Since his first solo exhibition in Belgrade (Subuhum Kudusum Veruhum at the U10 gallery in 2013), Emir Šehanović has taken a diligent and well thought-out approach to his work in the field of fine art. Naturally transitioning and moving between mediums and motives he is already well recognized for, he boldly challenged himself to investigate new materials, new scales, new dimensions and put space – both mental and physical – at the center of artistic focus.
His once two-dimensional and seductively uncanny portrait cutouts, reminiscent of the Victorian- era “hidden mothers”, have established a discernible aesthetical imprint that successfully evades the trap of dull repetitiveness, while also spilling over into his digital assemblages and applied art projects, like the occasional collaborations with avant-garde musicians on visual articulations of their sonic explorations. All of these are daringly stepping into the open space ever since, masterfully playing with the viewers’ perception in an entirely new way, continually transmuting into new planes of meaning and emotion.
Starting from transposition of the Balkan collective unconscious into a visual language that is both universal and deeply local, Šehanović continued to move ever forward, and track the footprints of a more globally common collective superstition found in his own everyday, only to absorb them and breed new, fluid totems out of this ethereal serendipity. Exploring larger, spatial potentials of his own work, he has elevated his otherworldly iconography – which feeds on resonances of distant past and deep, peculiar cultural metaphors – to a new stratum.
This scientific notion typical of geological or medical research, seems as just the right sublimation of his latest exhibition 09.14. It also resonates with Šehanović’s work at large, the layered visual appeal of his compositions and the way in which he continues to “build on himself”, moving forward and unlocking new planes of expression that are always subtly entrenched into what was there before. His artistic statement matures in a natural and free-flowing way, with attention, time and care given to each new project. In many ways, it reminds us of biological processes that are seemingly simple and yet utterly complex, not unlike the visceral evolution of a slow-growing fungus.
Prior depictions of local superstitions, rooted in the artist’s childhood experiences, have migrated towards a more present-day reflection of a part of our collective unconscious. Cultural, occult and personal references that were often the starting points in his work are now seamlessly blended into his own artistic landscape. This assimilation leaves the crucial space for opportunities, the much-needed space for true experiment. Embracing repetition in his daily life and work, Šehanović uses his exhibiting opportunities to pursue one-of-a-kind experiences that are meant to be shared between himself and the viewers.
The site-specific approach has been present in the artist’s work over a number of years. There is little surprise and true experience left in our ever-connected, real-time world, that has never been less real and more superficial. Improvisation is one of the few sanctuaries for the ones hooked on the sensations brought out by the unexpected, but it is also an area filled with perpetual risk of failure. A risk that this author gladly takes up, endlessly iterating small-scale studies in the inglorious setting of his own kitchen, later to be intensified and augmented into larger-than-life visual presences in gallery spaces.
With 09:14, Emir Šehanović has meticulously mastered the engaging space of Laufer II Eugster Belgrade, presenting new works made exclusively for the show, including some of the biggest pieces he has produced yet. He has seized the opportunity to look ahead at his own work, and embrace the opportunities that arise in the process, still unravelling the crevasses of the contemporary human condition. The universal feeling underlining his creations always seems to elude us, albeit our awareness of its volatile presence. Such should be the case with all great work. The power of everyday rituals lies exactly in the fact that they cannot ever be universal, they are deeply personal.
Text by Relja Bobić
Laufer || Eugster, Belgrade
September 15th – October 13th, 2017
Viline Voda BB (without number)