Horizons and Frameworks

The works of Ivana Dražić Selmani, academic painter and multimedia artist, almost always deal with the ambience of Dubrovnik in all its beauty, melancholy and weightiness. In the space of the Museum of Fine Arts, the artist is showcasing an ambient installation titled “Horizons of Closeness” that thematizes the concept of the “horizon”, a line of demarcation that, as the artist herself says, is actually “atopic” and indeterminable, and the view of which is unavoidable and specific in the area of Dubrovnik.

The artist has been preoccupied with the horizon for the past several years, and the showcased work presents a version of “The Horizon of Reminiscence”, a monumental ambient installation set up in the Sponza Palace in 2020, as a continuous line a few centimetres wide, filled with LED light that feigns the horizon line and symbolically functions as a time machine – a representation of artistic history. Taking into consideration the demands of a different and smaller space, the artist conducts an extreme reduction and presents the abridged version of the archive of works presented at the Dubrovnik exhibition, now composed of the original work “At Danče” from 2013, in which she explores the memory of the place and the work “Horizon” from 2018, wherein she achieves the highest degree of abstraction and contraction.

The cycle “At Danče”, applied on a transparent light strip foil, appears at the moment the visitor decides to look into the “horizon” light thus initiating a meditative process of new reading of the old work – the miniature meticulous charcoal drawings based on a template of old family photos showing the scenes of sea bathing at Danče. The artist captures Mediterranean rituals, laughter and the spirit of past generations at one of Dubrovnik’s oldest beaches, and the illuminated line seems to recreate the luminescent summer sun shown on the whiteness of drawings of people who are long gone. Similar in format to a photographic contact-print, the drawings, with their dusty-veiled structure, evoke the mechanisms of reminiscence and oblivion, while the fragility of the depicted microworlds in the illuminated frame touches on the question of fragility of temporal categories themselves.

An integral part of the work “At Danče” is the grandfather’s letter to his brother from 1941, in which sea bathing at Danče during the war is mentioned as a daily, indeed, the most important family activity – a universal human story of joys that lie in the smallest of things. The letter is typed on an old-fashioned typewriter, which the artist adopts as a medium and a way of interconnecting the works, since the typewritten text becomes a form of her intimate meditation on the horizon and a medium of recreating the blue “Horizon” line from 2018 by continuously pressing the key, as an automatic movement of sorts. In the work “Horizon”, the artist surrounded the exhibition space of Atelier Žitnjak with a line drawn over indigo sheets, thus symbolically transferring her viewpoint and her horizon from the south to the north, from the Mediterranean to the continent. On this occasion, in turn, the blue horizon line merges with the figural scenes from the past and the archetypal Dubrovnik ambience, while the spatial-temporal categories are further relativized inside the illuminated line. The work “Horizons of Closeness” continues through the room and creates a symbolic framework that can always become an opportunity – for the visitor, and for the artist herself. In the text written in the corner of the exhibition space, the artist concludes that caring for one’s own horizon upholds the boundary that distinguishes between what is “inside” from the “outside” without letting that which is “beyond” the horizon “spill over” into us and vice versa. Somewhere between the conciliatory tone of the statement that this is “short-lived” and her own positioning in relation to the familial and artistic history, in relation to the given and thus constructed frameworks, the artist does the only thing possible – invites the participation, emotional engagement and closeness from the visitors.

Rozana Vojvoda