Ivan Grubanov
I Hate You

Salon, Belgrade City Museum, Belgrade (SRB)
February — March 2024

Discussing nationalism
Daniele Capra

The solo exhibition of Ivan Grubanov titled I Hate You consists of around thirty new works of process-based painting. The show offers a selection of the artist’s latest research through five series of works – ranging from embroidered paintings of national mottos, hybrid polyptychs titled Idols, three dimensional paintings – Seraphs to Unnation, metamorphosed, painted flags and a video titled Monster – all united by the symbolic and conceptual use of the flag.

Grubanov’s practice stems from a critical reflection on the processes of creating collective identity and nationalisms carried through the incessant manipulative narration of events. In particular, Grubanov problematizes the very idea underlying nationalism – an uncritical overlap of ethnic, spiritual, cultural, and political aspects.
In his works, the artist employs the flag in a dual manner, both as the physical support of the pictorial material (as traditionally done with canvas) and as a tool for distributing oil colours (as if the flag were an atypical brush). The colour-soaked flag visually and conceptually loses its chromatic identity, the semantic content that makes it uniquely recognizable. In this way, it ceases to represent an identity in an intelligible and evident form, becoming literally something else, blending into the colour. The flag loses its unique perspective to become a vehicle for hybrid identities.

In many of his oil paintings, Grubanov uses the flags of the former Yugoslavia, bearing witness to the trauma of the dissolution of the state – experienced first-hand, as lyrically portrayed in the video Monster – after 30 years, the war is no more, but the experience and the stigma remain. Similarly, he uses national mottos, which are embroidered and painted, losing their vision that holds citizens together to become violent proclamations, declarations of extreme and ethnic belonging. Flags and mottos thus cease to be elements that unite communities under a common vision but become instruments of conflict and unexpected declarations of war against those perceived as different.

In his artistic practice, Grubanov relates memory, history, and their symbols to the problematic condition of today. His research explores the cultural heritage of the past and the ways in which inherent political and social values survive in our globalized society. His process-based works analyse the problematic relationships between memory and the open questions of contemporaneity. With his canvas paintings and large installations assembling elements of different nature, Grubanov researches the geopolitical and economic circumstances of the present, and reveals the incompleteness and inauthenticity of today’s grand narratives.