Dialogue of Memories

exhibition Ivo Šebalj, Painter’s Memento, 1994-2001, Modern Gallery, Zagreb, Croatia, 2019
exhibition concept and design Nenad Fabijanić
written by Ana Bedenko

If art in general has any relation to memory, it is to that strange memory that has never been deposited in a remembrance, which is therefore susceptible neither to forgetting nor to memory—for we have never lived it or known it—but which never leaves us: that which, under the name of the beautiful or the sublime, the terrible or the graceful, the radiant or the moving, is for us, since so long ago (since always?), the ‘splendor of the true’ (Plato)… 


How can we define the relationship between memory and art, friendship and dedication, retrospective and circumvention of conventions? What if art does not commemorate, if it is not made to preserve a memory, and whenever it is set to work in a monument, it does not belong to the memorializing aspect of the work.  Is it the elusive quality of the painting that defies interpretation, boxes, binary hermeneutics – the painting which opens onto itself, which opens onto the immemorial: presence always-already-there and always-there-again, inexhaustibly withdrawn into itself, relentlessly exposed before us…the immemory of a dawn or a twilight of the world? 


How to depict memories that are not our own? The person sharing the memory, participating in it, can develop that memory narrative. Beyond the borders of existence, painter Ivo Šebalj and architect Nenad Fabijanić weave it together.


It is hard to resist the mystical aura and anticipation which cloak Ivo Šebalj’s exhibition Painterly Memento. In hope that the painter’s imputed mysteriousness will be disentangled in the halls of the Modern Gallery, we enter the central exhibition space and pause. Juxtaposition of an almost Richier-like statue Sacred Heart, the sculpture devastated by fire in the war-ravaged Church of St. Anthony in Knin and the cause of this series and its darker tone, to the monumental, for the first-time exhibited diptych My Memento of the Atrocities in Knin’s Church, creates a dramatic impact, solemn, yet silenced at the same time.