Milo Lazarevic

BIOMORPHIC ABSTRACTIONS

​             The works described in this chapter reveal a trend beginning in the 1950's which continues to hold the interest of many Yugoslav sculptors today. After the Henry Moore show of 1952 in Belgrade, a dozen Yugoslav sculptors pioneered in expanding their artistic interests to include natural forms other than the human figure. More specifically, they concerned themselves and experimented with forms resembling fruits, leaves, roots, bones, landscapes, geological formations, seascapes, etc. Their aim, however, did not involve copying from nature, but rather using natural forms as inspiration for their own individualized forms of expression. this was possible since the variety, complexity
seems tired, fighting some invisible enemy, and has stopped to re‑evaluate his position. Almost willing to retreat, he is unable even to do that, and in a few minutes he will sink to his knees in defeat. Bokic's ambition seems to be to portray the bull as speed and aggression, but also as the victim of senseless human cruelty who is now ready to accept the death that will rescue him from his pain.
            The sculptural results of Dusan Dzamonjals active experimentation with animal forms are quite different and much more abstract than those of other Yugoslav sculptors of zoomorphic forms. The Wounded Deer (Fig. 73) reveals Dzamonja's mystical and lyrical imagination, and his allegiance to pure visual volumes. The forms are abstract, beyond the point of association. But the deer's characteristics are suggested in the movement of the sleek angular forms of the wood, glass, and iron pieces. These forms are horizontally deployed, bringing the image close to the ground and reinforcing the title. The sharp, angular, yet graceful form, relates to the viewer, as well as to its surrounding space, through the reflections of its mirrored surface. Dzamonja creates a tone of pain and fragility through the juxtaposition of the contrasting qualities of the steel, wood, and glass and the delicacy of the resultant form.
            Ota Logo's Bird (Fig. 74) may appear like a piece of machinery at the first glance, but if sensitively pursued, various ornithological elements can be perceived. The subtlety of morphologic forms are so great that each artist was able to see in them very different configurations. Consequently, a diverse range of artistic style and direction has evolved where the works are highly personal and reflect each sculptor's relationship with, and observation of, natural forms.
            The sculptures categorized within this framework are quite abstract, yet vary a great deal in the degree to which the oriQinal source of inspiration remains visible. Some forms are elaborations of simpler natural ones, while others impose a rational order on existing forms, and still others combine fragments and total formations to create new entities. Although these sculptures do vary widely, there are a few characteristics which most share. They solidly occupy spacef rather than surround it, and have major elements with compact volume and solid mass. Many consist of only a single volume, and almost all are made in the round. If construction is involved, the form is visually very simple and avoids decoration. Forms appear embryonic, and geometric definition is almost nonexistent. In each sculpture there is a continuous curve produced either by a line or by a plane, which never rests, and along which the eye constantly moves. The tension of these pieces is concentrated at their centers, creating inward motion. Most of them are organized horizontally and rest comfortably on their bases rather than dramatically emerging from them. This causes an overt physical stability whereby the sculptures conform unresistingly to the law of gravity, and a straightforward visual relationship between the sculptures and their bases. Whether or not they reflect or simulate nature, they all reveal an interest in texture and appeal to the tactile sense.

            There are, however, exceptions and deviations from these general characteristics. Some morphologic abstractions include sculptural compositions consisting of several volumes. The relationship of the sculpture to its surrounding space also varies. Lidia Misic, for example, builds her form around open space. France Rotar scoops out the form so space penetrates the sculpture; while Olga Jeric constructs her forms with the aid of iron rods so that they appear to be floating in space. For Nikola Milunovic, the relationship of form and space seems to be only of secondary importance, as his form is self‑contained and relates only minimally to its environment.
            Olga Jancic sculpts objective forms, but suggests the human forces of growth, vitality, power, and romanticism, balanced occasionally by elements of sadness, and sometimes of rationality. Her power to touch the emotions with her sculpture reflects her ability to do so as a human being. Her soft, sensuous forms envelop the viewer and leave him with a taste of her mystery. In Germination (Fig. 75), the pad‑like concave form seems to have resulted from the action of an internal pull and an external pressure. It looks like it has been dented by the inward force so it can relate to the inner space of the volume. It also looks as if the mass has been pushed in by the outside space to provide a deep shadow to contrast with the highlights of the convex forms. The inner pressure pushing outwards gives a feeling of growth and expansion, while the force at the middle pushing downwards creates an impression of softness and sinking. The name itself reinforces the impression of a unique sensuous life here, pulsing quietly from within. Suggestive of the human female labia, as well as of a botanic seed, Germination implies the interdependence and common life processes of the animal and vegetable.
