The Primal Speech about Meaning
He is a son of Montenegro, resembling Njegoš. His fantastic realism is no aesthetic dandyism, decadency or pose. In his spiritual speleology, Krstajić descends below mountains, rocks and stars, to the very spring of life, to paint its pulses, rhythm and breathing. In accordance with his last name, there is much of Christ-like in this iconography and understanding of the world. The ancient originates from Christ’s passion, the mysticism of his heart transforms cosmic into divine

By: Dejan Đorić
Photo: Rajko R. Karišić, Tanja Mijanović

Naive and bad experts associate the prose of Ranko Krstajić with his painting. He is a born painter, formed very early, and academic education couldn’t contribute anything to his work, as Radenko Mišević and Stojan Ćelić noticed well. If there is a connection between him as a writer, anthologist and devotee of fantastic art, or magical realism to be precise, and painter and drawer, we would find it only in the most general interest in irrational contents.
Krstajić began his painting career as a realist, who makes steps forward in composition and transfers relations between space and time. His early paintings ambitiously and certainly displace perspective and time relations between figure, architecture and the painted space, which remained a feature of his work later as well. The painter knows about dramatic, deep perspectives, compositions whose layers of matter (most often stone) are shown with ultimate preciseness and minutiousness. He creates long-lastingly and arduously on technical level, with colored bases on which he makes numerous underpaintings in combined technique, until he sees a form in the originally formless, but very rich in potential mass. That is perhaps how nature also creates, so the artist only returns to it after purification.


The realism of his early painting is a foundation of the later, more turned towards symbolism, but it cannot be said that this artist is a realist. He uses the technique of precise figuration and object description, the state of reality, but also enters abstraction, controlled leaking and spilling of paint or accidental events, which, as Nedeljko Gvozdenović used to say, one must ascend to. Based on that, he still shouldn’t be related with modern painting, close to him only for his interest in freedom of expression.
Ranko Krstajić is a son of Montenegro, resemblingNjegoš, and his fantastic realism is no aesthetical dandyism, decadency or pose, but a primal speech about the meaning of life. That is why he paints ”Durmitor Galaxy, cosmic mountains and dramatic sights, which are only formally fantastic or symbolic. It is a more deeply and more precisely perceived internal (ir)realism, spiritual or natural description of the land and man of Montenegro. Thus there are more spiritual similarities between Petar Lubarda and Krstajić than between him and Serbian realists. In the rocks, stones and mountains he loves so much, he sees human beings, recognizes human forms, ancestors, heads and female bodies. This is the rarest manner of painting landscape, a merge of the unreal and real, human and natural, landscape and poetry, discovered in Serbian painting only by two or three artists. Krstajić experiences landscape and nature universally, the entire universe is there, in a small excerpt of space and time, now and here. Such a magical and hallucinatory view of the world, universe and history was first discovered in Serbian literature by Njegoš in his Ray of the Microcosm. That is perhaps why Krstajić’s novels and paintings seem to have no beginning or end, they pour over their edges, continue further, the being and mystical experience cannot be bordered or expressed in a series, each painting is a celebration.


In accordance with his last name (Serbian ”krst” – cross), there is much of Christ-like in this iconography and understanding of the world. Mother of all, the pagan and ancient all result in Christ’s passion and powers of his heart, cosmically transformed because it’s divine. The painter knows the deep and secret mysticism of the heart, the energy coming in waves of grace; he represents it in red, flooding like a tide. He doesn’t reveal paradise or hell in his paintings, like other imaginators, with dominant technique without any outline; he is interested in something much deeper. In his spiritual speleology, painting adventure, he descends below mountains, rocks and stars to the spring of life, to paint its pulses, rhythm and breathing. He is a visionary; everything he paints, he sees only in his spirit, not reality. He moves differently from work to work, instead of being a painter of one painting, as many are, using a once discovered successful art formula. Such uncertainty and many other things in his opus request courage, and he has it.
His analytic painting could rather be called synthetics, since, in his visionary thinking, he questions the foundations of visual art as an illusion. His novel Illusion brings a perfect description of some paintings: ”The night was clear, the dark-blue space, sparkling with dew and light of the stars, spread into eternity.” Let us end this invitation to a journey through Krstajić’s vision with a verse from a poem written by Risto Vasilevski, dedicated to his painting Petrified Love: ”Do they know what is waiting for them there?”


Ranko Krstajić (Žabljak, 1952) graduated at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade. He has been involved in painting ever since his high-school days and had his first solo exhibition in 1971. Up to now, he has had twenty-five solo exhibitions in Serbia and abroad (Belgrade, Nikšić, Dubrovnik, Vienna, Seville, Limassol, Podgorica, Zagreb, Novi Sad, Subotica, Kotor...) and participated in over fifty group exhibitions.
He is member of the Association of Artists of Serbia.
He lives in Belgrade.


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