ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
Galerie Ron Mandos is pleased to present For God and My Country, an exhibition of new works by Ivan Grubanov (1976), a former Rijksakademie resident and representative of the Serbian pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015. In his installations and paintings made of flags and worker suits, the Serbian artist explores the notion of nationalism. Through his memories of the bloody civil conflict that broke the former Yugoslavia apart, the artist addresses the question what it means to be part of a nation, and what it means to be associated with a national identity.
Grubanov paints with vintage flags of his former country. It was by chance or perhaps an act of artistic providence that he came into possession of a huge quantity of national flags, flags of the former single party and the proletarian movement of Yugoslavia. Grubanov started using these as tools to soak up and spread paint onto his canvases, wanting to bring them back to life. The intuitive and ritualistic process of covering and obscuring the flags with paint helps the artist to deal with the violent past of his country. They reveal to him ideologies and broken-up ideals of the past and show records of people who lost their nation.
Grubanov investigates how people construct national identities or how an identity is forced on them. He uses various national slogans as a starting point; he has them embroidered on a piece of canvas and then paints over them, at once changing their meaning and prompting alternative readings. Covered and highlighted, the national slogans are simultaneously questioned and celebrated. He also produces slogans as three-dimensional text on the wall, marking the space and creating a situation where the connotations of the slogan refer to the viewer as well as the surrounding artwork. The notions of liberty, equality, divinity, peace, and progress embedded in the features of Grubanov’s work, resonate with irony and absurdity when directly juxtaposed with our contemporaneity.
Another source of historic and political reference in the exhibition are secondhand worker’s suits, formerly a part of military equipment of the Dutch army. Grubanov wears these suits while he paints until they become completely covered in paint and gain rubbery, wrinkled texture. Exhibited among the metamorphosed flags and in the vicinity of the newly created paintings, the suits insert a humanoid shape into the complex visual equation of For God and My Country. They mix together the notions of nation and class through a violent landscape of forms, colors and concepts.