The Spiritual and Circular Universe of Darko Karadjitch — Nina Zivancevic

Darko Karadjitch is an international artist, born and raised in the former Yugoslavia, who was bound to leave his country under dramatic circumstances but who has been trying to find his inner balance in his work ever since. A large portion of his work comprises huge sculptures, very tall and indomitable, which almost touch the sky or at least they appear that way. These totem poles are made of wood or metal such as iron, and usually they consist of  circular discs or triangular shapes. However, all of them, different in size, shape and colour have one thing in common: they search for an inner balance, like an acrobat who struggles to balance out his rope, like the primordial totem-poles from the Easter Islands, very much like an exiled artist who tries to figure out his new environment which can take the size of  the very universe at will! Some of these balanced/unbalanced sculptures were accomplished in the “Lookout sculpture park” in the U.S. (2003) and some of them were executed in Karadjitch’s Parisian studio “La Forge”. At times, the artist prefers natural materials such as wood and unforged iron, and at times he works with steel which he then colors in vivid primary colors. However, it is his struggle for the inner balance of objects that truly matters to Darko Karadjitch, as he also burns his material and works with fire (see his burnt wooden installation entitled “Feu”(2002)).

His search for balance as much as his Zen approach to the extreme infinity of a circle repeat themselves in his early paintings which are abstract, primary, circular and erotically charged (1992-1996). His larger canvases contain golden circles, but they are also the artist’s graphic exercises in style of the Russian Futurists, above all in the tradition of Malevitch where a “yellow circle” gets challenged by a “black square” and where the highest symbolism in art becomes daily food for Karadjitch’s thought.

Much of his painting is quite “organic” and economical as it explores the polarities or the binary value of the universal phenomena. His idea of the polarities he would express in his installation “Day and Night” (2002), where two identical round bowls stand next to one another. This particular idea he pretty much follows in his installations of diptychs, two curvy, identical round objects which present billions of tiny circles which at certain angles enter and exit the surface of the object. His objects are Magritte-like illusions of mirrors-that-became-paintings that also turned into a starry sky or a next-door universe which we are about to discover.

Darko Karadjitch’s artistic universe becomes ever more peopled with the scientific explorations of the painterly matter  during the last two decades , as he constantly opens himself up to  thinking about the role of mathematics or “chance operation” in  his work. In his installation “Christ”, the portraits of Jesus could be observed as a succession of bigger and smaller circles which truly belong to the essence of  universe. His early installation entitled “Lab samples” and executed for the Living Art Museum in Iceland (1999), consisted of blue and yellowish glass tubes filled with liquid. If we take a closer look at this installation , which is a far away gaze from a distance, we  see a huge abstract bipolar and diochrome painting in it. Perhaps the artist sees this world as a huge painterly installation that we fail to observe as such.

Darko Karadjitch has also executed installations “Ascensus/descensus”, a meditation on Dante’s ladder of life, and “Homme Tentaculaire” (Centipede-man) in his own space, his artist’s home/studio in Parisian 18th arrondissement as a part of ‘Porte Ouverte’ open show. However, his most recent work has been crowned recently by the prestigious Réalités Nouvelles award, which he received for his serpentine sculpture  denying gravity; we have caught glimpses on his life in art and times in his Parisian studio last week.

Every year in France, a special jury of  visual art critics give just a few important professional  awards to the artists who participate in the Parisian show Salon Réalité Nouvelles. This year,  more than 400 artists were candidates but the “Galleries and Museums” prize went to Darko Karadžić, an artist from former Yugoslavia who has lived In Paris for more than 25 years. I have written about Karadžić a lot, as I have followed his multidisciplinary work of a sculptor cum graphic artist cum performance multimedia interventionist from his early days of arriving in Paris. At the time when he was living and working in a squat I wrote that in all of his art works  “Karadžić searches for an inner balance and equilibrium, a metaphysical sense which he had lost in his migrations between different continents , and that he often gets to it by working in a heavy art material”. In this search he has always found himself in the midst of an unusual space which is his new daily habitat, a cosmic entity as well, for an artist in exile his home is everywhere as it is nowhere at  the same time.

