(Novo Selo, Niš, 1934.)
The artistic oeuvre of Milija Nešić could be divided into two, as far as his understanding of art is concerned, equally characteristic periods. The first one comprises a series of sculpture dubbed Embodiment of the Idea, as well as action in free space from the series called Searching for the Living Image and A Pure Idea, between 1960 and 1976. The other one is a series called Wiggles (Mobiles) from 1979 onwards. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, having completed a specializing course in 1964 the year when he staged his solo exhibition in the ULUS Gallery. Independently, he exhibited in the Student Center Gallery in Zagreb in 1967, in the Tao Gallery in Vienna in 1970, in the Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1978, and, on several occasions, in the Cultural Center Gallery in 1979, 1983, 1987, and 1997. He staged a retrospective of his work in the Zepter Museum in 2018.
In an article published in a thematic issue of the Art magazine (Umetnost, No. 22, 1970), dedicated to contemporary Serbian sculpture, he wrote: “Having freed itself from objects by nature, the spirit has full freedom to embody itself according to its own whim. It is usual to call this purest form of embodiment – the abstract. I call it the concrete…“ And further on: “Objects which I create are imagined with regard to the outside world, and any possible association comes to us because of the use of materials I have at my disposal…“.
Forms which the artist himself calls “objects of an idea“ or “objects by spirit“ as newly-made artistic creations suggest to us a world of “artificial nature“, a world of technical and mechanical surroundings, as a result of a hastened industrialization and urbanization of contemporary societies, including the one in whose time and space Nešić’s early sculpture were created. His Concrete Sculptures are rare examples, in the Serbian art of the 1960s, of the then current orientation towards the so-called “techno-totemism“. Nešić was one of the participants of the historic Drangularium exhibition in the Cultural Center Gallery in Belgrade in 1971, after which, between 1972 and 1976, he carried out a series of actions and momentary “living images“ called Backfilling and Hopelessness, with which he demonstrated his act of giving up his previous sculptural work, and in which he alone or with rare witnesses left traces of his own presence somewhere in the barren sandy soil of New Belgrade’s periphery on the banks of the Sava River… Afterwards he reoriented himself towards the Wiggles series done as mobile items in wood, but also towards paintings and drawings, followed by articles in which he put forth his radical convictions, with which he finally achieved a position in which domestic art audience, unlike with some of his previous cycles of sculptures and documentary photographs, finally recognized him and accepted him.