Author: Prof. dr Srđan Marković
Author: Prof. dr Srđan Marković
Serbian sculptor and writer, Svetomir Arsić (15. May 1928 – ) was born in the village of Sevce and finished his secondary school education in NIš in 1953. In 1958, he graduated from the Academy af Applied Arts in Belgrade, under Rade Stanković. Arsić was a member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosovo, and was widely known in Yugoslavia for his war monuments. In 1968, he became the only artist from Kosovo to receive the national AVNOJ award. He is now a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
SVETOMIR ARSIĆ BASARA belongs to a circle of creators who has found the strength for exitence of deep layers of own creativity ( in which, in metaphysical chaos, touching what is in the time with something that is in the being) in the native ground of Kosovo land, within himself, ancestors, in primordial beauty, drama and tragedy and his homeland and people.
The need to enter deeply at the bottom of a land – towards himself and his own origins – came so naturally in Basara, as a result of time in which we all are living. The modern era, refracted through the prism of Balkan unrests has brought a dramatic confrontation of a creator with losses of a faith in the world where he belongs and his power to overcome evil, to surmount European disasters and dilemmas, fear of the end of the world and the wasteland of the civilization. Moving to the other side of time, refusing the fear of history and, all in search for gentleness of the childhood and lost Paradise, entering in the world of archetype deeply hidden in collective conscience of the people – meant for Basara, going out of the Hell of subconscious of those nations for whom the history has never been a continuous terror and a sum of fatalities. By all these he made himself a possibility to reach that level of life where general human’s fate is transcending. That level enabled, at the other hand, Basara to „narrate“ finally his history, the history of archaic man, the history of own suffering and agony of his nation – from what appears that this artist is entering in the holly tradition which understands a cognition of his spiritual position in cosmos, perception of the sense and cause of the world where he lives and creates.
Boding himself by acts it is the maximum that could be given to a creator. The inclining the own depths, turning by muffled quivering of own being and being of the homeland, have caused occurrence of other essential characteristic of Basara’s creativity – involvement of his sculpture first against the time, and afterwards against the destiny of Serbian people. It is worth saying that the concept of involvement in his case has not a daily meaning, which, unfortunately we are meeting more often in gloomy and troubled times which Serbian people are going through. On the contrary, the involvement of Basara’s art came from his destiny, from personal determination to testify by his artistic act, on creative way, about the time where he is living. Therefore the way towards labyrinths of essence, towards the land and its persuadable vision, its foreboding, or touching, partly understood a possibility that creativity assumes a shape of „the last defense“ of creator’s integrity and of the people whose offspring he is considered. This originates from the conscious of conflict with the world and fate, presentiment that the world is less resting on ideals from humanistic, social, idealistic or Christian tradition, and that the brutality just with its whole appearance marks what is here, what now it is. In vying for, in nervous feverish blow on material, in labyrinths of world’s phenomenon, in „unbearable lightness of existence“ shining from each part of it – in this features of Basara’s opus should be seen trails of national and individual trauma where the creator and his work are going through.
The conscious of himself as a worthless particle in endless universe and dark and secretive times – in which the man’s history of gloomy and boundless motion is undoing through the darkness of appearing night, night of evil and fall – such conscious from an artist necessarily demands to transform the work into a field of own existence. The fact, that the world appears to him as a broken mirror with disbanding parts, is transforming a creator in a man of absurdity, in the creature deprived of right to choose. He is condemned, by living in time not chosen by himself, to discover deterrent truths about man, the last and unavoidable truth of life. Therefore it is naturally, in so troubled times in front of which the whole nation has been found, deeply in the being of an artist, to appear a need that a surface of wood is transformed into a visual field on which will be engraved a proper relation towards a world, on which the archetype vision of „ expel from the Paradise“ will arise a large metaphor of human loneliness and cosmic pain imbuing the being up to the deepest regions. Exactly in such times and spaces of lost hopes, fraud expectations, appears within the artist a primordially strong need to resist with his work as a scream or prayer for salvation. By the act as an indestructible confirmation of identity which, relying on the past, exceeding into inheritance for the future.
SVETOMIR ARSIĆ BASARA has ancient origins from Sevce, old village situated at the bottom of Ljuboten, which belongs to the district of Sirnica. In the charter of Chilandar issued by czar Stefan Dušan, composed before 1355, and which by his order wrote „Djuradj, logothete had written on Ovce Polje, in the month of May, the second day“, it was mentioned as Selce, Chilandar’s land belonging to a church „more Sirionić than Selce, together with the properties of monastery Saint Petar Koriški“.1
The time of arrival of founder of the family Basara in Sevce has been lost in the darkness of centuries.2 According to family tradition, in the history of village, „the grandfather Avranrs stone“ was mentioning3 from which he had mounted a horse and went in Constantinople to complain to the Sultan, in the matter of fact to ask the village to be released from tributes. He had put oats and wheat in the bag which were barely thriving on that height: to show it on the Porte and by that to confirm that in his homeland people were hardly living even without that tribute.
The tradition further says that he came back from Constantinople bringing a firman by which that region was released from the tax.
At the time of Migration under Arsenije III Čarnojević, 1690 („when the Lord, all three temptations – from which David had accepted only one on his town – at present times released on Serbian land: first a pestilence, then sward and pestilence together and slavery of Passions and flesh of dead people died of hunger”)* and when Serbs and „saint archbishop Serbian Sir Arsenije…many temptations, troubles and miseries have suffered from cunning Germans and Hungarians (…..) as: whose glass that’s the Lords Prayer) almost all Basaras started from Sevac and reached Lika and Kordun6. In the village remained only already mentioned Avram who was a shepherd.7 From him family Basara continued. He had three sons, from whom arouse three families, and from one of those originates Svetomir Arsić.
The village is situated on pleasant plateau, surrounded and protected by cruel peaks of Šara. That was certainly one of reasons why, throughout the centuries, together with Gotovuša and Štrpce and several villages in the vicinity, remained pure, populated by autochthonous population, retaining the former appearance. The height where Sevce was situated has caused at the other hand that cattle breeding and migrant work have become the main profession of population. The grandfather Arsa had a cooper workshop in Prizren. But the father of Svetomir Arsić through years with his group used to work in Vlaška, building houses. They were traveling by foot, on early spring, going over Uroševac to Preševo, and from there by the valley of South Morava till Niš, where turning to Gurgusovac (the next Knjaževac) and Zaječar they reached the Danube and crossed to Romania, from where they were coming back in the autumn.
At the end of nineteenth century, Nikola Arsić, Basara’s father, went to America, for a migrant work. He stayed first in San Francisco and after in Indianapolis, where he had a butcher shop. In the meantime, coming back in the homeland, he married Cveta, a girl from the family of Rusim, who lived in the neighboring quarter, the daughter of respectable hosts Stojan and Ilinka Stojanović. In the family of his wife, males mostly were immigrant workers. Her father8 and grandfather were occupied with cooper handicraft, working in the surroundings of Tetovo. They gave birth to nine children from whom four of them left alive.
It could be said that Nikola Arsić found good way in America. He had a car, was speaking English and was respectable member of Serbian community in Indianapolis who, due to his honesty and feeling for the justice was mediating between his compatriots and American authorities.
But the First World War interrupted his stay in America. The homeland needed volunteers. In Indianapolis was held a meeting on which were talking Serbian officers calling emigrants to help their fatherland. The first who joined volunteers, becoming a witness of the flag, was Nikola Arsić, whose example was followed by majority of Serbian community.
Their regiment from America first of all has arrived to Marseille from where they have been sent to Biserta for training, and then at the front of Solun. The voluntary regiment was participating with regular forces in conquering of Kajmakcalan and liberating of the homeland. With him Nikola reached behind Celovac. After that he had spent almost a year in Subotica, and then he returned in the homeland.9
The return to Sevce represented a new temptation in the life of Basara’s father. The homeland, as it usually happens, has forgotten its heroes. The relative security and decent material status in America were changed with mere making ends meet and with family life at the brink of existence. The father again got down to his old job; working out of the wood and making usable object for rural households. „He was making bellows for Gypsies or he was dealing with small mechanical works repairing worn out doors, windows, tubs, pails and churns and rebuilding rooms in stables and barns“.10
Basara’s memories on his father are of invaluable importance for understanding of certain characters, not only transparent ones, but hidden meaning of his sculpture of homeland inspiration, He said:
„He was remembering the inscription on decoration he had got for his bravery; for loyalty and the Fatherland. And he was really faithful to it! And what he got in return for his fidelity? Nothing! He became a slave, an ordinary plug living on pulling.
How many times he was sentenced to prison because of those troughs he was making in order to feed his children. Tloe court was never hesitating; whenever he was denunciated by the forest ranger, Nikola was tired summarily on twenty days in prison; Nikola was walking forty kilometers to Uroševac, carrying shabby tent on the shoulder to cover himself in the prison. That was the warrior who have never known to step back when he could. ..In those district offices were sitting some gruff faces which Nikola could not understand at all. What origins they had and from whose families they were coming from? They were nor resembling on good-natured sons of his people. When he entered in some of those offices, they were looking with disgust at his worn out coat and his soaked peasant shoes. They were looking at his thin body, his unshaved face and his miserable appearance and they could not understand at all that he had been a warrior…and that somebody like he could ever win Germans and Bulgarians. “11
The evil times engraved Basara’s soul forever; his painful and gloomy traces, as only a soul of the child could remember, we find it in stories published in the seventies; in „Aspirations“, Priština.12
„He was peeling that slavery was deforming and underestimating the personality. In the school he was one of the best pupil. The teacher Zagorka used to say that he was clever and that he had an aptitude for painting. From the day he became a servant, his memory was weakening, becoming sharp and rigid. Within himself were developing submissiveness and impersonality. He has got some slavery attitudes. On a wink of his master he was jumping like a cat on a mouse. „Who determinates that somebody is a servant and somebody a master?“ – he was often asking himself. He was worried about differences existing between people. That knowledge was bringing him back in the early childhood. He was remembering his father exhausted by the poverty, war and hard work in the foreign country.13
In the autumn of 1939, after finishing a comprehensive school, even though he was an excellent student, he had to become a village servant in Sevce. His teacher, Zagorka Djorić, was trying in vain to find a possibility for Basara to continue his education. But there were no help from nowhere. So that eleven years old boy had to go for a work making an agreement with landlord to tend herd of sheep on the mountain Sara for 160 dinars from St. George’s Day to St. Dimitry’s Day. All alone, left to himself and to miracles of cruel mountain.
The encounter with primordial power of the nature, with wicked beauty of its woods, where the time and people were leaving their traces through out centuries, getting accustomed on loneliness, developing capabilities to, in natural forms, in mass rocks, knots and cracks of oak trees or continuous change of clouds, recognize images – represented strong visual and emotional experience , which, in one moment, when a time for that would come, as a clear spring, will come out on the surface, determining human and creative destiny of Svetomir Arsić Basara. All what he was living in loneliness was so precious as a gold in his eyes, and with passing of time that precious feeling of prominent, more and more were occupying his mind.
„Day after day Gale (Svetomir – footnote of S.M.) was not seeing a person. When the weather was nice, he enjoyed looking at numerous brooks, which like white snakes, were coming down twisting over cliffs, turning into foam and water dust. He could not understand why it is running so fast leaving, looking to him, the most beautiful area in the world. He was only once at that place, just under peaks, where it were coming from. Finding himself on the plateau surrounded by steep rocks, above which where flying clouds chased by the wind, it seemed to him as if he was on a strange ship sailing through the universe. At that time he experienced for the first time power and beauty of the nature, and from that day he started to bring up a great respect for her in his soul. A knowledge that he was nothing but a little, almost invisible and insignificant point in the space, comparing to that immense power and unseen beauty, has never abandoned him. It was some kind of a shock for him! Some unclear defeat within himself which will, from that moment, always bee within his conscious.
Through the whole summer, instead of being with children of his age, he was friendly with glaring Sun rays, shadows, colors, birds and clouds spinning around Ljuboten all the time, like butterflies around flowers.”14
After a year he went in village Varoš, near by Uroševac, to serve at another landlord. He had a harder conditions there than on Šara – winters were more cruel, wind more sharp and colder. He lived German occupation of Yugoslavia there and bombing of the village. At the beginning of the summer he came back in the village and started to serve at his cousin Stojan Basara, a volunteer who had participated with his father in the First World War. The next winter he was tending goats at the third landlord. According to his words, it was „the most difficult winter in his life as goats disregarding the weather, are always driven to pasture. In the conifer woods you cut into fir branches and they nibble.” 15
In the spring of 1942, Basara went to work in chromium mine “Jezerine“ on Šara. Bearing within himself a feeling of bitterness due to social injustice, buttered his soul up for ever, Basara, by nature of events, joined communists and their ideas on social justice where he perceived the sense of future and grounds of his ethic principals. At that time he has seen himself as a representative of a generation who „determined themselves for renewal and construction of the country, its renaissance in absolute sense, in all fields of life.” 16
In September of 1944, Bulgaria has come on the side of allies, Balists started to rob and to behave like a wild in Kosovo, and Basara joined partisans, as a soldier in the First Battalion of the Second Kosmet Brigade, which was mainly acting in the area of Drenica, and afterwards he got into the Reconnaissance Detachment of 52nd Division Staff where he greeted demobilization in October, 1945 and he got back in Sevce.
At the first days of January, 1946, he made up his mind, with a friend from the village, Božidar Andrejević, to go to Belgrade and to find a work. They went from the mountain through the big snow down to Uroševac, but they could not continue to Belgrade as a railway traffic, due to destroyed railroads, was interrupted. They have decided then to go by military truck to Skopje. But this intention was not also realized as due to the strong snowstorm, trucks had to return back only after a few kilometers.
They have met a morning in Uroševac. Going around the town, Basara has noticed a poster on the wall where it was written that a High School was to start working. So he and his friend enrolled themselves in the school. After a break of seven years Basara set again in a school desk. At the beginning everything was difficult. Both life and studying. It was needed to make up a years of serving, working in the mine and years of war. He and his friend had no place to live. Fortunately, they have found a cousin of Basara who was working in the school center. He offered them to live in one small room which was used as a wardrobe and where they were sleeping on the floor. It was difficult to get a food, as a food supply was through R-cards for which they had no right. They were hardly surviving, more hungry than satiated owing to the food their families sent them with great renunciation.
When in the school was found out how Basara and his friend were living, they succeeded to find them a place to live in school itself, and their class mates were bringing them a food from their homes.
Basara had a good luck that his teacher of Serbian language in school was Staka Stojanović, an intellectual before the war, who, having a feeling for arts, has noticed a real nature of his talent. She was trying to help him by giving him books to read, talking about art, inducing awakening inside of him a creative sensibility. As an enthusiast and real patron, she bought up one landscape which represented a main street in the city.
Basara passed the final examination in Uroševac and then entered in the High School in Kosovska Mitrovica, then he moved in Prizren and finally, he withdrew from the High School and enrolled himself in Teacher-Training School.
Somewhere around 1948, while he was in Mitrovica, he read in newspapers that the Art School was opened in Niš. Not having money to go and to take entrance examination he wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education asking to approve his transfer.
He has almost forgotten the application when – the answer arrived: his transfer to the Art School in Niš was approved. This was a realization of Basara’s dream and right to continue on not naive and ease roads of artistic creation.
On the first sight Basara’s determination for professional engagement in visual arts could seem sudden and unexpected. But the impression of unexpectedness revokes under several facts which had determined his creative way. It is about series of equally important circumstances from his life which we come across in sculptor’s memories and stories.
Firstly, a fact that already as a child he was showing a tendency to visualize his experiences:
„A talent for drawing and handicraft I have turned out from early childhood. I knew to draw immediately all that I have seen and to make whatever I wanted. “17
„However, even if I was drawing good; I was not satisfied with what the painting was; i.e. drawing; reflecting. It seemed that I could represent it much better, emulating the model in a clay – if I was sculpturing. “18
That feeling of discontent with possibilities offered by painter’s presenting the world, could be felt in one of his earliest kept paintings which he had made while he was in a High school in Uroševac.
It is a veduta on which probably was represented the rear street which is connected with the main street of the village. Precisely, there was represented a row of houses and on one of the side a church in the second plan, in the axis of composition and several houses on the right side of the street which sense is to close and balance visual expression. With regard to the time when the painting was made, logically, shows a certain level of unskilled approach but shows a desire to apply a perspective, for shortening. What is for us very important, the procedure by which the composition was set the drawing by which it was defined, discovers the sculptor’s feeling of the mass. The method by which facades were solved, it’s pulling and release in the space; a rhythm by which relations between fronts of objects were realized; limitations of shapes by the drawing and relation of objects towards space; all of these characteristics quite clearly determinate his affinity for the plastic expression and definition of relations between the object and the space.
His decision to dedicate himself to sculpturing was favored by the fact that in his family already existed a tradition of working on the wood and making usable objects which was going from generation to generation.
But in the evenings, while his father was sharpening an ax beside the fire, this act was decisive: „That was always making him excited as he liked very much to observe what his father was doing. He was carried away, and was looking for a long time how his father was doing that. He was doing the same now. It could not be said that his father did not like it. He was pleased to see his little son showing great interest for tools and work. He was feeling that in such little child was existing a special tendency.
Because of it he was sharpening an ax with special desire, which was getting more and more a light gray color. From time to time he was rising it, putting in the lap, wiping it with the palm, and than turning it from one side to another, touching a blade by fingers. He had an impression of leading some kind of inaudible conversation, as if they were preparing some conspiracy. And he was outing it dawn and starting again to sharpen it. It seemed that its sharpening was endless. But, he knew exactly the right measure. He was sharpening it until the sharp ax was getting a moon light shine.“19 „Through that act I have entered in sculpturing and completely natural need to express myself in the wood. Surely, at that time I did not know for sculpturing, but all of these remained somewhere within myself.”20
Certainly that presence to father’s work and treatment of material had an influence itself on Arsić’s further decision that sculpturing became his life devotion:
„He has known almost every tree, every branch in that pan of the woods. He was looking at them growing, becoming wider and thicker. He was marking secretly each of it on his own way. And now when with Gale (Svetomir – S.M. remark) he was approaching woods, he knew which tree should be cut off… He was always living with pain the dying of these giants, feeling at the same time secret desire to come out from such duel as a winner. That felling, that cutting of forest beauty he was feeling as a duel. He knew that he was the onlyone to win it… Nikola was carving, trimming, turning and adjusting the trough. The tree stump was suitable – straight and clean, and a man could do whatever he wanted. At the eight day the trough got it’s final shape. It was nor shallow nor deep, edges straight and lean. Everything was taken into proportional relations, each detail was attractive and was challenging admiration.“21
Such observation understood noticing of several very important moments which were pointing that it was not only a preparation of tools and choice of wood. It was the matter of the whole rite of preparation, from which should come out the approach and defeat of material. This includes the absence of automatic transmission of intention and idea in the wood and, at the same time, determination of the approach – while every part of the wood conquered by the blade of ax or chisel, by the stroke of precisely determined power and depth of penetration in it’s tissue.
Another moment in Basara’s childhood stands in the same valuable line with previous ones. It is about the childhood and time he spent as a shepherd on Šara, i.e. living with the being from mountain and gradual coming to a knowledge that mountain with it’s shapes – forests, rocks, changing of mass view, depending of observation corner, meadows which appearance could be changed by torrents of mountain brooks – understands existence of sculptural energy by itself. Understands the possibility that associations, coming one after another in the process of its noticing in natural shapes, transpose in the material and transform into a figure that will contain within itself a part of energy came out from touching with the being of homeland.
Basara’s connection with the mountain is not at all an occasional phenomenon. In human’s system of symbolic thinking such connection from the beginning was a center of power in which, in shapes, are meeting heaven and earth. This power is „incarnation of cosmic power and life; rocks are its bones, brooks are its blood, herbs are its hair and clouds are its breath“.22 As a center of the world, enabling transition from one level to another. Symbolizing steadiness, eternity, strength and restfulness, at the spiritual level it represents a condition of total awareness and possibility of transition from partial and limited to complete and unlimited.
|8 According to family tradition, there is a story about Basara’s grandfather from mother’s side, who was compelled to kill one Turk. Namely, he was working with his father in villages in the vicinity of Tetovo. And when, in the late autumn they went from abroad in their homeland they had to engage on critical places a Turk, as expert guide, who had, under promise, to lead them through regions with bandits. When they reached a ravine surrounded with dense forest, that guide took off the rifle from the shoulder, and aimed it at Basara’s grandfather chest Stanko and said: „Give me all what you have earned“. Not having the way out, Stanko drawn back his arm under the armpit to take out the purse with hardly earned money. The son of Stanko, Stojan, has used the moment of Turk’s carelessness, grab the hatchet and with one stroke he decapitated a bandit (from author’s talk with Svetomir Arsić Basara held on 25th December, 1998).|
THE SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS in Niš, on which sculpturing department Basara enrolled himself, was meeting during the first year of its existence a numerous problems. The teaching was held in the Teacher – Training School and in the two classrooms of Women’s High school which was understandably a smaller problem comparing to lack of professional staff. One of the first school managers, Ljubomir Verner, who was mentioned between two World Wars as founder of Association of Fine Artists of Vardar Region and “Jefimija“ in Skopje, and Association of Artists of Morava Region in Niš, 1931,23 a painter-scenographer from Belgrade, faced with all misfortunes of after war time, even suggested that a school, due to impropriate conditions, should be transferred in Novi Sad, which fortunately did not happen.24
During the first years of his schooling for Basara had extreme importance the presence of two creators in the school the sculptor Sreten Danilović25 and the painter Boža Ilić.
