(Drenova, Aegean Macedonia, 17. July 1942. – Belgrade, 14. October 2013.)
Bora Iljovski graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts with a specialized course in Belgrad in 1968. In the same year, he staged solo exhibitions in the Graphic Arts Collective Gallery and in the Kolarac People’s University Gallery. He took part in the Drangularium exhibition in the Student Cultural Center Gallery in 1971, which was the initial exhibition of the “new artistic practice“, a practice he did not join, remaining true to the discipline of painting. He had a solo exhibition in the Salon of Museum of Contemporary Art in 1979. He exhibited in the Yugoslav Pavilion (together with Edita Schubert and Andraž Šalamun) at the 41st Venice Biennale. He had solo exhibitions in Coastal Galleries in Piran, and in the Modern Gallery in Ljubljana 1990. A retrospective of his work was held in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade in 2006.
The beginnings of Iljovski’s paiting were closer to the themes of “new figuration“ (Two Women (1967), Trying the Most Beautiful Dress (1967)) and “new objectivity“ (Shadows in the Center of a Star (1972), Two Groups of Views Through Glasses (1972), and others). At the same time, he moved into the area of specific kinds of abstraction (Untitled (1972), and others) for which it would be correctly noted that they were more “a result of influence of a simplified understanding of pop art, which was, at the time, characteristic of our artistic environment rather than of some modernistic reductiveness and rationality“ (B. Dimitrijević). The culmination of problem-orientation and value of his painting began in the late 1970s, and took place throughout the past two decades of the 20th century, with a series of chef-d’oeuvre large format paintings (such as In the Black Field (1978), Personal Entourage (1981), Yellow Drawing on a Red Field (1982), and others). This was an extremely individual and original understanding of painting which, by its attributes of luxurious visual decorativity, but also of hidden sophisticated meanings, being created in the method of the artist’s “taking pleasure in painting“ as well as the observer’s “pleasure in viewing“, got involved with the artistic atmosphere of mature postmodernism, and in 1977, he created the following works: Active Bottom, Abandoned Sentence, Botanical Decorum, Firm, Rhythmical Exercises, and Live Fence, which possessed characteristic attributes of Iljovski’s painting such as dynamism of a complex composition of its numerous geometric elements, and active coloristic sections on a painted two-diamentional plane.
The beginning of the 1980s in Iljovski’s painting was marked by his performance within the Yugoslav Selection at the Venice Biennale in 1982, where he exhibited chef-d’oeuvres such as In the Black Field (1978), Fuktak, II (1981), Personal Entourage (1981), and Yellow Drawing on a Red Field (1982). Further pursing this success in painting, Iljovski had an entire decade of top-notch creations, including Never Surpassed (1983), Upset Pattern (1984), After the Fire (1984), Again and Always (1986), A Winter Morning (1988), Play of a Large Shadow (1989), Ouverture for 24 Awakenings in Spring (1989), Shadowplay by the Sea at Dawn (1989), for which it would be said that they gave out “a nearly hedonistic pleasure in a painterly play which has its own logic, and, as a final result, has a highly estheticized field of pure painting“ (B. Dimitrijević in the catalogue of a retrospective exhbition in the Museum of Contemporary Art, 2006). The notion of “pure painting“ in case of Iljovski assumed the kind of painting stripped of certain referential attributes, yet these are paintings which, for the artist himself, possessed some very special and therefore unrepeatable reasons for their creation, of which concrete and different titles of certain paintings testified, and they were hiding within themselves and possessed within themselves the always different initial stimulus, and with this, narratives that were necessary for the artist although they were difficult to decipher for others. A basic and constant features of Iljovski’s painting was exceptional visual abundance, so this was the kind of painting entirely contrary to minimalist reductions by the principle of “less is more“, and it was as if this artist was confronting it with his own principle called “more is even more“, which was expressed in luxurious outlook of the final stage of visual field but also in details of ever diverse forms. Beholder’s gaze always found the never-drying and inexaustible “joy of viewing“ secured by the artist’s equally necessary “joy of painting“. Iljovski elevated the look of highly esthetical, even decorative “beautiful painting“ to the level of autonomous visuality which preserved and nurtured the unavoidably needed metaphysical essence and its presence in this art.
Botanical Decorum II (1978)
oil on canvas
160 cm × 130 cm