Retro Menada is a solo art project offering a small review of the artist’s work in recent years, which she has spent researching and creating practically all over the world.
This show allows the Macedonian audience to see, for the first time, artworks created and exhibited in group and solo project on five continents and over fifty locations visited. The pieces have been created under various living conditions and have resulted from several years’ worth of personal research into social differences evident on the global cultural scene.
Retro Menada includes fifty-odd canvases, over a hundred sketches, watercolours and writings as illustrative documentations of scenes from Ilina Arsova’s numerous journeys for various purposes. It also presents a selection of photographs of marvellous landscapes, portraits and scenes from unusual destinations in Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America.
If all this is to be summarized in few words in order to capture the sum total of experiences, scenes, customs and cultural specificities, according to the painter herself, it would sound something like this:
After following the path of the rising sun in ancient Asia, we are moving to the place where the sun sets, in South America: from the depths of the Pacific to the land of the Thai along the worldly Alps, among the remnants of the Roman civilizations, across the waters of the Atlantic Ocean to the land of the Incas, all the way to Argentina, built through years of fighting for resources. The forces of the Gulf Stream are pulling us to follow the footsteps of the great explorers. The kingdom of the orcas and Magellanic Penguins in the southernmost part of the South American land and then travel back to the West African coast of the former Portuguese colony of São Tomé. From Hinduism, Confucianism and the best of Buddhism, to variations of Islam, branches of Christianity, voodoo and modernized pagan customs. We have encountered breathtaking natural beauty, as well as areas ruined by natural disasters or afflicted by conflicts that make one’s heart cringe. Tourism as opposed to terrorism on the commercial islands of Thailand and Indonesia; minority revolts in the predominantly Kurdish areas on the territories of former Persia; Islamic protests amidst the powerful Chinese regime; the modern rule of the grand Scandinavian Vikings modernized by the cold capitalism of today, and finally, the postcolonial treatment of the modern age and the economic dependence of African countries.
Directly or not, with a strong or negligible symbolic influence in the last couple of years, these experiences have been turning into paintings, sketches and watercolours.
The paintings have been organized into groups according to subject matter, directly inspired or created in the respective countries, exhibited in solo and group shows over there. Between 2008 and 2011 Ilina Arsova has completed the following projects: São Tomé 2017 and São Tomé Smiles (São Tomé and Príncipe, 2010), Emotional Dust and The Façades of Yunnan (China, 2009), SEA Impressions and SmART Pollution (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2008 and 2009).
The subject matter is most often a visual criticism of excessive consumerism in modern societies. A comparison is made between the marginal, undeveloped rural areas and the modernized, overpopulated urban settings in which younger generations are being force-fed clichés or living and dependence on an artificially created ‘plastic paradise.’
The paintings treat the problem of wasting food, packaging, clothes, technology, or advertising materials, of a disturbed value system with trends of extravagance and debauchery.
Ilina Arsova’s panting style has changed over the years. This is a new stage in her representations, with stylizations and mild abstractions in her composition. But her recognizable strong colours and energetic strokes are always present, helping her capture the idea she wishes to convey.
Her pieces are educational and express individual displeasure with certain phenomena in the modern world. Most of them are produced using a combined technique of acrylic paint on canvas, with added collage elements.
In a recycling and reusing process the artist gives a new creative dimension to objects long-forgotten in the attics and the basements inserting them as part or as background in her pieces. One notes a continuation of Ilina Arsova’s long-term artistic treatment of the global environmental issues. This is also an announcement of the works to come that are to be exhibited in Retromenada 2 once they are finished.