Love, oh love. To this great subject in both life and art is dedicated Nena Skoko Snežana’s exhibition – The Lady and the Unicorn / My Story.
Love was also the subject of her master’s degree solo exhibition hosted by the Museum of Applied Art in 1998. She “recounted” Mihailo’s and her love story in a language of contemporary textile art – in the form of a book as an art object – and thus took a novel approach to the traditional medium of tapestry. Experiment, openness to anything new, engagement and soul-searching are persisting traits of her work.
Twenty years on, Nena Skoko Snežana is speaking to us about love again.
Mesmerised by the beauty of the famous late mediaeval six-part tapestry series – The Lady and the Unicorn which is on display at the Cluny Museum in Paris, she revisits her past love experiences using the code of their symbolic meanings. They depict five senses – smell, taste, hearing, sight and touch, as well as the Lady’s “sole desire” – the desire to get to know the truth of love.
Relying on the documentary archive (letters kept, postcards, photographs…), Nena translates love messages and declarations onto textile by way of embroidery, printing, tufting, weaving, patchworking, hand papermaking, plant braiding, chocolate pouring… She groups the works created in this manner into six spatial installations. Each of the five installations is dedicated to one of the five senses, respectively – the one which was prevalent in the love in question, or yearning for love, with a specific person. The sixth installation, My Sole Desire, is the sublimation of Nena’s love experience. Ivana Podnar from Zagreb, the author of the catalogue text, interprets it as follows:
“After five love stories through which we get to know various protagonists of her love relationships, we finally come across the image of the artist herself. Her disclosure is a subtle exposure where she strips away, layer by layer, her ornaments and clothes only to have, in the denouement, her character still hidden behind the lady. The lady is also mystical – a virgin flirting with a mythological being and toying with forbidden loves, in the last scene, clad in the finest brocade robes, takes or returns ornaments into a jewellery box studded with precious stones. Symbolism has baffled experts and various interpretations have been put forward, of which each seeks its grounding in the complex composition. Transcendence of love, renunciation of sensuousness, rejection of glances of the yearning unicorn are all possible links to the last segment of the exhibition of Nena Skoko, who has finally transcended her selfness in art. Laid bare completely, she blends into an image of the image of one the most mysterious European tapestries, where delineating boundaries of the author and the character, the subject and the object, the past and the present, tradition and contemporaneousness, are all erased.”
“…Yet it is not a dream
It is my truth of truths
It is deathless
It is my love.
Changeless and eternal
I leave it as my offering to you
In the ever changing flow of time…”