A Theory of Colours as Topography
Text by Robert Fleck
Christine Ljubanovic’s work series “Colours/Pigments/Patterns/Scales” (CPPS) is a global
theory of colours as topography. Created between 2003 and 2021, it is exceptional in more than one way.
The presented theory of colours does not serve as a system of painting technique (as in the case
of Max Doerner); nor as a phenomenon of empirical physics (Newton and in a different mode, Goethe)
or as illustration of the history of colours (commonly addressed in publications); and also not
as something derived from visual/pictorial practice (as, for instance, with Hans Albers building on
Gauguin and Bauhaus).
Ljubanovic’s theory of colours is the result of her journey around the world in search of a topographic, locally specific and frequently only fragmentarily conserved knowledge about and application of “colour”. This is a distinguishing feature of the project: An artist’s ethno-graphic journey around the globe
seeking out almost extinct stocks of knowledge about colour; knowledge totally unknown to the paint (dye) industries and therefore also a terra incognita for us. It is indeed a global undertaking that treats all cultures as equals and represents their coexistence through particular hues of colour that might have vanished
from the collective memory and the specific culture of origin if it had not been for Christine Ljubanovic’s artistic field research.
In her studio this aspect becomes very clear in two ways – highlighting yet another distinguishing feature
of this topographical theory of colours: A multitude of almost forgotten hues of colour from all continents is captured on thousands of sheets of paper. The fundamental patterns typical of the specific cultures Ljubanovic has selected are reflected in her paintings on paper. This artistic transfer or transformation permits the conservation of colours and patterns; it creates an artistic ethnographic archive.
This work series has not yet been presented to the public despite recent surveys of Ljubanovic’s work
in Kunstraum Innsbruck and other exhibitions. Her global theory of colour as topography generates
an assemblage of hundreds of pictures that create a powerful aura given our normed colour scheme shaped by screens.
Even without any public showing or special exhibit, the artist has diligently conserved these paintings
over many years – and everything has remained beautifully intact. Christine Ljubanovic’s paintings on paper combining rediscovered and preserved pigments and painting techniques from all parts
of the world represent an artistic theory of colour reminiscent of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s projetto d’arte:
art is essentially like handing over the baton from artist to artist, as in a relay. From the copious documenting materials archived in Ljubanovic’s studio, we know that all of her conversation partners
on her ethnographic-artistic discovery tour were eager to share their precious and rare knowledge.
This becomes manifest in hundreds of completed paintings that Christine Ljubanovic accomplished on site wherever her exploratory journey took her; and the first public show-ing will recognize this process
of cultural transmission.
Ljubanovic’s global theory of colour focusing on the vanishing knowledge about the amazing diversity
of colours can be considered as a kind of echo of a very important current issue: the conservation of bio-diversity. Beyond this, it is an independent set of some of the most unfettered and at the same time,
most precise paintings of our time. The major question regarding this work is: how and when can it be exhibited in the right venue?
Translated by Maria-Regina Kecht
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