From Sreten Danilović, who was a student of Dolinar, he has learned well the base of sculpturing procedure. Nevertheless Danilović was a sculptor, burdened with academism and influences of his teacher, he knew very well, and was trying hard to introduce his students in the problems of a figure; proportion, movement, contraposto coordination of relation among masses and its linking in logical visual entirety. In fact, he knew to transmit the important matter in the first phase of conquering the vocation and adopting bases of sculptural thinking. A need for shaping within Basara was so strong that he was spending more time than obligatory in the school atelier. He knew to take from the school at the end of a year around twenty kilos of clay to work on it in the village and he has not find difficult to walk around forty kilometers from Uroševac to Sevac with such load on his back.
The encounter with Božo Ilić, who was teaching painting in the school since 1952, was also significant, as he learned from him the simplicity in drawing procedure; to recognize and to materialize in the model basic constructive lines bearing within itself a shape; to discover with less means a character in the portrait and by this to decrease the description on minimum.
Predetermined by the destiny to be engaged in the sculpture, shrewd and prepared for long and painstaking work, it seems that Basara from the very first moment understood and overcame elements of sculpturing. Unfortunately, from this first period of learning, spent in the School of Art in Niš his works were not kept. The conclusion of it is based on photographs made from several angles. Whatever it was reliable for more subtle analysis, as on a small surface it partially condense a form (by abridging) removing it’s defects, it is giving a possibility to assume a degree of control of sculptural means. Just the Portrait from 1950, kept on a photo, made askance, from the profile, with certain shortenings unavoidable under such angle of photographing, it testifies very convincingly about secure approach to the portrait, exactly established relations between it’s parts and including a light into the process of form discovering and reinforcement of expression of the image itself. Frontal and cheekbone curves of the face are well thought out and extended by locks of hair, so that in the portrait there is a continuous motion of contour which encircles it. Besides obviously secure ruling of the profession, this portrait, in the conception, in the resolute expression on the face, in the plastic formulation – in certain, I should say, subordination to codex of schematized shapes – it shows distinctions of it’s originate time. More precisely, it is obvious the influence of the doctrine of socialistic realism which reached the top at that time in the Serbian art.
In contrast to The Portrait, The Flutist from Šara (1951), appeared in the fourth year of his education in the School of Art, representing more complex plastic problem which Basara had showdown with. The first problem he had in front of himself was a general constructive structure of the figure. Against the strong arch starting from the right leg, causing by it intensive distortion of the figure backwards, opposing the trunk of a tree, leaning by the upper part on it. He stopped the motion backwards finding a reliable support for the leg. In order to neutralize a strong curve of the body, he crossed the left leg of the sculpture over the right one, by which he got a natural posture.
Basara was solving a main plastic problem in the upper part of the sculpture. Within the same, he was defining the motion by opposing the parabolic line of the body against the horizontal line of arms in which the shepherd holds the flute leaned on the lips.
In the constructive scheme, this sculpture demonstrates direct influence of classic comprehension of the form and the way of its defining, the influence realized through lessons of sculpturing with Sreten Danilović. But more important than establishing of influence is a spontaneous application of old Praxitel’s law of “flowing line“, the line which by its motion and uniform tension – simplified, by modeling without strong surface effects – to merge all parts of the body in one spontaneous and logic plastic entirety.
At what extent Basara was occupied by the magic of turning the natural material into the figure, possibilities of different approach to the process of transforming the inert substance in the visual fact, but even on the trial of different stylish concepts, it demonstrates The Portrait from 1953, originated at the very beginning of his studies. It is about the head of a girl where the prime modeling of a front, which by strict stylization of the hair, by conciseness and total excluding of manifestations of inner life, by the general impression of static, demonstrates, in a certain way, the influence of Egyptian plastic. The sense of observations of possible reflecting of determined stylish categories has not the aim to connect his creative work with it, but to show the point out the fact that every author in the phase of learning, unavoidably is passing through the stage of assimilation and rejection, and that around the creator “lives on all particles interfering his way“. The artist forms even later, from his own creative potential and experiences resulting from feeling the other poetics, a sensible relation between the world and the way he expresses his attitude towards it. At the other hand, striving to the permeating of various stylish determination and acquaintance of its outer and inner legalities, pointing out the exceptional enthusiasm of young creator and his strong desire to learn and to conquer the craft of sculpturing as indispensable condition for successful and fruitful artistic formation.
In the fall of 1953, Basara found himself at the Academy of Applied Arts in Belgrade, in the class of professor Radeta Stanković where he would stay until his graduation in 1958. He was expecting that a new circles and high school institution would represent for him a possibility of further development of his own plastic system, as expression and answer on perplexities that life was placing in front of him and his generation, on acquainting with new orientations in European and world sculpture, and it turned out that he found extended educational program of Art School from Niš, based on classical standards, on the principals of modeling from the bottom; on the primary visual sensibility and settling of plastic experience on the superficial image. In a word, he had found professors who had their artistic formation between two world wars, the foundation for constructing an approach to the world were searching among ideals that applied to Fidia, Michelangelo and Rodin. It was therefore mainly worth to go again through already overcame. Logically, such program was causing a disappointment and resistance within the young creator and at the same time a need to find for him indispensable answers outside of the Academy.
It is also important to underline that important moment in formation of Basara was his artistic life in Belgrade at early fifties.
After the first, mainly rhetoric retreats from dogmatic practice of socialistic realism, it came to the break with doctrine, its bearers and propagandists, and appearance of new orientations. Its basic determination could be formulated as feverish attempt to overcome the „empty space“ in Serbian art, caused by the Second World War and by the period of social realism, overcome in order to establish more real connection between Serbian inter war art and post-social realistic period.
It would be surely wrong to believe that immediately upon breaking with Soviet Union and congress reports, the socialistic realism went down from Yugoslav artistic stage. It only ceased to be the unique orientation on its small heaven. For its existence it had to fight in the future with creative force of its patrons, its conviction in correctness of conception they were representing and realization that this orientation made artistically effective. But nevertheless, after the Third Plenum of Communist Party, it has lost the aureole of „the only correct“ school, residues of social realism were present and strong, mostly because its connection with political bureaucracy and deep roots of doctrine in the creativity of an artist with small creative power. The feedback between social realists and political bureaucracy was feeling strongly in affection of class forum and its influence in disappearing of the Image, a magazine for arts and critics, or later conflict between creators and ULUS, which has a consequence in a formation of Independents.26
After Independents, or simultaneously with them, appeared Elevens, Sixes and December Group (1955) whose members, believing in the power of artistic work to express time (and in that way to become again a part of European culture) and in fact they were finishing a work of their inter war ideals and generation. By this they have set a continuity with Serbian modern and vital flows of European arts.
It is obvious that the sixth decade was not representing the time of total break with non creative practice of social realism, but the period where it became possible to think and to create in a different way, in a way adequate to authentic regulations of creativity, to the being of creator and artistic work. This possibility strongly influenced on artistic practice, challenging the appearance of new ideas of younger creators and for sure a return of Serbian interwar vanguard on artistic stage.
Side by side with changes, coming out of a will to establish organic connections with proper art which seized entire Yugoslav artistic practice, naturally appeared a need to renew contacts with Europe which had a result on a number of significant international exhibitions of modern art. Starting from 1950, in Belgrade were seen, among others, the exhibition of Newer French Art (1952), the exhibition of Le Corbisier (1953), the exhibition of paintings from collection Urvater (1955)… Briefly, „upon difficult isolation from the beginning, middle and the end of the sixth decade, Belgrade has got an offer of world art, worthy every developed European metropolis, to all having inclination and interest for it, offering opportunities for events and learning for making up previous deficit”.27
For Basara, as a sculptor, it was of a great significance the exhibition of Henry Moor (1955) as it has accelerated the process of knowledge that humanistic message of sculpturing work had not to be caused by anti conformism. More precise, the mass is not experienced in the close connection with the figure. It starts to be sovereign, to transform in a free form imitation, which means the come back to itself and its sensibility. It understood a different realization of tactile values, its bringing in the resonance with what was happening in the inner world of creator.
But the other exhibition, that was held before Moor’s one, left a permanent impression on Basara. It is about the exhibition of sculptors of Boris Anastasijević,28 (1953), a student of Osip Zadkin, the sculptor of elegant cubistic stylizations, whose realization is characterized by expressive and strong vertical which integrates around itself shapes from solid architecture, bringing it together in essential relations. By this exhibition, Anastasijević convincingly demonstrated prevalence of rational over emotional where the object „is never a target for itself, but is always significantly transposed, under the dictate of one inner imperative longing to a cold, severe up to the end formulated surface”.29
Basara was attracted by sculptures of Anastasijević first of all because of his respect for the substance of the material, insisting on architectonic construction bearing form, permeated of a mass by the hollow winding on the surface of the form. On that exhibition, in ULUS gallery, in Belgrade 1953, Anastasijević exposed mainly figures which in the procedure of decomposing of the form, in approach to the theme, were opening a possibility to define a nature of the sculpture as a balance between figurative and plastic, on the relation from geometric stylization from objective model until its basic geometric transposition. On Serbian artistic stage it has brought modern expression, which consolidated young creators in their determination to follow tracks of contemporary times. The exhibition of Anastasijević, and later one of Moor30, has set up in the foreground process of experiencing of the form, by which at our sides were completed main questions of modern art. It was a time of transformation in Yugoslav sculpture, with less radical restrictions in relation to sculpturing work and to what is the subjects of its representation, with less insisting on utilitarian purpose and greater liberty in choosing methods and means, by which it would be approached to the shaping. In our circumstances, those changes in relation to the purpose and function of the sculpture, simultaneously with changes in its being, represented a very strong reason that a generation of young sculptors direct their way of thinking towards world art, during that process meeting a different ways of creative searching.
New trends in European sculpture, in the way Basara understood and experienced it, started very discretely to reflect in his student’s works, first of all in moving from reality of the seen to the reality of the sculpture itself.
His final work for university degree Basara has performed in such grasp, it is about several sculptures of emphasized structure (repeated after finished studies, more consequently 1960 in Lining up), where his attempt was obvious to come out of realism. His professor Radeta Stanković did not accept such conception. He considered that what was happening in modern sculpturing, what was seen on the exhibition of Henry Moor and Boris Anastasijević, one fashionable wave in the sculpture which would pass quickly and that would remain classical form, as a constant in the sculpture.
Basara repeated his final work at the university in March 1958. But those problems with professors in fact helped him as, by resisting to academism he were able to get over in time. When he went out of the Academy, he continued surely and without hesitation on reliable ways of modern sculpture, being different by this from many of his friends from the Academy – who, chained by academism and left to themselves, not having enough strength to come out from the shade of their professors, were left in dangerous mainstreams of artistic creativity.
23 Uglješa Rajčević „Enclosure to the History of Artistic Associations in Serbia“ – The Association of Painters from Morava Region“, The Code for Fine Arts 13, Matica Srpska, Novi Sad 1997.
24 Malina Radonjić, „50 years of School for Fine Arts Technicians” Djordje Krstić, Niš.
25 Sreten Danilović was born in Niš in 1921. He graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, and he was teaching the subject „sculpturing” in the School of Fine Arts in Niš, since 1951 till 1961 (the date is taken from the above mentioned study of Malina Radonjić).
26 The origin of Independents is a result of one the first conflicts between ULUS and creators. The motive for appearance of the group was utilitarian ideas of Association of moral and political components of the work to the detriment of its artistic and formal values. This was not the only reason for establishing of Independents, and it is about thirty artists of different generations, and there were a strong resistance toward management monopoly over members of the Association, in outvoting and pressure of formal majority of members over the minority of active creators. The mission of Independents consisted, not in emphasizing collective poetics, but in aspiration to protect the inviolability of creative personality, to enable more modern organization of artistic life in ULUS without ideological and aesthetic pressures on creators (in times of break with social realism and breakthrough of new tendencies on Yugoslav artistic stage. See: Miodrag B. Protić, Serbian Painting of XX century, Nolit, Belgrade, 1973, Lazar Trifunović, Serbian Painting 1900 – 1950, Nolit, Belgrade, 1973, Miodrag B. Protić and others, Yugoslav Painting of Sixth Decade in Serbia, MSU, Belgrade 1980, Ješa Denegri, Fifties: themes of Serbian art, Svetovi, Novi Sad, 1993.)
27 Ješa Denegri, stated work.
28 Boris Anastasijević entered in Ecole des Beaux Arts in Lyon in the atelier of Osip Zadkin in Paris. He lived in Belgrade, from 1953 till 1964, when he returned back in France. His first independent exhibition was in Lyon in 1946, Belgrade 1953, 1955, 1956, 1964 and in Zagreb 1964.
29 M. B. Protić, „Sculptures of Boris Anastasijević“, NIN, Belgrade, 10th April, 1955.
30 According Basara’s testimony, with regard to this exhibition, it was held a talk of Branko Šotra with students, where the professor evaluated the exhibition as a creative work of decadent western artist and that students should not be under influence of such art.
The return in Priština, on 15th April, 1958, with a title of academic sculptor, for Basara had a meaning of beginning a pioneer’s work on making conditions for development of fine arts on Kosovo and Metohija. As an administrator for arts in the Secretariat of Regional Council for Culture31 he found a total artistic province without fine art’s events – where, totally isolated, were working several isolated individuals (such as Vlada Radović in Peć, Branko Dočić in Priština and several graduated students from Art School from Peć). Isolated in that way, or as Dočić, inclined to compromise and marginalize proper work, they had not and objectively they could not have more serious influence on creation of more favorable climate for development of fine arts life.
Svetomir Arsić Basara therefore had in front of himself several problems which should have to be simultaneously solved. First of it was a guild organization of artists in Kosovo and Metohija, as it was a conditio sine qua non were possible to create a base for development of fine art life. It understood gathering of all artists, starting from the oldest ones up to the youngest. Just arrived from Academies and School of Art, around Club of fine art artists from Kosovo and Metohija. One of his prime activity was organizing of fine art life and making conditions for independent collective and exhibition activity of its members.
For development of artistic life, beside work of members of the Association, it was again important to get acquainted with actual creative forms of creative practice in Yugoslavia, exchange of opinions and ideas with significant creators from other milieus, forming collections of paintings – which has caused by its side, the foundation of Fine Art Colony from Dečani, in the summer of 1958. In the work of the Colony, beside members of the Association, creators from other circles have taken part: Miloš Gvozdenović, Boža Prodanović, Lazar Vujaklija, Marko Krsmanović, Aleksandar – Cibe Jeremić, Bogomil Karlavaris, Aleksandar Šivert etc.
In the fall of 1958. in the cinema hall of Priština was organized the exhibition of works from participants of Colony from Dečani. The exhibition was followed by the catalogue, with short foreword, where Basara exposed the sense of the Colony in artistic creativity and in establishing of continuous fine art life on Kosovo.
The work on affirmation of artistic creativity was including, as well, affection by written and critical word „which should pay attention on certain inconsistencies, open questions and defects of one young culture in its beginning“.32 In those often polemic articles, Arsić knew to make right questions about the sense of exhibitions, purchase without criterion, quality of exposed works, maturity of fine art critic to follow and to explain events in fine arts and very often practice, usual even nowadays in provincial milieus, that there was quite irresponsible relation toward fine art audience which was mainly shorten for the possibility of contact with representative works of conformed artists. „In the general rise of our fine arts in course of last years“ as Basara has written „fine arts, sculpturing and graphics rashly were spreading outside of cultural metropolis. But such spreading of arts has got certain problems which should have to be solved before becoming complex… For example, one painter of older generation, from one big cultural center, exposed thirty paintings, from which tree or four good, twenties are under average and several of them even poor… It is difficult to accept any kind of exhibition only to have some.“33
On problems in organization of exhibitions and criteria under which exhibitors were chosen Basara will turn back once again by his polemic text, published at the beginning of sixties, where he would pose a question of relations between organizers of exhibitions and the Club of Artists from Priština.
„It was enough”, he wrote, „that a candidate appeal to the Management of National Theatre, Regional Cultural and Propaganda Center or to the House of Yugoslav Army in order to reserve rooms and the rest was left to himself: the choice and the quality of works and the arrangement of the exhibition“.34 Basara for sure did not hold himself only on noticing defects in fine art life of Priština but, under logic of things he proposed that the Club of fine art artists takes on the role of „initiators of fine ad life, to define its streams, rhythm and physiognomy“.35
The diapason of Basara’s interests and engagements was quite wide. In the first place, he was writing fine art critics, affirming young talented creators, mainly those who, at the end of sixties, started to come from the academy and art schools (he wrote about Sava Rakočević noticing already, in his students works, attempts to build up the painting on thin limit between real and unreal, about Djeljoš Djokaj, Petar Pašić) trying to bring closer that creative work to the fine art public.
At the end of the seventies, at the time of hasty building of Priština, he sent a word with several articles, in which he set a problem of relation between fine arts and functional space, pleading that the principle „architecture – sculpture“ or more precise „building object – fine arts“ transform in the attitude „city – fine arts“36, understanding by this that the future town should consist of a row of housing cores, independently formulated which will represent not only the sum of big dormitory, but by the method of its forming, contents were offering, would represent places where spiritual and practical dimension of living would be imbued. All of those independent cores would be functionally encircled by visual totality of the town.
Whatever the work on affirmation and justification of artistic work represented a challenge and needed a great effort and renunciation by Arsić, he has never disregarded that sculpturing was his main vocation.37 During 1958, several works have appeared by which a first period of creative work has started, determined by touching of different poetical lines, moving in the range from figurative, anthropomorphic to associative and abstract expressionism, with insisting on reinforced expression in discrete emanation of the childhood world. By touching with anthropomorphic shape does not understand more or less true transmission of human figure parts or scene, but establishing of domination of plastic moment over the theme and the motive, which now are serving as a reason for justification of semantic structure of plastic statement. As a foundation for these relief and sculptures, Basara has found in drawing and graphic by which at that time Basara was occupied with. These indented drawings, sharply and poorly defined, released from descriptions, brought down to the basic line, which was confining plans and differently defined surfaces, opening by this, the space of whiteness, where it was possible to abridge the feeling of world or the attitude toward the theme, were directly transmitted in the relief structure.
At the end of sixth decade one of essential characteristics, in Basara’s creative work, was formed, the one, as Jovan Despotović has noticed,38 has partly came out from his engagement with graphic. It is about reinforced expression, specially noticed in Genesis from 1958, anthropomorphic composition – ideogram with relief characteristics, on winding horizontal line bearing within itself something rhythmic in different levels, positioned plates of summary defined men’s heads. The expressive structure of black- white relations in composition was reached by attaining a balance between principles, under which graphic is elaborated, as a medium or certain, I should say, „pictographic“ interventions on the material itself, which could be noticed in the emphasized structure and graphics of surfaces, by cuts which lines of the face are suggested in relation which comes out from hollows in the construction formed by the line of heads.39
The dominant horizontal line of Genesis was changed by the multiplied line of parallel vertical lines attached one after another, or even one behind another (placed often with certain resignation from the front and with twisting around the axis), bearing associative – anthropomorphic images with emphasized hollows and structure, accented by scratching and deliberated making of uneven spots on surfaces, where light and shade are touching and apertures which are corresponding to outer space strengthening dramatic structure of the entirety.
It seems that the first step out, towards the world of childhood and the being of homeland Basara has made by the work Association on Šara, from 1960, which in the structure is showing a clear mutual saturation of plastic and drawing. In the extended horizontal line of shallow relief, the creator is assembling, one beside another, sequenced views of the childhood, making a totality as from the film pictures: lonely trees, by the time twisted trunks (through which branches a wind knows to howl), mythological beings, snows and clouds – the whole world of childhood in front which primordial power, he remained silent, absorbing deeply within himself its deterrent beauty. All what he was living, visually and emotionally in the childhood, and then finding again, coming back in the homeland, he was able then, with different sensibility and powers, to transform in the plastic expression. Association on Šara, with condensate emotions holding not only in relation between symbols, but in the way by which are defined (in insisting on the structure of base, on different depth of recesses and on emphasized line which connects associative rows with the base, from which are distinguishing scenes from the childhood) in a certain way represents a form of thematic – meaningful base which will more often, as the time goes by, return by his creativity.