            The form of Fruit (Fig. 76) blossoms even more than Germination. However, a strange interaction of mass with space creates an illusion of simultaneous growing and resting. Everything here, including the overall shape and surface qualities, suggests an organic origin of the form. Emphasis is on the solid compact mass, whose center is a nucleus of dramatic activity. The embryonic piece at the center seems to float independently in its little sheltered lake, but because of some mysterious connection, it is visually and psychologically inseparable from its surrounding mass.
            The choreography of movement seen in some sculpture by Ante Marinovic, member of the youngest generation of Yugoslav sculptors, is similar in conception to Jancic's. His native island of Korcula is for him a manifestation of contrasts.
Surrounded by hard gray cliffs looming over soft blue water, drenched in bright sunny days and dark, silent nights, and always touching the rough and smooth, the hot and cold, Marinovic has committed his work to what he believes is the contrast basic to everything: the masculine and the feminine. His creations also have a second, more elusive aspect in that they remain as reminders of forms already existing in nature but which allow no ready identification.
            The solid globular structure of his Charging (Fig. 77) has sexual connotations with its pendulous, breast‑like forms. It also calls to mind some sort of creature from the sea. The accumulation of small cubes at the top of the sculpture contrast with, and consequently soften even further, the already soft dome‑like structure beneath them. Also, through the addition of these forms, associations are no longer confined to the organic realm, but may stretch to include a diverse number. The form may look like a volcanic flow which is so hot that it has begun to melt and destroy the cubes. At other times the cubes appear to have altered the consistency of the mass below them, causing it to spill over the pedestal like the Adriatic spilling over the Dalmatian beaches. The intensity of the contrast between the sinking cubes and the oozing form beneath them illustrates Marinovic's sculptural definition of unity and variety, and intrinsically implies a harsh masculinity versus smooth femininity.
            In Inevitability (Fig. 78), Marinovic's smoothly carved stone form has clear phallic associations, and his use of contrast is more conceptual than visual in involving a paradox. He believes that the phallus is a symbol of both good and evil, and of happiness and madness. It contains the seeds for the creation of life, and can provide extreme physical pleasure. However, it can also represent a powerful force or oppression and the infliction of pain. The deadhorizontal positioning, like a cannon or battering room, as well as the isolation of the piece in its transparent case, suggests a latent threat and a potential power that has not yet been released, but will be in the future.            
​The Column (Fig. 79) by Kolja Milunovic also has some degree of phallic connotation, but even though this piece is vertical, it has none of the threat present in Marinovic's piece. Its mysterious force comes not from its monumentality, but rather from some invisible inner power which inflates it and keeps it erect.
            Milunovic uses paint to highlight some of the relief‑like forms emerging from the smooth surface of his single‑volume sculpture. These forms, and the horizontal and circular ones impressed upon other areas of the surface, emphasize the artist's rational control over his biomorphic form. Yet they defy interpretation and association and suggest that the meaning of this Column cannot be reached by observing its surface, but can only be attained through a more intuitive perception of its core.
            One of Josip Diminic's major concerns is the relationship between color and form. Trained as a painter, he takes advantage of his knowledge of color to add this dimension to his wooden forms which resemble the sunburned landscape, naked hills, blue sky and sea, or little circular towns of his native Istrian peninsula.
            The forceful contours of the Might.(Fig. 80), as prominent as they are, are secondary to the illusion that this mass is inflatable, or actually breathing. This is due to the rhythmically in3ented, painted volume which has no negative spaces, but whose shallow sectional structure draws space just enough to create shadow and contrast between its swollen and indented surface. The piece's pneumatic three‑dimensionality can be easily observe~.' from any viewing point because the swollen sections are modeled to lead the eye from one side to the next. The sculpture is balanced with regard to color and weight and therefore appears static. However, movement is suggested by the vertical sections which also constitute the rhythmical movement of the piece and the weightlessness it suggests.
