Printmaking

Traditions in Belgrade's fascinating Cemetery & snowy Landscapes

My husband, Dragan, who is a native Serb, our 11 year old son, Aleks and I have embarked on an adventure, by moving to Belgrade from England for 8 months. These are excerpts from my weekly diary.

Overlooking the Cemetery

Our flat in Belgrade overlooks one of the most important cemeteries in Belgrade, 'Novo Groblje' (the New Cemetery) [1], where many famous people from Serbia are buried. Not actually that new, the cemetery dates back to the 1860s. Over the last few months, some well-known people have been buried there, including Oliver Ivanović, the Serbian politician who was assassinated in Kosovo. A famous actor, who died relatively young, had his funeral there recently too. I said to my 'Kuma' (my Serbian godmother) [2], that I have never spent so much time in a graveyard as I do in Serbia. She laughed. But it is such a beautiful place.

London's Highgate Cemetery

Last summer, the three of us visited Highgate Cemetery [3] in London, England, and were amazed to see so many interesting gravestones and epitaphs. At Highgate Cemetery, Aleks was fascinated to hear our guide tell us about tombs with giant spiders, to see Karl Marx's monument and to also see Douglas Adams' gravestone, with a pot of pens beside it. Novo Groblje (the New Cemetery) is also very important and is a member of the Association of Significant Cemeteries in Europe [4]. If you get a chance to travel to Belgrade, I would recommend a visit here.

'Zadušnice' (the day of prayers for the souls)

'Zadušnice' (the day of prayers for the souls) occurs four times a year in Serbia. It is customary for Serbs to visit their loved ones’ graves, light a candle and say a prayer. One of our relatives is buried in Novo Groblje, so we decided to pay our respects. Dragan gave me the heads up about an unusual custom before we walked through Novo Groblje to visit the grave. So, I wasn’t surprised to see a couple sitting on the marble slab of their relative’s grave having a light meal. This is not that common these days, but the wake for the funeral also used to happen at the grave of the deceased. A table cloth was placed on the gravestone and ručak (lunch) was laid out! Our daughter, Mila, told me later that this was also quite common in Victorian Britain. I was brought up to not walk on a grave, never mind have my lunch on one! Joking apart, this tradition is actually very respectful to the deceased.

Army Gun Salute

On the way to the cemetery (I was due to meet Dragan and Aleks there), I was waiting to cross the road behind a small troupe of soldiers in camouflage gear carrying rifles. They were also waiting to cross the road. I could have reached out and touched one of the guns. It’s not common in Exeter to be waiting at a pedestrian crossing with a group of armed soldiers. Half the company were women, and a rather brave middle-aged man decided to try and have a chat with the female soldiers. They ignored him of course. I only wish I could have understood what he was saying! Later when we were lighting the candle at our relative's grave, we heard the shots of the gun salute, as an important person from the army was being buried that day.

Ali's Print of the Cemetery

'Falling Snow, Pada Sneg', metal plate lithograph by Ali Savić

'Falling Snow, Pada Sneg', metal plate lithograph by Ali Savić

'Falling Snow, Pada Sneg'* was editioned by one of the Master Printmakers at the 'Centar za Grafiku' (Printmaking Centre) [5] in Belgrade. It is a drawing I made from a photograph taken in November. Two people pass each other outside the walls of 'Novo Groblje' in Belgrade. Shovelled snow is piled up in the foreground and some gravestones can be seen behind the wall.

'Novo Groblje', New Cemetery, Belgrade

'Novo Groblje', New Cemetery, Belgrade

More Prints of Belgrade, Made in Belgrade

'Belgrade Impressions' is a trio of linocuts I printed depicting some Serbian folk dancers with the Saborna Church's spire and the dome of the Orthodox patriarch's palace behind. The river Sava flows below. 'Most na Adi', the new bridge, spans the left and middle prints and Avala Communications Tower sits in the middle. To the right, is a depiction of Tašmajdan Park, with a tram, St Mark's Church and a woman wrapped up for the cold. The abstract geometric shapes hint at the 1960s Yugoslav concrete high-rise and mosaics, typical of Belgrade. I completed these prints at the 'Centar za Grafiku' in Belgrade.

