Safe Ground to Land on
Galerie Liusa Wang is proud to present Safe Ground to Land on, a solo exhibition by Jelena Prljević featuring recent drawings and hand-drawn animations projected on paper. This exhibition celebrates drawing as a mnemonic device that interlocks the mechanisms of preservation and erasure. For Prljević, the act of drawing is a search for solid ground, for something to trust, in a world that is increasingly unstable. Featured works are an assembly of private records that summon the transformative and healing power of repetition within architectural and cinematic dreamscapes.
Prljević belongs to the young generation of Serbian artists shaped by the shifting economic, cultural, and national landscape in the Post-Yugoslav context. Currently based in the United States, she explores the intimate processes of displacement and reconciliation. Her drawings depict the step-by-step creation of personal microcosms that enable her to feel grounded in unfamiliar and often transitional places – sequestered rural towns and frenetic urban environments where conflict and timing are inseparable.
The artist uses charcoal and graphite on paper as a primary medium because of its directness and fluidity. Every gesture becomes a record of movement and time in the animations that are created on a single sheet of paper. Drawing in this way demands focus and presence especially when animating an average of 24 frames for a single second. Each subtle change in the animation may require one to hundreds of marks per frame. This process shares deep parallels to martial arts that the artist has been practicing for the past several years. In the artist’s words:
“In Wing Chun, I learned that a gesture becomes a reflex after being repeated thousands of times. An experience that previously felt unknown, different, and challenging serves as an opening gate for a new set of movements. This relationship between repetition, memory, and movement enter my work through the animation process.”
Some drawings exist as a hybrid when the animation is projected back onto the original composition activating specific aspects of its architecture. The dialogue between media simultaneously reads as the past condition and as a continuous becoming. This process literally brings to light the hesitation to trust a memory as a document by emphasizing the constant penetration of mental images from the past into present and vice versa. The cyclical re-living and processing of history makes the drawing a memorial ground where the gesture of activation serves to inhabit a place of abandonment.
Creating a palimpsest of sites of memory and memorial sites, the exhibition unfolds the transcription of personal marks into an iconography of public space. The seemingly serene monochromatic compositions are an expedition through cognitive and symbolic interruptions in the attempt to make the foreign familiar. Along the path are encounters with quiet clearings, mysterious monuments, and sprawling warehouses, equally infused with introspection and illumination as the viewer moves from one destination to the next. Shifts in scale turn intimate observations into vast theatrical stages where stepping out of the light means stepping out of time, either to be forgotten or transformed forever.
-Nataša Prljević and Joshua Nierodzinski