The Guardian of Redemption
(On the graphic series Second Journey, by Admir Mujkić)
The facts that suggest war, as a subject, is finally a thing of the past naturally have feet of clay. Admir Mujkić’s most recent graphics, with the metaphorical title Second Journey, are yet another proof of just how incomprehensible and inconceivable the immense tragedy of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was and is. Those who hastened to tell themselves and the world that the war is a spent issue and that there is no point in returning to it simply do not belong to this time and this reality, for they lack the strength to face up to the greatest challenge of all – their own trauma and pain as a universal value. These are events that radically alter one’s view of life, and war is a cosmic cataclysm that goes on even after it has formally ended – the type of cosmic disaster that has only minor reverberations in the universe, but that finds its mysterious content in the human soul. The soul it is that writes the history of each of us, and that history will never find its way into fat textbooks and dusty books with pompous titles, for it is the kind of history that finds its surest sanctuary in works of art. The graphic series Second Journey forms part of the unwritten encyclopaedia of the universal human soul of which the beginnings go back to Gilgamesh and Homer, in which every artistic artefact, be it a book, a graphic, a statue or a video, adds to this mega-book of humankind of which, not so long ago, the great philosophical and literary minds of the 19th and 20th century dreamed.
Whereas the starting-point of Mujkić’s previous graphic work, Small Countries, was the unusual worlds of imagination and dreams, this new exhibition is based on the wholly visible human figure, again immersed in the regions of fully dreamed tradition, which is thus presented anew in the altered context of the individual that bears the name of Mujkić’s real and mythical homeland. All the elements belonging to the heritage and to an entire culture, vanished like Atlantis, acquire a new dimension of meanings, for they communicate with the present-day as beings and things that have just emerged anew, bright and shining, from the oral tradition. This renewed dreaming of the past in a mythical, epic matrix does not seem in the least anachronistic, for it is all set in the framework of the recently ended war, so that these graphic folios may also be read as the reconstruction of an Arcadian time that will never return. Mujkić’s graphic vision does not end there, of course, but evolves in various directions, of which the most interesting to me, along with the figures of fragments (irresistibly reminding one of how crippled our world is), is in fact that transition from the human soul to the very soul of the world of nature. Or maybe it just seems that way to me, for Mujkić’s graphics could also be amalgams, secret mixtures in which all this is to be found, made by the hand of the master and his feeling for the harmony of colour and form.
Setting aside the scars and records of war (one of Mujkić’s graphics is a group portrait of the wartime unit in which the artist served) and the series of photographs of Mujkić’s forebears in the wartime uniforms of three different times and states, ending with the artist himself in the uniform of the BiH Army, clearly invoking the idea of war as a ritual that, sadly, constantly recurs in this part of the world – setting these aside, in my view one may get to what is the central strand of this exhibition: our intimacy with nature. This new/old sense of pantheism and of the all-pervasive force of nature, that is renewed in us even after our physical death, is a kind of anthemic experience of nature and our place in it. In Mujkić’s microcosmos, people talk with birds, guard the water and the earth, and knowledge too, meet with dragons, horned vipers or falcons.
Mujkić creates his own hierarchy of people and other living beings, bestowing different emotions on them, comprised in the movement of the fragmentary figures, and still more in the fantastic shades of colour found in the graphics entitled Guardian of the Water or Guardian of the Water II, where the artist counterposes shades of red and blue – the water from which its guardians emerge in an integral symbiosis. All these guardians are perfect, ideal figures, of a kind rarely to be encountered in our world, such as Mujkić presents them to us as the heirs to the virtues, emotions and magical benevolent powers over living beings in a universe through which streams a single soul – the soul that keeps vigil over all things possessed of material existence, the soul that has yet to be described and indeed that will not allow itself to be described, defying our desire to place everything within a specific form that will in time become an end in itself. Often, in these graphics, a protean being appears that may take the shape of a flying cross or of a Medusa-like creature, usually on the actual torso of Mujkić’s heroes. It may be a minor hallmark of life, or an obvious religious symbol mingled with the explicitly oriental Islamic symbols of the Frontiersman and the Guard, so that Mujkić’s heroes may also be seen as the place where religion and culture meet (in the body, not in state territories) as symbiotic identity elements of unity in diversity, regardless of how naive and utopian that may seem today in the light of our mundane politial reality. The real news is that there is no reality/ let us enter the silent, tender garden, wrote Rumi in one of his poems. It is time for us to enter the landscapes of Mujkić’s graphics, in which art once again affirms itself as a catharsis (small, but powerful) that will help our crippled reality to overcome its own despair.