'Belgrade Impressions' linocut triptych by Ali Savic

'Belgrade Impressions' linocut triptych by Ali Savic

20th century Arts + Traditional Crafts in Belgrade

My husband, Dragan, who is a native Serb, our 11 year old son, Aleks and I have embarked on an adventure, by moving to Belgrade from England for 8 months. These are excerpts from my weekly diary.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade

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A visit to Belgrade's recently renovated Museum of Contemporary Art [1] was an astonishing experience. The building, built in 1965 (the same age as me!) is the perfect space to show-off art from the last 100 years or so of former Yugoslavia, Serbia and internationally. Dragan was delighted to see a painting by one of his classmates from the 70s, he recognised the artist's name from his nickname, 'Đile,' on the label. The artist is now an art critic.

Detail of 'Crowd' by Srđan Marković Đile, painted in 1991

Detail of 'Crowd' by Srđan Marković Đile, painted in 1991

The museum is a very photogenic and thought provoking space, here are some of the fascinating artworks, including some wonderful woodcut prints by Sergije Glumac. 

'Hippy Top', painted wood sculpture by Tomislav Kauzlarič, made in 1967

'Hippy Top', painted wood sculpture by Tomislav Kauzlarič, made in 1967

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'Subway' woodcuts by Sergije Glumac, made c. 1928

Belgrade's Ethnographic Museum

It was a weekend of museums, and Belgrade's Ethnographic Museum [2] gives a charming insight into traditional life in Serbia and the Balkans. (Aleks was on a school ski trip to Kopaonik mountain - art museums are not high on his list of exciting things to do!) Dragan particularly loved the recreated farm house interiors filled with chunky wooden furniture, hand embroidered textiles and 'ćilim' (hand woven carpets) [3]. He has fond memories of living with his grandparents in a village in Serbia when he was young. His other Grandma, Baba Simana, who lived in Montenegro, used to carry a 'burilo', a rectangular shaped barrel filled with water from the local spring up the hill to the farm every day. She lived to the age of 99.

Cottage interior with hand embroidered textiles

Cottage interior with hand embroidered textiles

Beautiful ćilim (woven carpet) in a 19th century interior

Beautiful ćilim (woven carpet) in a 19th century interior

In the past a Serbian woman's headscarf had meaning! 

Traditional dress was worn daily well into the 20th century in some areas of the Balkans. Different styles and designs represented different places and the way a woman tied her head scarf would identify the village she came from. Dragan's grandmother from Serbia, Grandma Tomka wore a scarf every day. The bridal dresses in the museum were particularly lovely and were often embellished with silver coins as part of the bride's dowry.

Serbian folk dancing, known as 'Folklore', is very much alive today and the dancers wear traditional dress, depending on which part of Serbia the dance is from. The costumes are made of wool and with many layers, so the dancers must get pretty hot!

Serbian National Costume at Belgrade's Ethnographic Museum

Serbian National Costume at Belgrade's Ethnographic Museum

Bridal Head-dress with silver coins as part of the bride's dowry

Bridal Head-dress with silver coins as part of the bride's dowry

A Serbian phrase for you!

It's snowing as I write, so here's a new Serbian phrase for you, 'pada sneg', meaning 'it's snowing!'

[1] http://eng.msub.org.rs/o-muzeju 

[2] http://etnografskimuzej.rs/en/zbirke/

[3] http://www.serbia.com/about-serbia/culture/intangible-cultural-heritage-of-serbia/following-the-footsteps-of-intangible-cultural-heritage/pirot-kilim/ 

 

 

 

Bach & Japanese Bark! Music, Art (& Food) in Belgrade

My husband, Dragan, who is a native Serb, our 11 year old son, Aleks and I have embarked on an adventure, by moving to Belgrade from England for 8 months. These are excerpts from my weekly diary.

