Jun 2010, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


Pictures on Bin Liners: Simonida Rajčević in the Gallery Perpétuel

Not exactly the shabbiest company that came together here: John Keats, for example, Lord Byron or William Blake, Rimbaud, Sylvia Plath or Dylan Thomas, with their seductive, glowingly gloomy verses, songs by Kurt Cobain, Nick Cave and Depeche Mode, over and over again, and here and there Sarah Kane, too: "No one can know what the night is like." Dark Star, as is the title of Simonida Rajcevic’s installation that fills the whole exhibition space with drawings, represents nothing less than a journey through the centuries to the romantic, sometimes somberly romantic, nocturnal side of modernity. It is being shown in the Gallery Perpétuel in Frankfurt (Oppenheimestraße 39).

The Belgrade-born artist (1974) treats the genuine inner attitude with the same earnestness as she does the vain pose. In her drawings, made with oil markers on dark grey bin liners, she blends existing pictures and her own, along with relevant textual fragments: she fuses pop and poetry, sex and drugs and rock'n'roll and iconic works from art history. A reminiscence of Duchamp's Fountain next to a portrait of Michael Jackson, an allusion to Blake's Demiurge, as well as pictures from porn magazines. One may call it daring, bold or even, polemically, name it a pose in itself, one that likes to use clichés. But it works anyway.

Not so much because all the talk of juvenile romanticism is immediately cast into doubt by the fact that quite a few of the poets, painters and musicians depicted here are stars on the artistic firmament who burnt out too early. Also not only because the more one progresses on this journey through the night, the harder it is to get out of one’s head Rilke's verses that resonate in this space. As if they had been written for this room, for the souls redeemed as well as for the souls lost: "They chose florescency, / and flowers are beautiful; / we chose maturing, / and that means effort and obscurity."

It is mostly because Rajcevic, with these hundred or so swiftly sketched pieces, mostly done in white on a dark grey surface, with occasional spells of glowing red, presents herself as a supreme draughtswoman who skilfully plays with texts and images, genres and styles and is in full command of her tools. Never mind that not every single one of these "feuilles" could exist for itself alone: it is as a space in which the trivial stands next to Rilke's or Rimbaud's verses, Cortney Love next to Gottfried Benn, landscapes next to portraits, graffiti next to still life-like arrangements that this Dark Star, dense, drowned in gloomy light and glittering from there all the more seductively, exerts its astonishingly suggestive power.

Christoph Schütte

Simonida Rajcevic is an artist from Belgrade – her show, the Dark Star, is on at the Zvono Gallery, closing on April 25th


Interview by Zorica Kojic
Because of her show currently on at the Zvono gallery, the Dark Star, the world of Rock 'n Roll is in debt to Simonida Rajcevic. So is the city of Belgrade, as her show has lured to Belgrade an entire constellation of stars of the popular culture, scattered across the world and across epochs, such as Miss Patti Smith, who also happens to be one of the artist's major sources of inspiration.Let there be no mistake about it: Patti Smith put in an appearance for the show's opening night on Monday 5 April on Visnjic Street. Their meeting seems to have resembled that between Patti Smith herself and her own idol Bob Dylan, described in her by now famous 1976 Rolling Stone interview. Miracles do happen – every now and then. The people portrayed in the show are a mixture of persons important to me in my private life, those I admire although I see them every day, as well as a number of Rock 'n Roll icons and well-known artists. Assembled here are portraits of River Phoenix, Olivera Katarina, Dash Snow, Milena Markovic, Patti Smith, Robert Mapplethorpe, Traci Emin, Oleg Novkovic, Karl Marx, Gilles Deleuze, Sonja Vukicevic, Courtney Love, and Sarah Kane. Also featured are quotes by Hole, Rimbaud, Byron, the Streets, Patti Smith, Walt Whitman, Alan Ginsberg, Bukowsky, William Blake, Sinnead o'Connor, Bob Dylan, Lucinda Williams...

Surely, just as special are the way in which you made your drawings, the materials you used, the multiplicity of possible viewing angles and the way the show can be perceived by the public using their sensory apparatus (not limited to its optical aspect)? This work is an installation that creates an environment. It comprises a large number of drawings in oil marker pen on plastic and rubber. These are hardly textbook drawing materials, so perhaps the public will find it more interesting to go and experience it for themselves, rather than for me to describe it.

The show has a kind of soundtrack too, right?

That's right. It is an audio work by Minja Ristic and Ivana Kadelburg specially made for this show. It is 57 minutes long and features quotations in four different languages, as well as original music by some of Europe's most talented bands doing experimental and improvisational musical performance and musical quotes from Rock 'n Roll classics.

