”Culture has always been beyond-national”
Robert Musil, Essais, Seuil, Paris
#1 Immediately after the years when Petar Mazev left the physical context of our environment there was silence or a sign of satiety with his imposing artistic presence. A time distance was required to reconsider, reexamine, reevaluate his abundant opus and his constant influence on the artistic happenings in Macedonia.
When the time distance (more than ten years since his death) tamed the passions and biases, the truth was crystallized in its objective form. Today one could hardly deny the fact that he is a mythical figure, a cult personality in the Macedonian painting. Petar Mazev was and continued to be the paradigm and the spiritual leader of many Macedonian painters born in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. These individuals, for generations raised under his aura, yet developed into autonomous personalities, are not followers of his explicit language but of his explicit skill in managing the painting phenomenon and his charisma.
#2 The piercing sound of Petar Mazev’s painting reached as far as the artistic circles of the republics of former Yugoslavia, with an enhanced echo in the places where he was exhibited, mostly in the USA. John Russel told the Americans in The New York Times of the “irresistible energy of his paintings.”1F. In order to define him more closely he compared him to Francis Bacon and Willem de Kooning. The critic Harry Schwalb of Pittsburgh did the same. In the Art magazine he pointed to the “surprisingly subtle expressions of the faces”2F in the paintings of Mazev. In some aspects he even preferred our painter to de Kooning and Jackson Pollock.
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#3This exhibition is focused on the last ten years of Mazev’s professional engagement. Most of these works are exhibited for the first time. I think that now is the proper moment, in this, as I already mentioned, more relaxed conditions, to open to the public the works that have been patiently waiting in his atelier for their time, for more than a decade. Painted in the period of growing disagreement with the circumstances in his immediate surrounding and the cruel family tragedy – the death of his elder son, the painter Konstantin Mazev – mostly during his voluntary isolation by the Dojran Lake, the proposed paintings, following by necessity the traumatic context, could not be the same as the previous ones. They were composed of the color / matter soaked with a presentiment of tragedy and wreck, with endless pain and absence of future. The painting procedures follow this line of spiritual suffer in the most obvious manner. The procedures require a special explanation because they are special and particular, regardless of their visual relations with Picasso or de Kooning.#4 This relation is only a lure, an illusion, because the genesis is different, incompatible to the mentioned painters. Petar Mazev anatomically dissolves the human bodies on the painting canvas. Their muscles, tendons, the severed organs etc. are spread all over as the ground – basis. Then, in the coagulated paint of this huge wound, he skillfully draws the gloomy pictures of his distressed being: head contours or body parts, and seldomly some of the limbs. From the chaos and the destruction he tries to reconstruct the lost reality. In the points where the painting material is not a shapeless spot, he applies extremely wide strokes (sometimes even covering one third of the canvas), strongly vertically directed, squeezing and binding the liquid material with the horizontal on the ground. The direction of the spread of the paint, following the logic of the earth gravity, is not aimed to support the illusion of vitality, but means a return to the womb of the earth. The chromatics of the joining with the non-ontological is shown through the lead gray, the red is the coagulated blood, the green refers to the dusk instead to the dawn, the white stays as a replacement for the secretes. The linearity, alternatively applied as an emphasized fat contour and as a soft net, a posteriori impacts the shapeless mass, pulling out remnants of life with minimum interventions. #5Especially impressive, in this sense, are the drawings. Black and white with emphasis on green, or blue, they use the disturbed and trembling line. Their composition introduces a new system in the known codes of the lace or the cobweb system. They leave an impression of a human representation incorporated into the web, and afterwards pressed to blowing, where the figure and the web are reorganized into an antipode of symmetry and harmony. The drawing only seduces us to the field of associations, announcing that the appearance of a thing is possible only as association, specter, apparition, deconstruction, as an incapability of revitalization. The human figures, sunk into a dense, black mash, couple with insects, birds and some indefinite formations or with complex organic-inorganic mechanisms.
1. John Russel, Petar Mazev, The New York Times, New York, February 13, 1981
2. Harry Scwalb, Gallerymania, Art, Pittsburg, July 1981