Robert Dandarov


The scope of Dandarov as a painter gives an answer to one of the most important questions of communication and interactive connection of an artist's I with the World, problematizing primarily the weak foundations of subjective and private human experience in the context of essentially unattainable (although readily advertised) global "objectivity" of public human interest. His introvert activism reaches for the archetypal values, mythical templates and antique, Mediterranean controversies with the tradition of modern, primarily European world, pointing constantly to the conflicts between a rational philosophical tradition and overly emotional vision of the place of an artist in the world.

Robert  Dandarov, Caligula

Robert Dandarov, Caligula

To use a mythologem term, as a modern artist Dandarov remember the basic triad of heroic figures of Old Age, putting them in wondrous interactions. On their proverbial shoulders have our heroes for centuries carried the three basic pre-myths: realistic hero carried the weight of facing the world (like Oedipus or Antigone), romantic hero carried the weight of being a victim (such as Prometheus or Christ), while the worldly hero enjoyed his life, watched and mimicked it (Dionysus). This is the source of Dandarov’s archaic symbolic drama. But, he is also our contemporary and also modern, as he uses the aforementioned mental images to help his (and therefore ours) focus of interest glide from perceptive formula used by artists coming from a long, mostly European tradition, towards the recipient. By telling a story about the observer, the artist opens a debate about the intrinsic values of the epoch we live in.

Robert  Dandarov, Don Quixote

Robert Dandarov, Don Quixote

In the work of the new generation of painters, including Dandarov, a deeply neglected Otherness (about which many books have been written, and only the technical, politically correct solutions are used to save it), is saved with compassion and a painful consent that the Other is (like) Me. A popular comedy (The Gods Must Be Crazy, 1980) showed us the interactive conversation with the other, semantically remodeled from a conversation of 'Me with the Other' into a conversation of 'Me with I'. Therefore experience, not re-thinking of the other is an existentialist aspect of the work of Robert Dandarov, based on a constant gathering, building, destroying and an attempt on understanding the work of art as a living life of an entity filled with a common memory of the world.

Still, this is not about a romantic Everworld, it is more about a kind of an iconographic base to the memory, about archetypes and symbolism. If we create a line of development of visual arts since the 19th Century, Dandarov is connected to the fin de siècle tradition with his negation of reality of an instrumentalized civil society. He is a symbolist because, on an individual, subjective, exotic and spiritual foundation, he seeks a touch with reality that is not fictional as is the reality we live in (then and there, as here and now). His mystical fantasy is decadently suitable for utilitarian norms, although after „the death of God” there are many layers of responsibility and systematizing embracing our mind.

Symbolism is an important place for Dandarov as there is neither a special concern for preserving tradition, nor a future thought of as a project. Dandarov drinks from the well of modernity, but he is by no means interested in modernism as an alienated projection. This symbolism, as the French critic Georges-Albert Aurier (1891) put it, blends together the conceptual, symbolic, synthetic and subjective, but (let's add) it is based on an intuition of direct insight, as well as on intuition of real and fictional worlds. And this brings us to the opposite point that can be reached by a pendulum of a painter’s foundation in the tradition of art history, when discussing the work of Robert Dandarov.

It brings us to the poetics of the 70s and 80s, partly in the discourse of New Image, partly in Transavantgarde, and partly in anachronism. In a word, the aforementioned pendulum marks the line of momentous crises and transitions which questions the faith in reality. It must be said that Dandarov's connection with the Renaissance (and the Antique) ideals are just technical, and his view of the world, emanating from his dark and heavy paintings, is closer to a time of crisis than to an ascent of faith (in a world that is as it seems). If there is a fascination with optical illusions, the painter has the skills of an old master, but does not share the aspects of the artistic fate and testimony of the world. Simply, although Dandarov is obviously enchanted by the mastery of Vermeer, his work is more rooted in experiences of Odilon Redon.

Dandarov is an anachronist, a painter of memory. It is a pseudo-classicist ideal established in the 70s and 80s, to deal with subjective simulation through painter's interpretation of iconographic and semiotic solutions of the modern classics. Dandarov studies, and liberates from the historic memory, the abundant manifestations of mythological imagination. He confronts his subjective memories with historical knowledge, which results in an enchanting tick-tocking of an inner time. This shows the artist's important connection to the Transavantgarde in the contents of his paintings, and in the simulation and quotes of similar themes. But, Dandarov is surely closer to the anachronists, as his work does not have expressionist inconsistencies of transavantgarde artists. Quite contrary, there is a constant striving to become closer to the ideals of classic mimetic painting skills.