Even beside difficult working conditions (atelier, totally unsuitable for sculpturing work, he only got it in 1960), Basara succeeded to prepare the exhibition and to appear in front of the public, in October 1961, in the hall of Adult Education Center in Priština, with sixteen sculptures performed in gypsum and stone and with the same number of drawings. It was the second independent exhibition of Svetomir Arsić Basara.40 By this, he presented himself as a formed creator, whose works were showing sovereign ruling of sculpturing craft (fundamental academic preparation, reclining in the base of attempt to subjugate the material to the will of creator), reflecting, observing in the totality, traits of time when his works originated. But, in a certain number of his works has started a feeling of individualism, comparing to experiencing of idea in determination of the way in which it would be transformed in the material.
A diversity in the approach to idea, its stratified structure, Arsić has defined very precisely in an interview, given on the occasion of the exhibition:
„Depending from what kind of material is in question, as well as on the theme itself in the contemporaneous sculpturing. The idea will he realized in one or in another garments. They are christening it later as a realism, modernism, abstraction etc. I think that whatever is artistically presented has a real foundation. In the real art it is difficult, even impossible to present in the same style, for example, a man and a bird, a thought, vision and love as the notion by itself. In the matter of fact I am sculpturing in the way I feel, i.e. I am experiencing what I want. “41
By this exhibition, Basara unambiguously has shown that the creator is the one who bears within himself enough of creative potential and decisiveness to be able to resist boredom of the province. Beside a devoted work on the sculpture, searching of the shape and the way in which he could express his unrests in the best way, of the great help in dividing proper perplexities was the accompanying and facing with new occurrences in European art. In January of 1960, he was traveling around Italy: visiting big museums in Naples, Pompei, Florance, Venice, Rome getting to know with classical works of world cultural inheritance. But another contact, realized in Rome, on „Quadriennale Nazionale d’ arte“ with modern Italian art, with differences in the approach to creative work and to the comprehension of art, with various orientations in mediums, it had a significant influence in independency and relying on vital creative impulses in his sculpture.
Not of a small help was the catalogue of The Second International Exhibition of Contemporary World Sculpture, held in the Museum Rodin in Paris, in 1961, which represented quite exhaustively actual events in the sculpture. He would say: „I should have to solve here where is the secret of modern sculpture, from what it consists of what are rules of the same. In some way, I can be grateful to this catalogue for the renaissance in my creative work. From the catalogue of exhibition, in which were represented great European sculptors: Zadkin, Henry Moor, Werner Rainhold, Max Bil, Hans Arp (in the same were presented our sculptors), we needed to see or to forebode where is the secret of modern sculpture and what is it consisted of what are its rules. “42
Information given by the catalogue were representing the indispensable stimulus for visiting great museums and exhibitions and direct confrontation with the most active streams in European creative work. At that time, he met with the work of French sculptor Etienne-Martin, whose sculptures were performed in wood, often combined with other materials, made the strong impression on himself, first of all in the way the French sculptor was establishing a direct relation with prime material, respecting its vital characteristics.
But the traveling around Europe, which he undertook after 1961, had as an aim repeated observing and living of classic sculpture, was meaning beside bad reproductions in poor literature from the studies, educational casts, or schematic approach explanation of its problems as professors in Academy had. In the museum, on Acropolis, he has met completely different Fidia. It is about The Head of a Horse. It has attracted him by the correlation of accent between nostril and the front with ears, i.e. the way of level balancing through bend to the accent. He would say: „That huge space between nostril and ears is clear and tensed, when the thing that I have seen as a sculptural problem is transmitted in the modern sculpture then the same needs a period of resting enabling parts of one or a line of accents to be brought up to disturbing and animated tissue of the sculpture.“43
Already the next 1962 year, with few new works, Basara announced very serious moves in his creative work, superbly in relation to the idea, theme and the way of transposing theme into material. The move towards released form and tactile values of the mass understood also a change of visual sensibility (leaving of surface image and insisting on graphic of surfaces), the path in the depth of the mass and, by nature of things, the lack of form description and emphasizing of relation which originate from saturation between shapes and the space.44
The first cautious step was made in 1962, by Association, in the base chamber sculpture, in which, following the inner dictate, working directly on the material, Basara was trying from the mass of the wood – from its natural figure – to release image-association on the bird. The problem, which occurred in the process of defining the associative shape was consisted in establishing the connection between one plan of the sculpture, which was determined by gentle, well rounded curve of the neck, and disturbing shares in the back part, which should, in the process of completing the association, represent wings. The connection between two segments of the sculpture was realized by breaking out of spherical shapes and creating openings in it, by which it was achieved a connection with the space and at the same time, the gentle curve of bird’s neck has firstly got its pendant in emphasized curves of openings on wings, and than a „line“ of constant intensity and tension, which encircles the form.
By the Association, by this sculpture and long and careful searching of openings, with mild, lowered edges, emphasized notch of chisel on the wooden surface, Basara has made a step out towards overcoming a free form, but, at the same time he gained a precious experience in relation to the wood, coming to the knowledge that the essence of problem is not in overcoming, but in adaptation of proper dictate to its structure and vice versa. Building up a resonant relation between the being and the material45, its natural shape and own being, within himself started to resound voices of the childhood; sounds of the ax and the chisel, by which his father was conquering a wood, leading it up to the „perfect harmony“. He started to feel that in his experience exists a line of stored universal shapes, which is possible to search and recognize in natural material, releasing it under the bark of tree, leading it in the relation of saturation with own being its vitality and totality.
Icarus, from 1962, in a certain way represents a step further in establishing the relation between natural shape of wood and direct work on transmitting the shape by itself into the association.
In experiencing of natural shape, in noticing the basic directions of its extension, Basara has got, by relatively small essential interventions, a form which, set in a certain position, could suggest a motion which is, after all, immanent to the wood. The shape found in such way subjected to superstructure which in the essence had to be realized in two directions. The one understood concretizing of the motion. The other one intensifying of expressive tension. Both qualities were reached by opening of the sculpture which understood formulation of hollows, which should follow by its way of extension the discovered motion. In a word, openings are defined in the function of sculpture reconciling with the motion and a natural energetic streams in the material itself. Within establishing relations between own creative power and rules, which poses material, Basara, in his final works on the sculpture, approached to the fine treatment of wood – all in function of emphasized beauty of the material, drawing out the shine and light effects on edges of the form, which represents the final accent in suggesting the motion.
The totality appeared in that way has offered a new row of associations, first of all the association on the fall of body which, in one moment, was transformed in the memory on tragic destiny of Dedal’s son, who plunged himself in the sea as he approached the Sun too much.
Removing temporary from „the release“ of form, which existed in natural shape of the wood, Arsić has concentrated himself on the material by taking off from it much more layers leaving the natural state of material to the benefit of the way to its core, but to the advantage of higher artificiality – which at the end understood drawing out a high shine from, the material and emphasizing the wealth of its texture.
Just the Galley, from 1964, represents the clear example of this orientation in the creative work of Svetomir Arsić Basara. In this work, the creator started more directly towards release of the core material: he has analyzed it in two parallel, horizontally stylized segments, hull of the galley and the core, and between it, he left to exist a stylized hollow which is separating it. The whole shape structure is marked by emphasized notch, cascade line which is pulsing uniformly on the edge of the form, uniting its segments in coherent entirety – suggesting the movement of galley and at the same time overcoming the space of hollow between segments. The linear cut lined on the edge of the form, threatened in one moment to become monotonous just because of its uniformity and regular rhythm. Noticing its limits, Basara has transmitted the rhythm of cuts on the pedestal and in that way he has created a logic, visually justified ending of the sculpture.
He had the similar problem in the process of defining of motions existing in the Galley. These are in fact two parallel, same direction horizontal movements of the hull and sails, emphasized by the opening existing between it, and which conjunction of energies was looking for own finalization „outside“ the sculpture, in wavy profiling of the pedestal, in the stylization which has transformed in the association on waves made by the hull of the ship overcoming the resistance of water.
In the final treatment of the sculpture, Basara has approached to the high polishing of material, drawing out on the surface the beauty and the shine of the wood, which represented the shape of modern demonstration of acquaintance of its structure and characteristics. Simultaneously, no matter how much, he was insisting on final treatment and artificialness of plastic expression, he did not let, not even in one moment, that the beauty of the expression deaden the inner energy of the work. It remained independent, kept in the core itself, as a shape of its organic vitality.
The principal of preserving of the material core, we can also find out in the Bird of Glass Wings (1967), the emphasize made form in which the author, around the spindly body of the bird has integrated the powerful arcs of wings, realizing in that way the balance between the motion, immanent to the body, defined by its slanting vertical line, and calming arcs of wings, which are extending on the lower part of the body, making parabolic, line which defines the core from which the shape has been taken out. In the high shine of surfaces, he opposed rustic fabric of treatment of parts, between wings and body of the bird, by which at one side he avoided trap to transform the sculpture in elegant, stylized, compact form, while, at the other hand, by these shelly rough spots on the tissue of the material, he defined a break through its core and circulation of space fluid, transforming the light in one kind of accent, which by its graded intensity of spreading through the mass, underlines smooth expression just with reconciliation of sculptural segments with the space in which the same exists.
The conquering of the core, its treatment, leaving of natural shape of the wood to the benefit of defined geometric morphology of clear shape (which could be multiplied and transformed into the row of identical constructive units) – all this has caused the appearance of inter cycle in the creative work of Basara, defined by works such as Bureaucracy Habitat (1968), Vertical Variations (1969), Flight in Blank (1968), Play of Shapes XXI (1968), and Play of Shapes XXII (1969). The appearance of such shapes was, judging by these facts, inevitable in his creative work: it represent a reassume of all former sculptor’s researching. At one side, multiplied spherical surfaces were reflection of careful following of events in European plastic and touching with what has been close to his understanding of material features, defining of rhythms on the surface of shapes and between shapes themselves. In a word, it was primary to explore the affection of shapes on the space (its capturing of the space) and space on the shape (in the sense of break through the structure and integration of their space systems). In the leading of the sculpture up to the edges of abstraction, it was expressed an extreme respect of spherical core as organic shape brought dawn at its geometrical pureness – on the spherical unit of tensile closed mass in which penetration through it, are exchanging with the line of correctly positioned canelures on the surface, and recesses with bulges. As the spherical shape (nevertheless interventions on its surface or inside the mass, in the sense of high polishing or ruining of its static by making a holes in it) knows to be monotonous by itself, Basara is resorting to its multiplying (Flight in Blank) and also to its arranging, on the vertical line, one above another, with emphasized axe around which shapes are arranging, or with defined axe from which they are retreating in the space (Play of Shapes XXI, XXII). In both cases, when it is observing the outer line of objects, there is noticeable aspiration towards their ascension, which means towards overcoming the space where the relation, already defined by the experience, explained by means which where uniquely on his disposal, strictly esthetic means. When nowadays Basara’s sculptural opus is observed from developing point of view, it is imposing a fact that in the first period of creative work there is no straight developing line which understands correct transition from one period to another. Contrary, for him it is characteristic thematic parallelism and return from the phase in the previous phase. By this he in fact is completing one period defining till the end a plastic problem in the light of experiences resulting from the work on new thematic and plastic problems.46 Just The Wounded from 196947 (which was for the first time formulated in 1958, in gypsum, and than in bronze and wood) shows the sense of Basara’s „come backs“ to previously elaborated plastic problems.
The sculpture in question appeared as a special reassume of Arsić’s former creative work, but it at the same time represents some kind of creative response, and also an answer to the classic and modern works of European sculpturing, carefully studied during his visits to great museums in Italy and France. In tensile parabolic line, which marks the body of wounded person, exists the principal of current line integrating all of his plans in entire, calm totality of the man occupied by pain, which intensity suggest tensile arc of the back what through summary stylized head extend on the lower part of the body, finishing where it started. In such defined circled form, which in one moment threatened to become too calm, Arsić resorted to interventions which caused rhythm and drama. Above all, putting in and releasing of certain body parts in the space he has realized a difference in levels, by which he has avoided straightness of surfaces. The mass positioned in such way for sure needed other interventions in its inner layers, and there a creator decided to create a holes in it. The big one, parallel with the arc of back, which divides the abdominal part and chest from arms, and other smaller one by which the mass of shoulders and neck is separated from the head. Even though such holes were searching for a long time – which up to the certain point has made a form passive – they had a significant meaning for the sculpture in that moment as they have made it alive, realizing dynamic communication between its segments and, at the same time, had brought it into the active relation to the space. It ceased to be a simple form more or less fortunately thrown in the space – has transformed in the shape which actively correspond pervading with it.
This work and problem Arsić has a showdown with, during his creative work, was meaning a beginning of a realization of new program in his creative work. The constructive problem itself understood, implicitly defined attitude towards the reality. Disturbed by the time and events which started to point out on all cruelty of misleads resulting from ideals of his generation, he was searching for the escape or a rest from nightmares of everyday living, in the primordial shapes of homeland, in the waving and turbulent surfaces of trees and associative shapes of Šara massifs, or dense, dynamic structure of clouds appearing over him.
What was immanent to the first period of Basara s creative work, which could be in certain way inclining in Association on Šara and several versions of Lining up means the abandon of poetics of realism and acceptance of one sensible and plastic concept which will evolve in a release speech of the sculpture. He has carried out the release with several radical strokes in the elaboration of plastic expression. First of all, following deep inner impulses, he accepted the natural shape of wood – from which by small interventions, he was releasing a figure which was in relation to the saturation with previous idea appeared in simultaneous contact of natural streams in the wood itself and internal Winkling within his being. Than he approached the formulating of the hallow in the sculpture tissue, functional break through the mass which shows the evolving line from the aperture (being in the function of the sculpture itself) up to the hallow by which the compact wooden mass and its space (space in) is opened and integrate the same with outer space (space around). It was understanding a disintegration of the volume, disturbance of static, realization of inner dynamic tension, different language and semantic complexity of expression defined by the relation full – empty, light – dark, expression where his great metaphor about good and evil, earth and heaven would take place.
Several things more are essential for the first period of Basaras creative work. First of all, his definite joining to the wood as a material, in which he can express his inner dictate totally and persistently and also his attitude toward world where he was given to live. Defining toward the wood as a material, not at any chance is accidental, up to it he arrived under inner necessity, spontaneously following scenes from the earliest childhood deeply engraved in his soul, which have started in on moment to manifest imperatively just through the wood as a primordial material, as „medium“ where are meeting sky, earth and water. Ingrown by the roots, deeply in the ground, in the center of the world, in contact with waters it is growing in the world of time (building up its inner structure by which is manifesting the old age, memory and settled experience), while his branches are aiming to heavens and eternity. Finally, for every man and specially for the creator, the wood is the shape of entirety of primordial condition – which offers a shelter on the birth and in the death. On almost all questions where the philosophy revoked, leaving it to the myth: What was existing when there was nothing, it could be answered: There was a wood.
That material fundamentally is ambiguous. There are by itself, quite form of the wood, but within them exists another, disturbing possibility. Storms can bring and overturn its calm leafs until transform it in a painful whirlpool leaving authentic traces of time on its surface and inner structure.
Within the Arsić’s choice of wood as shape forming material, it is worth to see a high measure of identification with vital drama of the wood, as a firstborn material. Therefore, leading into the relation of saturation with own being goes through thinking of life cycle of the wood. The other, equally important moment, vitally imbued with the choice of wood, is his fateful connection with the fatherland. This linking is present in Basara’s creative work from the beginning, but all up to the eighties is in the second plan. This primordial need for the homeland impelled him at one time, at the end of sixth decade, after finishing the education in Belgrade, to return back on Kosovo feeling that in his fatherland was touching hronos and topos. That within himself were existing unusual saturation of space and time and that such saturation offered a possibility of transition in the past and seizing in the field of supernatural world.
At the position of administrator, he remained up to 1962 and than from the autumn of that year he moved in Teacher’s Training School, and than in Higher Pedagogic School on the group for fine arts education and finally, from 1973, i.e. from foundation of the Academy of Fine Arts in Priština until 1995 when he retired in pension, Basara was leading the department for sculpturing and two times he was Dean on the Academy (1975-1979).
IN THE AMAZING deceleration of time of Kosovo land, on which are connecting the pureness of fields with endless highness of the sky, cruel mountain peaks with desert darkness and sorrow, olden with more olden and present (creating restlessness from one secret power came out from the same greatness of the nature which by its infinity, its dark rampart of mountains or eternally retreating plain, overcoming the man and the power of his observations) it was worth to seek sources of own being and the being of his nation. The pursuit for them was „including“ the path toward live central power in which they are existing; the path towards homeland and own ontological roots. In the base it was understanding visual reactualization of previous, primal stimulus originating from „absorb“ of the homeland being and its primordial energy, independently carried out in the days of childhood, when in the essence were formulated layers of his creative personality. The way to the wing of the homeland marked superstructure of those prime stimulus, as a possibility of transforming of all fragments belonging to micro cosmos of the ambient in entireties in which its meaning has lost reflexive connotation crossing on macro cosmic plan, on the big base from which are mediating the destiny of the man and the meaning of existence on the universal level.
The changing of connotative level of the sculpture has followed again the moving on the dimensional plan. The former chamber structure of high shine plastic expression and delicate treatment (adequate to the man and fine spiritual valeurs of intimate matter of his micro cosmos) has changed monumental, rustic, expressive structure which involves the space in itself showing simultaneously strong longing for its conquering and spreading to the extreme, to these limits from which starts the communication „with values of endless line“.48
Clouds over Šara (1970) in that sense represents one of the first works with noticeable intention to find and to define plastically vital central power, around which are integrating meanings and the mass of his sculpture. It is about a work in which the creator approached the material in two ways: from one side he was respecting up to the certain measure, the natural directions of its energy, that in the other work he attacked it strongly subordinating it to himself, intensifying expression of shapes almost up to the extreme limits.
From powerful base, the pedestal on which is possible to follow characteristics of the material, a strong twisting vertical line is rising bearing inside its characteristics, nods and roughs and traces of smooth sculptor’s interventions on the surface, which sense is contained mainly in the need to remove from the surface too animated layer of the texture and so to reduce it associable nature on the measure adequate to the plastic expression. This strong, wavy vertical line, which fullness threatened to become too calm, Arsić is cutting through the length by the opening and by this he is integrating it with outer space, letting the air, light and shadow’ to flow through it, which means that he has alleviating and preparing that at its end accept the other one, differently materialized form of clouds. The itself mass of clouds concentrated in the circle over middle axe of vertical line, consists of a line of spherical degrees of sticking out in the space, and various ways of surface treatment. Somewhere, it is careful polishing which understands subtle touching of light and shade, somewhere these are long notches of chisel changing the structure of the material making it dance, suggesting changing and instability, reinforcing in that way the power of expression of the whole sculpture.
The final accent (transformation of the mass in the logical visual totality) has followed only after breaking through the opening in the center, in the way the blueness of the sky, sometimes knows to appear among the cloud mass which are rolling over the ground, touching the tree peaks. With it, Arsić, by openings concentrated in the center, not has only realized a relation of the sculpture with the space but also has reached a full strength of sculpturing expression just with integration of masses with different dimensions and profiles, through which center flows the air and which are colliding opposing among themselves in spacious link. And this is not all. Composing in the depth of the material, Arsić at the other side, is rising a tension of the sculpture, reinforcing its plastic associative characteristic tightening masses, their conflict, clashing of light and darkness coming through openings in the wood. „The reverse“ of the sculpture shows in fact a true drama through which the artist was going through taking it in directly in the material. Behind the dance of clouds, simultaneously was happening a drama coming from the clash of masses with scarves of chisel, strokes from surface to surface and raising of segments reinforced by deep grooves where a dense darkness was involved.
In the forthcoming years, Arsić will reinforce more and more expressive intensity of his sculptures opening a form by integration of different constructive principles by which, at one side, he was holding a volume of the material subordinating it to his inner reality, and at the other hand – he was trying to bring in it a motion by dynamic vertical lines, its longing towards space and strengthened power, the force with which they are „tearing off“ from the core, emphasized also by accenting of rustic structure of wood, by deep and strong grooves lined, by chisel on which are changing accents of light over edges and gradated force of darkness in its depth (Cascades of the South, Windows of the South, 1971). These „accents“ are reconciling the power of the mass with the space transforming the sculpture just by those associative components, reflective and emotional engagement – in the metaphysical symbol and open question about the sense of human existence in the world and his eternal desire that by entering in supernatural comes out or oppose the wicked winds of Balkan perpetual darkness.
