Milenko Prvacki

Eugene Tan

The work of Milenko Prvacki engages with the re-invention of painting’s language. It is an engagement that is evident in the earliest paintings by Prvacki, made while he was still at art school in Bucharest, Romania in the 1970s, and continued in his more recent series of works, such as The Ultimate Visual Dictionary (1999 – 2000) and Construction Site (2001 – 2003), which were made – or more accurately, ‘constructed’ – after his re-location to Singapore in 1992. This dislocation from his home country of Serbia, a result of conflict in the former Yugoslavia, has been significant for Prvacki’s work. This is evident in the themes and subjects which his paintings allude to, such as ‘home’, ‘transit’ and ‘construction site’. They engage with the issues surrounding Prvacki’s migration from Serbia, the fragmented memory of place and of re-constructing a new life in a foreign environment and situation. It is this notion of construction and re-construction that is particularly interesting and significant about Prvacki’s work. For while his paintings are informed by Prvacki’s personal experiences, they nevertheless engage with the issues that surround the condition of painting today, and in so doing, result in a distinct visual language. Prvacki’s paintings engage with painting’s relationship to representation; is painting still a relevant mode of representation today? And how can paintings represent subject matter and emotions such as exile and dislocation?

These issues are explored in Prvacki’s paintings through his engagement with the notion of construction. His paintings highlight to its viewers that their experience and perception result from a process of construction. It is a process comprising the physical build-up of multiple layers of paint, as well as through the use of different visual devices and elements. In addition, Prvacki’s paintings further question the representative nature of painting by examining the relationship between abstraction and figuration. The figurative elements employed by Prvacki in his paintings are, at the same time, amorphous and highly ambiguous. Visually, these lines, shapes and forms oscillate between representation and non-representation, thereby defying identification and categorization. These figurative elements challenge the notion of representation by highlighting the fact that all forms, whether explicitly representational or not, can be perceived as modes of representation, and, consequently, that the opposite is equally true. It is therefore the multiple ways in which Prvacki’s paintings challenge painting’s representational paradigm, together with the profoundly personal subject matter that informs them, which makes them significant for painting today.