Not too many things have really changed in Karadzic’s approach to his work in the last 20 years – this work has been always exceptionally solid  and beautiful, however, it feels that it has gained a new philosophical aspect to it justly solidified in the prize-winning sculpture which exemplifies his new attitude.  This wooden sculpture’s form is abstract as well, but it floats in the air, suspended, as if devoid of gravity, it goes right upward to the sky, irreverent to any grounding. In previous sculptures, the artist had also built in natural material, but they were mainly grounded, erected on a massive pedestal. This new sculpture is quite different – according to a critic Anne-Laure Peressen, it resembles a serpent wavering and hypnotizing the spectator. We found the artist in his studio in the 18th arrodissement, where he was contemplation “causes and consequences” of getting the recent award.

Nina Zivancevic: How do you feel after your getting this award? Have you felt intuitively, or otherwise, that it was meant to happen?

Darko Karadzic: No, not at all – I had no premonition. Look, even the act of participating and getting to the Salon this time was quite uncertain to me: until the last moment I was not sure that the sculpture would be finished in time to be shown.  When the sculpture was finally done, I started working on the pedestal and I hung the sculpture against a plank so that it would not break, for a good moment while I was still at the pedestal. However once I hung that sculpture I understood immediately that it was better to have it hung in the air, it was in a constant move, like us humans. Its character is totally “dematerialized” and is closer to the notion of a ‘vibration’, something in a constant flux. When you walk past that sculpture it starts wavering in the midst of an air current. So even my act of creation, when I was putting it together was uncertain – look, I almost got my finger chopped off working on its pedestal and then I realized it could do without it, then the whole night prior to the show opening I worked on the application of gold leaf to the wooden edges of the sculpture. This gilding technique is an art application which has been giving headaches to the old masters of  Icons-making throughout the ages. I worked on the sculpture’s gilding all night long, I was not satisfied and was ready to give up on it entirely when a friend who knows this technique quite well called me and said “Don’t give up, you will get there, it will look great!”

So I went to the Salon in the morning and was the last one to hand in my work. The following day my wife greeted me with the words, “Hey, those guys from the Salon have called, it seems that you’ve got the award!” I haven’t even thought about the award for a single second, I just wanted to finish that damned sculpture, I did not want to embarrass myself, kind of..

See, for me personally, the most important thing is to create a piece which can function in space, this fact is more important than getting any particular award.

NZ: You had worked in metal a lot prior to this sculpture, how come you abandoned it?

DK:  Wood is a “warmer” material, it is lighter and less monumental than metal, more to the measure of man – metal we use for big monumental pieces which are meant for open spaces, parks, like that sculpture 6 meters tall placed in a Dutch park that you discussed a couple of years ago. Anyways, when you make huge sculptures in metal they are too heavy to move around. These new ones are lighter , in wood, but they seem easily detached streaming upwards , right to the sky. I would like to liberate my sculptures, to get rid of weight and mass which bind them to the ground. I would like to reduce or elevate my sculpture to the simple line drawings which are closer to my heart, although these new ones are difficult to be executed as they are thin wood, very fragile and easily broken..

NZ: Do you also imply the fact that you’re leaving the circle, your old favorite form (meaning the sun, round universe, a ball, etc) in sculpture? 

DK: Oh, it’s so difficult to get the right circle in sculpture – my own ideal would rather be an exploration of the “totem” form, something vertical, so I try to combine the circles, so called round forms, lenses, by lining them up in a vertical line. If you like, the circle is everything! It is a sign of the universe, it is both space and our window into the unity of things, and that’s exactly how it is represented in Symbolism, as an “all encompassing” symbol and as an endless circular universe. A couple of years ago when i was working on an installation in a castle in the South of France I used to work on round objects- the headlamp of an old Fiat was round and it served me as a frame for my painting which, once placed behind that headlight became, sort of, my own trademark in painting.

NŽ: And your last and the most recent sculpture that you are working on right now?

Darko Karadzic: Oh, it is also my first sculpture ever made here! Upon my arrival in Paris, back in 1993, I found a warped wooden log in a squat la Forge where I used to live and work. I used to work on it, refining it and twisting ever further and then I started painting on it. It was used as a part of an Installation with Lights which the art critics liked a lot and included it in the Belleville artists show in 1994. That very sculpture I dragged everywhere with me later , I included it in numerous shows and as I was moving to different places it always moved with me, until one day it broke down in three uneven pieces. These pieces then dwelled in my studio in Normandy collecting dust so to speak. I was somewhat unwilling to throw them away , they had some sort of patina, a historic value in them, so I decided to make three weird feathers out of them, I connected them with a metal rod so now they float in the air, and this is both my first and my last sculpture as well.