'New Trinity Baroque' Ensemble play Bach in Belgrade

This was our third trip to 'Kolarac' Concert Hall [1] in Belgrade and once again the three of us had a wonderful time. 'New Trinity Baroque,' [2] an ensemble, who play on Baroque instruments [3], gave a beautiful performance of JS Bach's works, including the A minor violin concerto, which is coming up in Aleks' violin tutor book soon!

During the 'pausa' (interval), I was pontificating to Aleks about baroque violins and how the violin strings were made from cat gut. Aleks looked horrified and asked me if the guts are taken out when the cat is still alive! I must admit I wasn't really expecting that reaction. (in fact 'cat gut' is usually sheep or goat intestine taken from dead animals!).

Kolarac Concert Hall, Belgrade City Centre

Kolarac Concert Hall, Belgrade City Centre

Roasted Pies on Hot Coals

After the concert, Aleks was 'starving,' but luckily we had some 'pita sa višnjama' (sour cherry pie) [4] in the boot of the car. Earlier that day we had been to the hand-made pie shop in Vidikovac Pijac (green market). I love watching the pies being roasted on hot coals. To make the pies, sour cherries are placed in a strip on a sheet of filo pastry and then rolled into a long sausage shape. The pastry roll is then coiled into the round metal pan and placed on the hot coals to bake. The filo is deliciously crunchy and the sour cherry filling oozes out. Icing sugar is often sprinkled onto the hot pie before serving.

Lifting the lid on how to roast 'pita sa višnjama' (sour cherry pie) on hot coals!

Lifting the lid on how to roast 'pita sa višnjama' (sour cherry pie) on hot coals!

Japanese Printing Paper made from Mulberry Tree Bark

Since living in Serbia, I have been printmaking at the 'Centar za Grafiku' (printmaking centre) in Belgrade to make linocut prints. One of the printmakers at the centre recently showed me how to print on Japanese paper with just a dessert spoon. I inked up my lino plate, placed the Japanese paper on the plate and started burnishing the paper with the back of the spoon. To reduce the static electricity created by the burnishing and prevent the paper from lifting, I had to touch my hair with the spoon every now and again!

Japanese Printmaking Paper is made from tree bark. The long fibres make the paper strong.

Linocut print (left) based on a drawing made in 'Spomen Park Oslobodiocima', Belgrade, by Ali Savic

City Slickers need some Fresh Air from Time to Time!

Some fresh air was needed, so we all walked up to the 'vidikovac' (viewpoint) in 'Zvezdarska Šuma (Zvezdara Forest). We had a pit-stop for a game of 'Fliper' (pin-ball, a first for Aleks) and a coffee in the rough & ready forester's bar. Very photogenic and atmospheric, plus quite a lot of lunchtime rakija going down! You'll notice the tinsel on the window, it seems, most establishments still have Christmas decorations in February!

Aleks and Ali looking out over the Dunav (Danube) river from the 'vidikovac' (viewpoint) and having a coffee in the forester's bar! 

A Useful Word, if you Plan to Visit Serbia!

To finish off, here's a useful Serbian word that is often heard in shops and restaurants, 'izvolite' (pronounced 'izvolitay'), meaning, 'can I help you?' or 'come in'.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilija_M._Kolarac_Endowment 

[2] https://www.facebook.com/newtrinitybaroque/

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baroque_violin 

[4] https://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/sour-cherry-filo-pie-pita-sa-visnjama 

 

 

 

Print, Eat, Sleep, Repeat.... in Belgrade

My husband, Dragan, who is a native Serb, our 10 year old son, Aleks and I have embarked on an adventure, by moving to Belgrade from England for 8 months. These are excerpts from my weekly diary.

Printmaking in Belgrade

Linocut prints & inking up the lino by Ali Savic at the 'Centar za Grafiku' (Printmaking Centre) in Belgrade.

As a friend put it, 'now begins the printmaking [1] part of my journey in Serbia'. I've been printmaking for about seven years now at the Double Elephant Print Workshop [2] in England, and am really excited to have started printing at the 'Centar za Grafiku' [3] (Printmaking Centre) at the The Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade. The Academy, which overlooks Kalemegdan Park, also has two galleries and a framing shop.

