Eduardo Planchart Licea
IVAN MIKOLJI: FROM PHOTOGRAPHY TO ART
Ivan Mikolji, through his work documenting natural aquariums has created a solid photographic language in his aquatic and underwater landscapes.
These portfolios were mostly shot in the Amazonas state and in Guyana, often known as one of the world’s biggest lungs. This land possesses the most important fresh water reserves in Latin-America as well as the protecting shield of the jungle societies. It is in this space and time paradoxically that there are still species of animals and plants yet to be discovered; as well as species, which have begun to disappear by extinction and not by the tragedy known as the fever of tires of the 19th century, described by Rómulo Gallegos in his novel titled “Canaima.” What has truly taken a toll on the jewel of biodiversity found in the Guyana territory has been nothing else than the utopian search for the new “Dorado”, a tragic event just as destructive as the prior mentioned where millions of mine-workers migrated towards this untouched land. They brought with them their depredatory culture in the search of minerals and precious stones as they poisoned and destroyed the original landscape of the Guyana along with its societies.
In his portfolios shot in the Orinoco River, the Jaspe book, Apure, Guárico, Meta (Colombia) and various lakes, such as the Valencia lake, in marshes and caños surprising, mysterious and sacred nature is revealed through its landscapes. Ivan Mikolji creates an endemic look to these natural habitats, motivated initially by his search to capture the different species of fish, his true passion, in their natural habitat, through trails of light. For the photographer, creating awareness of the rivers and the life in them is just the first step towards their preservation. In his work as an investigator and an explorer, he has created a photographic language which remains in debt with the light’s refraction on the water, its transparency, its opacity and its physical and chemical qualities. These photography portfolios were his inspiration for the development of his career in the art scene materialized in his painting and drawings.
These photographic series are born on an adventure towards the unknown, centered in the flow of water. They encounter us with the Heraclitian notion of “everything changes, nothing remains”, which compliments his metaphor that sustains that no one bathes twice in the same waters of a river.
Denying the notion based on common sense that we exist in a planet which is stable; when in fact, the world spins around its own axis along the Equator at 1679 km per hour and around the sun at 30 km per second, through the Galaxy, and through the milky way at a speed of 250 km per second in the universe expanded by the Big Bang. An ever changing reality, as dynamic as the current of a river, that not only flows but transforms from a liquid state of matter to gas. The author of these pieces is able to showcase these realities thanks to his vision of the world, his creativeness and his exceptional use of the aquatic and underwater photography technique.
With an almost mystical passion, Ivan Mikolji has planned every single one of the over 100 expeditions through the Venezuelan territory. Capable of spending countless hours underwater with his mask, snorkel and photography equipment in order the get the shot he was dreaming of, the passionate photographer will not wrap up the session until he has seen this vision materialized.
He makes this visual alchemy eternal through the ever changing essence of the water that seems to transform itself into visual tricks. Making the viewer believe that he is seeing melted crystals, fragile layers of ice, jelly like material and evanescente reality when if fact he is just watching the water.
It is with each one of his photographs that he reminds the viewer, that we roam in a planet where 71% of the surface is covered in water, of which 96% of it is ocean water and only 3,3% is drinking water found in rivers, lakes and at subterranean level, as well as in the Poles in the form of ice.
This liquid is of such importance for the emergence and maintaining of life that it represents 60% of the corporal weight of a human being and 85% of the blood that streams through its veines. Animals such as the Jellyfish are found to be composed in a 95% by water.
This hidden reality, that hasn’t be understood by the human civilization makes a call for the recovery of the balance between the cycles of water and civilization. The cycle of water has been threatened through the devastation of these sanctuaries due to deforestation and mining.
It is Ivan Mikolji’s vision that art is a means to bring people closer to understanding the depths of the problem in hand in order for humanity to act in defense of this vital natural resource. If this weren’t to happen it would mean the destruction of the planet’s ecology on which all human beings depend. Motivated by these reasons, Mikolji ha created portfolios of artistic images to eternalize these river landscapes, as is revealed in the photography “Lluvia entre Palmeras” (fot. 29), in the Atures and the Maipures Rapids of the Orinoco river. It is here where the atmosphere seems to be filled with raindrops, creating a visual veil that transforms the shot into an expressionist piece of art where the viewer can almost feel the Amazonic humidity on its skin and try adapt to drastic changes of climate only present in the tropics.
