Ilija Bosilj Bašičević was born in Sid, in what is now Serbia in 1895, and died in 1972 in the same town. His parents were peasants and he spent most of his life as a farmer, having been forced to drop out of school after four years. He resisted conscription during World Wars I and II as a protest against totalitarianism. When he began to paint, he assumed the name Bosilj. Although there were attempts to link him with some of the generic painters of the “naïve” movement in Yugoslavia, his work was marginal if at all relevant to that limited movement. Certainly there is nothing naïve about it. Like many non-western artists he used his own traditional folklore as a jumping off point and visionary bedrock for his own imagery.
His work's themes touched upon what Jane Kallir describes as: “Biblical stories, scenes from the Apocalypse, episodes from myth and history, depictions of local animals, birds, and the Dzigura (Sid's main street), and most idiosyncratically, images of winged people and an idyllic parallel universe called Ilijada. These subject groupings are not discreet categories but rather are interrelated. The flying people are on their ways to Ilijada. The Dzigura exists both on earth and in Ilijada. Overall, Ilijada is a paradise that balances and opposes the horrors of the Apocalypse. Given the evil that Ilija had witnessed in his own life, it is understandable that he was obsessed with such dichotomies. His paintings are full of double-headed and two-faced creatures, which represent dualisms, not just of good and evil, but of truth and lies, kindness and aggression, the conscious and the unconscious, the outer and the inner”.
He used a golden background for a special series of paintings he called the Iliad Cycle, based not upon Homer but his own journey through life. A selection of these paintings will be included in this exhibition.
Ilija Bosilj’s paintings are in the permanent collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; MNU Ilijanum, Sid, Serbia; Collection de l’art brut, Lausanne; Museum of Everything, London; Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Novi Sad; Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade; Museum of Naive Art, Zagreb, the Rockefeller Collection and the Carlo Ponti collection. His paintings are currently featured in an exhibition at Halle St. Pierre, Paris, titled Turbulences dans les Balkans (Turbulence in the Balkans) with a catalog of the same name, until July 31st of this year. Cavin-Morris Gallery is pleased to be working with Galerie St. Etienne and the Ilija & Mangelos Foundation, which represents Bašičević Estate, to honor this important and truly visionary work.
There will be an online catalog to document the exhibition and work in the gallery.
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