Galerie DIX9 Hélène Lacharmoise, Paris, 22 March – 11 May 2019
Galerie DIX9 Hélène Lacharmoise presents until 11th of May Sketch for One Erasable Plot by an interesting young artist, Nemanja Nikolić, who works at the intersection of drawing, cinema and animation. Born in Serbia in 1987, Nemanja Nikolić studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Belgrade, where he now lives and works. He already showed his work in an impressive number of events, including Drawing Now Paris (2016), Untitled Art Fair in Miami (2016), Contemporary Istanbul (2017) and Art Rotterdam (2018), to name but a few.
Nemanja Nikolić creates short black and white cartoons reconstructed from sequences of films such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rich and Strange (1931) and Wrong Man (1956), Joseph Lewis’s The Big Combo (1955), or Ken Russell’s Billion Dollar Brain (1967) to name a few.
In the case of Double Noir, Sketch for One Erasable Plot (2016), for instance, Nemanja Nikolić builds the plot of his cartoon combining images or attitudes from a variety of different films featuring Humphrey Bogart. He thus re-creates the atmosphere of a noir, with a plot that is unknown but will result in the inevitable death of a character. The frames are carefully drawn with chalk on a black background, so that the characters permanently seem to appear out of some inscrutable darkness. The frames are also shot at 16 images per second instead of the usual 24, which gives this trembling effect to the image, a trembling which acts as a mystery enhancer but also as metaphor of uncertainty, inconclusiveness of the plot.
A second interesting example is the permanent tightening and untightening of the hands of a character that we do not otherwise see, a scene drawn from Wrong Man and used by the artist as a comment on the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in 1974. The image reflects the cyclical tightening and untightening of the grip of Marshal Tito over the Yugoslav society, and could be compared to the regular tightening and untightening of the hands of a rider on the reins so as to control the speed and direction of his horse. In the films of Hitchcock, the murderer is often a strangler, as Philippe Demonsablon observed in his 1956 article in Cahiers du Cinéma. A tightening of the hands is of course a gesture that indicates the gathering of anger and violence to happen, but it also reminds us of strangulation, a political metaphor of the stifling of initiatives, freedoms, and ultimately social life.
Last we see a train roll, the collapse of a railway bridge, and the ensuing fall of the carriages in a bottom of the valley, drawn on a book of The Selected Works of Josip Broz Tito. It is as if the train travelled along the sentences as along its tracks, swallowed the words, the words of the dominant ideology, and these sentences were the bearing structure of the bridge, a structure which had become with the passage of time too weak and rusty to support the weight of the passing train. The train of history, we assume.
Nemanja Nikolić is extremely gifted at drawing, at creating an atmosphere, at suggesting a meaning without the unbearable insistence of much would-be political art, at putting at work the mind of the viewer. He is an artist to watch.