            A similar concern for rhythm is seen in the "Mediterranean motives" of the works of Sime Vulas. His vertical sculpture calls to mind the rhythm of the oar passing through the water, the gliding of the sailboat on the sea's surface, and the friction of the mistral against the sail. In his Sail (Fig. 81), he creates rhythm by the repetitive stacking of similar diagonally‑curved elements in a vertical composition. The source of inspiration is clear a nd the curved contours suggest that particular moment when a schooner in full sail is approaching over the horizon. The repetition of the same elements in vertical succession results in a continuity of movement characteristic of Futurist sculptures. The repetition of form, the rhythmical movement, and the ability to evoke a particular moment in time seem to have a connection with the philosophy with the Italian writer Marinetti. Vulas's work, however, lacks the violence so essential to Futurist sculpture; the structure of movement is in the form of rhythmic rather than agitated strokes.
            Lookinq like strange flowers sitting on the ground, the open forms of Lidia Misic generate a similar rhythm. Each element of the Composition (Fig. 82) is arranged around a hollow center. The asymmetrical forms capture our vision at the peripheral contours and direct the eye inward toward the center. There, the force of energy around the illusionary center moves down and outwards and stabilizes the forms by creating invisible ties to the earth.
            In Beast (Fig. 83), by Ana Beslic, mass is also built around open space with a concern for volume and associative expression. However, this work belongs to an early period in Beslic's career, and is not indicative of her present interests or style. It did serve as a jumping‑off point for her current modes of experimentation, which involve more metaphysical plastic problems. Reduction and simplification characterize her recent works where she has arrived at a spheroid form having a very fine, tense surface. The swollen surface suggests an inner pressure which at one point opens the sphere, but only enough to show another layer of tense skin which looks ready to burst. Her forms no longer evoke any associations outside those of the basic form, and they seem to exist only to resist the surrounding space. The smooth surfaces appeal to the viewer's visual and tactile sensibilities. The aesthetic value of the materials, which serve only to give the form visual existence, is unimportant here. Working mostly in plaster, Beslic negates the material's intrinsic characteristics by coloring the surfaces of her works. The use of color overrides the classical respect for the material's inherent beauty.
            Kosta Bogdanovic's background in biology has heavily influenced the process, as well as the implications of the forms he creates. He mixes sawdust with colored epoxy and slowly builds with it his "spheres." He combines organic and inorganic media in a method which parallels the slow growth process of nature. Bogdanovic conceives of his sculptures as solely the evidence of his creative process and has no desire that they represent or symbolize anything else. Indeed, his enclosed forms do not engender any strong or immediate associations and support his contention that his work is not to be interpreted except as a sign of the creative process itself. Yet Bogdanovic's work cannot be considered naive, especially when his background in art and his present professional activities are taken into account. He has a deep knowledge of aesthetic philosophy and currently holds the position of Curator of Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art at Belgrade.
            The Blue 1 (Fig. 84) consists of a simple swelling volume like the head of a toadstool. It is totally convex and expressive of fullness and completeness. It appears self‑contained; the slight indentation on one side maintains the viewer's interest in the form which it accentuates. 1.1though the textured surface serves to keep the internal forces in check, a strong invisible energy pushing from inside seems pneumatically to stretch the skin, and create an impression of greater than actual size. Although the piece evinces little perceptible movement, the sense that the ballooning form is struggling to maintain its structure around a powerful internal force involves the viewer in a new relation with every focal point of this simple sculpture.
            France Rotar also sometimes makes sculpture which combine physical or ideational references to technology with references to organic ones. This is the case with the eroded, fragmented silhouette of Lake in Shell (Fig. 85). The title articulates its naturalistic source and the shell can be that of a nut or egg which seems to have been violently opened and now reveals a pod‑like ovoid form inside. The concept of a lake as an ovoid solid elicits a poetic association as 194 well. The jagged "shellil cannot easily be made whole with the mind's eye and its irregular thickness suggests a process of irreversible erosion and petrifaction. The expressive content of these forms is foreboding,. as if a basic order seems to be undergoing some type of upheaval. Or it could be the fallibility of technological protections which is implied. Conversely, the seed‑form suggests a rebirth amidst destruction.