This type of visual treatment is also found in the image “La otra Orilla del Orinoco” (fot.28), where a stony and wild landscape is hidden by the power of pouring rain. It is like this, that a paradise like climate is created, where the light is opaqued by the falling rain, showing us a sutil trails of the landscape’s light.
It is in this way, that these photographs become luminous brushes of paint. The investigator’s empathy for this nearly untouched land es evidenced in photographs like “Evanescencias entre Rocas” (fot.56 y 60). In this piece, visual paradoxes are created and due to the different textures of the watery surface, the viewer is witness of what seems to be a fight between oceanic forces and the full force of the river’s current,
In “Horizontes Fugaces” (Fot, 58 y 59) the image transforms itself into a poetry of the movement of earth, that the human eye is incapable of perceiving. The author is able to recover a dimension that we ignore, such as that of the diverse types of speed of our planet. These views when shown one after the other remind us of the vertigo that these movements generate.
Aquatic Reflections: Cosmogonies
In this portfolio the attention is given to the monumental fragmented rocks of the Orinoco river. These rocks represent somehow the center of the world, in the photograph tilted “Axis Mundi” (foto 61), that seeks to transmit a sacred aura and through its fractures we can see dense vegetation and diverse types of bushes grow. These plants are able to grow and live overcoming the great difficulties its roots must overcome in order to reach the ground, it is thanks to flooding of the river and rain that they are able to survive. These represents the many obstacles that must be overcome to open up to life.This is a metaphor of how the Amazonia is an illusory paradise, as affirmed by Betty Meggers in her book titled “Amazonia es un paraíso ilusorio” because of the chains of life in it, which are extremely unstable even though they seem to be stable.
The cosmogenic character of these views, finds its fundamentals in the vigor for life represented by the hardness of rock, and its ability to survive even the floods of the river. This nature is also found in photographs of the series “Cosmogonías” (5 y 6) where we can see a very erosioned rock carved by the river, taking a serpentine form that is revealed a couple centimetres over the surface. It takes the form of a boa constrictor with a stone-like skin that seems to have given birth to the universe. This belief is present in various myths of traditional cultures, such as the egyptians whose belief was that the vomit of an opium gave origin to the universe, or even in the case of the greek culture where the universe was born from chaos, taking the shape of an egg, which was heated by Ofion, the primordial snake.
This same condition is found in the “Cosmogonía-38”, that through a composition visually transformed into poetry, seeks to recreate another myth of the origin through the disposition of two gigantic rocks, covered with a shallow dish that resembles graffiti, the metaphor of a detained sun. This photograph reminds us the origins of the rock, before it obtained its solid state, first sprouted from the earth in the form of magma and little by little densified. The previous statement can be confirmed by the stony color and texture adopted by the surface of the water when surrounded.
The elements present in these frames represent micro universes, that reveal a river esthetic that is dominated by matter qualitatively different as is the case of the hard and millennial rock of millions of years and which the water renews constantly by its natural cycles.
River bottoms and river banks are born from the transformation of rocks into grains of sand by aquatic erosion. What once seemed indestructible has been pulverized by a sutil liquid. Through the Orinoco River, metric tons of water flow, a water that is not strong, solid or opaque but fluid, ethereal and transparent. It possesses a diverse range of chromatic tones like ocher, green and black. This versatile matter es capable of changing its state dependant on the conditions it is subdued to.
These philosophical and cosmological connotations are materialized in the stony landscapes of photographs such as “Ingravidez Rocosa” (Fot.7) which is characterized by a minimalist aesthetic due to the simplicity of its elements. The visual center of the frame is a rounded rock that creates the illusion of floating over water, generating a sensation of false lightness and freedom from gravity that is seen in the love for emptiness in japanese gardens and day to day elements. Another image, as part of this series that showcases these connotations is “Ingravidez Rocosa-8”, (fot.8), in which a majestic loneliness is exorcised by a pair of rocks of similar shape, held by the stones that surround them. One of these rocks possess an organic triangular shape. On its surface the viewer can detail the erosion bars left by the flooding of the Orinoco River, creating a harmonized rhythm with the waves on the river’s surface.