Robert  Dandarov, The Bishop

Robert Dandarov, The Bishop

We must see the deeply emphatic frame of the artist's visual text, in order to understand why his paintings instantly capture our attention despite being dark, and heavy, and dreamily frozen in a metamorphic movement (it is happening, but it seems that it won't happen). Only after being attracted by these forces, can we deal with the task of interpreting, just the opposite of the process to which we are lured by the conceptual art which we receive intellectually and then make our way through the stages of accepting it internally. On the other hand, instantly attracted by the paintings of Robert Dandarov, we look in vain for a reason to reject the hallucinogenic nervousness (as in Hieronymus Bosch) of the artist's own dramatic, subjective historiography.

Robert  Dandarov, Amber

Robert Dandarov, Amber

Robert Dandarov, Saint John on Patmost

Robert Dandarov, Saint John on Patmost

If I were to compare his work with music forms, I would easily choose opera. Not in the colloquial usage of the term, based on the artist's ethnicity, like the „opera“ of Balkans baroque („composed“ with great success by a different artist, Marina Abramović). No, what I mean by opera is the type of artistic complexity of the artist's expression, the analogy with the performance arts in which the main actor carries the biggest burden, and is deeply involved in both the scenic (ambiance) and mimicry (mimetic) elements of the desired general impression. I think these are the key elements making this artist a well-known and recognizable author, after his artistic nomadism of thirty years. His nomadism is not geographic; it means that he is constantly avoiding being put in hierarchy codes of thinking, working and acting. Or, as Michel Foucault nicely put it describing the real world as a constant wandering of the subject, not in the world of illusion, but in the series of compensating forms of reality. Such wandering, as we know it, must deal with archaeology, an archaeology of paradigms that have ruled over the whole history of art. Dandarov's expression is just that: he is an artist and an archaeologist, a witness of a lost time preserved in the foundation of our lost memories.

So far, the artist has successfully managed to avoid a firm stylistic frame of traditional vocabulary; he has consistently presented/represented an art more figurable than figurative. In other words, his figures are not metaphorical concepts, as he does not compose a painting by the rules of figurative art – they are rhetorical figures, a form of creating an intermediary, verbal meaning of a body, an object, or the world. In the work of Robert Dandarov, one can say that everything is figurable: thought, representation, and judgment, as well as understanding and fictionalization.

Robert  Dandarov, Mesmer

Robert Dandarov, Mesmer

What both confuses and attracts us at first contact with his art, is his fleeing from an imperative definition, because he himself seems to think of it as degrading to artistic freedom. Working in a broad range of painting and drawing media, from intimist to extremely large formats, from exploring the techniques of old masters to industrial materials, from figurative to abstract, the author has promoted the poetic, metaphysic, symbolic, and with them the contextual aspects of the painting. With such an emphasized content, Dandarov represents the senseless, psychic, archetypal and invisible in things, formed by the logic of what is visible. In all of his works, whatever the subject, technique or format, there is an inclination to language, but an escape from the text, an inclination to speech, but an escape from the writing. Such a deep, but non-binding eloquence is unique in its visual communication with the world, through signs of primordial hermeneutics, veiled with the darkness of historical and personal experience, and with the grief of living in a world of language-based manipulations.

Therefore, in his language of primordial signs, the archetypes and basic notions are created, stemming from either a psychoanalytical cultural topic of the collective unconscious, or from the aforementioned archaeology of human knowledge. Formally valuable (pittura colta: classic, or ‘learned’ painting – as Italians would put it) and eloquently mysterious painting of Robert Dandarov are worth looking at and reading, because the historically memorable part of our common (human) culture is worth communicating.

Robert  Dandarov, Negredo

Robert Dandarov, Negredo

Nataša Šegota Lah
November 2013

Transcending prescribed categories, Robert Dandarov blurs the conventional boundaries between history and metaphor through his heightened and sophisticated use of cultural references. In his pictorial work the artist has consistently expressed an interest and affinity for the lost language of symbolism. The paintings are populated by symbols of forgotten content, images with lost meanings that are reinvented by Dandarov acute perception of contemporary life. His complex vision nurtured by a past that is constantly present is translated in a ritualistic, cyclic metaphor for transformation and evolving that is never an idyllic one.These images become meditative as they evolve on themselves returning always to the original need to enunciate, to declare the present of a past.?
Sara Hermann, from "The 10" Catalog



