Lidija Delic’s Too Soon, Too Late and the Drowned World.

I am sitting in an airconditioned room flipping through iPhone photos of an upcoming painting exhibition. I can hear protestors chanting and marching on the street outside of my apartment. One major newspaper headline reads” “[Carbon] Emissions Are Surging Back as Countries and States Reopen”. It is June 18th, 2020 and I am in New York City, approximately 7,300 kilometers away from the exhibition space in Belgrade.



Lidija Delic’s exhibition, Too Soon, Too Late, includes ten paintings, three large and seven small, installed in adjacent alcove rooms on the etage noble of a prewar building. The neoclassical space features a series of pilaster molding along the walls and a wide doorway between rooms adorned with two Ionic columns at its flank. The walls are a seafoam green and remain entirely unfinished. Swaths of drywall are missing, surfaces are scarred, and paint drips line the walls.


One enters the space nearly in the middle of the two rooms. To your left you see a series of small oil and epoxy paintings. To your right, are three larger oil on canvas paintings depicting the following: A single autumn tree, leaves turned red, wades in the middle of a body of water, overlooked by an arcade of sinister dark green pines, more shadow than tree. In another painting, office chairs are shown discarded in garbage bags in front of a city backdrop. The protruding contours of the chairs within the bags give them the appearance of filled body bags. And, two men in business attire appear at the fore, back turned to the viewer, looking out at a green landscape. The land is uncultivated and in that sense, the suited men appear to be looking at nothing.


The strong presence and division of the foreground and background in each painting display clear dichotomies. The visible passing of time on the tree leaves before the permanently green leaves of a pine. Things filled with death and things filled with life. Cultivated man vs uncultivated nature. These dualities are readable through use of universal symbols, or as Carl Jung would describe, Archetypes (man, tree, water, a black shroud). The themes of time and nature also recall J. G. Ballard’s novel “The Drowned World” which was likely influenced heavily by Jungian ideas (”The Drowned World” was published in 1962, just one year after Carl Jung’s death in 1961) of universal symbolism shared through the Collective Unconscious -networks of the unconscious which are shared among entities of the same species.


Ballard’s seminal work, “The Drowned World”, is set in a post-apocalyptic future. The earth’s temperatures have risen to extremes through decades of global warming and mankind is pushed to settlements in the north and south poles where the planet is coolest. The main characters, originally scientists tasked with monitoring the effects of the change, collectively start experiencing terrifying dreams of humanity’s distant past, a clear reference to Jung’s Collective Unconscious.


In the room to the left, are several smaller paintings depicting various florae. The general color and form give away their subject matter, however, the rendering is hazy and its image is further obscured by the epoxy cover. The array of unknown plants appear almost scientific, reminiscent of blurry Audubon pictures, and perhaps something close to what the protagonists of “The Drowned World” studied before their demise. The splotches of color appear both microscopic and mountainous.


Here we have a formal paradox. In order to see the larger paintings, the viewer has to zoom in and look closer. To see the smaller paintings, the viewer has to zoom out and imagine a larger image outside of the small frame. When we consider Deep Time, or geological time, we acknowledge that this small frame of our lifetime is a tiny fragment of the larger whole. Scale and time then become emphasized in the visual language of climate change, as this temporal expansion is essential to its understanding. Stepping back further, we observe another space-time division: room one and room two. In Delic’s installation, the arrangement of work acknowledges the procession of the viewer in relation to the artwork. Curation itself becomes a spatial and temporal practice. If the program is read with “The Drowned World” in mind, room one becomes the ‘before’ and room two the ‘after’. A world of dualities in imbalance followed abruptly by a temporal fog, neither in the past nor in the future.


Text by Jae Cho

June 18, 2020, New York City


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