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Mileta Prodanović: Miniature/ Monumentality in Olga Jevrić’s sculpture

In the critical consideration of the sculptural opus of Olga Jevrić, there were positions which connected her poetics with one eminent painting form – art informel. This observation seems very attractive, but it appears to be supported mainly by external factors: generational closeness with the protagonists of the European informel, facture of the material – the very “skin” of the works or radicalism of non-figurative position. Those who have to incorporate each and every poetics in the general history of plastic language development could begin with an entirely different tradition of aniconism in the sculpture of past century: constructivism. However, it seems that all these attempts of incorporation remain somewhere at the rim of essence of Olga Jevrić’s plastic expression. It would be more correct to see her as a lonely phenomenon, an artist who finds the way to create a unique visual world and then finds the way, what is equally important, to defend its integrity.

It cannot be said that Olga Jevrić did not know the works of her predecessors and contemporaries, her inquisitive mind made her open to most diverse experience from the vast empire of modern art to the present day. But all that reached her laboratory just as information, as the knowledge about the horizon of the present world. In contrast to all that, there was the space of her personal expression which she nurtured with care in all social and changes of the trend taking place in the second half of the 20th century. Radical breakthroughs that were taking place far from the country in which she created were not crucial for her formation and lasting on the art scene, and in the absence of true understanding of her work in her country, they could only be a distant external remedy, a confirmation of her commitment to persist on her way.

She had found her own sculptural hand and poetics primarily by following her own inner impulses. At some point at the very beginning of her professional work, distant allusions to the narrative memory of tomb-stone tradition still exist in a sketch for a monument in Prokuplje (1951). However, this memorial proposal represents the side branch of Olga Jevrić’s sculpture only in its appearance: in her works that will appear half a century later, this spirit of static monumentality will re-appear in more regular rectangular volumes, additionally improved here by the decades of experience. These early memorial proposals included the unexecuted project for Gornji Milanovac. Its significance for Olga Jevrić’s sculpture is multiple. On one hand, it finally crystallized her sculpting language as a polyphonic essay on space and energy, and on the other, it raised the question that would remain the author’s permanent preoccupation; how can a material neutral in its nature be filled with something that, at first glance, cannot be pressed into it with ethical substance. Not all sculptures have a memorial component, on the contrary. But even those not conceived as memorials, are actually tightly impregnated with human anxiety, a kind of metaphysical worry, in a milieu that has lost its balance. Olga Jevrić’s sculptures are never anthropomorphic, but they contain the most important segment of human, that invisible segment called spirit.

Small formats represent a significant part of Olga Jevrić’s opus, throughout the entire period of its creation: they are, by no means, a result of the necessity of lasting unwillingness of the community to support the true values and help a sculptor create large-scale works. They are sometimes a kind of etudes, sketches guided by the thought of monumental work. And yet sometimes and most often, they are not an intermediary, but completed works intended to be of exactly such size.

The internal laws of creative work resulting in a large format work are different from those resulting in a chamber creation. In a large format, an artist is sometimes an implementer forced to extroversion. In a small format, one is limited to a thought, one is focused. A small format is a platform for meditativeness. If monumental sculptures are the loudly given speeches, then the small ones are sentences, honed thoughts or expressions of feelings.

Small formats in Jevrić’s work can be traced back to the middle of 1950s (Three Elements I ― III /Tri elementa I ― III/ and Shielded Shape I /Zakriljeni oblik I/ of 1956, Memento IV of 1958, or Aggressive Forms /Aresivne forme/), the 1960s and 1970s, when small formats were usually projects for works of larger scales.

However, a separate group consists of works created in the last decade of the past century. Ever since the second half of the 1970s and during the 1980s, a tendency to “gather“ volumes in compact masses (Surge /Nalet/, works of the Intersections /Ukrštanja/ cycle) could be noticed in Olga Jevrić’s work – such tendency developed fully in her recent sculptures. Works such as Enumeration I /Nabrajanje I/ (1991), Enumeration II /Nabrajanje II/ (1999), For Isotropic Space II /Za izotropni prostor II/ (1992), or Layered Plates /Naslojene ploče/ (2000), revoke a spirit of long gone time of the titans. We can ponder over megaliths, over Stonehenge disassembled; sometimes even over the force lifting these blocks and making them hover.

Even art experts sometimes can confuse these two seemingly related categories: grand and monumental. Monumentality does not depend on individual dimensions, but on the relations. Olga Jević’s sculptures of recent period are not large-scaled ones, they are monumental. To achieve monumentality in a chamber format is mastery. This is one of many reasons of grandness of this artist in the 20th and 21st century.

Mileta Prodanović