Visual Rhythms, 2021/23

Visual Rhythm, 2021-23

Text by Una Popović for exhibition Ten Pictures, 2023

For over a decade, Nemanja Nikolić’s artistic research has been dedicated to examining the experience of creating and interpreting an image/picture that can be processed through various, inherently opposing media. Nikolić confronts film, which serves as a matrix for motion detection, expanded narrative, or the process of creating a screen scene, with the basic principles of his artistic practice the two-dimensional form of an image, thus reflecting on the very visibility that emerges through the transmitter/transfer and is constructed through the receiver/perception. The contemplation on the technological pathway of an image and its meaning, which becomes different especially when executed manually, is intriguing and important for the artist because it involves complex “spaces of thought.” These are places where a variety of societal aspects, stories, narratives, fictions, themes, ideas, and ideologies are reflected, and through the relationship to the visual, a unique network of social and cultural connections are established.

Canvas painting represents a specific medium of transfer. The execution of this art form takes some time, and yet the process itself is hidden, so it does not trigger perception in a “continuum,” but rather what we ultimately get is an iconic “frozen” symbol. The canvas of a two-dimensional object of the image, in this instance, symbolizes the screen, whereby Nikolić treats a complex system of production and reproduction of moving images within this aspect. Ten abstract paintings before us rely on the concept and procedurality of the artist’s previous works devoid of figuration and abstract expression. The non-figurative character creates an illusionistic and non-mimetic expression only at first glance, but some of the titles of works, such as Signal or Visual Rhythm, reveal reflection on the use and transmitting positions of digital media and technology. Even though we have no reference to film/a particular film scene, we are given clear determinants on both the essential and the background, and that is the montage-making of the moving narrative. The narrative in this instance, although not realistic is abstracted and constructed within repetition by complex “programmed” symbolism. The painted rectangular net, an extremely complex set with rectangular fields within it, resembles a written sentence containing diverse elements like signals for synchronizing a scene. Within a square or rectangular format of an image, the network of vertical stripes is formed, within which rectangular fields of different dimensions and colors are arranged. Similar to the character of op-art or some kinetic object where the rhythm is given through the repetition of forms, and through rhythm a specific meaning is attributed – thus the works before us demonstrate a complex game of digital matrices that resembles a program for editing film scenes. Precise but sequenced strokes establish primarily visual code but also suggest a possible audio one. The painting before us explains the precise mechanics and composition of highly developed industrialization. Precise mechanics is visual and in itself the aesthetics basis of signal production. That is how, Nikolić reflects on the era of information technology and our daily lives, which are overwhelmed with images/screens to the point where the essence of the process of primary logic of a moving picture or even an analog film has lost its place in collective knowledge and memory.

No matter how much Nikolić’s previous artistic practice was directed toward analyzing film as moving pictures, in this instance, his artistic practice symbolically complexifies in a fundamental (always by the same meticulous manual work) demonstration of the mechanics of producing film language but through the digital signal that never corresponded to analog vibrations. The television/screen signal is iconic since a programmed algorithm of the two-dimensional planes converts them into a three-dimensional world. The sign is constructed of a combination of three types of discourses – visual, auditory, and the one which is meant to appear, therefore suggestive.[1] To transmit a perfect color image, it takes three times more data than in the case of a black and white one. The red, green, and blue signal of color in digital form is divided into luminance and chrominance, brightness and color intensity. Black and white projections could only use luminance while color screens used chrominance.

The screen-programmed image is an enclosed system just like film, and can simultaneously process, store, and transmit its data using tricks and manipulations. By the nature of its function and quality, Marshall McLuhan described film as a “hot” medium while television is a “cold” medium. Film a hot medium gives the illusion of a wide screen, which leads to a reduction in the viewer’s activity, while the television screen emits pixilation that the audience actively tracks and “quasi-tactically” translates into forms.[2] The television screen acts through the metamorphosis of form, multiplication, disruptions, and even noise, which become its specific aesthetics. Thus, the digital screen evokes Gilles Deleuze’s concept of the “time-image”. An electronic failure in the “digital” produces an abstract image, in its pure aesthetic form, which resembles the initial algorithm from which a “scripted digital reality” is yet to be formed. Nikolić’s visual reference thus gives a dual play, before us is a painted screen with a code that “turns on” or “off” the image. What we see is either the beginning or the end of the visual message.

Ten paintings also induce the so-called telepresence or remote presence. Nikolić offers an interesting analysis of the digital and the analog: if the images before us metaphorically represent a digital screen, he “expands” their dimensions in a way that fill the visual field of both eyes, like a wide film screen and thus “separates” the viewer from the so-called TV viewing box. Telepresence suggests that the necessary distance between the screen and the digital display is reduced so much that the pictures/ images and scenes embrace a wider viewing angle. Here, Nikolić notes a further message, questioning the fact: Medium is the message..? and what is the medium without a message?


[1] Stuart Hall, “Kodiranje i dekodiranje u televizijskom diskursu” (1980) /Coding and Decoding in the Television Discourse/, Hrvatski filmski ljetopis, 9 (2003), Zagreb 

[2] Lev Manovič, Metamediji /Metamedia/ Centar za savremenu umetnost, Beograd, 2001