            Olga Jevric began her artistic career at the time when Yugoslav sculpture was starting to veer towards abstraction. Since then, her works have made her a significant contributor to this movement. Her amorphous masses of concrete, speared and suspended by iron poles, are dramatic and tense and exude an urgency perhaps stimulated by memories of the horrors of World War II. The physical size of her work holds great importance for Jevric: the construction of these irregular forms on a large scale defies artistic pretension. Differing from the previous discussed sculpture of this category, these sculptures emphasize space more than mass, which in turn gives a new identity to the solid forms: "In defining the relationship of the separated masses, Olga Jevric devotes careful attention to the treatment of the intervening space, thus revealing an acute sense of the eloquence of space enclosed within a homogeneous sculptural body."1           In her Complementary Forms (Fig. 86), space is a charged entity between two irregular forms, one held above the other by nine rods projecting at different angles. The open space makes it possible to penetrate visually all the forms. The two volumes have a granular surface that makes them appear volcanic in origin. Yet, the illusion Jevric creates with concrete does not aim to represent existing natural formations, but rather to provide new perspectives on them. By connecting the solid weights of the two massive structures and elevating one of them with the rods, she has combined static mass with movement. Because space invades and surrounds these large masses, they seem to flow continuously through space. A striking contrast exists between the eroded rcck‑like structures and the geometric, machine‑made rods. Although ostensibly describing an interdependent relationship between natural and man‑made structures, Jevric actually does more. Since the concrete is man‑made as well, her statement articulates the ability of man to create illusion and mold substances to his own will.
            In her Crucified Forms (Fig. 87), the distance between the masses is reduced, and space penetrates deep into the core of the forms. The surface seems to be eroded and cut away and deprived of basic cohesion. It seems to drip; its jagged contours convey feelings common to Abstract Expressionism. The forms appear to grow towards one another like stalagmites and stalagtites. As with Complementary Forms, the metal bars here not only structurally support the solidifying lava, but function visually as well: they animate the space, stress its relation to mass, and create an effective contrast of their stability and the motion they hold in abeyance. The mass is not fixed by these bars, but seems to float freely in the space.
​             Many Yugoslav sculptors are concerned with the "quest for form which expresses a characteristic feature in the mentality of the post‑industrial era: the artist's need for fullness of expression and identification with his work." 2. This quest is resolved by Jovan Kratohvil in Composition (Fig. 88) through the dramatic conflict of three spherical biomorphic elements and the heavy, vise‑like iron frame confining them. Kratohvil shows a concern for volume, simplicity, and the total relationship of all masses to space. The spherical forms have an association with the tower of Cele Cula which was constructed by the Turks during their occupation from the skulls of the Serbians they had killed. Kratohvil's spherical shells order the space and connect his work with biomorphism. These skulls are hollow, decorporealized forms with pierced surfaces. Their volumes enclose mysterious, dark space suggestive of death. A strong iron band binds them together, restricting their orbital motion. They seem restless and tense, yet are inexorably confined. The conflict between the band and the skulls gives drama to the sculptural composition. Through their handling, they imply decomposition and endurance simultaneously.
            Raul Goldoni's sensitive vision is expressed through biomorphic crystal forms. They are either abstract, with only faint associations with existing forms, or they are almost objective presentations like the large glass Horsemanf which measures over ten feet in height, at the Hotel Libertas in Dubrovnik. Regardless of the degree of abstraction, their transparency makes of light a vital, in fact, definitive, element, and adds dimensions of luminosity to be achieved only in this mediurn
​             Carrion I (Fig. 89) evokes the drama of an artist shaping molten crystal both with his imagination and his hands. The special mysterious, frozen space embodied in this work is the fabric of Goldoni's fantasies. The transparency reveals the vivid internal dynamism of the "painted archipelagoes in the sea of glass." 3. It also effects an intrinsic motion to the static, vertical configuration. Not only do the forms seem to flow over one another, but the smallest change in viewing vantage point alters the viewer's perception of the mass. The sculptor is working with the interior as well as the exterior of his transparent mass. So the sculpture's force literally appears to be generated from deep within. The independently‑defined multi‑colored forms within float in and communicate with the frozen flux in which they are embedded.  

​ 1.Jesa Denegri, "Skulptor Olga Jevric," Umetnost II (1965): 57.

2. Djordje:Kadijevic, "U Traganju za Oblikom," Umetnost II, (1965): 93.

​ 3.Vladimir Malekovic, Raul Goldoni (Zagreb: Galerija Forum, 1973), P. 1.