THE PICTURES FROM ILIJADA
It is difficult to learn about life while to paint is easy you only have to begin and then it works by itself one thing comes to fit in with another and when you finish a painting you realize that everything on it is many-coloured like in life and that each truth has two faces.
The ’artistic case’ of Ilija Bašičević Bosilj, painter and peasant from the town of Šid, is a singular one and in many ways a paradigmatic point, symptom and code of the 20th-century Yugoslav and Serbian culture/art.
Although it can be said that to Bosilj painting meant a practise which helped one cope with the world, the level of his entrancement, artistic passion and existential unification with his art put him into the rank of supreme art visionaries. In this striving, the surface of a painting appears to be a personal territory of privilege, an intimate cartography that articulates/sublimates all of Ilija’s tensions, conflicts and traumatic experiences of the world and time he lived in, as well as his personal hopes, fears, frustrations, phantasies, daydreams... By painting his inner situations and visions, Ilija Bosilj literally became organically linked to his art. Grand topics of history – whether it be Biblical motifs, events from national history or the artist’s own life-history – are dealt with by Bosilj without pathos or drama that characterized the painters and the painting art of his time.
Seemingly frozen, the static scenes on Bosilj’s paintings possess a genuine inner dynamics and drama. The line on his works can be slow and indecisive while travelling across the painting in search of its own shape, and then, next moment, it may unexpectedly burst into a storm and whirlpool, hardly managing to adapt to the dramatic imperatives of this eruptive creation. Whether on a constant move, swirling and disturbing, or presented as a haven of peace and calm of a higher order, Bašičević’s Ilijada always testifies to the fact that man’s body is an arena where all great dramas of our age take place. Through its ecstatic scenes and kindred to the art of primitive symbolism, but at the same time close to the grand figures of European art such as, say, Kandinsky or Miró – Ilija’s artistic vision, so original and unpredictable, reveals a man of extraordinarily rich spiritual life. Permeated with humour, wondering, lure, excitement, shock – Ilija’s visual rebuses also tell that true miracles often take place before our eyes, that is, that mythological experiences and potentials actually and often enough await us in our everyday life.
Having created an impressive oeuvre of more than 2,000 works that have remained unparalleled in the history of art, Ilija Bašičević Bosilj (as his family testified) left the earthly world while asleep and with a smile on his face – just in compliance with the description of his painting art provided by many historians and theoreticians of art (unable to offer adequate clues, and not without some pathos): it was said to be "a mysterious and indecipherable dream". Unlike the "dream" which is still awaiting additional light to be cast upon it and some more satisfying interpretations, the actual presence of Ilija’s art and the international reception of his work allow for a claim that Ilija Bašičević Bosilj is the most original phenomenon of the Serbian (history of) art.