Steppenwolf: the quest for identity
Aleksandar Duravcevic, known as Sasha, and I met in January of 2015; today our friendship symbolizes the spirit of an enterprise started a little more than a year ago. Our first encounter was marked by my instantaneous obstinacy in acquiring a diptych, two small oils on canvas depicting a full moon in a Tuscan landscape. He was taken aback by my impulsivity but said he couldn’t part from it, being the first he had done in that series and medium. I told him that if I woke up the following morning thinking about it, he would have no choice but to allow me to live with it. A few days later the moons became part of the patchwork of imageries that make me feel at “home” in my New York apartment. That episode marked the beginning of a fertile alchemy, which gave birth to ‘Steppenwolf’.
When we first discussed his show I broached the idea of making it about the quest for one’s identity and for him to interpret the ineffability of that riddle as he wished. From the very beginning I felt a sense of kinship with Sasha and I identified significantly with what, at that time, I felt had been his passage through the vicissitudes of life. We share similar nomadic origins and have crossed dusky steppes where we are meant to remember and recognize the light that we are made of. So far the exhibitions at TOTAH have been a way of expression, created to pass on messages which I am hoping can touch many. I believe that art often can help us understand the complexity of existence by being a metaphor for life, a subtle echo voicing our soul’s need to appease its torments and express its joy.
In ‘Steppenwolf’, Duravcevic walks us through fundamental existential themes in his own poetic and mysterious language, employing his infinitely diverse and rigorous craftsmanship. There is a recurring contrast between the real and the imaginary, time and timelessness, the concrete and the abstract, light and darkness. None of his drawings, sculptures, paintings or altered metal pieces comes to a full stop at the image; they are portals towards another reality, leaving us hungry for more, and forcing us to find our own answers. Like treasures of timeless significance they become antidotes for the mainstream triviality that surrounds us. Many of the images he creates are symbols that transcend the limits of a binary interpretation. He belongs to the category of those artists who offer us clues about the secrets of existence, which everyday life prevents us from seeing. His art represents an interweaving of several worlds made of time and imaginary dwellings; it creates a feeling of being both at home and constantly out of place. The mystique of his work can be preserved only when we surrender to an immediate reaction instead of trying to understand and explain the pathways of his pencil, brush, scalpel or mind.
Although the title of the show was inspired by Herman Hesse’s autobiographical allegoric novel, which epitomizes with utter genius the human condition, the actual show is composed of fragments of Duravcevic’s own journey; yet one that is universally relevant for those who are seeking. Time, individuality, duality and integration are the main ingredients in our quest for the absolute, the yearning for our own true essence, to finally find our home within ourselves and become whole. It’s not a voyage that ends one given day; the arrival may not be where nor what we expect but if there were to be a prize, I’d name it love. A chronic melancholia fuels each step forward, wistfully looking at future odysseys, drawn towards an unknown yet familiar land where unanswered questions find their harbor.
- David Totah