this type of painting. However, there is the other kind of painting where ideas come not only from objects that are in the work, but from the energy the artist earnestly transmits through the painted canvas. This energy comes from the deepest side of the artist and it is unique. It depends on all the factors that make up the artist: the universe, his heritage, his experience, the not-yet-experienced, love, hate, anticipations, disappointments, and all other components of the spirit and the microcosm. A combination of these individual universes makes up the macrocosm, a larger harmony. The artistic creation is born in this small universe which is then transmitted through the artist’s hand onto the canvas and then to the soul of the one who observes the painting. The purpose of the painting is then to provoke, to move, to awaken.
My art pleases, but it does not sedate. I know that it is safer to put people to sleep than to awaken them. But this turn of the century, perhaps like all turns of a century, is not the time to be asleep. Before the war, armed struggles and human suffering were happening somewhere else, and I believed that they would remain distant. Like all young men, I dreamed looking at the stars. During the war, hungry, I dreamed about potatoes as I once dreamed about the stars. My painting “Never” seeks to remind us that we should not take even potatoes for granted.”
Sekaric’s paintings indeed hold on to light, even in the darkest moments of human selfish and senseless destruction. He may paint a tired and resigned Don Quixote in “Weariness and Tranquility,” but the white, elegant horse, drinks from a calm and refreshing river in that painting. Hence, there is fatigue, but there is also rebirth. In Sekaric’s art in general, death and destruction are recognized as painful and powerful, but life and artistic energy are not defeated.
The difficult task of finding harmony and success is achieved through formidable effort, and in Sekaric’s paintings it is often depicted through performance of an artist, an acrobat, or through life-and-death sports. “Ballerina,” “Bicycle,” “An Immigrant,” “The Bullfight,” and “Justice,” for example, suggest that surviving the present world order is an arduous balancing act. Sekaric’s ballerina in the painting by the same name must perform next to impossible acts to combat the darkness that lurks in her background.
To the rational mind, her position against gravity is impossible. Yet, the vibrant colors in her outfit together with her quiet elegant flexibility relate normalcy and stability. The adaptation of the body around the solid square and the alignment of a serene baroque head and protruding breast in a vertical line suggest harmony, her elongated body does not contest the immobility and shape of the stage, but takes on the challenge. The difficulty of the task is seen in the expression of gravity in her face. We almost hear: “This is unfair but I have done it and I will remain dignified in my own world. Nobody is applauding or rewarding my effort, but I am not expecting significant acknowledgments.”
In the subtitle to “Bicycle” Sekaric tells us that “It seems impossible that one could ride this bicycle, but I know people who have no choice but to manage it.” This painting created in 1995 in Italy at the end of the Bosnian civil war is a product of the experience of the war. The bicycle with square wheels is a symbol not only of war but of all difficulties life often presents to nations and individuals mostly of the Third World, but also of the Western world. The straight line that marks the skyline, the vertical or upright position of the bicycle, the light coming up behind the horizon, the bright blue sky, and the calm overall tone evoke harmony amidst devastation. The enigma in the painting is the enigma of human destiny. There are no indications why the difficult vehicle is brought as an offering to some, nor can it be known where the green road comes from or leads to. The equilibrium of the overall atmosphere suggests acceptance. The absence of explanations brings the spectator into the painter’s world because the human mind asks: In the world of sophisticated technology, why is such a vehicle still here? And more importantly, why is not humanity advancing with technology?
The nude human figure in “An Immigrant” is offered no other choice but to accept his destiny: walking the thin line. This autobiographical painting represents the artist’s early experience in Canada, as it also illustrates a general human condition. It is fortunate that borders are opening, and that people can chose to move from one county to another. After all, refugees remain alive and are able to escape war and difficult economic conditions. However, when they arrive, most immigrants are handicapped in a new country, and have to perform an acrobatic act if they are to move forward. The man in the painting has no choice but to move forward, because movement helps him stay on the line. The soap bubbles may or may not help him hold his balance. The mutilated nude figure is light in color, and stands upright, leaving the darkness in the background. Does the light in his figure come from his interior? Won’t the acknowledgment of pain disturb his concentration and lead him to fall? Is this how positive and negative possibilities balance each other in miraculous survival?
“St. George’s Church” depicts a moment of explosion in which buildings are in the air, but amidst debris and devastation the church is prevented from falling by a young girl’s breath. Often it is difficult to keep the faith that good will and innocence can balance onslaught of destruction caused by wars and economic greed. Yet, many confirm from experience that almost miraculous kindness and effort of the innocent kept at least their lives going. Sekaric’s home was destroyed in the civil war and his family was dispersed all over the world to remain unsettled for some time. The only thing left to them is faith: faith in the innocence and benevolence of a young girl. When a spectator finds him or herself blowing with the girl, the painting has succeeded: art awakens and works towards the improvement of the world. Such am act is not an imitation of anything but a profound statement. And when a work of art is not expressive of a mythos, but is a bursting out of internal energy the art is a triumphant success.
Introduction. Catalogue of Dragan Sekaric Shex’s Early Work in Canada.