Like a chronicler of modern-day life, the artist Radenko Milak who was born in Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in 1980 uses the mirror of painting to explore the major questions and upheavals of our time. PRISKA PASQUER PARIS
is now presenting the individual exhibition Imagine Reality, featuring new large- and small-format works. Milak came to international fame in 2017 through University of Disaster, his artistic submission for the Bosnia and Herzegovina pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Since then, his paintings have been featured in group and individual exhibitions around the world, most recently in the Museum of Contemporary Art (Zagreb, Croatia), at Marta Herford (Herford, Germany) and the Folkwang Museum (Essen, Germany).
Pictures from films, magazines, newspapers and the internet together with microscopic and telescopic images from scientific research form the basis for various thematic series in which the artist comes to terms with the social, ecological, political and economic unrest and crises that are currently shaping the world we live in. Using watercolours, he transfers the documentary images to the medium of painting, exploring how the two media relate to and reshape one another today. Seen from a distance, his works look like photographs; it is only when we approach them that Milaks masterly artistic signature reveals itself through the water streaks characteristic of watercolour painting and through the interplay of transparent and opaque colour fields.
Imagine Reality showcases works in which documentation and fiction blur into abstract worlds of imagination when the photographic likeness is combined with the painted narrative. Here, our view is disrupted again and again by the painterly structure. On the one hand, we are aware that the photographic images represent the truth and understand their documentary value, but at the same time, there is a growing impression that it is all illusory.
Whereas New Delhi (2023) opens up an endlessly vast panoramic view of the Indian metropolis while symbolising the growing global urbanisation, Neighbors (2023) conveys city life as a state somewhere between anonymity and community. Although clearly defined, the pictures appear detached from space and time. The intriguing relationship between photography and painting leads objective reality and illusory space to merge seamlessly.
One recurring factor in Milaks art is the Anthropocene era: What will the world be like in the wake of the climate catastrophe?
How will people, nature and technology behave towards each other ecologically?
In various works, Milak makes the dimensions of the geological shift visible. In a large-format collage, Anthropocene, Amazon Fire 2019 (2020) tells us about the Amazon rainforest fire as a historical consequence of human actions. By contrast, the brightly coloured microplastics in the oceans look harmless and creepily pretty as does the microfibre pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, which is only visible through a microscope. These images document the enormous ecological footprint that humankind has left behind and the irreversible destruction it has wrought upon the Earth. However, by translating the environmental destruction to abstract imagery, the climate catastrophe is located to an indeterminate state between present and future, creating worlds of perception that make us stop and think.
Adapting media images through paintings slows things down due to the
artistic transfer, which also influences how it is received. In spite of the disquieting and explosive issues, the images in the exhibition become more tangible and, in the long term, constitute an effective call to action.
Radenko Milak: Imagine Reality
October 7th, 2023 - November 5th, 2023
OPENING: Saturday 7 October, 2023 from 6 to 9 pm