Bane Milenkovic's opus today holds a unique position in contemporary Croatian painting. Continuing in the tradition of some of our most prominent landscape painters, marinists and colourists, such as Job, Kaštelančić, Lubarda, Murtić, Dalibor Parać and Kuliš, Milenković created a seductive and authentic painterly expression. The ludic component of his style, which at one point we observed through the prism of the so-called children’s drawing, was rooted in the world of his Fauvist predecessors (Matisse, Dufy). From the beginning of his career until today, Bane remained equally lyrical and nostalgic thus managing to provide vital healing in the depressive post-war reality of the 1990s with his colour and cheerful island motifs, cottages, ships and boats, plants and smoke emanating from steamship funnels and small island houses, however, without a trace of the superficial or the decorative painting designed to please – rather, he stayed true to the authentic Mediterranean melancholy.
Nonetheless, behind the always recognizable pictorial morphology, Milenković systematically worked on the problems of painting and overcoming the limitations of the métier. Today, the artist transposes ideas behind such pictorial iconology onto ceramic surfaces of the utilitarian objects (bowls, tables and sushi tables, fish trays, plates) which are decorated with identical motifs, while the women’s and men’s shoes are reduced to the symbol, the new small-format art object, i.e. the true character of sculpture without any functional usage, further underscoring the absence of people in the artist’s opus.
In Bane’s oeuvre, plants and animals consistently replace people even though his landscapes and scenes are not cataclysmic. Still, on more than one occasion the artist’s worldview reminded me of the British scientific-speculative series Life After People. The series of shoes in polychrome ceramics points to the “accentuated objectness and materiality of the works” (Zvonko Maković), reminding us that all our material, existential and status desires and fixations are ephemeral. Man’s existence on this planet, in contrast to the plant and animal worlds, is immeasurably shorter, and all our possessions / objects are impermanent and susceptible to decay.
These shoes, that are and are not really shoes, which the artist deprived of any utilitarian dimension, are reduced to pure sculpture, object, symbol, moreover, ambient. In his series of ceramic shoes Bane Milenković is playing with the idea and difference between reality and truth that is only slightly related to Magritte’s contradiction of reality in “This is not a pipe” (Ceci n'est pas une pipe, 1928-29), because the shoes, as opposed to the painting of a pipe, are tangible and yet, are not wearable objects.
They represent an ambient upon which the artist allows us to ascribe our own meanings, associations and metaphors, based on our own past and present experiences. Equally, the series of shoes might represent criticism of the excessive accumulation of things in today’s consumerist society, but it could also lead us towards the poetics of Christian Boltanski and his powerful criticism of the historically-socially conditioned boundary between life and death in the 20th and 21st European centuries. Things that we leave behind may only be banal objects with traces of hedonism and desire, but they could also, with similar intensity, point to mass suffering and recent migrations.
Bane Milenkovic was born on August 9, 1963 in Novi Sad. In 1982, he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb and graduated in 1988 in the class of Professor Ferdinand Kulmer. He has exhibited at almost a hundred solo (Germany, USA, Canada, Austria, Russia and others) and more than 140 collective exhibitions at home and abroad. Milenković has realised several public monuments in Croatia and abroad (SRC Mladost Zagreb, Sculpture Park Golubinjak and Baudso Italy). In addition to painting, he also works in sculpture, ceramics and designs scenery. He is winner of several awards and aknowledgments for his art production.