When the End is just a New Beginning
The Apocalypse Insight (2019/20) cycle of paintings develops ideas and topics stemmed from a series of work named Gods (2015), manifested by the urge for the visible and (in) tangible, abstract and figurative at the same time. Starting from the fact that the visual conception of God is an absolute abstraction, Milos Todorovic begins to look for a way to make a subtle body shape out of water and clouds, tending to embody an incorporeal being that has the appearance but not fullness of form.
While hovering, the uncreated space between cycles of creation goes beyond the significance of whether the painting is figurative or abstract in its construction.
As for Todorovic, painting is a process by which impulses convey emotional events from his life and provide answers to questions. The need for continual search in the necessary moments of solitude resulted in everyday obsessive recording of situations in notes of various forms, from which, as a reflex, results painting work. Having declared his physical (creative) death and having disappeared from public life (after a very active and successful career he retired and sent a letter to gallerists, collectors and institutions asking them to erase any trace of him, specially from the Internet), Milos Todorovic announced the existence of entity 226 on 13th December 2013. An intense process of introspection occurs during a period of personal drama in which he questions the criteria of importance and a life that is no longer necessary for itself, but requires that we act inside it throughout the contents. The birth of a spiritual entity, which was born on the day of death, has been created through him, like the creative energy beyond his physical existence.
The exhibition 226, which followed on from his previous artwork, was shown in Paris in 2015 and was the platform for the paintings that are being created today and that are the artistic link between what Milos had done until 2013 and the thread until his last series of works The Apocalypse Insight (2019/20), which is also his first public appearance after a long-lasting media break. Regardless that fact, Todorovic created and had contact with his collectors on a daily basis. His self-portraits created in the bathrooms of the hotel rooms where he lived in Paris, London, New York, Moscow and Belgrade were projected in the rooms of the Providence Hotel in Paris. These photos evidence the way of life, experimentation with the needs of the body that are minimized (like reducing diet). Physical deconstruction in order to release energy, going beyond the corporeal dimension for spiritual strengthening and the need to experience one’s own limits.
In the Apocalypse Insight series of paintings, an apocalyptic “landscape” occurs in the haze of the underworld. A setting reduced to clouds, water and smoke forms the environment for the dark depths that haunt the artist, a place where the non-existence finds a refuge in the disappearing light while an energetic eruption sets off in that hazy shadow. Rebirth (regeneration) in Milos’s work corresponds to the endless cycle (which is painful) in Buddhism known as saṃsāra, the teachings that a person’s actions lead to a new existence after death, such as the Universe, which will one day be reborn through infinite oscillations in the cycles of creation and destruction.
In the light dimension, energy vibrations pulse in strong rhythm, going beyond the boundary of the visual, indulging in the power of silence and the intensity of emptiness; the wheel of time turns ceaselessly in an uncertain cycle of birth, destruction and rebirth. Constructive deconstruction performs through the stage of creation, followed by destruction, where the painting technique also reflects the need to bring light out of the darkness, suggesting that what previously had been created from destruction disappeared in order to get a new form from nihility – a life. The lyrics of Joy Division band greatly influenced this series of paintings, pointing to the indifference of an average man who is an observer of a life, driven by inertia, without any reactions to the world around them; the motifs of life, memory, love, loss and death indicate the pursuit of awakening, a rebellion against the darkness of melancholy into which the consumed and dead passions are drowned, a good intention overwhelmed by indifference.
Each canvas is filled with whitish apparitions that float at the very border of materiality and concrete representation. Simultaneously, the artist creates a gray, elusive character and erases contrasts. Dots of light lead to trails of hope, balancing a whole directed toward serenity as a final destination. Shapes are defined by the outlines in which the bone structure melts in the milky vortex, from which it evaporates into a coil of smoke, where their true forms and references are most often hidden beneath the mist, between the terrestrial and the sublime.
We recognize the figural representations in almost abstract forms, which we can see for example in the painting Second Face of Sorrow, where the shape of a human figure and an animal resembling a lamb are clearly visible in the smoke. The lamb motif, a Christian theological concept, suggests the visual symbol of Christ (Agnus Dei) like the mystic lamb from the Ghent Altarpiece (van Eyck brothers’ work) where the sacrifice is presented in the liturgical ceremony by a pierced lamb on the altar supper that takes upon itself the sins of the world (Eucharist). The Revelation (apokálypsis) to come indicates the end of the world, but also the resurrected Christ who conquered death and the expected empire to come. Biomorphic patterns occur in velvety forms, subtly touching the religious dimension with symbolic elements of cultural heritage, resolutely approaching cosmological issues of the infinite and unspeakable, without seeking to delve into the specificities of religious existence. There is an indispensable philosophical and spiritual thread in Milos Todorovic’s oeuvre, closely related to personal emotional experience and they are never existential or intellectual issues.
In monochromatic vision, contrasts are formed by thickened shadows that capture light, while in traces they balance the whole and suggest the form. Transparency and plan structure of the painting are merged by continuous fluid application of layers, while the free color surface is slowly transformed into elements that make up the figural composition. Todorovic’s tenebrous colors range in nuances of cobalt blue, titanium white, cobalt purple and dark black, indigo color (color of the night) mixed with gradations of white.
In the process of creation, the materialization of the entity sometimes results in a quantum leap that the artist describes as a magical action in which he loses control of the outcome, a contrast occurs in the direction in which he intends to move, “making inexplicable moves inconsistent with the way of his works”, it does not resist, but allows the creation of the nonexistent. Ease of the move and the intensive energetic centers of paintings make him possible to achieve effects that characterize several authors throughout art history; such as El Greco’s free strokes with white light accents, Rembrandt and Velazquez combinations of light and shadow, Rothko’s light center of a painting and monochromatic blending surfaces; in terms of the atmosphere and melancholy tones obvious are references to Caspar David Friedrich and Edward Munch, where colors spill over into a cool gray-blue range of colors dominated in the paintings of Professor Vladimir Velickovic in the 1960s and 1970s, on whose surface the forms emerge as on Men Ray’s photograms in the process of solarization of dark surfaces.
Chased by the ghosts of the past, clouds of smoke on Milos’s works move in a vortex like the wild, hypnotic dance of Tilda Swinton in Jarman’s film The Last of England (Derek Jarman, 1987), in which devastating forces release Tilda’s dance. She tears her wedding dress apart, the murmur of the wind igniting the fire that sparks reawakened hope…