The Penticton Art Gallery presented Srdjan Segan’s Being The Body With Limbs That Have Extention to Space as an energetic mini-retrospective of this Serbian / Canadian artist’s oeuvre to date.

Segan had the formative experience of being a young man in the former Yugoslavian Republic of Croatia where in 1991 the Croatian War for Independence tore the country apart as it became divided along ethnic lines. Being part of the Serbian minority, the Segan family became refugees fleeing their home to live in Belgrade, the capital of the Republic of Serbia, where Segan embarked upon medical studies. Segan eventually dropped out of medical school and turned to art but it is difficult to ignore an equation between his imagery and dissection drawings that are the meat of academic medical studies. Medical illustrations bring to bear scientific knowledge of the order and workings of the inner human body. Segan’s figures relate more to the concept of animus and id than to virtual revelations of a biological nature.

The id in psychoanalytic theory is mitigated by the ego and the superego. It is the part of the psyche that is the source of instinctive energy. That natural phenomena possess a soul or consciousness leads to the belief that the soul is the principal of life and health. Doctor the soul, and life assumes a graceful proportion.

Segan’s process is instinctual. The paper is rolled onto the floor of his studio and with quotidian materials – coffee, charcoal and fabric dye – he begins. His marks are small, intimate and numerous so that the space filled requires a durational commitment. He doesn’t concern himself with happenings exterior to the body but works within the outline of a monumental stretched figure and describes not only the biological innards but also the spiritual, moral and ethical. This is the pith of many religions but the connection between spiritual life and Segan’s personal experience is interpreted through the language of decision making.

Segan sees man as a combination of the irrational (intuitive, animalistic) and the rational (human). A close up of his recent works where he has become uber-obsessive in his mark- making shows areas devoted to animals within the human parts as well as animals morphed with humans. Numerous repetitions of similar shapes are more akin to counting systems, mechanical parts or architectonic frameworks. Within each drawing is found biomorphic stand-ins for irrationality and straight-lined tracings more like human systems or logic.

As he draws, Segan makes decisions – just as almost every act that man undertakes necessitates decision-making, including the first decision which is “to create or not to create.” Segan vacillates between letting it flow and trying to put it in order. He shows the path he has taken through these decisions in the interiors of his tall stretched men.

There is another dimension at work outside of the irrational and rational that operates like the mitigating ego or super ego upon the id. Circumstance. Decision-making is influenced by the environment in which the task is accomplished. This would be especially evident during times of war when the balance between the irrational and the rational too often becomes tipped in favour of a negative version of the former. The evidence that Segan grants as testimony to his circumstantial vision of man occupies the lengths and heights of museum-size walls. Like maps that must be read by walking from one end to the other or by bending the head back and squinting the eyes, the details of the human condition as laid out metaphorically by Srdjan Segan is beyond the grasp of a quick take.

Segan speaks of the drama of decision- making, that inner stomach feeling when a decision must be made. His drawings present this psychological tension in a theatrical way. His drawings are about the necessity of decision-making. Segan believes that in the Western world decision-making is more about socialization than free will. As a refugee, he realised that the decision made is not always the one desired but the one that is possible.

Segan’s work provokes serious consideration because it is the result of contemplation backed by life experience.

SRDJAN SEGAN is represented by:
The Drawers Gallery
6700 Old Kamloops Road, Vernon, BC
Tel.: 250 542-8987

SRDJAN SEGAN at Headbones Gallery Toronto
November 2007