In November 1979, Basara organized the independent exhibition in the Gallery of Arts in Priština. It was his ninth independent exhibition. It has in a certain way a character of retrospective, as in fifty works represented sculptures could perceive developing line of his creative work from early fifties up to the end of seventies. On it could be noticed a several facts relevant to the forming of judgment about his former creative work and to feel a premonition about his further path.
Above all, it was clear that Basara has grown in one of the strongest creative personalities on Kosovo, that by his creative opus represents, firstly, an axle around who is turning around everything what is vital in actual artistic practice, and secondly, that in exhibited works already was crystallized the one what is immanent as a creator within him, and this in sense of starting the process which means the most direct spiritual and emotional linking with the homeland. The exhibition, beside all others, has pointed out the creator’s determination for the wood as autochthonous material with which, as it became evident, Basara in the best way can establish a relation between the closeness and mutual understanding in the process of transposing of the own world in lapidarian artistic talk.
The introduction to the catalogue of exhibition was written by Vuk Filipović. Nevertheless as the creator from the other field, in Basara’s work he was looking for the story – base from which he can develop a descriptive reflexion, by which he naturally remained a side from essential problems of the sculpture he had in front of himself – Filipović intuitively has felt Basara’s connection with the homeland. He points out exactly:
„Certain sculptures of Svetomir Arsić are witnessing about the fact that he was also directly inspired in the touch with mountain Šara, […] which shows the deepest devotion to the homeland which could not be erased and turned off by any superiority of knowladge, which remains the secret or intimate universe, irresistible and close […] Arsić went through the ocean of art, but the life of his sculpture has preserved the fresh spirit from direct contact with the nature“.49
In the difference to the previous reviews in the capital newspapers, when he was appearing in the group exhibitions, even it was about salons or collective appearance of creators from Kosovo, where his sculpture often was explained superficially and stereotypically, without striving to enter into its layers, where the critics omitted the chance to perceive in time his creative force and individuality,50 this exhibition has even given a motive for the first more complete critical texts about the value and character of Arsić’s sculpture. In those texts were stressed „stratified ideas, actions and intentions“,51 and were emphasized a dominant link with the homeland, it was pointing out that his sculpture was appearing as „logical process of generalization of visual phenomenon of the reality“.52 When it is about the abstraction, which was separated as one of the most important characteristics of his creative work, or when it is talking about associative characteristic as another important trait of Basara’s sculpture, it was cited that the creator „starts from the concrete visual details taken from the history or from contemporary times, that in the process of summarization and synthesis (associative – remark S. M.) it would become generally in effect i.e. universal“.53
48 Jovan Despotović, stated work
49 Vuk Filipović, The introduction to the catalogue of independent exhibition of Svetomir Arsić Basara, Gallery of Arts, Priština, 1979.
50 See: Dragoslav Djordjević, „General Tendencies“, Borba, Belgrade, 23rd June 1963; Pavle Vasić, „New Personalities. Fine Art Artists from Kosovo and Metohija”, Politika, Belgrade, 19th November 1968.
51 Petar Djuza, „Total Creative Opus“, Jedinstvo, 4th December, 1979.
52 Vojislav Dević, „Universality of Arsić’s Sculpture“, Jedinstvo, 25th December, 1979.
53 Idem. – On this place, with full respect of exposed stand points, it is worth mentioning that origin of associative in Basara’s sculpture it should be searched in the process of transposing of inner unrests in the form of wood, as Basara the most often does not start from real facts present in his surrounding. He starts from two mutually deeply pervaded planes: Inner regulations of own being and regulations existing in the being of the wood. Entering directly in the relation with the natural shape, Basara in the essence follows or more correctly, finds shapes of connection between layers of his memory, energetic direction of spreading and deep inner, sensible, poetic, dramatic or epic impulses in the own being. The shape coming from such action in fact is a result of release of the sculpture from the mass of wood and release the mental energy from the creator. By his associative structure, given shape in addition can have a contact with real model. But the essence of mental-plastic problem, at Icarus, is the feeling of destiny on universal plan, and the conscious of tragic separation between man and time or hovering state of mind which is touching the extremes of universe (Galley). Briefly, at Basara’s sculptures exposed in 1979 in Priština were not dominant his memory on real model, which afterwards, in the process of work transpose in the shape-association. The creator’s transposition of spiritual condition into material is prime, which result by the shape transposed from inner need. „Basara’s sculptures are appearing in his definite shape even before its physical appearance in the spirit which does not doubt and does not hesitate“ (Mića Popović / Olga Jevrić / Stanojlo Rajičić, „On Human Position and Artistic Contribution of Svetomir Arsić Basara” / The proposal of Svetomir Arsić Basara for the article of Serbian Academy of Science and Arts /). It is essential to notice here: one understands a contact with objective reality, its shaping in the form of the structure and leading up to the level which represents weaker or stronger association on the starting visual material; the other understands the association of the creator — from the self – toward material and its shaping were it is important the layer material of the being which is transposing into the sculpture.
IT SEEMS NECESSARY to step back in this place, towards one of the sculptures that are indicating Basara’s turning point towards the question of the fate of nation which clescendent he represents. It is about Hiroshima, the work from 1975, which, I should say, announces the structure of sculptor’s opinion of the world destiny on the global plan and existential quivering came from the threatening mass of clouds which at the seventies started to hang over the destiny of Serbian people.
At one side, on the general plan it expresses the strong disturbance of the world and its contradictories, decays of moral principals, knowledge that the violence in all shapes of appearing transform in the cult and ideal, by the fact that in the new order a man becomes a mean, not an aim – frightening certainty that a Brave New World, appeared as a mechanism of carrying about everything that exists, destroys everything that has no place within itself. This existential desperation has found a direct reflection in Basara’s relation with the material. The natural shape of wood, is subjected to strong, emotional strokes on the surface, on which are now changing energetic strokes of chisel on its wavy form with expressive, rustic, rough cutting of parts – which at the final instance, testifies about different approaches, from which then, with the scream, comes out a need to open the core of material, that its hallow, settled with darkness, to discover and that in it are placed primordial human fear from the possibility of coming back on the first pages the Book of Genesis. By the hallow of atomic mushroom, opened bravely by the direct invasion in the core of the material, dully reverberates the voice of sculptor’s disagreement with desperation and suffer, with the life without future, senseless sacrificing of the man, which in the „new world“ became so usual. The certainty of the future has found in Hiroshima the natural expression based on convulsive saturation of the material being with screams and clashes in being of creator caused by the deep feeling of the tragedy of Serbian people, which has started to happen in front of his eyes on Kosovo. In spite of it should bear in mind that at the beginning of the seventies came up to creator’s conflict separation with ideals, ethic principles of the society and fatal teleology of illusion, refusal to identify with it – which has a consequence a path to the world of own psyche and find that these contents are transmitted in the sculpture. By words, in the sculptor has matured conditions that bitterly and strongly starts to talk about injustices, which were doing to Serbs in Kosovo, under the mask of brotherhood and unity, about putting them into the position of citizens of second class, about destroying their spiritual identity. He will declare: „ The common people… were loosing faith and hope, finding in the general despair disappearing without resistance and voice“.54
The scenes of suffering, migrations and cruel crimes over Serbian people, on which we are meeting in the chronics of long history of „angry and procured times“, were repeating with horrible similarity. Almost without chronological there is no other difference between pogrom over Serbs, destroying of monasteries and its transforming into horse stable, burning down of Relics of Saints, from the end of the sixteenth century, massacre of Serbs in Mitrovica, Prizren and Peć from 1899.55 and killings in Samodreža, in the village Meća near Djakovica, in Vučitrn, in the vicinity of Uroševac, in Prizren… Raping of children and old women, burning dawn of houses, desecration of graves and corpses of children, profaning and damaging of churches in Samodreža, Štimlje, Donje Nerodimlje, Sokolica, burning dawn of Patriarchate Palace in Peć, „mosqueing of churches“56 from the end of seventies and during eighties of this century. From Kosovo of 1389, unbreakable history of injustice and suffering kept in the historical memory of the people, facing with escalation of nationalism of minority who were counting on the plan that Yugoslavia „as a simple imperialistic product will be crashed […] and helping rights of national minorities on self-determination up to the secession“57 adding to it later a stand point about non-Serbian character of Kosovo and Metohija – was living its culmination in those years. In the matter of fact, by this was formed up to the end and transformed in the practice the idea of destroying Serbia, as a danger for Balkans, as a „powder keg from it should pull the wick“.58 Shortly, a vampire spirit of Austria-Hungary and its idea of appeasement Serbia started to revive in various forms, always with deterrent cruelty and systematic annulment of spiritual values of Serbian people.
In that process of course, that was not guarded even a creative work of contemporaneous artists from Kosovo. Basara has felt on himself and on his work a severe power of its effect. For the whole twelve years (from 1979 to 1991) he was not exhibiting independently in Priština, not even was able to appear independently in other cities in Serbia that behind him was standing as organizer, the Association of Fine Art Artists from Kosovo. Whenever he was asking what was the reason for this, he got an answer that his sculptures „were unsuitable for transport“59 what, in the matter of fact was not in case with sculptures of Albanian sculptors. He was omitted in big collective exhibitions (The Fifth Triennial of Yugoslav Arts, The Exhibition of Kosovo Art in Alexandria,60 The Biennial in Sao Paolo61…) the purpose of which was to give a review through contemporaneous Yugoslav creativity, or a review of vital artistic tendencies in contemporaneous art on Kosovo.
Probably the most striking example of persistent and unscrupulous pushing of his creative work on the side track, represents the affair of removing from the „Documents“ in Sarajevo, i.e. the affair with decision of higher commission of this fine art manifestation to exhibit graphics of Fan Feri instead of Basara’s sculptures.
What was it about ?
In 1989, in Sarajevo was organized the exhibition „Documents“. It was conceptualized that for each republic and province one selector choose what was actual and vital on their fine art scene. Zoran Furunović, a painter to whom was committed a role of selector for creators from Kosovo, decided for Svetomir Arsić Basara, Zoran Jovanović Dobrotin, Petar Djuza, Nusret Salihamidzić and Djevdet Djafa.
It was a selector’s choice, but this would not be an exhibit from Kosovo on „Documents“. The higher Commission has changed the composition of exhibitors. Furunovic himself, has explained in the best way what happened:
„I was quite surprised when I learned from organizers that instead of sculptures of Svetomir Arsić Basara they have assigned graphics of Fan Feri, which, according to my criteria could not enter in the selection even if I could propose a two hundred of exhibitors from Kosovo.[…] If I knew for this possibility, I should assign, without thinking in my selection Slobodan Trajkovic, a painter from Kosovo who lives in New York and has a enviable international reputation.“62
The whole affair has got a recognizable „dramatist ending“ on the „round table“ of the manifestation, in the protest and argumentation of Djevdet Djafa „due to insufficient representation of Albanian authors from Kosovo; […] in ULUK there is two hundred Albanian members, and Serbs and Montenegrins and others only around twenty, and they should be presented in this percentage“.63 f As the creative potential and results could be measured in percents of national representation in the Association.
All those tragic refractions, through which were going Serbian nation and creators on Kosovo unavoidably have provoked a need, that injustice caused to a man and a nation transpose in the act as a form of non reconciliation, the resistance towards repression, to which he and his nation were exposed. He will note:
„Misunderstandings on Kosovo are lasting throughout years, a horrible things are happening, not adequate to our times and system […] within myself has appeared a revolt, and the anger was born“64
The sculpture Holocaust (1979) represents a strong step out in establishing this new relation towards reality of Kosovo, and in a final line, towards ethics sense of creation. In a certain way, precedent to this sculpture is Sketch for the Monument (also from 1979) in which was set a relation between vertical lines, hallows existing parallel with it, and horizontal notches, performed on edges of the sculpture reinforcing graphic of the silhouette. The experience with dynamic vertical lines, which expression is intensified by constructive interventions within the hallow, Basara has transposed in the Holocaust, insisting in the process of treatment on the intensified rustic elements, came out from scarves occurred from the saw and the chisel, with hallows rhythmically exchanging climbing up, and iron wires transforming these hallows in the cage settled by the darkness. The graphic of silhouette, in the Sketch for the Monument, reached by horizontal notches and cuts on the form, gave up its place to wired horizontal lines, which reinforced inner, psychological structure of plastic expression. These, in essence, linear elements were set in almost equal relation with dominant form of wooden vertical lines, which has made compound a meaning of the sculpture. At one side, they represent opposition to the basic, energetic direction of sculpture’s extension. At the other side, by direction of its extension are impelling the eye of observer on moving along the horizontal line, pointing out by this on existence of the space inside the sculpture which is not passive, but closed in this way, represents active, layer symbolic structure, which will rise the whole plastic expression on the level of higher meaning.
The Holocaust, therefore, represents a programmed work. By it, Arsić determined basis for changes toward his sculpture and it being, crossing on the level of engaged relation towards reality, but towards relation from which the art will not suffer. The notion Holocaust by itself (Greek holos – all, kalein – to burn)65 was suggesting the layer of changes, which seized the creative work of Svetomir Arsić Basara. Sreto Bošnjak has very precisely noticed its sense: „It seems that, Svetomir Arsić Basara, these years, has burned his artistic past, but this symbolic act of burning meant at the same time establishing of a new relation towards art and the future. In one deeper sense, the Holocaust has also marked breaking with some of basic ideas and principles of modern, which are demanding fundamental changes in relation toward structure and function of artistic work, and even more that this – a new relation toward entire artistic tradition.“66 If we look at The Holocaust as sculptural shape and symbol, that, stored deeply within himself, are found germs of some fundamental plastic and significant ideas of Basara’s sculpture, the idea which will be elaborated between 1986 and 1988 in the Cuirassiers of Czar Lazar.
A view on the plastic form of the Holocaust and the Cuirassiers shows a certain similarities in the process of its defining. The main direction of extension of vertical lines, its relation with vertical notches on the surface of material, layer of the darkness existing in the Cuirassiers – everything says that Basara, by the nature of thing, again „returned back“ to the Holocaust as in its meaning has found what was immanent to Czar Lazar and his cuirassier, something that belongs to Serbian nation: he has found a base from he can develop the idea about the victim as timeless category, to talk through it about the sense of life and death, fear and hope, about the deepest and the most subtle nuances existing in the being of the nation he belongs.67 The relation in question is indicated in two structures – objects under title Requiem to my illusions and Do not turn off my hearth, appeared in 1980; they are confirming not only the base Arsić started toward different conception of plastic expression, but also toward different thematic structure. What was given in the Holocaust, as thematic and plastic possibility, was transformed in these sculptures into dramatic sight of one nation’s tragedy.
The sole composition of the Requiem to my illusions, made of two plastically, constructively, meaningfully saturated totalities: a table and a group of stylized figures. Just through its relation could be determined Arsić’s attitude toward the time. The mythical role of the table is very important in the old Serbian mythology and religion. Within itself it contains the meaning which links it with the cult of precedents, the one of the oldest cults not only at Serbs. The table in this composition has all what was stored in the collective memory of Serbian people and all what was contesting to Serbian nation, starting from the right on the homeland up to the negation of their autochthonous rights and roots. The meaning of that other moment is filling with the group of stylized figures, arranged as a chorus in antic tragedies, from which surfaces through the conflict of light and shades, burning of the surfaces, scars and rustic treatment, is ringing up to the sigh mute scream of one nation. A dramatic relation established between the table and the group of figures, bears within itself a tragic essence of heroic destiny of the people, the history of their struggles and sufferings. Under outer dramatic shapes, in the deep layers of memory of wood and its hallows, roots of tragedy are pulsing strongly understood on the universal level, as a shape of spiritual condition – the most rear inner content of the being where are saturating: the one bearing by itself a characteristics of mythic (the table, as expression of powers of spiritual center, uniting within itself permanently present longing of the man for return in the unity and a live human conscious about tragic dieing and impossibility to reach prior unity). Just the sense of chorus, contained in the announcing of tragic truth, which in Basara’s opinion, the both levels of Serbian tragedy unavoidably understand the fact that the migration does not solve the problem of roots, as the hearth and the table, in their totality, could not be taken with them, as then their strength is disappearing came from the touch with the ground they had originated.
The knowledge of non transferable roots of one nation, by the power of a scream, is manifested in the meaning of sculpture Do not turn off my hearth, a composition of two totalities, also from 1980, in which is the dominant symbol of the hearth as a center of the home, as the empire of human and inner spiritual center.
The question on sense of the life and exiting is a logical chain in Arsić’s, more intensive turning to the inner labyrinths, while under turning toward himself it is worth to understand shaping of different plans of unconscious in the own being, as like a direct consequence has a path to the source where are contained proto images from humans history, in which is establishing a relation between the being of creator and distant, proto logical periods of his history. For Basara, the way to the labyrinths of collective unconscious was unavoidable, as within himself are living all forgotten individual pasts and all what is belonging to traces of human spirit in general. As the true history of the human spirit, collective and individual, is reclining just in the same creator, from where he, clearing the path through the dense thickets of dark labyrinths of the self archetypes, as models, is expressing the most essential in the spirit of the own nation. Under this, it should not disregard a fact that the depth of reaching the past, depends also on the readiness and power of the creator, for uncertain path toward sources of the own being and the being of the nation he belongs. At the time of mechanical and rational thinking of modern man, this creative energy did not disappeared, it has only changed a position, settling in the deep labyrinths of artist’s being. Its inkling supposed the possibility for opening of new spaces and sources, which Arsić has transposed in his art, keeping the authenticity and frankness of creative act.
But before direct „opening“ of his sculpture toward uncertain times, up to his and its engagement opposite to actual ferments in direct life reality, Basara had to go through another inter period in the own creative work. Inter period – because it represents a condition in which are reassuming previous experiences in dealing with the sculpture, and simultaneously makes a strong step out toward new worlds and plastic problems, as such step out certainly understands.
It is about Cosmic cycle which has its culmination just at the time of Basara’s direct entering in the engaged art – the cycle by which he is going to talk about the long and painful history of the tragedy of Serbian nation. At one hand, this cycle within itself has a reassume of his relation toward form which is independent, well positioned in the relation with the space, on which details, on its surface, in the final treatment points out a high masterpiece and subtlety in treatment of the material (Cosmic Ear, 1981; Cosmic Bird, 1982). At the same time at these sculptures and even more at the others from this cycle (Cosmic Landscape, 1981; Cosmic Cliffs 1981; Luna X, 1982), in the same process, in relation to the material, and its shaping, is manifesting human and creative anger, directly transposed in the resistance and rough stroke on the material, expressed through trimming lay the axe of basic forms, rustic passages on certain parts of the sculpture, with acre edges and emphasized holes following deposited kinetic energy of shapes.
The Cosmic Cliffs is appearing as a typical example of changes, through which has gone Basara’s creative work, and at the same time, as a preparation for entering in the next period. Its strong associative horizontal line, for which was used a natural shape by varying of contours on the edge of the form, suggests the direction of extending the mountain massif. By wealthy varied surfaces, swells and recesses, relation of light and shade, changing of rough strokes of chisel on the material with subtle searching of surfaces, this horizontal line of exceptional expression has a final on its right side in jumping, stylized shape which is rising up. Its stylization came from small interventions, contained in taking off layers and reinforcing of natural cuts, between them, shaped in the tissue of the sculpture. The motion itself, as an outer manifestation of inner kinetic energy of the core, is purified and calm by openings on the left side of horizontal line. Their effect in calming of wavy, plastic vibrations is reinforced by funnel like breaches by which, bearing strong traces of chisel on the mass of wood, are finishing with openings. The middle of horizontal line is considerably calmer an in the contour of its rim and in the mass of which is compact with calmer treatment of round log surface. By its quietness, this middle part not only represents necessary interval in kinetic pulsation of the sculpture, but is getting a sense of passage, crossing, from which is executing natural leaning of horizontal line on the stabile and relatively calm vertical line of the sculpture. Its quietness is deliberately, but in function of the sculpture, violated with three vertical openings, with unequal lengths and irregular contours. The meaning of such opening came from the need to make a heavy vertical line, in the matter of fact a part of a trunk cut along the length, lighter, and that finally, the whole plastic testimony – that expressive relation between horizontal and vertical line – leans on the spherical base of the pedestal. The entire bareness of cosmic landscape (Cosmic Cliffs) announces the condition of pre-primordial shape – the pure form of massif uncovered by visual sediments, which are hiding the essential shape.