There is another kind of people who dwell among us, ramble along the streets of our cities, greet us with a smile when we pass by, take part in our celebrations, sit with us, make way through the rushing crowds of undergrounds and malls, and yet somehow, for no particular reason, disturb our peace and upset us. Persistent, like children who ask awkward questions, a bit clumsy like newcomers from another planet, these stowaways to the end of the world, clairvoyants whose crystal ball has been broken, tourist guides into the unknown, strange estate agents trying to sell us non-existent properties in Dreamland, speakers of newly invented languages, troublemakers in parades, mummer-philosophers, party crashers — these secret agents from another world are among us. lt is to this underground population who incessantly undermine and shake the structure of our reality, to this orchestra of disharmonious musicians who keep blowing their prophetic trumpets and upsetting decent citizens, that Robert Dandarov, a traveller and painter, undoubtedly belongs. Anamorphs, troubadours of atonality, crypt-acoustic musicians, Orphic singers with stringless lutes, parachromatists, mystagogues, seekers of the lost Burgundy terza, hunters of mythological creatures, metaphysicians, alchemists, painters of black images, explorers of imaginary worlds, speleologists of the subconscious, astronauts into the endless space of the spirit - they are the modern outcasts of the world. By renouncing the well-ordered world of habits, they unfold new worlds to us, uncover new reality and, as lhab Hassan says, "These Children of Nothingness dream like no one else." In their work, be it art or anti-art, modern or post-modern, we recognize something that confirms our own secret life, our own real existence. What happens when one starts doubting the reality of the image of the world? What happens when one has suspicion that reality is simultaneously particles and light waves, order and chaos, peace and unrest, wake and dream, harmony and nonsense, substance and nothingness...? What if reality is just a shadow, illusion, flickering apparition, reflection in the mirror, deceptive gloss...? Nietzsche says, "We have art so that we may not perish by the truth"Art as the truth of a lie saves us from being petrified by the real reality. The artist enables us to see the world as a reflection of Medusa's face in the shield of Perseus. The mirror has long been a symbol of the ideal and true image of the world (therefore mental processes are explained by optic terms: reflection, speculation...). As a miracle of complete reproduction, the mirror becomes symbol of a vision of the world and a possibility for self-knowledge, showing the man his own image, his twin, phantom or simulacrum (Jurgis Baltrushaitis). In modern times, distorted and multiplied mirrors become a symbol of the world upside down, world in which the game of reflections is endlessly repeated, revealing an abstract labyrinth of complete surreality (Gustav René Hocke). ln the hysteria of producing reality, the image is no longer traded for reality, but transforms into itself, in an incessant circle without any egsisting references.The self no longer exist, there is no focal point, no center or periphery: there is only a circular bending or infection (internal bending). Somewhere at the beginning of the previous century, while lost in labyrinths of mirrors, instead of finding a way out, we (symbolically) broke the mirrors and their broken pieces scattered all around.The image of the world exploded like a supernova (which has been carefully documented in the fine art archives) and from then on it could only implode and turn into a black hole. Even stellar systems do not cease to exist once their energy is dissipated: they implode at first slowly, then progressively accelerate — accumulating speed and becoming in- volutive systems that absorb all the surrounding energies, finally transforming into black holes where the world as we know it, as radiation and indefinite energy potential, is abolished (Baudrillard). Nowadays, we replace mirrors with vision machines (Paul Virilio). We have replaced the image that disappeared before our eyes with coded impulses, pixels and continuous direct flow of electrons in circuits, meaningless and endless. It is an image that does not reflect anything (except itself), it is neither the truth of the mirrors nor panoptic image fortified with the laws of perspective where there is still some objective space and the omnipotence of viewing is preserved. Spectacularized reality is based on such distinct mediated images that fully shape this reality. The basis of this spectaculisation of reality is simulation, functioning as independent, alienated reality by means of choosing, selecting and organizing (montage).The spectacle is also a speculum. It is a system of broken glasses that make the image of the world fractioned, fragmented and incomprehensible in its inter medial indeterminacy. The metaphor of broken mirror became recognizable in the age of post-modernism. Nothing any more can really be reflected in the mirror or in the abyss (which is nothing more than endless replicating of the consiousness), says Baudrillard. But what happens when mirrors get dark and only the"red-hot amalgam of our desires" remains? What happens when the mirrors are not reflecting any more the reality and refuse to mimic our movements? What can be seen behind the mirror when it is broken? Will the captured ghosts and