A selection of drawings and embroidery by Ruth Hingston after a three-month residency in Belgrade†
6 pm Thursday 18 October 2018
12 pm–5 pm Wednesday–Sunday
until 4 November 2018
I lived in Belgrade for 3 months†. During this residency I continued my practice of observing and exploring how people respond to their environment though their architecture and everyday cultural expressions.
Belgrade has survived centuries of foreign rulers and wars. Today the city’s architecture is a jumbled mixture of these invaders influences: Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Western European, American. All these influences jostle amongst the built landscape of the socialist period of Yugoslavia. I found the old socialist buildings a very dominating presence: towering, solid concrete forms on an enormous scale. Dark formidable blocks of flats that loom up from shattered pavements. Belgrade is very different from our Australian cities, which seem to spring like dry grasses from the wide brown horizontal land with their steel and glass surfaces reflecting the light. Belgrade is a city that has been prepared for invasion over many centuries.
As I walked through the streets of the old city, I noticed the significance of architectural decoration. Regular patterns were applied as functional decoration for heavy security doors, window screens and large gates. Many buildings have external patterned trims or large murals. Interiors of rooms, cafes, entrances and vestibules have patterned walls and floors in tiles or murals. Belgraders seem to love patterns and they love them even more when something that sparkles has been added.
Pattern, texture and bling were dominant features in the local fashions. While we are influenced by the “less is more” principle of Western minimalist design, Belgrade fashionistas promote “lots more is even better”. I was fascinated how the layers of complexity in mixing patterns and textures work to create an overall dynamic aesthetic for many women. This complexity of decoration and love of pattern has a long tradition in the historical costumes of Serbia and other Balkan countries. At the Belgrade Ethnographic Museum I discovered that embroidery, appliqué and beading has a long and proud tradition in the cultural life of these peoples.
As I continued to walk around Belgrade, I began to see how the love for pattern traversed many aspects of daily life there. The works in this exhibition are my initial responses to these experiences.