Klaudio Štefančić, A Gaze In Wonder

So far, art critics have rather accurately routed the main approaches to interpreting Tadic’s artistic work. Tadic’s inclination towards narrative procedures originating in literature and film has been almost unanimously recognised; in his preoccupation with discarded objects a passatistic sensibility had been noted; the polysemy of his work had been pointed out, etc.

The exhibition in Galženica Gallery is the first retrospective, or better to say, revue of Tadic’s animated films and as such it does not only confirm what has been said or written up to now, but it provides us with an insight into other characteristics of his work. The first noteworthy point is the very medium of animated film, the specific stop-frame animation and the way Tadic uses it. As the author says in his interview for “Arteist” web portal, the drawing is the centre of his work in animated film as the medium. Although every film is based on some story, our attention, as it seems to me, is more drawn to the rhythm of a line or a spot, than to trying to connect the displayed motifs or symbols into a sensible meaningful structure. Even when five created films constitute a semantically somewhat coherent whole, almost a traditional story, as is the case with “I speak through things” or “Borne by the birds”, where the actant or the narrator guide us through the film, our attention is more occupied with the functioning of drawings in time, the rhythm of change of lines and shapes or with the music, than with figuring out the meaning of displayed motifs and events. The most frequent motifs, such as stairs, tower, cave, door or a house do not provide us with a stable reception point from which it would be easy to recognise the structure of the story. The case when Tadic uses old postcards or other pre-coded visual material as the material for his films is no better: vagueness, ambiguity and generality are even greater. The viewer of his films, it seems to me, immerses in a receptive state closest to daydreaming, a kind of enjoying a free, erudite reverie.

Nevertheless, those films do not owe their key ingredient as much to the width of literary and art-related references as to the specific form of drawing I would name the compulsive drawing. More than to development of the story based on the principle of what happened next, more than to deciphering the meaning of the scenes, I am attracted to the metamorphosis of the drawings. It is not a hand that draws in order to practice, in order to perfect a skill, nor it is a hand that searches for a goal through drawing, separating what is important from what is not, as we can just see in the retrospective exhibition of Julije Knifer’s work in Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. This hand that draws, that scribbles and writes and the drawing that forms the base not only of Tadic’s films – the drawing marks other forms of his artistic involvement as well – are the very trace of artistic imagination.

Certain Tadic’s attempts of explaining his own “ars poetica”, i.e. his “inspiration”, as he calls it, should be viewed in this light. By pointing out the importance discarded objects have to him, Tadic says that his creative power arises from the feeling he gets upon encountering those artefacts whose functionality is lost and aesthetics doubtful. A bit later, in the same interview, he claims that external influence, such as listening to a radio drama may have a direct impact on what he does at a given moment, i.e. on the final appearance of a work of art. The momentary quality of that event, its obscurity and implication of an invisible, but permeable border between the outer world (objects, history, etc.) and inner world (emotions, thoughts, etc.), point at the specific sort of Tadic’s imagination – the one of melancholic character.

In an extensive study “Saturn and melancholy” dedicated to the relationship between melancholy and art, Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl demonstrated, using the analysis of famous Dürer’s engraving “Melencolia I” as an example, the importance of melancholy for the Western artistic culture. Pointing at Dürer’s subversive rendering of melancholy fusing medieval interpretation with the new spirit of European Renaissance, the authors focused specifically on the interpretation of the two figures in the composition: the pensive angel and playful boy (putto). Pensive, even lowering angel, with his head resting on his own hand represents the principle of vita contemplativa, the importance of thinking in art, while the boy to his right represents the principle of vita activa, the joyful “unawareness of a child preoccupied with work”. The busy putto writing or drawing something “takes no share in intellectual creation, but neither does he share the agony bound up with that creation”. Dürer had believed that there was no artistic creation without the symbiosis of the two beings. If thinking does not turn into practice in one moment, it becomes agony, and the artist, just like the angel in the picture, immerses himself in daydreaming, gazing somewhere in the distance, too passive to enrich his idea through work. On the other hand, if the practice, the blessing of manual work, does not rely on thinking, artistic works turns into mere practicing of skills, a nonchalant repeating of the already known. Tadic’s compulsive drawing is a special way of connecting those two principles of artistic creation. Equal to the extent of imagination being one of the forms of artistic thinking, Tadic’s drawing on various surfaces (postcards, wooden plates, souvenirs, etc.) and in different media (film, paintings, notebooks, etc.) is a form of prolific and salutary work.

Tadic’s reaffirmation of Renaissance understanding of melancholy, nevertheless, contains one typically modern addendum. It is the sense of loss, of disappearance of everything that was familiar or close – things, beings, cultural practices – in time and space we call (hi)story. Tadic’s sensitiveness towards the modern experience of loss does not transpire only in passionate rummaging through flea markets and collecting discarded objects, but also in the inclination towards old media, such as radio dramas, or the forgotten cultural practices such as ghost summoning.

Our modern history cannot be explained without the destruction that runs through European space as that black mask in the film “Borne by the birds”. Perhaps that is the reason why the motif of deleted or overlaid scene is so common in Tadic’s films: first we witness the creation, or drawing (of a tower, a stain, a house, a face, etc.) and then its erasure, its disappearance.

However, there is nothing in Dürer’s engraving that would speak of a loss or destruction. Through various symbols and motifs, the past is present and serves to create a new definition of artistic work, to establish the higher position of artists in the social ladder of Renaissance Europe. In Tadic’s films, the past is irrecoverably lost. As some ghost, through the strength of artistic imagination it was momentarily summoned and revived – animated – by drawings, discarded artefacts, sounds. Modern melancholy is getting further and further away from Dürer’s preoccupation with the relation between thinking and doing and closer and closer to the phenomenon of remembering that was compared to a train ride by contemporary Hungarian writer Péter Nádas. For a moment, some familiar, important or precious sight is closing in on us with a high speed, in one brief moment we are a part of it, and only a moment later our experience turns into remembering, while we look over our shoulder to catch the last glimpse of it. (Klaudio Štefančić)