Jaspe Brook: Liquid Ice:
In the Jaspe Book series of the Gran Sabana, the photographer created the illusion of solid water through his composition, which he defines as “water ice.” By taking a second glance of the brook, using the scale of macrophotography, H20 loses its liquid quality in a visual level and seems to solidify, taking the texture of ice. This effect can be seen in the shots taken on the water fall titled, “Plantas entre Hielo-78”(fot.78), where the water is freed by gravity and faced against a solid flow, allowing the public to perceive an inexistent reality in its perceptive scale. The image “Oxigeno Liberado-90” establishes a relationship between the detained fall and the entropy generated by bubbles. This quality reaches its peak when gravity and even space and time seemed to be fooled as can be appreciated in the photography “Agua Sólida” and “Water Ice-97 y 98”.
These brooks transformed into solid transparent curtains, take the viewer closer to the internal structure of H2O, giving us the impression of fracturing and allowing the viewer to detect oxygen being liberated by bubbles.
Aquatic Reflections: Los Atures:
The river landscape of Los Atures transforms into a visual trick, when the visual reflections are contrasted with the stillness of the surface with the adequate solar light, creating a parallel reality that makes the viewer question what is real and what is the result of his/her imagination. The duplicity of the surface is an almost exact copy of the reflected as seen in “Reflejos Ribereños-13” where the refraction is inverted by reality, creating not only an illusion but a surreal vision of rocks levitating on the sky like clouds. The same happens in “Reflejos Ribereños 11 y 12” (fot.11, y 12) thanks to the precise choosing of space and time for the shot by the artist. It is game of patience and talent, motivated by his empathy with nature alongside his knowledge of the camera as a creative tool.
In every type of photographic work, series of underwater reflections seek to create alternate realities, that are born by the duplicity of reality, creating images that are not familiar to our everyday lives or anything we have known, as can be seen in the photographs like “Entre Fondos” and “ Meteoro Acuático-125” (fot.125. Reflejos)
Palm trees represent an important part of the iconography of the Orinoco river landscape in the works of Mikolji. The Moriche transforms into an essential tool of his visual language, as can be seen in the series “Reflejos de Moriche” ( photograph 134, 136 to 141)”. That is also the case of “Reflejos de Moriche 141” in which these underwater photographs duplicate the reality as they create a composition of two triangular shapes, serial in their parts, that oppose each other in their vertex, creating al illusory reality captured by the photographer underwater. Through the search of the perfect angle and the correct lighting conditions, the photographer is able to eternize this view. In some images fish become part of the composition. The Moriche’s leaves are found nearly in the surface of the water. As part of this serie, we can find the macrophotography “Reflejos de Moriche 146” that mutates the palm tree leaves into an unrecognizable form, that instead of showcasing a natural reality, transforms it into fiction. As part of this same portfolio, we find series of images that allow us to perceive fragments of the exterior from the bottom of the river, it is here where compositions of geometric abstractionism are born, such as “Reflejo de hojas de palma-351”.
The Gran Sabana:
The artist has created a portfolio centered on the bottom of the river, through the duplication, merging and reinterpretation of this element. As a result, making it hard for the viewer to differentiate between the real bottom and the unreal one. This same technique is applied to the rocky bottoms of the Gran Sabana, in which the spectator is faced with foreign realities to his own cognitive patterns, giving the impression of being faced with a fictional landscape from an unknown planet. This is evidenced in the image titled “Entre Fondos o Meteoro Acuatico-125” where two stony surfaces face their chromatic and textural conditions, generating their own view of an altered reality. In this way the hollowness, the bars of abstraction, lines, crevices, perforations and ochre colors are perceived through the transparency in a way in which they could easily belong to the atmosphere instead of underwater. As part of this same underwater landscape series, another vision is created in the image titled “Big Bang Pétreo-126.” In this image it would seem as though centrifugal forces were sprouting from a central point, these could be perceived as a metaphor of the cosmic explosion from which hypothetically the Universe sprouted. These points of view are only possible though, thanks to the creative eye, capable of creating beauty out of the ignored.
The reddish color of the Jaspe Brook creates underwater reflections on the surface of the water with few centimeters of depth, creating compositions where the rocky solidity transforms into reflections, transmitting a sensation of fugacity as seen in the image titled “Reflejos de Quebrada Jaspe-241”.
