Summer landscapes, a painting series of two panels

The painting series shows places of leisure, which lost their glory, it reminds us that the fate of such places is similar no matter in which country one can find them. The images derive from photographs I took during my trips to two places in Serbia (2019) and Austria (2020) and show not typical tourist objects of interest. They represent a collective image of how these two places appeared to me.

My trips to Uzice in the western part of Serbia and Studenzen, South Styria (close to the Slovenian border) had very different purposes in its core. While in Uzice I was invited on an artist-in-residence stay, in Styria I was invited to an art event, but as a visitor. My art projects usually deal with the urban space of big cities, so going to small towns, travelling by bus or train and experiencing the landscape and the road, was refreshing. 

Uzice, formerly known as Titovo Uzice is a town in Western Serbia. On my way to it, surrounded by hills and rocks, I had to think a lot about the phrase „ In den Schluchten des Balkans”. Used as a title for s group exhibition about the art from the Balkan, curated by Renee Block, inspired by one of Karl May books, it gives the impression of a dark and dangerous place, full of adventures. Coming from a similar town at the foot of the so-called Balkan mountain in Bulgaria and living in the heart of Central Europe., e.g., in Vienna, I could grasp this feeling of obscurity. It felt familiar and in the same time uncanny. 

My experience in the Austrian province was not really scattered by such a feeling, but there was one particular thing, which made me connect the images of these trips – both places project some kind of nostalgia for the past times and unfulfilled dreams. They feel abandoned, even though people live there and life goes on. 

The images show places of leisure – a nocturnal landscape of Uzice central beach with a swimming tower and a leisure center with a poker hall from South Styria. Lights, colorful shapes and a total simplicity in the visual language give the impression of idyllic and dreamy place. At the second glance they rather show decay, obscurity and loneliness. Also, they are completely freed by human presence, so they do not tell a personal story. And here comes again the uncanny. It appears not only when we experience something unfamiliar but also when we see a place, a sight which has lost its glory, where the decay is not only on the surface but in its very core.

Our consciousness (including the visual one) works using sustainable patterns – memories and images from our childhood, stills from old movies or even smells of forgotten perfumes, evoking memories again. Paradoxically, seeking the rational explanation of these essentially emotional patterns, we often frame them in the context of the overall history of the recent past. Even an old postcard from a long-gone family vacation can tell us much more about the period in which it was sent, instead of showing us just the romance of the seashore or the mountains.

This is the context of my works from this series. The unpretentiousness of the plot actually tells something much more general. The abstractness of feelings and nostalgia metamorphose into rational reflection about the years when these objects were created and then for the years in which they have lost their luster but have acquired a charm that only the collective memory can possess.

Vasilena Gankovska in collaboration with Boris Kostadinov