For defining the Cosmic Cycle Basara has found direct stimulus in the uncertain time, and a visual material in „the experience of Šara, its relief stones abysses and pits”68, in untouched landscapes of the spirit which by its primordial power are associating on former cosmic phenomenon and regions. It has been shown, that within the artist, exists authentic link between large rocks of cosmic landscapes and gray cleaved rocks of Šara, that one and another shape once had been a part of the same core – but only the cosmic sight has remained mute and cold, while the homeland one, on itself has got layers, ground, water, forests and history in which are existing traces of genetic code of Serbian people. Briefly, the Cosmic Cycle is a summary of Basara’s dealing with the pure form. Its agitation and baroqueness (under baroqueness it should understand a longing toward motion coming from the essence of the material, spreading it over the surface) has made „conditions for new engaged sculpture“. „It, “ said further Basara „happened to me suddenly, unexpectedly und subconsciously. While I was working on one pure form… I had a presentiment of certain associations on the old arms. In that way arose the first cannon.[…] What happened to me probably was made under impression of our reality, our truth from Kosovo.“69
The rebellion, which Basara was bearing for a long time within himself, cleared the path to the being of the artist, enabling him to project what had been kept deeply within him, to dedicate himself to questions linked to the man and his sufferings and to express the same, by means of his art, i.e. to transform the art into the part of a pungent history of his time.
The value of the work of Svetomir Arsić Basara, not in a thing, during this, has suffered loss. Contrary, he remained faithful to the basic principle of his creative work: thinking about the riddle of the substance of the world, where one of the main themes belongs to the tragedy of Serbian people, risen up to the universal meaning – the tragedy came from, according the feeling of artist, unbearable gap between „social norm and the fact”.70
By the nature of things, by the moral structure of his personality, sensibility and force of his talent, Basara could enter in a duel with the history, struggling himself equally with its thematic structure. Thus, to enter in the sphere, where artistic breakings are often, which are moving on the relation from good partial solutions and poor entireties up to superficial illustrations, which should be turned off before properly starting to live exhausted in the somber traps of the work, as a reflection of historical events. Reasons for such act we are finding in the structure of Basara’s personality. First of all, he is a man who had experienced injustice even in childhood; with the injustice, always of the second kind, he was fighting the whole life, always ready to react on it by words and act. Furthermore, he, as a creator, conscious of the mission his work has in the society. That it has to sublime within itself the finest values of one epoch, of one society, and that must have a critical relation towards the same society, as soon as it shows that it is not capable to prevent the tragedy of long trampling the roots of one nation. It was logic that Basara as a creator effects a coup in the being of his sculpture and to make evolutionary line from „the world accords“ to creative identity which exists in the Serbian being. „I was occupied with so called pure art, but when on our holly land, Kosovo and Metohija, happened that people, our, started to leave hearths, I have concluded that my cosmopolite art does not mean anything”.71 In the moment of origins of Grandfather’s Partner from Kumanovo Battle (1983, the first cannon), Grandfather’s flutes (1983-1985), Grandfather Lime (1983), Cannons of Aleksa Đačić (1983), Reminiscence on Tanasko Rajić (1986), he started to the closer past (Balkan Wars and the First World War) in order to, plunging deeper into the being of proper nation, went even deeper in the past, toward the First Serbian Uprising and the Kosovo Battle (as central them of his creative work, at the end of eighties and at the beginning of nineties), and that toward legends, myths, oral tradition – it means by themes, which according to the laws of history, assimilated in archetypes of one nation and their culture.
The Metohian Sphinx (1983) announces, in that sense, the engaged cycle of Basara. Trimmed roughly, with associative form, accumulated energy within itself, with surfaces energetically separated by the strong, deep cuts and distinctive shadow which, resulting from the difference between surfaces, sharply spreading over the form, this sculpture bears, within itself, accumulated energy received from the deep living of its time as history and myth. In finishing of surfaces, it is still present Basara’s inclination to the subtle treatment and emphasizing the character of material. Through the center of form, a strong breakthrough of openings was effected, through which is flowing a light fluid, connecting special systems of the sculpture with its surroundings. The power of breakthrough is intensified even more by traces of the chisel on its surface. The mute scream of Metohian Sphinx originates directly from the round log of pedestal, on which is visible the act of removing layers, as a shape of the path to the memory of Serbian people. Going from the surface to the core of the round log, Basara „discovers“ and defines century-old omens of his ethnos, transforming the base into the integral part of the sculpture, in the root from which the sphinx has grown as an image, as a shelter for the spirit of the people. As, by the nature of things, the sphinx vigils on the edge of eternity, over everything what happened and what will happen. Just in its power to integrate within itself, the past with the future, lies a sense of opening in its core. In the opening (in emptiness) were met the former and the future, telling the wicked truth about inevitable immanent destiny of „Serbian polk“ .
The scream and the knowledge, secret and inevitableness, originated from the knowledge of truth, have been assimilated into Grandfather’s Partner from Kumanovo Battle (1983).
That first cannon sculpture-object is standing at the beginning of Basara’s way in the past. Its relatively simple form, taken out from the peace of round log, with emphasized horizontal line bears solid side openings on it, which even more reinforces the energy of object. In the articulation of this openings, in emphasizing of expression, in emphasizing of object’s graphics appears a metal. Also with openings though which the light is flowing strongly, as a natural link with the wood. The sense of using a material, in Grandfather’s Partner, lies in the need to articulate the power of openings, made by side breakthroughs through the round log. Nevertheless its power by itself, there were a real danger, that due to „similarity“ of silhouettes, and the short distance between them, comes to the certain monotony which could be typical for horizontal line. Therefore, in hollows a metal is taken in, as a method to over-come a breaking surfaces and to establish finally a relation between whiteness of breakthrough and blackness of metal surface, and that, by it, reinforce the expression of openings and the sculpture in its totality.
Surely, this is not the first experience of Basara with saturation of the wood an the metal. During sixties, he had used iron rods on several sculptures, as a link between sculpture and base, or between its segments. But their aim was first of all to indicate direction of the breach in core of wood (The Spring Which has Forgotten to Flourish, 1964, The Bird With Glass Wings, 1967, The Play of Shapes, 1968), to border defined hallow, to transform it in a cage (Holocaust, 1979), or to restrict special systems of openings in the tissue of sculpture (Volume). Sometimes, subtly weaved fragments of iron have known to make a lyric finalization (The Captive of Love, 1964) or even followed the basic lines of forms leading it up to logic ending (The Horoscope and The Martian from 1982).
In the new cycle, a metal has got a different sense. This meaningful, differently based relation between wood and metal, Basara will develop in sculptures in which by patinating of the metal in the context of (natural and temporal) colorfulness of the sculpture i.e. plastic project or by patina which metal poses by itself, leading his testimony up to the level of mutual conditioning and saturation (Grandfather Lime, Grandfather’s flutes, Cannons of Aleksa Dačić, Reminiscence on Tanasko Rajić, Cuirassiers of Czar Lazar…).
In relation to Grandfather’s Partner from Kumanovo Battle, Cannons of Aleksa Đačić (1983) represent far complex plastic problem. The static of horizontal line and side breaches through the tissue of wood in Grandfathers Partner was changed then by dynamic of sculpture-object made out of two complementary segments, of wealthy jagged surfaces, systematically realized penetration and shaping, which means through strong breaches along the length of round log, executed by motor saw with side breaches in the tissue of shapes and their linking with hallows, realized under horizontal line, it was made extremely rich and expressive totality.72 Its plastic expressiveness, in the structure of visual breach, in the internal side of object, which Basara placed as his task, to a great extent stimulates retreating of segments from the axe horizontal line of gun carriage, on which they are leaning. In this moving, the observer has a possibility of travel in the depth of the structure. In this way the sculpture attains, due to its jaggedness, significantly more active relation, searching simultaneously from the observer a synchronized multi angled observation. Surely, a complexity of plastic problem and the complexity of condition, through which Basara was going through, working on the object, understood even different approach within conquering the material. He starts the stroke directly on the wood, leaving exciting traces of trimming, and then strokes of the axe and adz are being, as much as he is approaching the end of horizontal line, filled with a multitude of cuts, grooves, cylindrical bulges – which represents a direct connection with the work of wood-carvers ant the tradition of treating wood in the people. In the complementary relation, with basic problems he had in front of him, working on the sculpture, Basara was solving also a relation of metal with wood. The metal was getting twofold role: it was led in the more direct relation with the wood, making the inseparable part of the sculpture, its indispensable part, which actively participates in calming of tension of the form, as an accent, overcoming lateral hallow and taking over a function of link, between differently orientated parts of the segment; at the other side, he appears as a natural part of the sculpture, which by its shape follows internal line, bringing in the balance kinetic force of the object and drama of the form.
In the group of sculptures, with emphasized horizontal line, belongs Apocalypse (1984), a work by which Basara extremely stirring started to talk about proper restlessness and the fear from evil which, by hallowed tone, threatening was coming over his homeland. Deep living of times, full of primordial drama, exploded in the inner spaces and over the surface of this sculpture. Built from four cylindrical segments mutually connected with metal parts-rings, which by fearful darkness of lateral hallows and nervous play of scars, from the chisel over the surface are directing outer expression of statement towards its interiority, this sculpture-object appeared as summary of his artistic and moral stand point towards his time. It was representing the shape of disagreement on his basic entry. This work is probably one of the most direct shapes of Basara’s own transposing, his own sensibility and spiritualism in the material. All what he was bearing within himself through years, all bitterness of the man faced with disastrous illusion, on which were built basic notions about life and community, all existential unrest came from the knowledge about thin connection between man and humanitarian notions, on which was formed its form, about violated balance between sacral and profane, angel and demon – all that have found a wicked expression in four segments of this sculpture, i.e. four riders of Apocalypse who have considerably started their second visit on the holy ground of his ancestors.
In this period, Svetomir Arsić Basara started a work on several sculptures, which would have a twofold function. At one hand, by them he would lead up to the certain level his path toward closer past (Balkan and the First World War) and at the other hand, in the plastic elaboration of the problem he would set up a base for the cycle Narration from Kosovo, in which he would enter after 1985. It is about the sculpture Grandfather Lime (1983), in the cycle of sculptures Grandfather’s flutes, on which he was working between 1983 and 1985. In both cases, Basara started towards vertical line, taking as a beginning material the trunk of a tree: alleviating it, by cutting up along and taking out from it the middle mass he, by assembling, has got again the outer form of wood, which was bearing on its surface memorized traces of the core. In this matter, the form gotten in this way, he was not subjecting to the strokes and opening of hallows, but, for example in Grandfather Lime, the upper part of the sculpture, exposed to the treatment, which resulted by recesses and bulges, i.e. by differences in levels which, by itself and by the relation of light and shade, were creating the expressive association on human’s image. He has applied the same procedure in Tola Dačić.73 Both in one and another sculpture, same as in cycle Grandfather’s flutes, it came to extremely spontaneous use of the metal, while, following the basic idea of plastic statement, he has represented necessary segment, which once cuts expansion of vertical line, calming its main flow, and the other time, he participates in achieving the general expressive structure of the statement:
„The sculptor within whom are uniting the power of a woodcutter and the force of the blacksmith“, as it has defined concisely Djordje Kadijević74, even himself was trying to define the character of that relation: „Among the people we have a simple wheel, which due to the practical reason, is coated with the metal, but it doesn’t interfere with it. Something like that is happening with my new sculpture. It is very important to prepare a wood for the metal, everything is easier then. An artist has no other task but to reconcile opposite things. I would like to say, everything can he done, but firstly it has to betaken to the reconciliation – harmony.”75
For this cycle of sculptures, Basara has found a thematic frame, in establishing of relation with the time and events, happened in the near past of Serbian people. His experience in the first circle of thematic-plastic thinking of the sculpture, i.e. like a stimulus, understood simultaneously a come back in the world of childhood, according the father’s stories about battles in the First World War that he had heard once upon a time beside the fire of the hearth, experienced extremely deep, as it is living a story listened in the loneliness, when there is nothing in the communicational level between the father and the son, a child and a narrator. This outer historical frame, weaved of something that has really happened, has represented, in the first moment, the base for moving toward more complex and artistically more significant experiencing of internal historical level, and this, in the matter of fact, makes a focus or the axe for gathering essential meanings of the victim, the tragedy and disagreements immanent to the being of Serbian nation. Therefore, it is not unusual that there exists a certain form of linking between Basara’s sculptures from this period (Tola Dačić, Cannons of Tola Dačić) and the novel The Time of Death by Dobrica Ćosić, as both of creators, in the domain of phenomenological structures of their works, reviving the past, have lighten the present, indicating, by its universal meaning, a threatening shade of evil fate which was hanging over the future of their people. By this cycle, Basara entered in the phase of full artistic maturity, reaching a creative zenith.
At the beginning of eighties, Lazar Trifunović has faced with creative work of Basara, who was teaching some time the history of art at the Academy of fine arts in Priština, when he became familiar with main streams of creativity on Kosovo and Metohija. From this insight have resulted, on June 1982, his proposal to organize Basara’s exhibition in the pavilion „Cvijeta Zuzorić“ in Belgrade: „Svetomir Arsić Basara is the most significant sculptor on Kosovo […] Arsić was working in all material and in all techniques“, has continued Trifunović, „but the most important results he has achieved in the wood. In the plastic treatment of this [underlined by S.M.] material he reached outstanding masterpiece skills, so that nowadays, he represents one of the most significant sculptors, working in the wood. He has not exhibited in Belgrade up to now, but his exhibition of retrospective character would be a special occasion, that our public get to know the creative work of this master and through him become acquainted with some vital flows, in which are developing fine art nowadays on Kosovo.“76
Trifunović had to write primarily for this exhibition a study on Basara’s creative work, but by his death this idea remained unrealized. The studying text has made, extremely successfully, Jovan Despotović. Perceiving by multidiscipline, approach Basara’s work in its entirety, noticing the main sources of his artistic being and development, by this study (as later Sreto Bošnjak)77 he set bases for further researching of Basara’s creative work.
Opened in December 1984, the exhibition represented exceptional artistic event in the fine art life of Belgrade. With over of hundred works, there was presented work of the creator up to that time almost unknown to public in the capital, breaking usual, superficial opinion, that all valuable things have to appear in Belgrade. By its range, at the same time it was a strong challenge and chance for facing of critical conscience with the work of exceptional creator.
Nikola Kusovac has exactly noticed that no matter the touching of Basara’s creative work with associative-abstract orientation in Yugoslav sculpture of the seventh and the eighth decade within himself, „Euclide’s severity and reasonableness have never overwhelmed the power of spontaneous lyrical, and often epical emotiveness.“78 Continuing further, the analysis of creative work, he had in front of himself, Kusovac has indicated one of bearing values of the last period of Basara’s work hold in elements of „myth, folklore […] and, for sure special engagement“.79
The form of creative engagement in front of the time underlines also Balša Rajčević, emphasizing that in sculptures appeared between 1982 and 1984 „a crucial, […] formally and summarily, ominously and existentially the strongest cycle of sculptures of subject originated […] as direct reaction on nationalistic events on Kosovo. This is engaged art of higher level, which is not exhausting in the theme, literature and narration, but superbly by fine art language and means, express discontent through the criticism, resignation and also resistance“.80
One of the most energetic articles, published in „Politika“ by the pen of Zoran Markuš. Analyzing a developing line of Basara’s creative work, he has defined Basara’s turning to primordial „that appears in authentic touch with the nature, and every sculpturing school in some way violate it. The chisel is changed by the axe and its sharp strokes, as in hands of a wood cutter, are discovering, more than hiding, the organic shape, liberating it from superfluous layer. Recent years are flowing in emphasized feeling of artists responsibility, in comparison to the time and destiny. In existing tissue are putting in archetypes and omens, of mythological, ethnographical and epical nature and up to now, in newer Serbian art, such structure has never talked with more clear and truthful artistic speech“.81
That responsibility of artists in front of the time and the destiny, intuitively has determined Petar Djuza naming it „internal ideal and plastic coup from Cosmopolitism into Serbian-mythological sculptural lexicon”.82
With the exhibition in Belgrade, Basara for sure could be satisfied. By its reach, it has caused a great attention and flattering valuable opinions of recognized authorities in fine art critics, by which the bitterness, he was bearing within himself, caused by permanent overlooking of his creative work, has been alleviated. But I would say, it was more important that he could again, in the gallery space of the pavilion, to perceive his creative work, to experience again a creation of his sculptures, to establish a needed distance between him and his work, so precious and indispensable to every artist, in certain periods of his creative work. By period in which a passed path is summarized, where is created a shape of synthetic plane from which it should be started further and deeper towards the self, own roots and the world of sculpture – towards hidden source of the beginning and ending, trying to solve own dilemmas, own doubts, own strokes of light and darkness, through which every creator has to go in endless disputes with the abyss of his internal being.
Telling the truth, with several sculptures originated between 1982 and 1984, (Grandfather’s Partner from Kumanovo Battle, Cannons of Aleksa Dačić, Grandfather Lime, Grandfather’s Flutes, Tola Dačić, Apocalypse …) has already established bases of his national iconography, but the exhibition, in the Pavilion „Cvijeta Zuzorić“ in Belgrade, was that indispensable event in his creative work, which has consolidated in the standpoint toward the sense of creating, toward ethic of creative act and toward path, which should be going – the path meaning radical breach to the own source and the source of the people he belongs. The development to these areas understood, as it is said before, entering deeper, in the history of Serbian people, in its essential level, in archetype and myth of Kosovo and Kosovo Battle.
The sense of deep entering in the history of Serbian people does not understand explication of the history, as simple birthing of something that already had happened. At Basara, the same as in case of Ćosić’s The Time of Death – where he, in one moment has found a stimulus for his cycle of engaged sculpture – what had happened was a motive, „through a line of tragic human destinies, suffering and destroying“83, to reach the level, which suppose „living the tragedy of life, knowledge of its metaphysical quality.“84 The anthropological arc set between the feeling for the tragedy of life and the creator himself has continued on thinking (as a base for plastic defining) about the sense of a tragedy of his people, on the wisdom acquired through the suffering and the knowledge of pacification of opposites which, by the nature of things, are flooding from individual to collective experience – in the mythic depths of collective unconscious.
The Long Memory, a sculpture appeared in 1986, represents in a certain way, by its vertical line, a supporting shape in which were connected dimensions of collective and personal – nucleus, from which it was able to start toward narrations from Kosovo, toward Kosovo Cycle. It is about a powerful vertical line growing from the base of a tree – a five segments continuing transmitting their memory one on another, building up a long totality of the memory. The monumental vertical line of the tree, Basara has subjected to energetic openings and breaches of the mass, exchanging the darkness of openings with powerful breaks of the light, intensifying by that a rhythm of the whole sculpture. On each of five segments are bulges in the form of plugs, making wreathes, leaning one on another, opposing to the clashes of light and darkness. The strong movement up is neutralized in the middle by iron horizontal line, which by its beginning and end, comes out in the space, and chains hanging around it freely, or are pulling in the darkness of openings of the sculpture. A plastically worked out surfaces of the sculpture, basically following natural shape of the material, a creator fills in by burning of certain parts, realizing its ambiguous meaning. At one side – it means introducing of controlled picturesque moment in the plastic entirety; at from the other side – intensifying the expression of totality’; for sure, both elements are participating in determination of its symbolic layers.
A far origins of burning the original material we can find in enformelle, in the sense of general idea of destroying and the philosophy of absurd, by essential signs of the epoch. The burning there, means the way to annul what the creator is not satisfied with: to transform a burned field in the surface, on which, probably, could be able to build a new world on different criterions.
The essence of burning at Basara has different origins. First of all, it evokes on eternal sites of fire of Serbian people, their abandoned and destroyed hearths, smoke, war, darkness, violence – wicked destiny of their material and spiritual existence.
Extending on the surface, burning at Basara does not endanger the hallow of sculpture. That deep, inner, subtle space of loneliness represents hidden place where exist what is vital in it, in the spirit of the people and creator’s system of justifying the time in which he was given to live. That artistic act (treatment) consists within itself a conscience of the long history of one nation and their being.
The hallow of Long Memory, logically has been transformed in nucleus from which will appear Cuirassiers of Czar Lazar (1986-1988). It is about 15 integrals, totally independent sculptures, which can be observed even separately or as a entirety. Going within frames from associative figuration to the object, the creator (in collusion with structures and the memory of material, in collusion with himself and plastic vision, in essential stroke on the material) has provoked a line of plastic-meaningful evocations of Serbian people destiny, never crossing over sensible line, on which the work leaves itself and its essential rules and pass in the visual fact of second line, i.e. subordinates to ideological and anecdotal moment.
