The man in the modern world

Dragan Radenović
April 30th - May 6th, 2012 > opening on April 30th, at 19h


Ananda, “Krivak” and the EU
“Thus spoke Ananda Black Raven:
(…) Respect the cane that helps you walk – for it might have come from your father’s heart;
and the grass you thread upon – it might have come from the hair of your mother.”

Matter, with all its tactile and visual attributes, is the first to talk once one sees the sculptures of Dragan Radenović. And it isn’t awkward to establish parallels (some of the authors have done it already) between Radenović’s sculptures and those of Alberto Giacometti. However, these parallels should not be based on the choice of motifs nor in the form. There is a deeper connection embellished in their shared interest for the matter through which they pose their existentialist questions. And just like the existentialism of the twentieth century in Giacometti’s sculptures finds the most eloquent visual expression of its philosophical stance (figures consumed by the void), so the new existentialism, largely based on mythology (such as Slavic or Indian), but also the expression of orthodox Christianity can be seen in Radenović’s work. In what way?

Unlike Giacometti, Radenović’s sculptures are not the “remnants” of form, that which is left after the void consumes the matter. Matter in Radenović’s sculptures speaks as a positive and has in a visual/tactile way a very interesting content. Matter speaks spatially, most often through robust forms which would be seen by Martin Heidegger as the Earth Talking, i.e. the event through which a being comes to light. Presentation of being through the tangibility of robust matter (a meaning matter which isn’t “aestheticized” in a sense of “beautifying it” to make it attractive, thus luring/seducing the viewer) enables the viewer to participate in the actual presentation. The experience of Earth, the experience of matter and life itself, demands effort which is not masked by the attractiveness of form, which in contemporary culture and especially culture based on media, became one of the leading principles.

At this point, we come to the narrative dimension of Radenović’s sculptures, also on the trail of existentialist questioning. It is a motif of a raven, so often found in Radenović’s opus. It is not just any raven, nor it is a raven from our traditional poetry, an omen, suggesting ill fate. It is “Ananda Black Raven”, a bird which in many nations’ myths remembers the creation of the world. But to remember the beginning of time and the world means also to comprehend its passing and decay of matter from which it is made. The existence itself, which we are experiencing in this world, is manifested as decay. Time leaves its mark on everything, but that is necessarily a reason to despair. If we go back to Heidegger, through a process of change which means a process of decay, beauty, as well as truth,  are discovered. Through that process, we realize our connection with the earth, with the world and matter from which it is made (even though the primary substance of which it is created as we go deeper into the matter, the more we realize that it is, in fact, space, i.e. void). At one point in his Words of Man, Nikolai Velimirović through Ananda raven says:

“Blessed is the sister wheat, our twin on earth, which gave its life to feed us. Blessed are the sun’s rays which entered the wheat which became this bread; and water, which wheat had drunk; and minerals, that wheat fed on; and soil, upon which the bread had grown, with faith and joy; and hands, that nurtured it, wishing, grinding and kneading it; and souls which presented us with it. May wheat forgive us for consuming it. From death, we transferred it back to life again. We eat it out of love, just like it was nourished on the flesh and bones of our forebears, kings, and paupers, on graveyards upon which it grew. Forgive us and help us sister wheat. Become us and be us, help us with your beauty and kindness to reunite with God, as we have with you. For you are God’s flesh and blood, sacred mother wheat. (…) Blessed are the hydrogen and oxygen, great elements of a colossal mass of water on this earth. Blessed are the river beds, canals, arteries through which the water ran for thousands of years, all the rocks, all the riches, clouds, plants, corpses; all the beds and routes of this water. Let the divine liquid run down our bodies, full of the spirit of God and divine ether, our brother. May it have an impact, the blood of our Lord, nutritious, purifying, invigorating our bodies and souls. May it enter us like a temple of Holy Spirit and help its and our feeling, our holy twin sister, water, the Seer.”

Founding elements of our bodies are founding elements of the whole world. We merely lend them to each other, the driving force of those exchanges based on biology, or when it comes to man, his wish to have power. Ananda points to another perspective here, to a possibility to make these exchanges freely, despite the necessity which largely defines it. Here we have one Christian motif in an otherwise ancient mythological narrative, which is very important when we look back at Radenović’s ravens. If these sculptures would not open the niche for overcoming this “bad infinity” in exchange of matter (to use the expression of Berdyaev), they could be taken for contemporary sculptural interpretation of certain mythological narratives, whereby the connections with Christianity are indirect and mostly symbolic. These sculptures, however, speak of the unremitting endeavor of a man to overcome what is a given. Even though this striving exists in every religion, in Christianity it gets its complete expression. For that reason reaching for the motifs which bring mythological narratives into the language of sculpture serves one goal – through a creative process to arrive in one’s own, new and different presence. And that new presence, symbolized in certain form, represents a call to all others to acknowledge their presence in the world as specific presence of mankind.

Besides several of the above-mentioned subjects which could be brought up in connection with Radenović’s sculptures, we shouldn’t oversee the humorous and the cynical, which often, in way of citations or allusions, arise from his work. So the introduction to sculpture, in the form of citation, a special type of corn called “Krivak” speaks the world in itself. It is necessary, of course, to know the heritage and cultural contest in which “Krivak” arises, and which role “Krivak” plays or might play in contemporary Serbian, European and global society, for this intervention to have its full effect.

It is similar to the “EU” – the goat, which combines several elements in order to express one, primarily social and political stance, and through it a specific look at the culture and the world in which we live (and by doing so we shouldn’t forget that “EU” – the goat, also plays the part of the earth, the only difference being that fruits of that earth are not the same as those of truth and aesthetic revealed to us by the earth of the raven).

And for the end, I will use another citation from Velimirović’s tale of Ananda:

“Salvation is yours in one single word, and that word is All… The rest of the word was illegible.”

Dr. Davor Dzalto


Dragan Radenović was born in Sarajevo in 1951 and grew up in Supetar in Brač and Šibenik. There he first met sculptures, playing around excavations of Roman necropolises and on the square beside Šibenik Cathedral. He gained the experience of wisdom and visual communication in front of the frescos of Peć Patriarchate, Dečani Monastery, Madona Leviška, Archangels… spending there his school holidays. Of Serbian descent from Kosovo and Metohia, he replaced the “Ikavica” dialect with Belgrade jargon in the Technical college (High technical) in Belgrade and Zemun. He graduated from the Faculty of Applied Arts. He is MA and in Arts and Dr.hon. of Academy for Preservation of Human Intellectual Abilities (Moscow, Russia). He teaches students the basic sculpting discipline – modeling, as well as the theory of the language of visual communications, which he specialized in renowned universities in America and Russia.

Sculptures of Dragan Radenović are present in significant world museums and private collections. He held several dozens of one-man exhibitions, and participated in several hundred collective exhibitions at home and abroad. He is the winner of several awards for artistic achievements and contribution to the development of the history of arts. He is a member of many international artistic and scientific organizations and participated in some significant projects („Life in Cosmos“ by Cambridge University, „Complex Functions of Brain…the Language of Visual Communications“ of the Academy of Medical-Technical Sciences of Russia in Moscow…). From June 2007 he is an honorable member of the Russian Academy of Arts, founded in 1757 by Empress Catherine the Great.

The atelier and a park of sculptures of sculptor Radenović are located on Cigansko Brdo above Grocka, near Belgrade.