How did I make the Prints?

The prints above are linocut relief prints, printed on gorgeous Fabriano paper. I made some simple sketches of my impressions of Belgrade, a tram, a woman wrapped up for the cold, some folk dancers and the wonderful 20th century concrete high-rise. The sketches were just a guide and I enjoyed adding elements when I was cutting out the design from the lino. After an initial proof and a bit more cutting I started reeling them off! There were lots of tricky issues, as I was using an intaglio press (rolling) instead of a relief press (stamping), but one of the master printmakers at the centre set me straight. (There are a lot of facilities at the centre, but no relief presses.)

Visiting a family Farm

This weekend was 'Sveti Jovan' (Saint John's saint day) in Serbia, so yup, you guessed it, another 'Slava'! (saint day celebration) [4]. In fact we went to FOUR family 'Slavas' over the two days. 'Sveti Jovan' Slava is one of the three most celebrated Slavas in Serbia, along with 'Sveti Arandjel Mihailo' and 'Sveti Nikola'. One of Dragan's cousins has a small farm in a village near the capital and so the obligatory pig was roasted on the spit in situ for 'Sveti Jovan'. Here's some pictures of the farm, the hut where meat is smoked and a tray of lovely little homemade cakes called 'Kolači' served at 'Slava'. (If you'd like to read more about 'Slava', then scroll down to my earlier blogposts). Needless to say our car struggled back to Belgrade, with us three, full to the brim with delicious food and bags of roast meat, 'kolači' and farm eggs in the boot.

The hay barn on Dragan's cousin's farm

The hay barn on Dragan's cousin's farm

'Dimljeno meso' (smoked meat) on the farm

'Dimljeno meso' (smoked meat) on the farm

'Domaći Kolači'! (little homemade cakes, a bit like petit fours) 

'Domaći Kolači'! (little homemade cakes, a bit like petit fours) 

Fabulous Frescoes

Back in Belgrade, I visited the must-see, 'Crkva Cvetog Aleksandra Nevskog' [5] (Church of St. Alexander Nevsky). The architect, Jelisaveta Načić, [6] was the first woman to graduate as an architect in Belgrade and in the whole of Serbia. The Church, completed in 1929, has the most exquisite frescoes, but appears to be unfinished, I noticed scaffolding, possibly for the fresco painters. It is a gorgeous haven in a busy part of town.

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The marble iconostasis

The marble iconostasis

Print, Drink Tea or Worry about the Environment

Or all three…. So, I’m a printmaker and a stay at home mum. Both jobs are wonderful but switching heads can be challenging (aka nightmare, a term used during my less calm moments) and the mum bit mostly comes first. Here’s a typical day…

School run, could be scooter, bike or car. I have been known to scooter Aleks’ scooter back but was ticked off by a very elderly gentleman, who waved his stick and shouted ‘You’re too old for that!’

Ignored that.

Housework, washing in/out and very reluctant ironing. Which is more ecologically friendly ironing or tumbling?

Walk, bus or car to the print workshop, where I can use the amazing relief or intaglio presses. Good arty company there. Paper, ink and the other printmaking goodies are all available to buy.

Warming up, this takes far too long and usually involves a cuppa, a chat with fellow printmakers, a faff and fuss about measurements/paper/press adjustment.

Printing, so after about an hour I am usually quite inky, but my mind is totally focussed on the colour mixing, the detail and the best bit, revealing the print after it has been through the press.

Lunch at home, with an eye on the garden for butterflies. I have just signed up to be a garden butterfly recorder with Butterfly Conservation.

‘Headspace’ meditation, fab online app to guide you through daily meditations. BRILLIANT.

School run, with a quick go on Duolingo whilst I’m waiting. I’m learning Spanish! Should be Serbian, as we are going to spend 8 months there from November 2017. The Spanish is an avoidance tactic, Serbian is very difficult. Turns out I am not much better at Spanish!

Taking Aleks to Footie, I try to run when he’s training. I mean I try to GO running. I can run like a lot of people, but the drinking tea option shouts very loudly.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AliSavicPRINTS

 

 

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