The murky condition of the Apure river water and the Los Llanos marshes create underwater reflections where the greenish, brownish and ochorish colors dominate the scene and only in rare occasions is the viewer capable of seeing the transparency of the water. In these dark and greenish waters, compositions are born in which this spectrum of colors and the kaleidoscopic reality domain, such is the case of the photographic serie “Pieles y Poros Acuáticos-330”. This is the reality the artist wishes to create allowing the viewer to understand the different levels of reinterpretation he generates with every click.
The macro reality that served as the center of these series of images are the underwater reflections of a tree trunk submerged a few centimeters deep, the image titled “Flotando-Foto 352”, transmits the reflections of an underwater spectrum through a chromatic layer of dominating greens and blacks. In some of these frames, bubbles become part of the composition through transparent extensions that become windows to the outside, assuming the form of a beam of radiance. In other cases they assume the form of distorted realities, as the case of the image titled, “Reflejos-resplandores-341”. Through these series the author takes us to the complete opaqueness and creates surrealist landscapes of diverse tones of green, that look like liquid surfaces of a great density. Creating folds that stop the natural flow of water reminding us of the plasticity transmitted by the melted clocks of Dalí. Other images though seem to represent flame-like forms such as “Reflejos 343”.The underwater reflections of leaves are able to merge these chromatic layers with the bottom of the river, materializing abstractions where recognizing the real leaf from the visual illusion is a difficult task.
The famously known River of the Gods,due to the presence of five colors, resembling a melted rainbow was captured by Ivan Mikolj in his underwater shots. The chromatic condition of the river doesn’t result from the stoney bottom of the river as is the case of the Jaspe Brook but it owes its characteristic condition to the ling colored plants that exist in it. The river is an extension of the Guiana shield as is the case of the Amazonas, Guyana, and Brazil where the oldest rock formations on earth, with approximately one million two thousand years old, lay. In these underwater photographs the dominant colors of specific seasons are displayed, such is the case of red, when surrealistic compositions are created in the “Caño Cristal- 147” photograph. Here the shape and texture of the plants’ reflections are easily identified, creating organic visions, resembling unicellular layered forms. These reflections are contrasted with the red plants known as Macarana Clavijera, achieving views that reach abstraction with a pictoric nature like the photograph titled “Abstracción en Caño Cristal-152”.
Plants of cottony texture with stems resembling blood vessels create unique photographs due to the diversity of textures and perspectives, allowing every single frame to be different from the previous one, such is the case of the photograph titled “Caño Cristal-156. These points of view take us a long way from knows cognitive patterns as we see colors like red, green and black mix in the midst of bubbles of oxygen as they transmit radiance, such is the case of the photograph titled “Caño Cristales-160”. Following this pattern, we reach extreme points like the photograph titled “Caño Cristales 166” where organic layers of reddish colors merge with the radiance provoked by bubbles of water. The aesthetic of the caño generates underwater images in a different dimension that seem to sprout life. The photographs adopt an atmosphere of reality and fiction when this radiance is projected on the reflects of various colors. The author is capable of generating visual situations that respond to no reason or logic, a meta universe hardly found, such is the case of the underwater landscape of the “Caño Cristal-170”.
These colorful complete photographs explore pallets from bluish tones to yellowish tones that seem to belong to a reality which is in constant transformation.
These pieces of art of capable of creating a beauty that seems to sprout from a mythical or fantastical world born from the reflections of underwater plants, that lay their roots on the bottom creating a magical and mystical beauty in their search for solar light, as can seen in “ Plantas-Acuáticas-179”. In the photograph titled “Planta acuática-184” the leaf of a floating plant adopts the first plane and its reflection is capable of projecting on the bottom of the river, generating a caleidoscope.
Riverside Landscapes-Realism/Coincidence of opposites Paisajes
The harmony created between opposites in this serie of photographs can be understood as a manifestation of an expressionist realism, as is the case of Río entre Tormenta-49” (fot. 49 and 50), where the surface of the water due to the action of waves and swirls, is perceived as restless transmitting the energy of its flow rates, all of which is supported by a gray and cloudy sky, where a stormy rainfall is about to begin. In this photograph the uncontrolled power of nature is portrayed. It wasn’t shot from inside the river, but was patiently waited for from the shore, the right moment in which the Universe’s dynamism was present. From that exact point in the river, it feels as if the gravity declared itself on strike and through Mikolji’s macro photography, the swirls of foam, current and bubbles transform their condition into photographs such as “Transformación-51”. In each one of these frames, the liquid assumes a gelatinous texture similar to silicone, over a brownish surface characteristic of certain areas of the Atures of the Orinoco River.
