The opening of the retrospective exhibition of works by Dimitar Kondovski in the National Gallery – Daut Pasha Amam building had a fascinating response. You are the author of both the exhibition and the text in the extensive and luxurious catalogue. In essence, how long did you prepare the exhibition?
DIMITAR KONDOVSKI is one of the few Macedonian artists whose work has left an indelible, deep and lasting mark in time. His exceptional creative work is a cornerstone on which contemporary Macedonian art is built and upgraded. Hence, the interest of Macedonian cultural audience in his work is quite understandable.
Due to the complexity of the project, it took two years to prepare the exhibition. In fact, three years have passed since the National Gallery and I decided to organize a retrospective exhibition. We considered it necessary to present the entire development path and to present all periods of the work of Dimitar Kondovski because it has not been done so far. The exhibition is divided into six parts and presents the most important stages in painting and marks the reference points of his work, such as his first solo exhibition in Skopje in 1957, the transition period and the break in style in 1962 and the works from the San Paolo Biennale, Brazil, the 1977 exhibition where he exhibited 77 abstract works in his studio, the scandal with the competition for painting the Cathedral of St. Kliment Ohridski in 1987 or the last solo exhibition at the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1992. Thus, this exhibition consistently follows his painting and registers the stylistic changes all the way from the beginning and his earliest works, until the end of his creative path.
What was the cooperation with the National Gallery, having in mind that as an art historian you are part of the staff of the Museum of the City of Skopje?
The cooperation was at the highest level. The National Gallery gave the initiative to organize this exhibition. The expert team from the National Gallery under the leadership of Dita Starova, PhD and my collaborators Gorancho Gorgievski and Aleksandra Zinovski Vilikj, as well as the technical team professionally organizes this important event.
What was the cooperation like with the Kondovski family and how many sources are the exhibited works in Daut Pasha Amam collected from?
This large retrospective exhibition could not have been realized without the cooperation of the family and legates of Dimitar Kondovski, especially without the help of Filip Kondovski, Dimitar Kondovski’s son. Most of the available works are permanently owned by the family and that is why we decided to have the most works from this huge collection. Especially considering that many of these works of art have not or are not sufficiently publicly represented. At the exhibition in the National Gallery we exhibited ninety (90) paintings from all periods of Kondovski’s work from this family collection.
The exhibition and the text in the catalogue cover the biography and all creative phases of Dimitar Kondovski. What concept did you use for the selection of works and how many of them are presented at the exhibition?
About one hundred (100) works by Dimitar Kondovski are presented at the exhibition. He left behind an impressive creative opus with still unseen dimensions. For these reasons, the purpose of this project was to systematize the work of this exceptional author and to shed light on those dominant aspects that determine his creative activity. This methodological approach provides insight into the complex set of influences, ideological-aesthetic tendencies and authorial preoccupations of the artist.
In the text in the catalogue, in addition to the biographical notes and the expertise on Kondovski’s work, you draw a parallel with the social and cultural events of the time when the works were created. How much was the value of his work recognized at the time when he lived and created?
Dimitar Kondovski was an exceptional, charismatic and controversial person. The legend of Kondovski’s genius as a painter begins in Rome back in 1962, where he set up a solo exhibition that drew the huge attention of the Italian and the Yugoslav cultural public. On this occasion he sold all the works from this exhibition and today, unfortunately, we do not have data in whose private collections those works are and they are inaccessible to us, and this is an entire decisive period in Kondovski’s work.
Today it is little known that Dimitar Kondovski is one of the Macedonian artists with the largest number of international awards. He was respected and appreciated in our country, but he was in constant conflict with the environment and the institutions of the system. He was particularly dissatisfied and publicly criticized the work of museums and galleries. As a sign of protest, for example, in 1977, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his work, he independently organized an exhibition in his studio at his own expense. At the same time, he was a regular public critic of the cultural situation in Macedonia.
One of the characteristics of Dimitar Kondovski’s creative activity is the effort for his works to be in constant communication with the audience in order to realize their own prophetic function in the social community. The persistent insistence on connecting with the broadest popular strata and getting involved in popular culture undoubtedly corresponds to the ideas of the time, or rather appears as a reaction to the obvious discrepancy between political theory and practice, between ideals and reality, which creates a critical awareness in Kondovski regarding the place and the role of the artist in the social community. He believed that his works are intended for public buildings where they will be available to the widest circle of visitors. He gladly addressed the ignorant and the children. He understood his activity not only as a contemplative act, but as an action within the real social circumstances and the specific social environment.
To what extent does the retrospective exhibition provide an opportunity to discover unknown details of his life and work almost thirty years after his death?
Each work has its own story. They are all part of a larger whole and belong to a certain time period when they played a significant role in Kondovski’s life.
The works of abstract-geometric provenance or the icon-like works made meticulously on a primed panel with gold and tempera are the most famous and the work of Dimitar Kondovski is recognized by them. However, little is known about his early works. The exhibition at the National Gallery was an opportunity to pay a little more attention to these works from the early period and to works that are extremely significant from the 1960ies transition period.
Is it possible from today’s point of view to define the most important feature of Kondovski’s work?
In painting, Dimitar Kondoski, from the very beginning of his artistic development, rapidly passed the path along which contemporary art has been moving for more than a century.
Kondovski continued his creative activity on two dynamic lines of development of fine arts. One determinant that shapes his work is the geometric abstraction which has its own complex genesis and which follows the Pythagorean-Platonic tradition expressing the concept of the universe arranged according to precise numerical relations to which the analogous proportionality of the work of art corresponds. This determinant would find its special expression in the geometric construction of his works, the use of complex mathematical calculations to set the basic composition, the use of the golden ratio (sectio aurea), the Fibonacci sequence, the geometric modules and the canons for determining the proportions, all the way to the absolute symmetry that expresses universal harmony.
The second determinant that directs Kondovski’s work is the painting of the sign and the symbol. In Kondovski’s works, the sign always has a high symbolic value. It not only points to the author’s inner world, but also reveals new perspectives on the universal, through the collective experience called forth from the abysses of time.
His significance for Macedonian art is exceptional and his contribution to the theory of art is unsurpassed. With his work he opened new previously unseen opportunities for research in painting understood not as a frivolous entertainment, decoration or re-presentation of reality, but as a search for truth and revelation of the secrets of the world.
Since the opening of the exhibition, the attendance has been high. What advice would you give to those who plan to visit the exhibition – pay the greatest attention to what aspect?
Apart from enjoying the beauty of the works and the intelligence with which Kondovski solved the artistic problems in the painting, I think it is good to read the text of the monograph because the works are related to the time in which they were created and to the important events in culture and art both in our country, as well as in the world.