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THROUGH THE BINOCULARS OF THE GRAPHIC COLLECTIVE - MAPPING HISTORY


Radovan Kragulj


Radovan Kragulj belongs to the generation of artists that created connections between the local and international art scenes in the last third of the 20th century through their intense artistic efforts and devotion. From his hometown in Bosnia, to Belgrade, London, Wales, and Paris, Kragulj built his artistic biography. Living abroad was to him a challenging opportunity to harness life experiences and refine them into artistic phenomena, balancing professional values with strong ethic and aesthetic paradigms. Kragulj’s entire oeuvre is marked by decades of environmental activism, as the visible degradation of the Earth became the dominant trajectory in his works. We could say that Kragulj is one of those creative minds that strongly believe art comes from life and has (perhaps) the potential to change the world. “In my work, I have been looking to represent alienation, especially man’s alienation from nature reflected in his poor treatment of domestic animals”, the artist wrote. Kragulj is known as an artist who uses different forms of representation in his works; the renowned British critic Edward Lucie-Smith defined his processual multimedia works as a conceptual exploration of the wholeness of ideas.


         

         

R. Kragulj, portraits;
R. Kragulj, Apples on a floor, 1974, mezzotint, 57x50 cm, Great Seal Award 1975.


During the 1960s and 1970s, Kragulj became famous for his perfectly executions in printmaking, and many of his masterful mezzotints won him many international awards, notably the Great Seal of the Graphic Collective in Belgrade, 1975. His successes in printmaking prompted him to explore his interests even deeper and switch between different media and forms of expression. Kragulj’s artistic oeuvre includes drawings, paintings, installation, happenings, objects/sculptures, ambiental and site-specific works, performances, as well as some experiments with slides and video art. Never abandoning traditional media, he used transmedia to enrich his creative work by combining different practices. Critical receptions of Kragulj’s works often mention that his practice is free from traditional media divisions and constraints, and unique in its holistic approach to ideas and series.
What all of Kragulj’s artworks have in common is their position of societal analysis, focusing mainly on the ecological disruptions that result from man’s detachment from Mother Nature. In both real and methaphorical terms this detachment is embodied in the image of the Cow, an animal that’s sacred only in India. As a metaphor, the Cow represents an alarming red flag when it comes to the dangerous breaches of the laws of nature and ethical principles relating to human beings and the environment, all in the name of consumerism and capital. This concept that started appearing in 1977, is based on the archetypal relationship between humans and animals, from birth to death. Apart from the cow, other endangered species featured in Kragulj’s creative garden are rabbits, pigs, and sheep. The cover page of one of his exhibition catalogues reminds us: “Cows are still producing milk.”


               

R. Kragulj, Crates with apples, 1972, pencil drawing, 42x60 cm;
R. Kragulj, Pig scales, 1973, pencil drawing, 41x58 cm;
R. Kragulj, LIVESTOCK No 39 (P), 1985, acrylic on canvas, 162x130 cm


In the critical receptions, it was emphasized that the meticulous way he describes of the very spirit of form is a unique visual sensation, artistry, and exclusivity as a trademark, as well as that his virtuoso mezzotints based on the tradition of Hamaguchi introduced a new type of expression to the Belgrade printmaking circle, of which he was a prominent member for decades. Kragulj's four solo exhibitions at the Graphic Collective represented artistic events announcing a significant creative personality, from the debut exhibition in 1961, before he went to Paris, followed by the exhibition of prints and drawings in 1973, the 1985 prints, and an ambitious multimedia project put together in the fall of 1998, when Kragulj simultaneously exhibited in three other Belgrade galleries and street performance represented an integral part of the concept.
Different stimulating experiences are sublimated in Kragulj's intellectual and creative habitus. A new chapter was prompted by a trip to Great Britain in the early 1970s, when he visited North Wales and was delighted by its pastoral atmosphere similar to his native Bosnia, and it became a new cornerstone in his creative laboratory. Namely, Kragulj bought a house and land, and created new opportunities for his future series of works. The author himself said, “My interest in the life of rural Wales is the most important part of my work”, confirming the nature of Kragulj's authentic voice and the existential experience brought from his native Bosnia. He also believed that agriculture without culture is disastrous. Thus, he brought fertile soil, humus, fragrant grass, and straw shavings into the gallery space... to enhance the impression of the environment. Kragulj called his way of working "concentrated realism", because the presentation of ideas and ethical dilemmas were part of his aesthetic concept.


               

Catalogs of Radovan Kragul's exhibitions at the Graphic Collective in 1973, 1985, 1998.


His series “The Milky Ways of Radovan Kragulj”, “Homme to the Cows of Radovan K”, "Hathor: VLK" or “Watch Out for the Passing Herd” affirm art as a means of social analysis and dialogue, both in relation to purely visual phenomena to current social problems. During his extremely rich artistic activity, Kragulj had solo exhibitions around the world, participated in over 200 biennials, earned awards and recognitions, and even got the title of an academic in Republika Srpska. A monograph dedicated to the work of Radovan Kragulj was published in 2019 (Belgrade and Banja Luka), following the creative phases and poetic discourse that moved from the domain of hyperrealism to the sphere of metaphysical art, as well as from figurative to abstract visual associations.
Kragulj lived an active, consistent, and creative life, traveling from Paris to Belgrade, to Prijedor, and spending his summers in Herceg Novi. He was a delicate personality - meticulous, patient, persistent, who never gave up on his ideas and ideals.

Translation: Dunja Karanović


           

R. Kragulj, Voies lactees No 5, 1990, mixed media, 130x97 cm;
R. Kragulj, Enclave profonde, 1995, perforated panel, 130x97 cm;
R. Kragulj, Vois lactees, 1998, mixed media, diameter 31cm, 18 pieces;
R. Kragulj, Sticks, 1998, installation - wood, 140 cm



Radovan Kragulj (1936. Prijedor - 2022. Paris) graduated in 1962 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade and the Central School of Art and Craft in London. Since 1953, he exhibited independently (Belgrade, London, Paris, Milan, Washington...) and at collective exhibitions in Serbia/Yugoslavia and abroad (Belgrade, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, London, Mexico City, Hanover, Krakow, Prague, Alexandria ...). Awards/selection: JAZU Graphics Award, Zagreb, 1962; Prize for graphics at the Yugoslav triennial, Belgrade, 1967; Grafica Creativa Award, Helsinki, 1975; Award for graphics at the exhibition of Yugoslav graphics, Zagreb, 1976; Grand Prix for Drawing, Foundation Pierre Cornette de St-Cyr, Paris, Prize for Graphics, Exposition Internationale d'Art Graphique, Ville de Givet, Prize for Graphics at the Yugoslav Biennale, New York, 1978; Grand Prix for drawing at the International Drawing Biennale, Rijeka, 1980; Award for Graphics, Festival d'Automne, Clermont Fernand, Award for Graphics at the Exhibition of Yugoslav Graphics, Zagreb, 1982; Award for drawing, Cabinet of Graphics, Zagreb; 1983. He was a professor of graphics at Cambridge School of Arts and Technology, Manchester College of Art and Design, London College of Printing. He worked in different artistic field - painting, environments (objects and installations), slide and video projections. Kragulj lived in Paris and Wales.


 

 

 
 
 
 
   
Graphic Collective Gallery, Dragoslava Jovanovića 11, Belgrade, Weekdays 12 - 20h, Saturdays 12 - 17h, Sundays closed
tel: +381.11.3285.923; tel/fax: +381.11.2627.785