Radenko Milak : Angel of History
November 4th – January 4th, 2023 | OPENING NOVEMBER 11th, 6 – 8 PM
San Diego, California – Madison gallery presents Bosnian artist Radenko Milak (* 1980) who combines the photographic image with the painterly narrative. Like a chronicler of the present, he addresses major contemporary issues and identifies historical connections. Milak’s paintings are always based on photos. In his paintings and animated films – mostly watercolors with black pigment – RADENKO MILAK analyses the role of contemporary image production in the formation of our historical and cultural memory. The Bosnian artist’s painting work centers on questions relating to how visual elements are fixed and stored – both in personal memories and as presented in the media of film and photography.
“For his first solo exhibition in California, at Madison Gallery, Radenko Milak presents a corpus of works created during and after the years of stupor. These were the years of a pandemic that had frozen and suspended social time. In 2023, everything seems to have returned to normal. The world has returned to the rhythm of conflicts and extreme climatic changes. We have not yet taken full measure of the impact the pandemic had on our lives. Radenko Milak’s works chronicle contemporary living conditions. He examines the disintegration of relationships in the megacities. He reveals the chiaroscuro of parallel solitudes. He reveals a historical truth that is, for the moment, beyond words. These silhouettes, cutting through architectures that look unreal, are shadows or ghosts. Their precariousness heralds their disappearance in silence. Radenko Milak provokes a subtle sense of anxiety. It awakens emotions, a sensibility to the world and to others, which we know that it is necessary, if we want live fully. The artist captures the soul of the times, its historical dimension. He turns the accidental into a coherent vision.
If Radenko Milak defines himself as an artist of the digital age, we should immediately add that his aesthetic language does not belong to the digital age. His sources and subject matter are based on a careful exploration of the immediate, constant and dematerialized mass flow of images through digital networks. His works are the expression of a deeply singular vision that gives flesh, a body, to disincarnated images. His work is not only from a painter who has developed a virtuoso and inimitable watercolor technique, with an economy of means, through an alchemical combination of black pigment, water and white paper, it is from an observer, a chronicler, who reveals the real that escapes us in our passive relationship to the digital flow.
The situations captured by Radenko Milak inspire an emotion that is of a nature to awaken us to our own existence. A work of art is a material and concrete relationship to the world, because it develops a sensitive grammar. If we take a closer look at Radenko Milak’s works, we are no longer shadows and silhouettes, but alive. Between social and intimate time, the narrative power of these works creates, where we only perceived fragmented events, a single narrative, a common destiny. It could be that Radenko Milak is the Angel of History described by Walter Benjamin : “Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.”
– Christopher Yggdre, Curator & Artistic Director, Foundation LAccolade (Institut de France) & THE ELEMENTAL (Palm Springs)
Radenko Milak (b.1980 Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina) uses the mirror of painting to explore the major questions and upheavals of our time. Madison Gallery is proud to present the individual exhibition “Angel of History”, featuring new large and small format works. Milak came to international fame in 2017 through ‘University of Disaster’, his artistic submission for the Bosnia and Herzegovina pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale. Since then, His works have been found in important public collections, most recently the Museum of Contemporary Art (Zagreb, Croatia), at Marta Herford (Herford, Germany) and the Folkwang Museum (Essen, Germany), the Albertina Museum in Vienna and The Ludwig Museum in Budapest.
Radenko Milak’s focus is on the relationship with reality and history through the transformation of photographs into paintings. He translates press photos from printed media and the internet into meticulously detailed watercolors in soft black-and-white tones creating intimate pictorial references to current events. By consciously translating these images from one medium to another, he reinforces the message of the original image. This process allows him to transfer these messages from the past to the present, stimulating the viewer to re-evaluate forgotten and invisible realities. As such, topics like major world catastrophes, wars, global environmental crises.His newest body of work primarily addresses the two major crises that the world is dealing with: the environmental crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. The socially and politically committed Milak puts these two crises into perspective, while simultaneously juxtaposing them and connecting them to each other, creating thought-provoking, dynamic watercolors. Milak invites the viewer to think about the issues at hand and sparks debate, for example by questioning the way governments worldwide reacted to the COVID-19 threat compared to the threat of climate change, and in suggesting that there is no longer room for national politics in a globalized world.
Christopher Yggdre, a prominent curator, redefines art curation by blending modern innovation with traditional values. He fearlessly curates exhibitions that ignite discussions on cultural and social themes, collaborating with figures like philosopher Edouard Glissant. Co-founder of “Les Périphériques vous parlent” and part of Generation Chaos, Yggdre bridges art, humanities, and socio-environmental issues. Yggdre is the Artistic Director at the French Foundation LAccolade and curator at THE ELEMENTAL in Palm Springs. Noteworthy projects include the 2017 Venice Biennale’s “University of Disaster,” Paris exhibitions like “Life Entangled,” and upcoming works like “Symbiosium – Speculative Cosmogonies.”