phantoms come out from the broken glasses? In Jean Cocteau's film "The Blood of a Poet") a speaking statue says that we should enter into the mirror and walk there. Robert Dandarov has entered into the darkness behind the broken mirror of the world. Things look different in the darkness! If you dare explore the darkness the way Robert Dandarov does, be prepared to face monsters which are lurking there. These are the monsters from the closet of your childhood nightmares and the terrible beasts from the impassable rainforests and deep seas of your subconscious. A step further ('at the bottom'the psyche is simply'world,' says Jung), and our personal monsters will be torn to pieces and eaten by the monsters that jump out of the darkness of the common subconscious, who in turn, crying and screaming, will be devoured by even more horrible monsters that manifest the powers that rule the universe. Robert Dandarov creates his monsters from the sticky tar coating the back of the mirrors, from the amalgam that creates the reflection and enables the view. This is where all forms are created, in the damp, hot, wobbly, malleable and soft mass — the tar at the bottom of the world, in Tartarus(Τάρταρος). The base of the painting is darkness: abyss, night, non-vision, gloom, matter. The painting is an open wound. Something indefinite, dark, sticky and hot leaks form Robert Dandarov's paintings. The image is womb. Out of the torn, bloody placenta new monsters appear. This is where matter suffers, it is torn down and the existing forms — the phantoms of reality — decompose, because the contents of the image is re-created from the internal substance of fine art — the darkness. Insects and reptiles come out of the darkness, snakes crawl, fish wallow, swarms of flies buzz, bees run away, some black wild plants sprout and grow, black birds fly out, roosters crow, incomplete creatures reach out, parts of bodies, organs, growts, limbs... appear from the source of life. This is the substance of the painting: tar, mud, blood, flesh, honey, honeycomb, dough... everything defined by the Sanskrit word ma (mag, magh and mat): mother, matter, material, measure, womb, magma, stomach, place of birth, creation, opulence, division and dissemination, something that quivers, change spreads, writhes, bends, spill, swells and grows... And as Kerouac exclaims, "Who knows, maybe the universe it is one vast sea of compassion actually, the veritable holy honey, beneath all this show of uniqueness and cruelty?" According to Heraclitus's Ethos anthropo daimon, man's ethos, his inner dwelling place or the place where he is himself (therefore, the essence of man) is daimon (or paraphrased in Kafkian terms, not so strange or incomprehensible to the Hellenes, man is the place where demons dwell). Demon (daimonos), as well as its synonym theos, is Hellenic term for sacred (sanctum) in its visible or at least present form (the term 'personified' can not be used, because the Hellenes did not have the word or notion of'person'yet).The sacred as demonic is equally close to the essence as well to nothingness.The sacred defines the man as creator and destroyer. Exorcists have long expelled all the demons from us and from the things around us, so we and the things are left empty and life is drained away from us.The world is no longer sacred. Ours is a world of dead things. There is a gory, sore split within the man, split between psyche and matter, between the conscious and the object of consciousness, between the subject and the object. This is an effect of the Cartesian division of the conscious from its object, from nature: division according to which the mind is just a passive mirror, a catoptric machine that is driven by the gear wheels of a rational mechanism, as opposed to the notion that matter is the mirror of the soul. Even today, to most of us, reality is not a miracle or epiphany, but just an outward, determinable, predictable surface or image, or at best, a stage backdrop or scene where the overall human drama unfolds. This painful split is the reason why things are getting their revenge at us, and poetry (poiesis), which is no longer within us and we never managed to find her within the things around us, suddenly erupts from their dark side; and there have never been more crimes whose absurd monstrosity can only be interpreted as our inability to possess life, says Antonin Artaud. Perhaps the monsters from Robert Dandarov's paintings are only monstrous to us, but could it be that, from their perspective, it is we who are terrible monsters? Maybe the figures we see in his paintings might have our faces? His drawings and paintings portray the world as it really is, the world we could see if we were not blinded by the false glow of the illusion. Vision to be enabled, there must be dark background, dark side of things, black amalgam at the back of the mirror without which the whole world becomes transparent. Therefore, our world is full of ghosts and phantoms. There are word-locks that lock up whole civilizations for a thousand years (Burroughs) and by the same token there are image-locks. There is a dungeon for words the way there is a dungeon for images. The locks for Robert Dandarov's paintings have been broken and the freed monsters are coming forth. Standing before his paintings, you have no other choice but to face your own ghosts and phantoms and, like the heroes in the stories, fight them in order to save the world again.
Emil Aleksiev,from the catalog ,,Tar & Mirror''