The battle of Science vs. Art is a trying tale, with society pinning these “bitter rivals” against one another since the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Pinning the rapturous mind of the creative artist against the reasonable experiments of the scientist is an anachronistic mindset that only debases innovation and experimentation. Artist Ivan Stojakovic’s unique combination of painting, sculpture, and the living world debunk this trying dichotomy.
Stojakovic’s fluid integration of ecology into the art arena expounds on the ever-changing ways of scientific understanding in contemporary life. His work combines industrial tools with biomorphic succulents, creating man-made topographies that remix the natural world. The artist states, “The Urban Wild refers to remnants of a natural ecosystem found in the midst of an otherwise highly developed urban area. While being environmentally and formally aware, my recent work explores interactions between primal and urban agencies in the global village.”
Stojakovic is as ecological as he is industrial, highlighting the pertinent battle today between natural preservation and urban expansion. His work is featured in the online exhibition Un-Natural Nature, curated by SciArt Center’s Arts Program coordinator Danielle Kalamaras. Read on to learn more about his artistic and scientific inspirations.
“Atlantis,” mixed media, live succulent plants, 48 x 48 x 5 inches, 2014
DK: What most inspires you about the natural-and artificial-world?
IS: I feel drawn to the natural world – to its organic beauty, to the diversity of life forms and to the wild environment. I sense a magnetic attraction to the exotic and to the erotic in nature, in the plants and forests and in the oceans, for example. I also find refuge in nature – in the mountains for example, a refuge from malfunctioning societies.
I am a natural explorer and the art studio explorer. In my exploratory process, I use industrial tools to transform composite panels into abstract topographies. My work is interactive with the viewer, requiring the viewer to tend to the ever-evolving plants embedded in the work. This exploration has led me to discover a new way of merging sculpture, painting and the live wall.
I often make violent gestures in wood or steel, with hand held circular saw, in order to carve out entire territories on my abstract topographies. This studio moment for me means coming to terms with nature of violence. I have respect for the integrity of violence within the game of survival in wild nature. This integrity often lacks in human societies, which I see as very violent overall.
Nature is home for the human animal. It is a place of struggle and co-operation, a place of balance between positive and negative impulses. Time stops when I am in nature, and cycles begin. This moment for me is a potential for life without a destructive ego. What fascinates me the most about nature is how the natural world fits and works perfectly together without us humans. There is a transcendent beauty in this natural perfection.
Artificial world for me is alien and hyper-constructed. This alien world is still part of nature and a false yet perceivable dichotomy between the natural and artificial worlds is beyond fascinating. What intrigues me the most about the artificial world is a moment in perception when we say ‘this thing’ or ‘process’ is not natural but it seems artificial. I explore this moment in my art. Artificial beauty is for me a beauty of human illusion that our civilization can live above nature. When it works, this artificial beauty shows a glimpse of a higher power. When it doesn’t work, this artificial ‘beauty’ shows a painful and grotesque human attempt to change the natural order.
My artwork, which incorporates live plants, can be summed up as an aerial view of a dynamics between the natural and the fabricated worlds. The viewers are invited to interactively participate in shaping and taking care of the vertically installed planted areas. The art happens in the moment when the viewers often realize that these plants look like forested landmasses, from the bird’s eye point of view.
What is so ‘Un-Natural’ about nature today?
There are reasons why we humans have been plotting our escape from wild nature into the world of artifices, for thousands of years. Nature for us humans has often been a place of danger, violence and discomfort. Artifices such as our cities, modern medicine, genetic modifications, communication networks and artificial intelligence have stood as a promise for an easier and more progressive life. What inspires me about the so-called artificial and un-natural world is how it is all still part of nature. There are no artificial things and dichotomies. I believe that everything is within nature. Still, we know or feel that our lives on Earth have been out of balance, our evolution too fast and simulated, too large and out of proportion. This human condition to me seems artificial, neurotic or un-natural. This ‘un-natural nature’ or ‘artificiality’, I find equality fascinating, and inspiring, with one difference in the fact that ‘un-natural nature’ calls for our immediate attention and participation. The ‘natural nature’ does not need us – it is doing just fine without us, but the ‘un-natural nature’, the one that is our ongoing product, needs us. It needs us to actively strive for the natural balance and thus avoid self-destruction.
While drawing references from natural and fabricated systems, my approach to forming images, has been expressionistic and primal. This approach has allowed me to introduce a tactile, colorful and emotional – ‘ecological self’ into the complex equations of environmental balance.
What does “SciArt” mean to you?
It means interest and practice in both art and science. I have been a hands-on student of art and science since my early childhood. As an art student I was reading the Art in America magazine and Lynn Gamwell’s ‘Art, Science and Spirituality’ on a regular basis. I wish that the SciArt in America continue to be the place for fruitful and important dialogs and art exhibitions concerning SciArt.