Practicing age-old traditions in a modern era

By: Carolyn Hauk

Any art historian tells us that a major influence in the evolution of art over time is the exchange of styles and methods between cultures. Romans often copied Greek statues in classical antiquity. Islamic architecture can be found throughout the canals of Venice and all the way to Cordoba, Spain. Vincent Van Gogh created several works inspired by prints from Japan. In any case, art was always meant to be shared globally.

On March 27th, the Gettysburg art department welcomed renowned artist Endi Poskovic to discuss the inspiration and development of his recent ambitious oeuvre “Majestic Series”, featuring over twenty wood carvings that each took over 300 hours to complete. Each relief depicts a landscape, hand-painted in bright colors that contrast heavy, black lines that make the wood carving appear more fragmented. At the bottom of each carving is a sentence translated into several languages including Italian, German, French, and Spanish, requiring the viewer to construct their own interpretation based on the text and the landscape. Interestingly, Poskovic revealed that painting landscapes was not his “cup of tea”, but was only appropriate for the message he was trying to convey. His interest lies in the themes of memory, obviously demonstrated in the imaginative scenery and bright colors he uses. But he also mentioned how viewers often try to see things in paintings that they cannot see. Poskovic said that “Memory is deeply embedded in the act of making these blocks” as wood carving is a reductive process that chips away the pieces viewers are trying to see, virtually becoming––as he put it––an “untruth”. This metaphorically emphasizes the fragmentation of memory and our attempts to visualize things which we can longer see.

Endi Poskovic

As a celebrated artist and a professor of arts and design at the University of Michigan, Poskovic has traveled across America, Italy, and Asia––which he admitted he has visited more than his hometown of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Through his travels, Poskovic has studied the traditional methods of wood carving and painting in Asia and has worked with master painters such as Tetsuo Soyama. Poskovic transfers these methods onto his own work, but instead of using a paintbrush as the Japanese do for their wood carvings, Poskovic uses a brayer. He interprets this as a cross in between cultures, a recurring theme throughout art history that inspires his work in wood carving. He not only borrows from Asian methods, but his landscapes are often inspired by the American study of the sublime landscapes practiced by artists such as Alfred Bierstadt. Poskovic’s work is a modern reflection on the age-old tradition of combining different artistic styles to create an individual style of artwork. Through immersive studies and artistic syncretism, artists such as Proskovic continue to make art a global celebration.

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