#9 The white phase of Mazev is an anti-thesis of the banal and the degrading-the degraded. Unlike Bataille’s horizontal positioning, his Informal Art paintings are vertical, they posses sense and meaning related to spirituality, sanctity, sublimeness, not in a religious but in a metaphysical sense. Mazev’s tendency for the esthetical, for the beauty of the painting, can be supported by the opinion of Umberto Eco:14F “It seems that in the Informal Art paintings (…) one can see the presence of a certain rule, of a system of references, although different from the ones we are used to (…). This code is chosen as a model for structuring the physical, technical and semantic layers and not in a way that the artwork would suggest pictures, that is, meanings, but it would create forms (even formless) which could be recognized.”15F
The opinion of the artist himself on this phase is indicative. Basically, he sincerely approached this topic, but he didn’t want to point that out. Basically, he didn’t want to deny the image, he did not react revolted towards the painting, but he researched the possibilities of the materials: the new ones, the old ones, their synthesis (oil on canvas, sand, wood, paper, boards, pearls), in search for the primal matter or the super matter. “The white has kept me captured for four years. What brought me to the white? I liked the white color and I made a lot of paintings in white. White has always been part of my painting. even as a stain. I have a painting Miners. Here I came to cleaning the colors to the simplicity of the relation Earth-Sky. Here I acquired the white color. I mean, it’s very simple… Thinking about it I realized that my white phase had something rational. It was not my temperament, it was too calm in relation to me.”16F Later on, he seemed to show regret for painting in that way (abstract artworks) and, as if apologizing, he turned his focus on the American field, an ambiance that was unknown to our people. Whether it was his inner forces or the ideological-political pressures, yet in the same interview he continued as follows: “It is really cheap, but the question is how much can it ‘hold’. I mean, this treatment of the art is a vulgarization of peoples’ feelings. And it is now presented at the biennials, triennials of international and Yugoslavian character.”17F When I talked to him in 1990, on the occasion of his retrospective exhibition, Mazev said: “You know, my painting route has been constantly changing… I fell under the influence of the Informal Art which was new at the time, it had just occurred here. Since it denied the form, my ‘tool’ was the color, the white one. The white phase, that ‘Informal Art’, taught me how to feel the matter of the painting, and this attitude has still endured with me.”18F “When I look at these paintings (of the white phase) today, I remember all the details related to each of them. I remember my feelings while I was painting them. I remember each brush stroke, as if they have just come out of me. The whiteness of these paintings remind me of my childhood, of my Kavadarci, all painted white for Easter. Later in life I found that whiteness of my childhood in the monasteries, so some of the paintings of the white phase include a black or a brown part of a monastery gate. This was the phase I used to like the least. I though of myself as not that tender and sensitive as I showed in my paintings. That’s why I stopped painting white. I know that I asked myself then: doesn’t painting mean color? And I abandoned the white, I searched for the intensity of the color, the strongest hues of every color… I went from one extreme to another. Then, at least I thought that I made a difference. But today, when I compare the white phase to the other phases of intense colors that followed, I see that I still possess the same sensibility, only tuned into a higher sound. I was tender in my white paintings, but that tenderness collided with the rough pieces of wood I painted on those paintings. This comprehensive exhibition will help the viewer to see that my changes actually represent me.”19F In another interview he revealed the following: “In my white phase I made a mistake because I followed the actual movement of the Informal Art in the world, but it was of great use to me because it helped me enter the matter in the sense of breathing, feeding the canvas. These works are considered, felt, they posses light, refinement, soundness of the accents. As a replacement for the abandoned form, I researched the matter. It was a pure painting experience, games that explored the possibilities of the matter: neither form, nor color, nor content. There was a French painter who saw one of my white paintings at the exhibition in the Assembly of SRM and said that Mazev is a painter who has excellent knowledge of the matter… In the white phase, as a sound, as a contrast, as a conflict, I included a more rational element (a piece of wood, for example)… With my white phase I closed myself and started anew with more intense colors. If one speaks with the language of his own time, he manages to find his proper place. When I paint, I don’t think of the audience, I don’t even think of myself… I get lost, I become the painting. If I’m a real painter, the audience will find me, I don’t need to look for it.”20F
The constant hesitation, both artistic and painterly, both in his teaching and in his idiom (verbal and in the published interviews) is a result of his character and temperament, actually of his attitude towards the modern esthetic movements: the inconsistency as a precondition to be always new. It was his continuity and his devotion to an idea, and not a mere horizontal, chronological following of the same artistic movement.
#10 “The patriarchal nature of the modern society is responsible for the disturbance of the balance, especially in the ritual living. This is why it seems that the artist is the last recognized member of the society who persistently improvises the examples which are essential for the stabilization of the rite. The things we enjoy in art are not the colors or the form, it is rather an introduction to a magnificently performed ritual. This gives rise to the ‘humanism’ we so stubbornly hold onto.”21F It is in this sense that we should understand Mazev’s tendency to return the ritual meaning to the art in this time of loss of ideals, faith, religion. For him, the artistic act, doubtlessly, means a religion of life, incarnation of the transcendental sublimations of the endurance.
In 1968 Petar Mazev made a painting which was at the beginning titled Saint and later Macedonian Woman. It was a clearly Informal painting which only later, a posteriori, acquired some human traits. It was the key painting – it marks the end of the abstraction and the beginning of the figuration, said with the terminological entries used at that time. “It was really a transitional painting. It is in a way sterilized, both in regards of the Informal Art and the figurative art. I’ve had enough of the abstraction. Some inner urge forced me to return to the figuration… In that period an ambition was born in me. I painted the canvas black and from that blackness, the whiteness, the light, started emerging. Upon it the colors of the face and the hands was layered. I wanted to prove that I can make a study and in a different way. The white color helped me create the light and apply a completely different treatment from the classical one.”22F
Translated from the Macedonian by Maja Ivanova
14. Eco, Umberto, in: Culture, information, communication, Nolit, Belgrade, 1973, p. 174 – 178.
15. Nedelkovska, Liljana, in: Bibliographical review of part of Petar Mazev’s opus, Bibliography, MCA, Skopje, 2005, p. 26-27.
16. Spirkoska, O(lga), in: Mazev: The art is created without sketches, Nova Makedonija, Skopje, 20.07.1970.
18. Abadžieva Dimitrova, Sonja, in: Petar Mazev, Skopje, Museum of Contemporary Art, 1990 (cat. exh.).
19. Gjurovska, Sofija, in: Obsessed with love, Interview on an occasion: Petar Mazev, Nova Makedonija, Skopje, 26.05.1990.
20. Abadžieva, Sonja, in: unpublished interview with Mazev on 23.06.1976.
21. Burnham, Jack, in: Art and technical advancement, in: Plastic Sign, Izdavački centar, Rijeka, 1982, p. 222.
22. op. cit. Abadžieva Dimitrova, Sonja, p. 43-44.