Patti Smith came to see your show, this is already a well-known fact. I suppose that must be quite a unique experience for an artist like you, particularly if one bears in mind the fact that her image appears in your show at least twice. What was it like when you met? Did she perhaps give you any piece of advice regarding art or life generally during the show's opening last Monday?

My friends had been busy for days trying to keep me from finding out that Patti Smith would be coming to my opening night. She had seen my work before and liked it. I spent an hour doing my best not to feel dizzy and trying to pull myself together enough to at least articulate properly. That is more or less what our meeting was like. The advice I got is quite private, so I would prefer to keep it to myself, but it is so valuable to me that I think I'll use it as a mantra each night before I fall asleep. What is fit for public use is that the great lady of Rock n' Roll told me she was happy to be there, not only because she liked the installation and praised Minja Ristic's audio in particular, but also because she felt a special atmosphere, something she called a mixture of power, warmth, artistic devotion, and family closeness, all things which, as she said, make a work like this successful, visible, and powerful. Credit for this goes to my friends, the team that helped with the technical aspects of the installation, my gallerists, and the people who attended the opening. To paraphrase briefly: “This powerful community of people that you have created allows the power and sound of this work to emerge and reach out to other people”.


Famous American singer Patti Smith turned up at Simonida Rajcevic's exhibition. What she didn't know was that she would find her portrait there, as well as quotes from her own songs. I did not know the famous Patti Smith would come to the opening night of my show. It was a surprise organised by my friends Milena Markovic, Oleg Novkovic, Ljuba Bozovic, and others. Patti Smith spent some days in Belgrade for private reasons, as Ralph Fiennes happens to be shooting a movie here just now, and she is friends with his wife. - says Simonida Rajcevic, the artists behind the Dark Star, a show that opened at Belgrade's Zvono Gallery on 4 April. The surprise had been days in the making. Simonida's friends, one of whom work on the set of Ralph Fiennes' film Coriolanus, decided to send the famous American singer some catalogues of Simonida's previous exhibitions, hoping that that might prompt her to go and see the new show. They were keeping me in the dark for days. Whenever I was at the gallery, someone would stay back with me to stall me, while someone else just nipped over to my place to get something. What they really did was to get all of my old catalogues and take them to the movie set. They say it was touch-and-go, all done in a hurry, and my friend Ljuba, who works on the set, had to come down from a scaffold to take delivery.

When I saw Patti at the opening, at first I was paralysed, but then I felt an enormous excitement.- says Rajcevic. As some of the drawing feature Patti Smith and quotes from her songs, Simonida thoughts her friends were the ones in store for a surprise, whereas it turned out exactly the other way around. The interesting thing is, prior to the opening night, no one really knew what exactly the exhibited works would be about. Patti Smith spent about an hour viewing the show. She closely studied the drawings in white marker pen on black bin liners covering the gallery walls from floor to ceiling. Once she had seen everything, she pulled the artists to one side and told her what she liked best.

Simonida says she mentioned three specific drawings, but she cannot remember which ones because she was simply too excited. At one point, people started vying for her attention, having their photo taken, while I tried to apologise to her for all the brouhaha. I was awfully confused, and I think I started stammering. Patti Smith told me she was used to situations like those: they are part and parcel of her work. She told me that had to be my work too and proposed that we have our picture taken. She gave me several pieces of advice about my art which I would prefer to keep to myself. What I can say is she told me to persist, to never give up, because life is long. She also said she felt an atmosphere of unity at the Zvono show. She particularly liked Minja Ristic's audio work which could be heard in the background throughout. - Simonida points out.

Her drawings feature portraits of people from her intimate circle, famous persons, and Rock stars who in different ways marked her teenage, her early adulthood, and her art. The left wall features a portrait of Patti Smith, and the ceiling another of the rock star and her close friend, the famous photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, when they were young. Mapplethorpe died of AIDS. She was really moved when she saw that drawing. - adds Simonida Rajcevic (born 1974), who teaches at Belgrade's Visual Arts Faculty. The portrait of our well-known playwright Milena Markovic sports a quotation from the well-known song Gloria. Milena and I had been singing and reinventing that song in both English and Serbian in hundreds of different ways for days before the show. It was as if we had somehow conjured up what eventually happened. - says the artist. One of the groups of drawings is dedicated to works by other artists across the ages such as Marcel Duchamp's pissoir, and toilet bowl, as well as similar works by Sarah Lucas. They are joined by Frances Bacon who puts in an appearance with another work featuring the toilet bowl: the one on which his friend died the night before one of Bacon's openings. Also shown are details from the movie “I Even Met Happy Gypsies” which Simonida claims played an important role in her life. Simonida Rajcevic's Dark Star is a gloomy universe peopled by persons, art, literature and music icons, whose lives were marked by tragedy. Patti Smith is one of those too, as she saw her husband, brother, and best friend all die within a year. Keeping her company at the show are Dash Snow, as well as Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain while they were still in love. Once the curtain falls on the Zvono Gallery exhibition, the Dark Star will be shown to German audiences.

