Reproductions of Nonexistent Paintings
Vladimir Rankovic
The Wanderer Above the Sea of Mist by Caspar David Friedrich
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Creative Abolition of Time: a Brief Essay on Vladimir Rankovic by Andrej Tisma

History of art is an exact science or it appears to have, so far at least, successfully registered and interpreted movements and transformations of creative ideas throughout a variety of periods. It is this phenomenon of certainty of the given periodization and classification of artistic movements through centuries which incites some contemporary artists to play with these "assigned" and ossified guidelines, even more so because they are provided, more than ever before, with an insight into the enormous heritage of all the past centuries and millennia, thanks to the fast and widely spread communication and information network and easy access to extensive art history data bases and literature. Owing to today's highly developed technology of digital recording, reproduction and multiplying, the very act of inventive toying with such heritage is significantly simplified and perfected. Creative approach through the arts of citing, mimicry and transavantgarde characterizes the era of postmodernism as an attempt to reassess the path that art has so far covered, but it is in fact an aspiration to discover new paradigms of creativity and even new interpretations of the entire history.

One of our authors who have toyed with the infallibility of art history is Vladimir Rankovic from Kragujevac. His cycle of digital prints Reproductions of Nonexistent Paintings introduces characters from famous 18th and 19th Century paintings to the present, modern and intimate interior settings. Thanks to quality high-resolution digital photography and photomontage software, that is, by skillfully merging human figures from historical paintings with contemporary interiors, the author succeeds in producing a puzzling effect with his audience, who are unable to discern the original from the reproduction, and finally asks a question of the value of the reproduction (art and reality) as a work of art.

This cycle is a consequent sequel to a series of Rankovic's art projects and exhibitions in the past few years in which he has dealt with spaces in the sense of surroundings. So in a series of paintings called Spaces he conjures everyday settings, indirectly and in a stylistically refined manner, by assembling fragments of manifold found structures into collages; in installation called Balkan Beds he organizes live meetings and dialogs among artists of Balkan countries, with all the historical burdens they carry with themselves, within cramped spaces made of beds pushed together; only to use silhouettes of anonymous people to project snapshots of interiors of their private surroundings on them in his next series of works called Somebody Else's spaces.

In the series Reproductions of Nonexistent Paintings, Rankovic opens new spaces of artistic discourse, by introducing contents of known figural compositions immortalized in the history of art to the present everyday and common (his own) living space. In such a way, that romantic hero from the painting The Wanderer Above the Sea of Mist by Caspar David Friedrich from 1818 is casting his glance at Kragujevac through fifth floor room's window, Portrait of the Painter Franz Pforr is also set in a recognizable interior of the Kragujevac flat with a cup of coffee, together with one of Rankovic's works (from the Somebody Else's Spaces) in the background, the woman from the Ilya Repin's painting is sitting in a leather armchair facing us, for a cozy three-people chat over a cup of coffee, Ingres's fur clad mademoiselle from 1806 finds herself in a room in front of a modernistic curtain with multiple colored stripes, and just as ancient Girl with a Letter by Teodoro Matteini from the end of the 18th Century is sitting in front of a computer and a scanner. The central character of Eugène Delacroix's Girl seated in a Cemetery from 1824 is sitting, mesmerized, in front of Kragujevac roofs and windows, with several silhouettes from the Somebody Else's Spaces in the background, Whistler's White Girl from 1862 is shown entering a room lined with modern art monographies packed on shelves, and so on. The circle of the historical, historicized and modern is thus complete, just as the conceptual abolition of the difference between the times in which these images were made. Rankovic abolishes this difference by puzzling the greatest connoisseurs of art history and by offering an insight into the "reproductions" of paintings as he wishes them to be, that is, those which exist only as his Reproductions of Nonexistent Paintings. These are originals of a new art, the one that allows for no time and space barriers, but is limited only by creativity and imagination.


Vladimir Rankovic, born in 1973 in Kragujevac, Serbia. Graduated from the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade in the class of professor Milica Vuckovic at the Department of Graphic Art. Works at the Faculty of Philology and Arts in Kragujevac.