The private worlds of artists — their memories, visions and narratives — are the subject of this year’s contemporary art extravaganza in Venice. The ‘Encyclopedic Palace’, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, explores the fantastic mental landscapes of artists both live and dead. Many of the latter received little attention in their lifetimes — yet Gioni has brought them to into the limelight in this, the world’s most prestigious contemporary art exposition — to expose uncannily prescient artistic structures and systems that have dreamt the digital era in which we live today. He noted, ‘…The Encyclopedic Palace charts a prehistory of the digital era, with its manias for organization and its dreams of total knowledge.’
Yet as is also acknowledged in this exhibition, memory — its personal nuance and impact on the way in which we see, experience and know the world, is also at the heart of artistry that resonates. ‘…the most sumptuous palace in the world is the one in each person’s mind: we must enter ourselves to inhabit its rooms, and turn our inner images into reality.’
It is memory that is the subject of Vesna Klačar-Nedimović’s text-based prints. Created for her first solo exhibition, they allow us to experience something of the poetry, alienation, and nostalgia of her previous home of Belgrade, Serbia, that continues in her imaginative life even after two decades in Australia. Klačar-Nedimović came to art as a mature student, having graduated in pre-school teaching in 1985. She moved to Australia from Belgrade (where she was born and raised) with her partner and their baby daughter Aneta in 1991 and their travel adventure led to an extended sojourn. Klačar-Nedimović extended her study in education between 1998 and 2001, graduating as Master of Education in the same year her son Aleksandar was born (2001). In 2004 she returned to Belgrade with her family and they considered resettling there but ultimately Australia won out. It was after returning to Brisbane that she began her long held ambition to study art, and she graduated in 2010 from Queensland College of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Art. She said, ‘I felt that finally I was fulfilling my dream to become a visual artist.’
The series of photographs, titled Fragments II Belgrade, show an architectural façade, overlaid with a map that describes the way the city is threaded into her memory, exploring her personal, familial and cultural ties to the city of her youth.
They derive from her most recent trip in 2010, accompanied by her children. ‘It represents my presence at particular places and my reconnection with the city at the same time as acknowledging the art, fashion, theatre, music and performance that is at the heart of the city. And they perhaps note my disconnection from Belgrade’s way of life rather than my connections to it.’
Working in digital prints to explore and highlight cultural identity and history provides a contrast between the modernity and ease of the media and the cultural depth it seeks to evoke. The medium is a clean slate on which Klačar-Nedimović’s overwrites her images and text; rather like the process of layering contemporary culture over all that has gone before. In this context the use of text adds information and an entry point that is both evocative and documentary — the organic and sinuous topographic lines of natural features and rivers alike overlay architectural images that are man-made in their perfect curves and straightness.
Yet these vignettes (or fragments) are partial in their capture. Like the internal images that form the strongest of memories, details are the powerful force in the evocation of place—the pattern of bricks, the formed window frame, the path-finding that takes us to our ultimate destination. Mostly, it is the journey that we remember — and it is this focus that Klačar-Nedimović evokes most forcefully in her memory prints. In her images we may all access the familiar sense of retracing the past in our present.
About the author: Louise Martin-Chew has written about the visual arts for over twenty years and is a regular contributor to art magazines, catalogue essays and books. Her recent monograph on sculptor Linde Ivimey was published by UQ Art Museum in 2012. She is currently finalising an Australia Council New Work Grant on Torres Strait Islander artist Dennis Nona and works as an art consultant as director (with Alison Kubler) of mc/k art.