#1 The narration that results from the visual representation, the incredible skill to paint in any style, the powerful political aspects that transform into a sort of ontological worldview, the skill to travesty a political myth such as Hitler into a pop myth such as Mickey Mouse, the local allusions to one of the most iconic paintings of the West such as the Last Supper, the ambivalent flirting between the manneristic and the classical…, caused a fascination and awe in this visitor (and surely not only in him) to the retrospective exhibition of Aleksandar Stankovski in 1997.
#2 Today, nine years later, that same visitor, who is now also the author of this text that should be a small introduction to the big exhibition of Aleksandar Stankovski in the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts, is faced with the same, of the same intensity and of the same kind, fascination by the work, by the fifty or so paintings that should be exhibited.
#3 It seems that Stankovski’s painting continues to tell the story of painting that is possible today only if it keeps shifting its recipient. In Stankovski, the various positions of reading – and reading always symbolizes power, at the same time a desire for power via creating meanings – always signify an attempt to decentralize the viewer.
#4 The narrative, the story, so favoured in his method of painting, above all point to a movement and diffusiveness. In order to read his paintings, you always have to give up one of the points that made it possible to enter the painting, to shift the subject, to move it somewhere between the formerly existing visual model (for Stankovski is obsessed with the idea of painting as painting-over/re-painting of already existing painting models, artifacts, methods) and the ideological strategies that always turn the painting into a space for inscribing the centripetal and centrifugal forces of power.
#5 Ideology – politics – power, this is the holy trinity that, simultaneously repelling and attracting, forces Stankovski to inscribe his own ideologeme, which is: to be as diffuse and polidiscursive as possible, and to relativize the unreachable borders of power by a travesty of the socially historical, politically manipulative, emotionally psychological stories.
This is again the context in which I read the paintings from this exhibition of Stankovski’s.
#6 In them, from a romanticist approach and figurativeness, through expressionism to abstraction, Stankovski focuses on the subject that in a wider sense could be interpreted as the homeland: a paradoxical symbol which juxtaposes and unites both the masculine and the feminine principle, both the most intimate, ancient connection and the separation, the schism and the schizophrenia. Because, as Deleuze and Guattari say, every madness is social, historical, political.
#7 In one of the paintings from the “Protesters“ series, there is the star of Vergina, set on a flag behind which we see characters grouped in a half-mad, half-desperate crowd, and their bodies are inscribed places of the social creation of the subject, space intended for writing social messages. Speaking about the correlation between the body and the politics, Michel Foucault says that the body is “directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs“. Such actions, acts of inscription, are the protests that Stankovski depicts grotesquely, ironically – a viewpoint that avoids the pathetic.
#8 The paintings and drawings from the “Mothers and Children“ series, painted in a wide range of styles, could be divided into two groups. The first comprises those that are free from any social, political or historical context, despite their different social, historical and racial characteristics. In them the physical transcends into spiritual, their symbiotic connection is a connection in spirit. Even in the play, their spirit is what is playing via the body, on an I-you level, and their eyes, regardless of where they are directed, always seem as if they are looking at a certain personal, inner world, which is shared by only those two individuals, the mother and the child. Or, as Jan Patočka says: „The way to the transcendental subject leads through the corporeality“.
#9 Opposite these paintings there are the five representations of mothers with children with mouths open wide, in which the animalistic replaces the transcendental. Their faces don’t have anything in common with the faces from the previous series, which are radiant with the serenity typical of the representations of baby Jesus and Mary. These children resemble small hyenas, and there is something Gorgonian about their mothers. The national is what moves the animalistic: if the aforementioned mothers and children were set outside of the political context, here each of the five children holds a little flag – Macedonian, Albanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek. The mouths of the children are open in a way that reminds the viewer of the father figure from Goya’s “Saturn Devouring His Children“. In these paintings, the children are already prepared for battle, thirsty for power, ready to turn into the father Saturn who will devour his children, and everything that they will personify, or will have their characteristics – beings that can take over his rule. If in the first group of the series the characters of mothers and children created, through a symbiotic connection, their own, self-sustaining, transcendant world in which only the I-you relation exists, in the second group of the series the mothers and children seem to demand something from the world around them, the connection between their bodies is even stronger on the surface level, but on another level that connection is not because of their mutual relation, but because of their stance towards the outside – a common fight for something or against someone.
#10 Jacques Lacan says that during the mirror stage of a child’s development it recognizes a clear border between its body and its mother’s body, but then the appearance of the father – who signifies the Law – disrupts the non-defined border between the child’s body and the mother’s body, which leads to disruption of the libidinous connection between the child and the mother and causes the child to repress desire into the unconscious. From the unconscious of the children in the five paintings by Stankovski the desire comes out deformed as a desire for power. If the mothers and children in the first group of the series create a personal, very own fatherland without a father, here the mothers and children are obsessed with marking their own territory.
#11 According to Deleuze and Guattari, there is a specific role that names play in relation to races and nations, that is, according to them, “there is no I which identifies itself with races and nations“, but the personal names identify races, nations and persons with certain areas or their characteristics. Thus, the three portraits, representatives of three races, represent their own names and mark their own race – those are the white person Leo, the Asian Lee, and the black person Theophilus. Arranged one next to the other, they form a triptych, as well as a universal fatherland, composed of the three races. Even though the portrait is usually free of the markings of the national, this series’s characters still demand interpretation via the viewpoints of a certain philosophical or an ideological narrative.
Thus the works of Stankovski yet again prove that visual matrices often cannot be separated from the philosophical and ideological narratives that comprise the matrix of the contemporary world.
Translated by: Magdalena Horvat