The plastic moment by itself, which Basara met transmitting Cuirassiers in the material of art, understood the choice of vertical line, the choice of trunk cut near by the body – where the link with the ground is the strongest, where the feeling of saturation is strong, where finally, in their natural image, in nods and deformations appeared from resistance to the time, feel the talking of the ground. That primal material, in which dominates a howl and resistance to the immeasurable power, the creator has subjected to cutting along, pulling out of the core, lightening the whole structure and preparing to accept the intervention on the surface which will lead it in connection to Kosovo heroes. Transposing the natural shape into the image, was effected by rhythmic changing of hallows with zero surfaces, segments, which by interventions of chisel, are following, in the base, a natural shape of the material. Each of Cuirassiers was subjected to the characterization, which distinguishes one from another. The shaping by chisel, somewhere was going in the direction of approaching to a human image, by applying plaited vertical notches, changing with geometric segments associating the basis masses of faces, somewhere the shaping was carried out by rhythmically set relation betv/een hallows and bulges. The exceptionally important role under establishing a relation between segments of the sculpture plays interventions of chisel, in the shape of horizontal notches, which are calming domination of the vertical line, or free moving along the vertical line, understanding defining already existing shape. The importance of the notch, comes from its bipolar structure. From one side, they represent a natural relation between hallows and bulges, participate in reinforcing the tension of the surface, as the accent or as a link which gradates the force of light accent, spreading the surface of the sculpture, while at the other side, along the direction of extension on the material, are leading to the hallow itself – intensifying the expressive power of plastic statement.
The inner expression of sculpture surely is not based only on the bipolar nature of notches. The supporting structure of expression results, first of all, from the choice of material, its natural shape, plastically formulated hallows in the tissue of wood and reinforcing its strength by burning of material in its internal side. All power of expression, coming from depths, has own plastic-visual finalization in the metal parts of the sculpture – armors of Lazar’s knights, absolutely naturally united fragments, with the structure of wood. The metal there, by interventions of the sculptor, was led in the relation of mutual saturation with the basic material. By its shape, spherical articulation of surfaces, metal segments are following prime form of the sculpture reconciling with its natural colorfulness. Its chromatic structure, by patination, was brought to the connection with the wood. The age of material, whitish traces of decays on its surface are continuing on knight armors building a compact plastic-visual totality. Nevertheless, a level of the concord, the metal has kept the character of its structure, in the roughness of surfaces, in the hardness, which nature is different from the firmness of wood. In a word, in the character of metal, did not come and could not come to changes which could disturb its natural structure. The sense of Basara’s bringing the metal and the wood in relation of saturation is not contained in subordination of one material to another. Contrary, the essence of its merging includes well balanced relation, which enables emanation of optimal inner expression on the surface of sculpture-object.
Convulsive strokes on the material, its cutting, the howl of wood, came from its breaking off, emerged with mute scream of the creator, born from the creative passion and emotional tension85, have fulfilled a primordial darkness of hollows, with spasmodic pulsations of released material of Serbian people memory. Cuirassiers of Czar Lazar symbols of national destiny, have transformed into symbols, which, by its universality are overcoming the destiny of one nation and by its universality, they belonged to the whole civilization. In Cuirassiers of Lazar completely clearly can be separated two essential categories – Time and Victim, i.e. the sense of a victim.86
The symbol of time is bipolar as a thematic circle, itself determined by the myth of Kosovo. In one layer of meaning, it understands historical vertical line, in which dominates the past expressed by recalling on the epos of Kosovo, on what is existing in the collective memory, in all shapes of national creativity, existing throughout centuries, as something what determinates the destiny of people. Going further on the path of time, the creator inevitably comes to its wicked paradox and deceitfulness. The membrane of time, in one moment, is decomposing in the past, the present times and the future. The past is not existing any more, even there is a conscience of it, expressed through the myth and the archetype. The present times is decomposing in every moment on the past and expectation of the future which does not exist. Therefore the destiny of the man is unrolling in the horrible and merciless reality of time, which makes it so instable. What else a creator could do, while inside of him are changing fear and hope, anxiety and trembling, scream and cry, but to start towards instinctive feeling, that a conscience about the past can be reached only by enlightening – i.e. by creative objecting, or more precisely, by the attitude toward the past, which are growing into the base of mythic experience and in the presentiment of the one already transposed in archetype. From that material, from sublimation of the essential, comes out the power to materialize a creative act, the one that gives a possibility that a knowledge of the past becomes a part of present times.
Getting over the illness of time and its cruelty, Basara instinctively, following inner dictate of proper being, started toward the eternal one. Knowing the essence of tragedy, living its fullness, by the help of myth and archetype, he has succeeded to overcome and to defeat the power of time. In Kosovo Cycle, i.e. in the Narrations from Kosovo – as Jovan Despotović rightfully named the cycle – it is worth, first of all, to search Basara’s path to the history, as the shape of inner cognition, as event discovered deeply in his spirit, as event which became a certainty – as only perception of own past (the depth of own roots) a creator can reach a prehistory, the source of own spirit. Creative living of temporal fullness represents a possibility to come out from its trap and the path to the archetype and the myth – a search for own roots and solving the sense of sacrificing.
The form of time, existing in Arsić’s sculptures from Kosovo Cycle, is in fact being of the future, being of the new world, new Land, new ethics and a new spirit. This big national, ethically-historical theme, in the creative work of this anlst, is developing through dualism of light and darkness, good and evil. Through the hope, that the spirit of light in the great drama, developing in his creativity, will conquer the spirit of darkness. The one, who bears keys, of this great drama, is a man-creator, i.e. his thought about the sense of Sacrificing.
It is not accidentally for sure Basara’s turning to Kosovo Cycle, to accomplishment of Lazar and his cuirassiers. Thus, to the something that „religions ideals of medieval Serbia have got its final and special expression“.87 All tradition of spirituality spread over Serbia, by brothers Kiril and Metodie, hermits and monks, from the Holy Mountain, by efforts of Serbian rulers and archbishops directed toward prospect of Serbia, as a power on the world plan and blooming of Serbian Church, Culture and Art, has found, in Duke Lazar, a form, what will influence on Serbian national conscience in long and hard times of darkness under Turks slavery. Came out, to a great extent from medieval acts and tradition of national epic poems, essential moment of his accomplishment expressed in martyr death – tragic and eloquent in its simplicity – represented important moment in the historical conscience of the people, about tragic touch of divine and real and its spiritual determination, ideals and forming of subconscious national archetype, in which base is a longing for moral and spiritual resurrection of Serbian people.
Lazar’s choice of divine reign is in essence the acceptance „ancient Christian gospel formula […] the empire of Christ „not from this world“, […and this] ideal of first Christian martyrs is just that Reign of Spirit, this is gospels ideal lived like the most real actuality. Lazars determination is therefore a martyr determination in the spirit „of ancient testimonies“ (martyrs). But in this there is something new and decisive for Serbia. – In one new historical situation, in the eve of decisive battle with bloody missioners of other religion, in this determination of Lazar was expressed the conscience of the value and real aims of the whole Christian world. There was not defending Lazar, there was not defending Serbia, there was defending ‘Divine Reign’, one ancient history in the sign of cross, one permanent sanctified determination of European world. Histories may talk about defense of European and own feudalism, about social and economic reasons. This is the truth. But this is not the whole truth about Lazar. In the background of historic event were standing a greater historical values, something that makes a foundation of humans existence. There were standing some great, eternal dilemmas. Nevertheless what Lazar had really said and thinking in the eve of Kosovo battle, Serbian people has undertaken his death as sacrificing and martyr act, and as a testimony of own spiritual longings and symbol of own national destiny. “88
The essence of sacrifice is placed on the level of the last act of defense of one people, by which the being in the future is providing. In that sense, the sacrifice of Lazar and his cuirassiers, which within itself contains the whole sacrifice of Serbian people from Kosovo, simultaneously and his nowadays sacrifice, which represents a pledge for the future and the victory of light over darkness.
Feverish moments Serbian people were living through on Kosovo and Metohija, have found its reflection, not only in creative work of Basara but in his declaration in public: „When the opportunity appears to hear a voice of resistance from Kosovo, I have, of course, answer that voice in double sense – participating physically, in rebellion and also with my work”.89
On the meeting in Titograd, with anger and deep pain, he talks about the suffering of his people: „The nationalism is imputing us […], by this, it is trying to underestimate and compromise our resistance to genocide and our feverish efforts to remain where we are. The nationalist is every individual, who in public and with argumentation point out the truth about Kosovo reality. Those who, as bureaucrats, are leveling fascistic movement of Albanian separatists and our patriotic movement, for self-defense, are terribly insulting us. It can not be placed a mark of equality between the whole violence and us, who by night guard are keeping not our peace – since a long time there is no peace even for our children – but our hearths and elementary honor and dignity of our children.“90
The Creation of Serbia91 (1989) represents a shape, where are containing all feverish efforts through which Serbian people was going through. Basara has made this sculpture as a synthesis of his former creative work: „This is one singed trunk, which symbolize Serbia, being burned during centuries and almost created through the fire and then, on it, are present national symbols – four steels, which are not defined, with associative notion of Nemanjici crown on the top, and in front of those symbols, there is highly raised sword, as omen that only through the battle a country can be achieved.“92 [As Basara, while he was working on this sculpture, thinking about its thematic structure had in mind words of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović, on growing wild branches of national tree, „ which on Kosovo were chopped off to the trunk, and trunk, up to the roots […]. The chopped off trunk did not dye as divine reign, chosen by knights of cross, gave him a power to become green and branchy.“93 As many times, to a cut trunk of Serbian ethnos, the roots could not be taken out. Thanking to them, Basara was able to follow the path to sources of his people and to return from that journey carrying out, by his creative work, on the light of the day, universal truths about the meaning of human existence on Earth, about existential unrests and dilemmas, about power of art to express their presence within itself.
The Creation of Serbia has been made in two versions. The older and „baroque“ one, in the meaning of more intensified movement of border lines of its silhouette, with triangle elevation which encircles applied forms, got through cutting of trunk segments along the horizontal line, bearing far association on four steels on Serbian coat of arms, the association on the crown of Nemanjići and impressive vertical line of a sword which, starting almost from the base, is rising over the powerful wooden vertical line, with traces of burning with scars, with strong feeling for „ontology of the material“ – acts extremely powerful and stable, as if grown together with the space in which it is located. That compound came from Basara’s intervention in the form, carried out by the breach, on the vertical line and break of light through the vertical line of wood represents pendant to equalized light accent on the vertical line of sword.
In difference to the first one, the Creation of Serbia I also from 1989, possess certain plastic reduction. Strong and gradual rising of the mass is changed by the vertical line of wood, with traces of burning on its surface, with defines steels, reduced armors, crown and sword, which are subordinated to the form of wood.
Both sculptures, in essentially come from Cuirassiers of Lazar. They represent bringing of plastic problem up to their natural finalization. At the same time, Creation of Serbia and Creation of Serbia I represent, in its layer of meaning, a logic ending of Lazar’s choice and sacrificing of former and future heroes.
Sculptures from Kosovo Cycle, Basara has shown on his second independent exhibition in Belgrade, at the end of November 1989, in the Gallery of Cultural Center in Belgrade. Comparing to the exhibition in Pavilion „Cvijeta Zuzorić“ 1984, this one had not a great scope, the exhibit made a strong impression on public and fine art critic. Thirteen sculptures, grouped by the problem on plastic – thematic principle represented a logic extension announced by sculptures Tola Dačić, Grandfather Lime, Apocalypse, Grandfather’s Partner…, seen in Belgrade, 1984.
Talking on opening of the exhibition, Mića Popović has stressed first of all a problem of relation between national and esthetic:
„As if these two feelings are erasing each other, or, somehow, are not taking into consideration each other. Or the national impulse, no matter appeared in enthusiasm or in desperation, is so strong and aggressive that, not earring on strict and merciless fine art rules, makes an influence on production of sentimental anti-images and anti-sculptures, which exult and disappear through the time; or a devotion of artist, to his profession and fine arts, in general, is so strong and irreconcilable, that even those national impulses forgets easily […]. In very rare cases, at the very rare ones, should not avoid heavy words of ingenious artists, such dilemmas are not a question; the artistic work lives on national feelings, becomes stronger in its beneficial inexhaustibility. Here, we are at the presence of such artist and such work […]. The cycle Narrations, from Kosovo, is planned and realized in accordance with principles and necessities, which I was trying to explain here. Kosovo is Basara’s destiny and he can not, although if he wants, although if he desires, to come out, nor like a man nor like an artist. Therefore, in his case, national and esthetic principals are pervading naturally and harmonically. – The mythic power of his work is not accidental. It should think about national serenity and national optimism despite dark, recent past, and on the beauty, in spite of desperately unpleasant scenes.“94
The transformation from national to artistic has found again, reliable interpreters in articles of Djordje Kadijević and Zoran Markuš.
In the text of symbolic title „On the Trace of Origins“, Zoran Markuš has determined substantial and direct stimulus for this cycle, by Basara’s searching and finding of sources of proper origins and putting them into function of artistic engagement, directly motivated by real events:
„Introvert by the nature of basic intention, he was reaching for the elevation of ethnic, historical and moral values, deposited throughout centuries, confirming mental and typological identity of the man from this area […]. From formally- structurally point of view, there is nothing new here, that we already do not know in the esthetic of sculpturing of enformelle, of the fifties and sixties. If we put the sonde deeper, we should reach up to typical dadaistic ready made. But, Basara’s pillars and stumps burned by the fire, cawed from inside and dematerialized with its primal articulations, reminding on the axe trace, in works of anonymous sculptor from masses, with iron applications, metal hooks and chains have evocative meaning. Plastic means have the source of esthetic contents, and they, in the memory are upsetting our associations. In the blackness of fire traces, we see our wicked destiny, in iron applications, a part of arms of Kosovo heroes, recast in the central chandelier in Dečani. From desemantic practice of enformelle and means he used with, Svetomir Arsić Basara was building an art of deeper meanings […]. Basara has reached the highest scopes in Kosovo Cycle, in the heroism without pathetic. According to these values, specific problems the Serbian art of the eighties seems like a salon’s chatting.”95
In his review of the exhibition, Djordje Kadijević, by his side, has paid special attention to the transformation of national moment in the sculpture:
„His [Basara’s] imagination follows traces of ancient passage through the history. These are traces of residence, shrine, battlefield, gallows and cemetery, traces of life and death. Printed in iron and wood, they are evidencing on the destiny of the man, under Balkan’s sky. In that destiny, there is some wicked dramatic and tragic pathos. That tragic accent, according to Basara’s reminiscences, saturates the whole history of Balkan’s land. But in its symbolism of millennium agony, suffering and atoning, battle and defeat, there is a clear allusion on present happenings, on Kosovo drama of our days.”96
The introduction to the catalogue, for this exhibition, was written by Jovan Despotović, a reliable interpreter of Basara’s creative work and changes, it was going through.
One of the most significant parts, of the introduction, was a problem of the national in the sculpture. By this, were taken two examples: unrealized architectural-sculptural project of Meštrović Temple of Vidovdan and, of course, Basara’s Narrations from Kosovo.
Appeared between 1907 and 1912, the cycle of Meštrović represented, underlines Despotović, „euphoric glorification of Kosovo myth, initiated by obvious country making reasons, prior to unite in 1918. Questions, which at that time has raised this unrealized monument, have been standing untouched eighty years already, as an example of one vain political program, living nowadays a fundamental destruction. Metaphorically, on far semantic and historical ruins of Vidovdan Cycle, has appeared a second example – Kosovo Cycle of Svetomir Arsić Basara, created in totally different social and political atmosphere in course of past years.“97
Not only motives, for appearing of those cycles, were of different nature: the one of Meštrović appeared on the basis of aspiration to unite a South Slavs in the unique country, which soon after has shown to be a tragic mistake of the patron of such idea and which finalization we were living at the beginning of the eighties. The cycle of Basara appeared on the basis of resistance and disagreement to cancel existential, spiritual and cultural identity of Serbian nation on Kosovo, as their cradle.
The approach to Kosovo as a theme is also different. The creator of certain power and sculptural skill, as Meštrović was, the essential motives for his idea had found in national poem, transposing, therefore, the essential in one form of creative work, the one, which is based on words, in the plastic form ruling by other regulations of presenting. Having folk creative work in front of himself and his experience of Kosovo Cycle, Meštrović has succeeded in partial solutions to reach the level, which Lazar Trifunović in polemic text, on the occasion of rising the monument to Duke Lazar, in Kruševac, determined by notion „monarchist ideology of Kosovo myth“98 as a real finalization of aspirations to Serbian country, being present since its establishing in 1878, to express: a will for revenge of Kosovo, confirmation of proper power and force, establishing and reinforcement of own system between influence of Russia and Austria. In this relation, Meštrović has planned his project in spirit of the secession, determination which was in a great extent on the set in European art, at the beginning of the century, in monumental spirit and saturation of the architecture, which by its over dimensions, strange to Serbian being, even in a model cause fear and unrest, and the sculpture which, beside certain skillfulness in execution, has not moved further than the outer layer of folk poem and legend, not being able to touch its essential layers. Therefore Trifunović has made a conclusion: “The temple of Vidovdan, with the whole weight of its mammoth’s construction, has discovered a deep inner crack, between the sense of one myth and its ideological-political interpretation.”99
The Kosovo Cycle of Basara appeared on the basis different from the one of Temple of Vidovdan. First of all, on the need that on its immanent, sculptural language, to start talking about miserable destiny of the people, which descendent he is, his readiness to resist evil and injustice. To feel the essence of Kosovo, Basara did not need to read folk poems, as he had genetically built in the sound of it. In order to intensify its pulsations, he has started intuitively deep in the archetype and the past, he has started toward roots of whole Serbian nation, being equally his roots. His Kosovo Cycle is not a glorification of ideology, but the testimony of “unbroken blackberry“ of the nation. Thus, his cycles is turned towards inner being, as the possibility to communicate with the God.
Such path inevitably understood balanced relation, between several facts, relevant for the appearance and survival of the sculpture: between ways to express the national myth, the shape in which it should be materialized, and as all, obligatory understands material in which the plastic idea will be realized. Basara understandably determined himself for the wood, as autochthonous material immanent to the being of Serbian people, material through which nods, cracks, scars and roots, he could direct toward himself and his people, its scars and roots, dark and light undergrounds of ethnos, from which he originates. On this path, Arsić has naturally built suitable plastic expression; this is „passage from national tradition of woodworking up to the known artificial ‘anti aestheticism‘ of modern art”.100 He has built on the measure of own being a shape of meta-language, by which, he was able – without reaching for overcame visual language, pathetic interpretation of epic expression – in the spirit of modern sculptural form, to materialize essential substance of Kosovo myth.
A return in Priština, after closing the exhibition in Belgrade, meant a continuation of the struggle for survival of Serbian people, has been confirmed as a continuation of the struggle against national romanticism of Shiptars, which was transformed in the nationalism and violence – with, in fact, one irrational condition not understandable to any reasonable person. Basara explains in the best way a state in which he has found himself:
„I have grown up with Albanians and I know: when my father had the most difficult moments (we were poor people), he was helped just by Albanians. When sometimes was coming to lawlessness, Albanian villages were protecting Serbian’s and vice vena, but nowadays, that ethic act, which was helping once in survival, is destroyed […] In order to swim out from Kosovo misunderstanding , stupidity, desperation, a lot of cleverness, intellect, patience, devotion, efforts, is needed. Nothing would be achieved by declarations and forum work […] When are we going to understand the irredents from Kosovo plants a children, innocent victims […] In [Albanian – remark of S.M.] the assault towards emancipation was lost a step with the national. It was gone into nationalism. […] There were not even one tour of Albanian associations without transformation of the same into, saying moderately, into something else. Who was not able to recognize national from nationalistic?“.
Just this official superficiality in relation to actual problem of common life in Kosovo, personal disgusting on Albanian, but not only Albanian, nationalism and the feeling of being disable in right shapes of struggle with it, have pushed Basara that, in forthcoming years, with the feeling of bitterness and resignation to withdraw from actual fermentation on Kosovo and Metohija. Firstly, he has left the Academy of Science of Kosovo, as it in fact, was a center of militant Albanian nationalism. He has simply stopped to go in it, knowing that it was a headquarters of nationalistic program. Shiptarian academicians were, in most of the cases, spreading the untruth about Serbia, on scientific meetings, continuing such business even abroad.101 In the next years, precisely, on the 3rd January, 1994 he would be pensioned on the Academy of Arts in Priština.102
The feeling of resignation and certain bitterness, intensified by going away from the Academy, not in any case reflected negatively on the creative work of Arsić, in sense of some causing a long intervals in work or decreasing of creative power. The time, which has followed, after his going away from Priština, was a period for summarizing the passed way, period of attempts to effect synthesis of Narrations from Kosovo – that from the row of elements making such big and layer’s fresco of Serbian people (for a line of individual and super individual destinies) finds a form in which could be deposited.