Marija Djordjevic


Simonida Rajcevic: Installation “Dark Star”; Audio by Manja Ristic and Ivana Kaldenburg; Zvono Gallery

Simonida RAJCEVIC (Belgrade, 1972) obtained her MA under Momcilo Antonovic in 1999. She has taught at the FLU since 2000. So far, she has had a total of nine one-man shows, two of them abroad, in Erfurt and Milano. This is the 6th time she is exhibiting her work in Zvono Gallery.

Her most recent work,The Dark Star, is an installation made up of 150 drawings. The show focuses on the human figure drawn in white marker pen on black bin liners covering the gallery walls. Each drawing is accompanied by a short text which the artist uses to highlight a particular moment in her life. The gallery floor too is covered in black rubber sporting other drawings in marker pen. By entering the gallery, the viewer enters the work itself, his footsteps leaving a mark. The installation is accompanied by footage of phantasmagoric sounds and words.

Assessment: Simonida creates a direct interaction with the audience, which is the objective of every installation. She uses her own words, as well as quotes by Sarah Kane, such as “Moments like this never last” or “You indulge in this state of desperate senselessness”, to underline the subject of her work: the tragic sense of life. The dark backdrop connotes anxiety, while the star is the artist herself, her energy materialising in her drawings as a mark of her presence on earth, her presence in the galaxy. The contrast between the universal nature of the subject matter and the transient nature of the plastic bin liners is deliberate: upon leaving the gallery, the viewer cannot help but ponder the question of transience, one of life's crucial issues. Post scriptum: Simonida's messages are definitely explicit, but they are still a far cry from the New Nihilism espoused by Sarah Kane on the stage. The brutality of Kane's work is designed to shock the public, whereas Simonida's encourages contemplation. What makes the work of both artists meaningful is that their art emanates from life itself. And as for life itself, there is hope!

Milena Marjanovic, Art Historian


Simonida Rajcevic's extraordinary energy is again at work. Following the trail of the “Dark Star”, she has turned the space of the Zvono gallery into a muralled Orthodox church or Dubuffet's cave, filling every single centimetre of the available space with images. Instead of mosaics, the floor is covered with images painted on black bin liners: the kind used to deposit garbage into containers, but not just into containers. Instead of being primed for a fresco cycle, the walls and ceiling are also draped in bin liners. Likewise, the depicted scenes are hardly those illustrating the Saviour's life. Instead, we see images of earthly love, suffering, death, and sexual taboos being smashed... Unlike the kind of fresco cycles found in medieval monasteries, these images follow no pre-established narrative sequence. It is a powerful blast that partakes of both creation and extinction in equal measure. It has always been there since her earliest works, but the dynamic of the conflagration itself has changed. The “Wall of Serpents” has now been replaced by the “Dark Star”, the sequence of events careening into chaos.

More specifically: the conflagration rate is rising, but, much like the Bible's flame-proof olive tree, nothing is devoured by the flames. Everything is red hot and ablaze, but nothing is destroyed. Even the martyrs, over forty of them, or perhaps fewer, not that it matters, are consumed by this flame that rises from the soul, but does not burn the body. A white marker on a dark background, with no more than the occasional highlight in colour, adds a finishing touch to this deliberate environment. There is nothing random about the artist's choice of darkness: it didn't just come out of nowhere. It has always been there, sheltered deep in Simonida Rajcevic's world of sensations. It strikes one as a paradox that what is going on in this endless tunnel, amid all this blackness and darkness, is in actual fact a celebration of joy and pleasure, love and passion, fire and darkness. This is no mean feat: it takes a lot of empathy and sincerity to shrug off the anxiety and to simply say whether this is a good thing, or bad. It is from the innermost recess of darkness that the artist celebrates the light emanating from inside. Her procedure as a painter makes the whole thing viable and convincing: the drawings betray a steady hand, while the scenes are well thought out and executed with a sense of measure (the word measure not to be taken in too literal a sense, though).

Vasilije B. Sujic

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