Nove Frangovski is a painter who in his artistic opus has developed several phases that seemingly differ one from the other, but if the development of the idea and the transition from one cycle to another is concisely followed, one can see a consistency of thought and a very deep and causal change of his artistic vocabulary.
Frangovski is an artist educated and artistically matured within the former Yugoslav federation, and achieved remarkable results in the so-called “Yugoslav art space”. During his schooling at the Belgrade Academy, he became one of the artists who participated in introducing changes in the till then the artistic language. In the beginning, while exploring the expressionist and surreal idiom, a special impact on his further creative growth was made by the renewed figuration which worldwide, in the post-informel period, had restored its full glory, appearing in many different variants and stylistic approaches. Among them, special attention deserves the new figuration, pop art, narrative, and engaged figuration, as well as hyperrealism, photographic and radical realism which were a reaction to the “worn out” lexical approach of abstract art; but also there was the need for the artist to turn to reality and actuality because the general political and social climate demanded it of them. That need was also present in Frangovski, and that language was even more provoked after he specialized in Italy, which as a European center (with the theorist Crispolti) played a key role in setting the postulates of the restored figuration.
The man and the human figure for Frangovski, intensively until the nineties, and after that period only occasionally, were the main interest and measure of all things. Alone or in a group, individualized or depersonalized (silhouette), painted in expressionist, pop-artistic (poster) manner or with a touch of photographic realism and hyperrealism, the man has always had the role of mediator, a transmitter of a specific urban atmosphere and social condition. Through him, the artist ascertained certain events, while engaged in reacting and presenting his position towards them. Thus gradually, through the first expressionist-surrealist phase (in which the human figure – whole or fragmented was placed in certain spaces – sometimes flatly colored, and sometimes concentrated in certain abstractly dynamic environments) and the subsequent reduction of impulsivity and geometry of the expression (with the correct performance of the humanoid figure, often presented only as a silhouette without concretization and accompanied by its twin-shadow, and placed in the flat-line stereotypes of the modern era – a box – a closed space in which man exists and is alienated), Frangovski came to a new artistic aesthetics in which engagement of a more general type was intensified (new social events such as strikes, protests and general anxiety which somehow foreshadowed what followed as a process within the political scene – the disintegration of the great federation of Yugoslavia). We are talking about the cycle “People” (1974-1988), where the basis on which the art world is built on the human face and the mob. Some characters were painted to the detail, very plastic, with all the attributes and the rest were set only in the form of silhouettes, depersonalized, flatly painted, or in a nuance similar to the background or as accents in strong tones (red, blue). He elaborated the facial features of the individual characters, emphasizing not the photographic similarity (because he used the photograph as a template), but the gesture, grimace, mental state of that group of people with the same background (workers, miners, doctors, etc.) or individuals lost and rediscovered in the chaos of the mob. The characters breathe with a disturbing note; worry, dissatisfaction, spasms can be read on their faces. Also, there is a smile, but it is not sincere and heart full, but it is more an animal cry, ironic radiance due to the individual’s anguish. These compositions of heads (seen from different perspectives) sometimes grouped only in the lower part of the canvas, and sometimes dispersed over its entire surface, are almost glued on a flat colored monochrome (usually smudged) background, without any indications of a real environment, and that “void” becomes a plastic continuum where the action continues.
Unlike the rebellious, current, and intrusive tone of this series of works, Frangovski returned to this art iconography in 1995, but with a different sensibility and approach. In the meantime, going through several more stages such as the “Passers-by” cycle (in a similar way to “People”, but with whole human figures, arranged schematically and geometrically on the canvas surface, with implications of pop-art painting), then freeing oneself from man and his shape, moving to an abstract associative manner with lyrical intonation (1991) and action-calligraphic abstract painting with an extremely reduced palette (1994, “Disturbances”) where the power of the gesture and its structure are of particular importance, since 1995 he simultaneously worked on the development of his last cycle called “Disturbances” and on a new version of “People”. The changed expression was due to the new changed social conditions, to a new political-social discourse, a period of independent Macedonia, a time of transition, a time of expecting something new and better. The period of false hope was followed by years of stagnation and even regression, even greater social problems, impoverishment, cultural degradation with the predominance of kitsch. Such a complex situation, on a creative level with Frangovski, has had repercussions in the form of optimism on the one hand and irony on the other. Although seemingly the engagement in these works is absent and everything is surrendered to a false lethargy and serenity, the moment of actuality was present.
Frangovski was a registrar, but also an interpreter. His “reality” was at times painful and aggressive, and at times calm and hidden. He did not run away from it, he did not dispute its context or setting of his own life, but on the contrary, he identified himself with it as its part, and reacted. The choice of this kind of artistic language for him meant an opportunity for communication and imagination that should have been open to all semantic needs, and with his engagement, he once again raised the question of the relationship between the artist and social reality.
Frangovski was an author with a restless spirit, an author who constantly searched for new and unexplored discourses: themes, compositions, expressions, and emotions. Although in his work through the many developmental stages he used both the figurative and the geometric, and the associative-lyrical and the abstract visual vocabulary, his last attempt was to merge the figurative and the abstract lexicon.
His latest works are a kind of “sketches” of a group of abstract figures that are engaged in a certain action, in movement, in play, in dance/folklore dance. These are usually polyptychs (multiple canvases joined together to form an artwork of large size), to which groups of figures are represented and they are rhythmically and mantric conquering the white canvas, cutting the “full” white space with their movements. They play the “Teshkoto” seen as the former folklore dance or in nowadays connotation, transformed into a simulacrum for today’s pseudo-contemporary dance and race against time. The simultaneity of the movement of the figures, the suggestion of the moves, and the movements that follow, together with the coloristic, painting-constructivist building of the forms are the main trump cards on which the reliable foundations of Frangovski’s work were built, regardless of whether he started from the abstraction that flirts with figuration or a figuration that disintegrates and shatters with abstraction, which in some way causes tension and anticipation.
The process of transition from figuration, through abstraction, to post-abstract figuration makes a full cycle that in a way closes Frangovski’s artistic opus and is a visualization of an interesting link of “friendship and antagonism” between figuration and abstraction, as a special kind of adversary that is necessary for a healthy creative process, as was the whole creative path of Nove Frangovski.
translated by Aneta Paunovska