By the nature of things, the path of a man who has known the mountain and its power was leading toward cave and its power to born a new world, the idea about it. The Invitation for Travel (1995), seen on big retrospective of Basara in the Gallery of SANU, 1998, gives, seems, beside Slavic feeling of animation, the answer on eternal question on the sense of reaching time, on the sense of pursuit for archetype, for national roots.
It is about extended horizontal line, made out of iron and wood, which by its shape, the axe and the middle part, associates on the form of ship. The central part of sculpture, the core of the ship, is made of several wooden segments, cut by motor saw, with itself intensified outer fracture, suggesting the age of material and its power of remembering, held in scars occurred from long time, representing again expressive testimony about life and death, light and darkness, about primordial path of Serbian people toward weak light on the bottom of labyrinth. In these large wooden rustic masses, incarnations of force and permanency, resides the fire of eternal hearth. They are the power in misfortune and the shape of the faith in the sense of creation.
From expressive relation of fragments acquired by inner spherical cuttings of trunk parts, its tearing off, and then breaching of openings from outer side, enabling contact with the darkness, which has settled the cavity of internal space, breaks out the old age and layers of the memory of Serbian people. The cave, realized in the core of material, is picturing Basara’s path in the articulation of inner space of the sculpture. It is also painting developing line on the relation: the hole (by which was realized a link between outer and inner space – special systems of the sculpture and space in which it is placed – the hollow (defined by lateral breach in the core, set by the darkness intensifying expression of totality, evidencing about inner tension of the sculptor and deep living of time) – the cave (as natural shelter of spirit, i.e. to the most subtle presents and values of the people).
The plastic elaboration of the cave appears as a need in Basara’s thinking about sculpture. Came from the pre-sentiment and need to fill its inner side, its sheltering sight, with signs bearing long history of one people, hidden from bizarre of everyday living and little value of the world, which surrounds him. Settling of internal space assumes possibility of rebirth. Within itself, on the miraculous way, are meeting spiritual center of macro cosmos, which is getting darker, as deeper is going in the inferiority of the cave, with spiritual center of micro cosmos. Thus, there are meeting the center of the world with the center of a man, with mystic fluid of the soul, ready to accept, within itself, immeasurable and invisible forces of the world and later, a creator emanates them through the work, as a testimony of knowledge, which was discovered to him. Just then and just there, a creator becomes himself, becoming conscious and at the same time capable, by his personality and his creativity, to express the essence of collective memory. In the fullness of the cave, in loneliness, alone with himself and the history of his nation, the creator conquers his inner Self, leading it in the relation with the world. Touching the substance of the heart in which are crossing earthly and heavenly forces, he, by the intuition, touches the essence of knowledge.
The central form of the sculpture is integrated a strong horizontal line, made out of iron and wood, transforming the sculpture in the lonely ship in the middle of immense space, handed over to the mercy of moods of time. Transformed in the symbol of persistence, the ship is the image of life, by which the creator has determined the center by the hollow of cave, starting on the road of destiny. This path was understanding a salvation for all that the ship was bearing in its entrails. But the sense of salvation was not contained on the way to unreachable ideal, but in brave confrontation and opposition of the cruel reality of life. As starting the road counts on return from the journey, on the native land of pure ground.
Does the invitation to the travel mean certainty of new migrations, the way „of endless blue circle, an in it stars“ said Crnjanski, Serbs „have gone and after them nothing is left“. It could be that an invitation for the travel, a form of moving, by the one who goes, on the direct and useful path. His path has the aim, if goes to the holy. This is a form of reverse moving to the center, through wandering, multitude of roads and side roads to their true home, the narrow crossing leading to the holy land or to aureole of spiritual enlightening where the opposites, present and past, are reconciled and unforgotten. Where does the future exist? Just the central form of ship’s hull with openings, in which the people has deposited the whole inheritance of their past, epos, suffering, graves, icons, light of the wax candle and the scent of incense, has a form of house-core, enabling transition from one to another existential level. The depth of notches, leading toward experience and the highest knowledge of life sense. It leads toward the Eternal Glory (1997), toward interior form of house-temple, as a synthesis of the most subtle values of own people.
The monumental sculptural ensemble, named the Eternal Glory, is composed of objects representing exposing of the most essential parts of Serbian secular and spiritual history. Objects, the five of them (Eternal Guard, Eternal Formation, Eternal Glory, Eternal Requiem, Eternal Flame) are concentrated around the altar; the Eternal Flame has, on the top, a form associating on medieval fortressed town. Positioned in that way, from left and right side of horizontal line, these forms are symbolizing the long history of people: from warriors in Eternal Guard, incarnating Lazar’s choice of Devine reign, to Eternal Formation, groups of figures, grown from the powerful tree, representing compound plastic and meaningful problem, already indicated in the composition Requiem to My Illusions (1980). It is about compactly defined group bordered by the cube-shaped form of wood, from which are growing up fragments, warning on the most dramatic moments, on moments of the greatest temptations the Serbian people were exposed. Given like that, these fragments are resisting the history, by formatting the strong entirety, which comes to the surface from the powerful pedestal, from the trunk with the sign of cross on it. The expression of Lazar’s warrior is directly transferred on the group of figures, first of all, with developed relation among them, within the cube-shaped form, their involving in the mass or going out in the space, exchanging of intensity of darkness in hollows and active participation of light and darkness confronting the form. To the force of left side, of the composition, has the pendant on its right side in the vertical line of Eternal Flame, or in Saint Sava, placed in the vertical line of Eternal Requiem, the second segment of sculptural ensemble.
The powerful round log of Eternal Flame, brings to associations on medieval towns defined by lateral breaches in the material, which have got during the process of defining a form of window openings. These two openings, positioned on the vertical line, with signs of the cross on its surface, are connected with mediated serpentine of iron line directing the glance to the top, on which is the performance of town-fortress as a symbol of human pilgrimage and transition from one level to another, from real to heaven’s town – the symbol of human internal shelter, which is able to offer a communication of the soul with the God. It is not accidentally, that the segment Monument to Eternal Glory, Basara has named Eternal Flame. There is a connection between the heaven town and the flame. The communication of soul with the God goes parallel, with this enthusiasm and aspiration toward spiritualization through the flame.
The symbol of path, toward the self, is a segment of sculpture with the notion of Saint Sava – the powerful entirety growing from the base with the sign of cross on its surface, which is completed by the cross on top. In the segment itself, breaking of openings is carried out having a form of niche, where the sculpture of the greatest Serbian saint is placed. Grown from the Serbian people and orthodox tradition, he represents a logical meaningful extension of Eternal Flame, as the communication, he was establishing with the God, understands asceticism and modesty, the conscience of the sense of faith, of the sense of own existence and existence of the people whose spiritual educator he is. Within the same are meeting profane and holiness in the history of Serbian people.
Between two entireties (Eternal Guard and Eternal Formation on the left side, and Eternal Flame and Eternal Requiem on the right) there is a clear meaningful arc, which connects them. Lazar’s warrior and the monk are both servants of the God. The warrior by fighting, to preserve the worldly reign has made himself a possibility of transition in the reign of heaven. The monk Sava has left the benefits of real life, in order to bring the people from whose roots he had originated, to the reign of heaven. The sense of his serving lies the same in efforts to create, within the Serbian people, through painful times, and to keep the conscience of own history, culture and the place in the history of European civilization, that simultaneously, through development of feeling for justice, truth and humanity, to develop a faith in the reign of heaven and in such way to bring within a man in the harmonious relation of horizontal and vertical, protological and eschatological.
All parts of this huge sculptural composition are gravitating toward its center, the Eternal Glory, toward symbolic presentation of altar in which are cutting and complementing their meanings. That huge part of a wood with nods and branches, burned from inside, with clear link between internal and external deformations and traces of time, by minimal interventions, in the material, is transformed in the headquarters, in which are sublimed the most vital and the most complex values of one nation. It is the incarnation of its inner life, the place of spiritual birth and maintenance, as within itself, with the greatest intensity are summarized the regulations of a temple, being the most important part of the same and the universe. Within the same is developing a transition from death to life, from time to eternity.
Working on the Monument to Eternal Glory, as if Basara was living again all layers and depth of mythic and historical roots of his people. But on his specific way: as a path to the past through echoes of father’s sharp adz, through landscapes of Sara massif, in permanent collusion with „dark, and mysterious valleys and crags between ancient pines, braided roots and aspirating to the sky, peaks and rocks.”103 And even deeper. For him, this ensemble was finally the only way to speak about the present time by dramatic, sincere and modern sculptural form. The road to hearths, burned long ago, which are burning dawn slowly, in the far history of kings and czars, charters and monasteries toward silver voice of a singer, fading away in the darkness of the church, together with the smoke of incense, crackling of wax candles and reflection of gilding on aureoles of saints – for him had a meaning of definitive creative shaping of decision: “I am not turning any more toward the world as a model, but toward ambient where I live, from I am originating; turning to the tradition, a proof of roots, a right for the future.”104
Not even in one material, this synthesis of Narrations from Kosovo, the second period of Arsić’s creative work, could be realized in its archetype and semantic layers except in wood, which visual power is intensified with iron. The wood here has got a character of cosmic wood, a wood where are contained a central secrets of life and death, sufferings, survival and destiny. By the talent got from the God, Arsić has summarized all, what is real and holy, in the real sense of the word, transforming the sculpture in his destiny.
54 Dragan Kostić, „The Power and the Secret of Sculpture“, Jedinstvo, 2nd and 3rd November 1991.
55 Kosovo and Metohija in Serbian History. Collection of works, Serbian Literary Union, Belgrade, 1989.
56 Atanasije Jevtić, a monk of higher range, one of authors of work Kosovo and Metohija in Serbian History, quotes a letter of bishop of Prizren Pavle, to the Commission of religions SAP of Kosovo from 1987, in which, he was cited, that examining the cadastre records, he had accidentally discovered that in Mušutište one church had been recorded as a mosque. Searching further, he has found out that, in the same way, were recorded churches in Suva Reka, Rečan, Dvoran, Vitomirica, while the church properties were recorded as „vakuf“ – a property of Muslim community.
57 Kosta Čavoški, ,,CPY and the Question of Kosovo“, in: Kosovo and Metohija in Serbian History, pages 369 – 370.
58 Radovan Samardžić, „Kosovo and Metohija : Raise and Fall of Serbian People“, in: Kosovo and Metohija in Serbian History.
59 Dragan Kostić, „Power and Secret of Sculpture“, Jedinstvo, 2nd-3rd November, 1991.
60 It was planned that on this international exhibition would be presented sculptures of Svetomir Arsić Basara. But sculptures have reached only to Kosovo Polje, where it were taken off the train and instead of it on the exhibition were sent sculptures of Agim Čavdarbaša.
61 B. Jokić, „Sao Paolo has Quarreled Artists“, Jedinstvo, 28th January, 1971.
62 Mirko Žarić, „Academician Unsuitable“, Jedinstvo, 16th July, 1989.
64 Svetomir Arsić Basara, „Concept“ – manuscript prepared for participation in the broadcast of Television Belgrade, 1986.
65 The notion has Greek origins and means burning; in Hebrew tradition it means making a sacrifice by burning (of a burnt offering).
66 Sreto Bošnjak, Basara, SANU, Belgrade, 1998.
67 It is not useless to mention, that returning to plastic problems of the Holocaust does not understand automatic repeat of procedure of materialization in the Cuirassiers. The procedure by which was defined any of Lazar’s cuirassiers shows energetic invasion in the structure of the wood by electric saw, cutting of round log along the length and breaking the opening on its surface as the intervention following afterwards, up to the linking with metal parts which are suggesting an armor and its organic knitting with the tissue of wood, and it points out on different principles of sculptural elaboration, on elaborations where is reflecting developing line of Basara’s sculptural way of thinking. In words, between one and another cycle, the important essential flow linking them, is the idea of victim, while the way of sculptural defining is determined by inner dictate of the creator – by the depth, reached on the way to the roots of proper nation, and at the same time, by the level of plastic language.
68 Olga Jevrić, „Explanation to the Candidacy of Svetomir Arsić Basara for Regular member of SANU.“
70 Jovan Despotović, stated work.
72 Reinforcement of expression as a complete problem in the creative work – complete, as understands establishing complete relation between artist’s spiritual condition, and than its transmission to the tissue of wood, by one side, and the condition a wood has by itself – in „The Concept“ Basara has determined the notion of agitation of wood. “In order to reach a dramatic, a wood should he led to the limit of unrest and agitation; and up to the additional dimension. First of all it would he realized by the breach in womb of the trunk. If it has a smaller dimensions, I ‘attack’ it from both lateral sides with motor saw, in order to make a breach through its central part. When it comes to the release, to the breach of trunk along, it comes to relieve and relief. It ceased to be heavy and sluggish. If the trunk, is longer than a meter, than I cut the stump in two halves and these halves I hallow from inner side. In this way it is released from the mass and gets some kind of a trough or cracked big wooden tubes. These halves, I reconnect again later, and then I have got a trunk without central part, this offers a possibility for numerous lateral breaches. It has been made a base for making the real one arabesque of circular basrelief […]. I am trying to disturb the wood up to the culmination, to make from it a pure unrest. I am reaching it, by merciless provocation from all sides: I am drilling it, attacking toward center and when the breach is made, from one end to another the wooden mass is releasing and in such agitation of shapes, a wood can accept metal construction.“
73 In fact, in these two sculptures, Basara has used up to the certain measure a far association on the Holocaust, trans forming it in the base from which, after 1985, he has developed a cycle of Lazar’s cuirassiers.
74 Djordje Kadijević, „A man in Danger (Svetomir Arsić Basara in the Gallery of Cultural Center of Belgrade), NIN 24th December, 1989.
75 Miloš Djordjević, „My Inspiration – Anthean Power of the People”. A conversation with Svetomir Arsić Basara, N.S., Priština, January 1987.
76 Lazar Trifunović, „Proposal for the Exhibition of Svetomir Arsić Basara in the Pavilion „Cvijeta Zuzorić“, the catalogue of retrospective exhibition of Svetomir Arsić Basara, Belgrade 1984. The exhibition was dedicated to Lazar Trifunović
77 Sreto Bošnjak, Svetomir Arsić Basara, SANU, Belgrade, 1998.
78 Nikola Kusovac, „The Real Fighter”, Politika Express, Belgrade 16th January, 1985.
80 Balša Rajčević, „From Esthetic and Engagement”, Literary Word, Belgrade, 25th January 1985.
85 During this period, Basara was changing, in accordance with increased dramatic nature, the method of shaping the material. He cuts the material, tears it off, breaks it through, transforming the wood into the live material: „Sometimes it seems that I am still a woodworker from Šara and that a wood should he conquered, he said. Me and wood, we know the mute language, we hate and love each other” (words taken from the „Concept“, see also the mentioned study of Sreto Bošnjak).
86 It may turn out to be useful mentioning that, by the theme of cuirassiers, by the sense of victim and the depth of Serbian roots on Kosovo, was occupied, among other writers, Milan Rakić – in the cycle of patriot poems „On Kosovo”, inspired by oath experience of Kosovo (it is about poems: Minaret (1905), On Gazi-Mestan, Simonida and Peony (1907), Jefimija and Pitcher (1910), Deserted Church and Settlement (1911) and Grigorije Božović, whose sources, as Basara’s are on Kosovo – in travel stories “The Last Cuirassiers” and „The Gray Cap” and the story “The Cuirassiers with no Fear and Vice” (more about this see in the book of Jovan Pejčić, Omen, poem, act. Milan Rakić on Kosovo, Belgrade 2001).
94 Mića Popović in „The Oration on Opening of Basara’s Exhibition of Sculptures in the Gallery of Cultural Center of Belgrade”, in November, 1989. A citation is taken over from the catalogue of Basara’s independent exhibition of sculptures, in the Art Gallery in Priština, October 1991. Parts from the text of Mića Popović-Olga Jevrić-Stanojlo Rajičić, „About Human’s Position and Artistic Contribution of SVETOMIR ARSIĆ BASARA“ (proposal of Svetomir Arsić Basara for the member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts).
95 Zoran Markuš, „On the Trace of Origins”, Politika, 16th December, 1989.
96 Djordje Kadijević, „A man in Danger (Svetomir Arsić Basara in the Gallery of Cultural Center, in Belgrade)”, NIN, 24th December, 1989.
97 Jovan Despotović, „Narrations from Kosovo by Svetomir Arsić Basara”, foreword in the catalogue Art Gallery of Cultural Center of Belgrade, Belgrade, 1989.
98 Lazar Trifunović, „Fine Art’s Expression of Kosovo Tradition. In the occasion of discussion about the monument to Duke Lazar”, Literary News, Belgrade, 385, 27th February 1971. Reprinted in: Lazar Trifunović, Studies essays, critics, The Museum of Modern Arts, Belgrade, 1990.
100 Jovan Despotović „Narrations from Kosovo by Svetomir Arsić Basara”.
101 This is not a secret, that through all these years in America, was active a lobby of Shiptar academicians and that a negative attitude of the West toward Serbia in many things is theirs merit and that, simultaneously, nothing was doing systematically to resist such action by facts, historical, political, spiritual and cultural. Excluding external declarative manifestations, a struggle against nationalistic and separatist movement on Kosovo and Metohija for further period was a matter of lonely individuals in Serbia who, nevertheless their intellectual and creative power, were in fact disabled in resisting to organized action of Shiptar lobby in the world.
102 One year before, he was elected as a regular member of SANU. In the letter-proposal under title: „On Human Position and Artistic Contribution of Svetomir Arsić Basara”, sent to Serbian Academy of Science and Arts, academicians Mića Popović, Olga Jevrić and Stanojlo Rajičić point out on the absurd situation, in which Basara has found himself: „Svetomir Arsić Basara, recent regular member of Academy of Science and Arts from Kosovo, has come into situation to be elected again as academician, this time of Serbian Academy of Science and Arts. Elected for academician in Priština, in circles where he was living and working, due to indispensable artistic merits, Basara was excluded from this Academy because of political reasons and unsolved national relations in one region of Serbia. This is one of epilogues of our tragic misunderstanding. It seems that it would be logical and normal that his transfer from one Academy to another is a pure formality, and not that one great and significant Serbian sculptor, who was known like that in this milieu and was regularly praised and saluted from the public and critics, goes through the same procedure as other artists electing for the first time for academician. But what is – it is! The Statutoiy and regulations often go beyond logical living” (personal archive of S. A. Basara).
103 Svetomir Arsić Basara, „On the Trace of Origin“. The inaugural speech, held on the solemn meeting of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, on 31st May 1994, on the occasion of election for regular member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
IN THE CREATIVE WORK, which last almost five decade, Svetomir Arsić Basara has gone a long way, realizing his large opus, inevitable in the history of contemporary Serbian sculpture.
A developing line, of his creative works, consists of several entireties, which were exchanging as within himself was maturing a conscience about the role and the moral responsibility of the creator, toward the work he creates, and the world where he lives and, analogously to this, to the stream of the process of maturing of his plastic opinion. In principle, it could be about three totalities in his creative work: about expressive anthropomorphous plastic statements, appeared at the beginning of his work, about associative abstraction, which he gained at the beginning of the sixties, and about plastic elaboration of dramatic world of forms, resulted from essential touch with the being and the destiny of Kosovo, as a homeland, the entirety, which he started to create at the beginning of the eighties, announcing it by Cosmos Cycle which was transformed in Engaged, with chronologically-thematic outline in the First World War, and that in the First Serbian Uprising, in order to, following the nature of things, encircle the same as Kosovo Cycle.
Faced with the boredom of province, disturbed by its unbelievable possibilities to swallow imperceptibly a creator, always in anxiety of artistic isolation, Basara, according to the structure of his personality, from the very beginning, was trying, by his creative work, to express unambiguously disagreement on such restrictions. Therefore, his first confrontations, with problems of creative work, were directed to exploration of form, as a way to execute by it, a sensitive process of transiting the inner unrests in the material. During that process, he was staring at contemporaneous fine art practice in Europe, toward streams and changes, through which the sculpturing in the world was going through, which has also a reflection on Yugoslav sculpture of the sixties. A sight into actual creative practice in the world, for sure represented a creative effort, the aspiration to understand and to live authentically the essence of changes within it. These early works, which we have stylishly determined by the notion of associative abstraction, are showing the whole curiosity of the creator, at the beginning of searching for the own path, the whole master craft came out of overcoming the craft and knowing the wood as a material, which will become a superb medium of his creative work.
The choice of a wood as material, which being is in relation to coincidence with the being of creator, understood a vital approach to the elaboration of plastic statement, as the same it comes from the material itself, as essential form of deposited energy and its internal intensive life, its inner spiritual vitality. I should say that under possibility that deeply within himself keeps layers of the memory, mostly the wood has a vital energy. The power, that the same is searching and founding, understands the possibility to reach the other side of reality, toward the source of being. That principle is deeply weaved in the work of Basara: in dynamic, expressive entireties, in touching of empty and full in his sculptures, in the beauty of polished texture or rustically defined fragments existing among them. Briefly, a vital principle is essential vertical line of his sculptures – independently from if it is about associative forms, about multiplying spheres of Euclid in the vertical line of a pillar, or about discovered natural shape, which, by small interventions, was led into relation of saturation with trembling of artist’s inner being.
A path toward labyrinths of life came from the nature of Basara’s relation toward himself and toward world where he lives, in which the existential endanger of the being of Serbian nation started to feel strongly, by the nature of things is plastically elaborated at the beginning of the eighties, first in the Cosmic Cycle, then in Engaged and finally, in Narrations from Kosovo. Such path understood different elaboration of plastic statement born from „creative motivation of proper land and its history”105, what „is declaring in objects of folklore tone, rustically rough, woodcarving ornamental treatment shining by ancient times, medieval, pagan spirit through its primordial layers”.106 In this motion, Basara has brought in relation ancient with contemporary. The genetic code, of tragic history of Serbian people, is raised to the knowledge of truth about sense of living, about the sense of choice and the sense of sacrificing.
Elaborated by plastic language, in which are meeting autochthonous feeling of the being of Serbian ethnos, with creator’s outstanding power to transpose that feeling into the primordial language of the material, the sculptural opus of Svetomir Arsić Basara has become, by this, if not the most individual one, but for sure one of the most individual pages in contemporary art.
105 Olga Jevrić, „Svetomir Arsić Basara“, „Explanation to the Candidacy of Svetomir Arsić Basara for Regular member of SANU“, manuscript (personal archive of S. Arsić Basara).
He was born on 15th May in ancient village Sevce, lost among giant forests, between Prizren and Brezovica, settled by autochthonous Serbian people, in the district of Sirinica, under the mountain of Šara. The father, Nikola Arsić, respectable head of a household, was dealing with manufacturing of wooden usable objects. The mother Cveta, a daughter of respectable householders Stojan and Ilinka Stojanović. At the end of last century, his father, as many peasants from Kosovo and Metohija, went in America, in order to improve his material position. His relatively secure life was interrupted by the First World War. He joined as a volunteer, giving to many Serbs in America an example and stimulus to put themselves in the service of homeland. After the end of war, he returned back in his homeland. At that time have started his great difficulties. The homeland, as it often happens, has forgotten quickly its heroes and Nikola Arsić barely succeeded to feed his family. The whole childhood of Svetomir Arsić Basara was fulfilled with the poverty and privation, hunger and strong feelings of injustice.
Attends comprehensive school in Sevce. Not having means for support and schooling, he became a village servant.
In order to help his family he started to work in a chromium mine „Jezerina“ on Šara. He got acquainted with communist ideas about equality social justice. Finding in it the similarity with his feelings and understanding of new world, he joined to illegal movement in the mine.
He joined the Second Brigade of Kosovo. As a warrior of its First battalion, he was participating in fights in area of Drenica, and than goes to scouting headquarters company of 52nd Division.
At the end of October, he was demobilized.
He entered a lower level of high school in Uroševac where, under shorten program, he had finished all four classes.
Enters the High School in Kosovska Mitrovica. After that he moved in Prizren. Getting to know that in Nis was opened a School for applied arts, and not having money for travel to Niš to pass entrance examination, he wrote a letter to Ministry of Education to allow him a transfer in the same. From the second semester he became a student of the School of Arts.
Takes part in the voluntary mass of young people on construction of highway „Brotherhood-Unity“, on construction of New Belgrade, railroad Doboj-Banja Luka, on construction of Hydro System Vlasina.
Appears his first independent sculpture, the Head of Girl.
Creates Flutes from Šara. He participated at the exhibition of National Youth of Yugoslavia in Belgrade. Collaborates with a magazine for young people, „Our Voice”, publishing drawings, and then, as one of editors, he was publishing poems of Branko Miljković, with whom he has intensive friendship.
Accepted at the Academy for Applied Arts in Belgrade. Has seen the exhibition of Boris Anastasijević, which made on him a strong impression.
He got married with Katarina Ljubisavljević. Has seen the exhibition of Henry Moor and paintings from collection Urvater.
Was born his daughter Gordana. With painter Moma Mirković, he exhibits for the first time independently in the City Library in Aleksinac.
At the final examination at professor Radeta Stanković, he did not get a passing grade.
At the beginning of March he graduated at the Academy of Applied Arts. He returns back in Priština and works as administrator for arts in the Regional National Committee. He founds there the artistic province in literal sense of the meaning. He establishes a fine art colony in Dečani, which task was to improve creation work on Kosovo and, simultaneously, to enable domestic creators to be acquainted with actual tendencies in modern Serbian art.
He writes a fine art critics where often, on polemic way poses questions about the sense of exhibitions, about who has to organize them and about vital criteria of its organizing. Participates in foundation of Club of Fine Arts Artists of Kosovo and Metohija. Takes part in its exhibition.
Participates in the exhibition of Colony from Dečani. Transfers to work in Teacher-Training School in Priština.
Travels in Italy. Visits Naples, Rome, Pompea, Florence, Venice. Direct facing with great works of European art. In Rome he visits Quadriennale Nazionale d’Arte. This exhibition has a great influence on his further work.
Participates at the Exhibition of the Club of Fine Arts Artists of Kosovo and Metohija in Priština. At the same year, also in Pristina in the hall of Adult Education Center has the second independent exhibition. In interview, on occasion to the exhibition he said: „Depending on what material is working on, and also depending on the theme in the modern sculpturing, the idea will he realized in one or another garments. Later on they christen it realism, modernism, abstraction etc. I think, that all what is artistically represented has a real base. In real art is difficult, even impossible to present in the same style, for example, man and bird, and thought, and vision and love as notions by themselves. In the matter of fact, I am making sculptures in the way I feel, i.e. I am living what I want to live.“ (Milivoje Lučić, „I am Sculpturing in the Way I Feel“, Jedinstvo, 9th October, 1961.)
He travels in Greece. In the museum on Acropolis he lives exciting meeting with classic sculpturing. Under strong impression of Fidia’s relief. Gets a regional December’s award. He renounced this award in October 1987, as a sign of protest against Shiptar’s nationalism and violence over Serbian People on Kosovo and Metohija. He gets 2nd award for ideological solution for monument to Bora Vukmirović and Ramiz Sadiku, and also gets a 2nd award for ideological solution of monument to partisans from Šara mountain.
He passes to Advanced Pedagogic School in Priština. He teaches sculpturing and methodic of fine arts education with school work. He exhibits on the 3rd October Salon in Belgrade. In his creative work are already starting influences of movements in contemporary European plastic. He gets 2nd award for ideological solution for monument to partisan detachment „Dr. Dragiša Mišović“ in Čačak.
Participates at the exhibition of Fine Art Artists from Kosovo and Metohija in Houses of YNA in Belgrade and Ljubljana. In the lobby of Regional Theatre, in Priština he has the 3rd independent exhibition. Exhibits in Subotica, on „Winter Salon“ (with Trajko Stojanović).
Exhibits on the 3rd Fine Art Meeting on Palić in Subotica and on the 2nd October Salon in Belgrade.
Travels in Paris realizing direct contact with contemporary sculpturing. Participates on the exhibition of the Colony from Dečani in Priština.
Exhibits in Subotica on the 4thFine Art Meeting Palić and in Belgrade, on the 3rd October Salon. Wins a 1st prize for ideological solution for monument to perished soldiers from Orahovac.
As a guest of Soviet Union he was in Moscow and Leningrad. Exhibits on Spring Exhibition ULU APKM.
He stays in Paris. Exhibits on the 9th October Salon in Belgrade and Subotica in the selection Fine Art Artists from Kosovo and Metohija. He gets commemorative medallion for exceptional contribution of development of Advanced Pedagogic School in Priština and recognition for successful cooperation with Adult Education Center in Svetozarevo.
Exhibits in Belgrade on exhibitions „Reality and Imagination“ in Pavilion „Cvijeta Zuzorić“ and on the 10th October Salon of Fine Arts and Applied Arts. For exhibited sculpture he wins the award of ULUS. Participates on International Symposium of Sculptors „Forma Viva” in Portoroz.
In this period were appearing works like Bureaucracy Dwellings (1968), VetHeal Variations (1969), Flight in Empty Space (1968), Play of Shapes XXI (1968) and Play of Shapes XXII (1969), as a form of conquering the core, its treatment, abandon of natural shape of wood for the benefit of defined geometric morphology of clear form (which could be multiplied and transformed into the line of constructive units with the same meaning).
Exhibits independently in Priština and in the Lobby of Regional Theatre, on Brezovica and in hotel „Breza“ and, at the end of year, again in Priština in the fabric hall of Spinning Mill. Appears sculpture Clouds over Šara (1970) which represents one of the first works with noticeable intention to find and plastically define live central force around which are integrating meanings and masses of his sculpture.
Exhibits in Biennial of Florence, and then in Belgrade on the exhibition of National Liberation Struggle in works of fine arts artists of Yugoslavia in the Gallery of YNA, in Titograd in the Modern gallery in the selection: Artists from the Region of Kosovo and on the 12th October Salon of Fine Arts and Applied Arts in Belgrade.
He wins the award of city of Priština, the award of Association of Fine Art Artists from Kosovo and Purchase Award for Ideological Solution of Commemorative Charnel House of died and perished Yugoslavs in Italy (Gonras).
Participates in symposium of sculptors in Ostrošac (near Bihać).
Travels in Albania. Visits Skadar, Tirana, Drač, Valona, Apolonia, Djirokastro, Butrint. Appeared works: Cascades from the South and Windows of the South.
Participates in the group exhibitions Applied artists of Kosovo and Metohija in Priština and in exhibition Artists from Kosovo in Katowice and Zelengora (Poland).
Represented in Titograd on the exhibition Fine Art Artists from Kosovo.
Independently exhibits in the Art Gallery in Kruševac. Participates in the exhibition Ten Artist from Kosovo and on the 14th October Salon in Belgrade. Travels in Greece. Visits Delfy, Corynth, Epidaurus, Mikena, Athens, Thessaloniki.
Starts to teach on department for sculpturing of the Academy of Arts in Priština.
Participates in the International Symposium of Sculptors in Wood in Czeshoslovakia – Moravani.
Exhibits in Pristina on the exhibition NLS in works of creators from Kosovo, than in Skopje at the exhibition Applied Art Artists from Kosovo, Museum of Modern Art, and in Zagreb, in the Museum for Arts and Crafts on exhibition Artists from Kosovo. Wins award of University of Priština, on Spring Salon of ULUK. Decorated with Order of Brotherhood and Unity with silver wreath.
Was born his daughter Jelena. Wins award of May Salon of ULUK.
Exhibits in Belgrade on exhibition Thirty years of ULUS (1945-1975), in Sarajevo, in Artistic Pavilion „Collegium Artisticum”, and on the 16th October Salon of Fine Arts and Applied Arts in Belgrade.
Participates on the 2nd Biennial of Yugoslavian Sculpture in plain air in Vrnjačka Banja.
Appears sculpture Hiroshima, which indicates a turn in sculptor’s relation toward world on the global plan and mediation of Serbian people destiny on Kosovo. Chosen for a Dean of Academy of Arts in Priština.
Participates at the exhibition Fine Art Creators of Kosovo in the Gallery of Cultural Center in Belgrade. Starts to build atelier on Brezovica.
Exhibits on the 3rd Yugoslav Biennial of Small Plastic in Murska Sobota and on the 6th Belgrade Triennial of Yugoslav Art and than on Fine Art Salon ,,13th November” on Cetinje and Biennial of Drawings in Sombor. Wins award of ULUPUK. Chosen, for a second time as a Dean of Academy of Arts in Priština.
Participates on the exhibition the First Sarajevo Triennial of Unique Forming in Artistic Pavilion „Collegium Artisticum” in Sarajevo, as well as in Koeln on the exhibition Contemporary Artists from Kosovo. Wins award of 7th July for sculpturing.
Participates on the exhibition Our Contemporaries and on the 3rd Biennial of Kosovo in the Gallery of Arts in Priština, as well as on collective exhibition Contemporary Arts of Kosovo in Paris, Lyon, Munchen and Stuttgart. Wins purchase prize of Gallery of Arts in Priština and participates on Symposium of sculptors of University in Priština. Appeared sculptures Sketch for the Monuments and Holocaust in which are germs of some basic plastic and meaningful ideas of his sculpture, which will be elaborated between 1986 and 1988.
In November, he organized a ninth independent exhibition with fifty sculptures. The exhibition in a certain way had a character of retrospective, as there could be perceived his developing line from the early fifties up to the end of the seventies. Interesting analytic works about Basara have appeared which authors are Vuk Filipović (introduction to the catalogue of independent exhibition of Svetomir Arsić Basara, Gallery of Arts, Priština 1979), Petar Djuza, („Complete Creative Opus”, Jedinstvo, 4th December 1979); Vojislav Dević („Universality of Arsić’s Scupture”, Jedinstvo, 25th December 1979).
Participates at the exhibition Modern Art of Kosovo and Metohija in Belgrade and Palermo. Have appeared sculptures Requiem to My Illusions and Do not Turn Off my Hearth.
Independently exhibits in Nis, in the Gallery of Modern Arts. He won a prize of Association of Fine Arts Artists of Yugoslavia. Represented on the exhibiton of SLUJ in Skopje and Pančevo. Exhibits on Triennial of Yugoslavian Drawings in City Museum of Sombor and on the exhibition of Modern Arts of Kosovo in Montreal. Starts to work on Cosmic Cycle. Appeared works: Cosmic Ear, Cosmic Landscape, Cosmic Cliffs. About the exhibition were written: Dragoslava Dević („World of Abstract Forms“, National Newspaper, Nis 5th October 1981) and Vojislav Dević („Sculptures of Basara“, National Newspaper, 10-11th October 1981).
Collectively exhibits in Herceg-Novi, in the Gallery Josip Bepo Benković“. Accepted in the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosovo.
Participates in collective exhibitions in Pančevo and Niš. Appeared works: Metohian Sphinx, Grandfather’s Partner from Kumanovo Battle (the first cannon), Cannons of Aleksa Đačić, by which he enters in Engaged Cycle. Preparing in 1986, for participation in the broadcast of Television Belgrade, he will write in the Concept: „I was dealing with so called pure art, but when on our holy land, Kosovo and Metohija has happened that people, ours, started to leave hearths, I have made a conclusion that my cosmopolite art does not mean anything”.
Participates in collective exhibition on May Salon in Priština. Appears work Apocalypse. Organize independent exhibition in Belgrade, in the Pavilion of Art „Cvijeta Zuzorić”. The exhibition was dedicated in memory of Lazar Trifunović. About the exhibition were writing: Jovan Despotović („Svetomir Arsić Basara”, Introduction to a catalogue of retrospective exhibition, Pavilion of Art „Cvijeta Zuzorić”, Belgrade 1984), Zoran Markuš („Pure Artistic Speech, Creative Work of Svetomir Arsić Basara in Pavilion of Art „Cvijeta Zuzorić”, Politika, 10th January 1985, Nikola Kusovac („Real Fighter”, Politika Express, Belgrade, 16th January 1985) and Balša Rajčević („From Esthetic to Engagement”, Literary Word, Belgrade, 25th January, 1985).
Exhibits independently in Trstenik.
Participates in the exhibition „Belgrade – Inspiration of Artists” where he won a first prize. Has got the award of AVNOJ for sculpturing. Appeared sculptures: Long Memory and cycle Cuirassiers of Czar Lazar. Dragan Kostić („Sculpture is my Destiny”, Jedinstvo, Priština 1986).
Participates in the exhibition: Fine Art Artists – winners of AVNOJ award in the Gallery 43 in Jajce. Miloš Djordjević, („My Inspiration – Anthean Power of People”, NS, January 1987).
Exhibits independently in the Gallery Salambo in Paris. Has a speech on the meeting of support to Serbian people on Kosovo and Metohija held in August in Titograd.
At the end of year died his faithful life companion and support Katarina Ljubisavljević-Arsić.
Exhibits independently in Raška. Appeared sculptures: Creation of Serbia and Creation of Serbia I, Supreme Leader, Tekeriš… Expelled from the selection of Kosovo by decision of higher Commission of „Documents” in Sarajevo. At the end of the year exhibits Kosovo Cycle in the Gallery of Cultural Center in Belgrade. Even not big in the scope, the exhibition made strong impression on critics and public. Significant critical echo: Jovan Despotović („Narration from Kosovo by Svetomir Arsić Basara”, preface in the catalogue of Fine Art gallery of Cultural Center Belgrade, Belgrade 1989), Mića Popović („Speech on Opening of Basara’s Exhibition of Sculptures in the Gallery of Cultural Center Belgrade”, November 1989), Zoran Markuš („On the Trace of Origin”, Politika, 16th December, 1989), Djordje Kadijević („Man in Danger, Svetomir Arsić Basara in the Gallery of Cultural Center Belgrade”, NIN, 24th December, 1989).
Leaves the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Kosovo. Exhibits independently in Trstenik, Loznica, Krupanj, Obrenovac, Negotin, Belgrade, Bor and Priština. Exhibits collectively in Pavilion of Art „Cvijeta Zuzorić” in Belgrade.
Exhibits independently in Kragujevac, in the Gallery of Students Center, and in Priština in the Gallery of Art. Reception: Petar Djuza („Basara’s Sculptures – Arsenal”, Leader, Priština, 20th January 1991), Dragan Kostić („Power and Secret of Sculpture”, Jedinstvo, Priština, 2nd-3rd November 1991).
Represented on collective exhibition SEFARAD ’92 in Toledo, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Sarajevo and Belgrade.
Elected for regular member of SANU. In his inaugural speech he said: “I am not turning to the world as an ideal, but towards ambient where I live, and from which I am originated; turning to the tradition of my people I am looking for the identity, a proof about roots, a right for the future”. Appeared sculpture Czar Dušan the Powerful. About Basara’s sculptural opus were writing: Olga Jevrić, Mića Popović and Stanojlo Rajičić („About Human’s Position and Artistic Contribution of Svetomir Arsić Basara”, manuscript, personal archive of S. Arsić Basara), Olga Jevrić („Svetomir Arsić Basara”. Explanation to candidacy for regular member of SANU, manuscript, personal archive of S. Arsić Basara).
Svetomir Arsić Basara, „On Trace of Origins“. Inaugural speech, held on solemn meeting of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, held on 31st May 1994, on the occasion of election for the regular member of Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Retired on the 3rd January of the Academy of Science and Art in Priština. Exhibits independently in the Gallery of Modern Art in Niš.
In Belgrade, in the Gallery ’73, was organized independent exhibition under title Imperial Bust. Exhibits collectively in Priština, in the Gallery of Art, with fine art artists from Kosovo and in Kragujevac, in the Gallery „Serbia”, on the exhibition II of fine art colony of Kragujevac. Appeared work Invitation to Travel I.
Were prepared independent exhibitions in Vrnjačka Banja in the Gallery of Cultural Castle. In Subotica, in Serbian cultural center „Saint Sava”, in the National Museum in Sombor and National Museum in Kragujevac. Appeared works: Invitation to Travel II and Invitation to Travel III. Sreto Bošnjak has written a preface to the catalogue of exhibition of S. Arsić Basara, Gallery of Cultural Castle, Vrnjačka Banja, 1996.
Exhibits independently in the Gallery of Cultural Center in Sremski Karlovci „Artistic Workshop of Karlovci” . Appeared works: Monument to Eternal Glory and Steps of Communism. Exhibits collectively on November Salon in Priština and won a first prize.
Exhibits independently in the Gallery of SANU in Belgrade, in department of SANU in Novi Sad, and in Leskovac, in the Gallery of National Museum. Won a Prize of Vuk. The Association of writers has published a collections of stories Trough. Carry out reliefs with images of prof. Dr. Vojislav Dančetović and academician Vuk Filipović in Vučitrn. In Priština he carries out the bust of Simeon Nemanja in the Institute for Serbian Culture. Participates on the International Symposium of Sculpture „White Venčac” in Arandjelovac. Works about Basara: Sreto Bošnjak, Basara, SANU (Belgrade 1998), and Srdjan Marković, Sculpture as a Destiny (introduction to the catalogue, Gallery of National Museum, Leskovac, 1998).
Exhibits independently in the Cultural Center in Vlasotince, the Art Gallery „Čedomir Krstić“ in Pirot and the Gallery of National Museum in Vranje. The exhibition in Vranje was opened on 23rd March, in the eve of attack of NATO Alliance on Serbia.