One of Mikolji’s visual language traits is to re dimension reality to show a different point of view. In this precise visual seie we are faced with a metaphor of clouds’ formation. Through the energy unfolded and the river’s entropy nature is transmuted into paradoxical points of view and dynamics which maximize the purpose of the photograph. The intention of the photograph being to change the viewers take on reality.
This condition in which opposite qualities of matter coexist can also be perceived in the river landscape of “Arena entre Rocas-21” (la fotografía 21), where the sand creates a beach that shows its changing levels of the water through different layers. In the bottom of the image we can identify a set of rocks with similar forms which harmonize the petrous roughness with the smoothness of the grains of sand. The reflections on the water of this Orinoco landscape create abstract images as a result of the different positions of the sun.
With this photograph we are faced with a metaphor of the hardness and strength of rock as the immutable, stable and inmortal. The stillness of the rock is put in contrast with the nature of water and its symbolic definitions. Just as, sand is related to transformation, to change, to life and death, and to the passing of time. This landscape defined my horizontality is put in contrast with the Orinoco river’s opposite shore where an ensemble of rocks are arranged vertically. In the image titled “Megalitos Orinoquenses-22”( fot. 22) the flooding of the river causes the relocation of these monumental rocks. Rock formations linked with fertility and phallic figures become the main characters of the shot. The landscapes captures by Ivan Mikolji seek to showcase the power water and its constant flow have when faced with these enormous volumes. Water is capable of cracking, sculpting and pulverizing these gigantic rocks, creating unique perspectives of our planet, transforming this amazonic river path into an aesthetic experience that faces us with a mysterious and ancient reality. The photograph was taken with a perfect blue sky where the sun and the full moon meet, to become the visual center of the composition. This image takes the viewer on a journey to a different space and time to go back to the origins of life. Mikolji’s photographic work faces its viewer with a ancient reality that has been recovered and reinterpreted by contemporary art in a overwhelming and authentic way, a work that could be compared to a Richard Long set up.
In this landscape at sunrise, the element that catches the viewer’s eye is the smoke of a new born fire, the only element that puts in evidence the presence of a western civilization, that seems foreign in this natural environment. This sutil element represents one of the artist’s biggest intentions, which is to showcase compositions of edenic beauty that make the viewer feel empathy and nostalgia towards the ugly truth: that this paradise is under threat day by day and one day may become a lost Eden (Important).
Amongst these river landscapes, Mikolji is able to capture an ensemble of Moriche palm trees in the image “Amanecer entre Moriches-25”, plam trees that seem to belong to their own island when seen from the opposite shore of the river. Under a cloudy sky, a halo of morning light surrounds the group of palm trees. The river’s surface shows its entropy in the irregularity of its surface that allows water to flow with the force of the currents, which can be distinguished by the movement of foam and waves.
“Evanescencia-39” (fot.39) showcases water that has become almost intangible with textures that resemble clouds instead of the fluidity of a river. The author in this way showcases the changes water is capable of experimenting by changing its state of matter, as is shown in the image titled “Evanescencia- 56”. In this image a section of the frame seems to densify whilst fluidity can be detected in the other. These images are not the result of luck but the result of an insatiable and conscience search by the author to create these conceptual contrasts, in the hopes of becoming metaphors to the theories that sustain that life of our planet is born in oceans, lakes and primal rivers.
“Amaneceres-33”, seeks to visually densify the surface of water and transform rocks into elements that seek to transmute from their own nature. The artist creates a metaphor of the freezing of time and space, thus the visual elements that would generate the illusion of movement disappear. The rivers seems to densify and freeze while the reflection of light over the rocks make the viewer perceive the stony hardness of rocks as illusorily flowy.
This visual iconography is able to express its own truth in this photographic series. The photographer chooses to submerge himself into this ancient landscape in the hopes of revealing to the viewer the sublime and fragile reality of our planet, and the need that exists to protect these ecosystems. This in order to to avoid their disappearance due to the tragic consequences that their disappearance would bring to the human life cycles. We are faced with embellished landscapes of what should be and not what is, because many of these landscapes must be cleaned off of contaminating materials before being shot to obtain that image of untouched nature. These points of view, generate feelings of nostalgia as we get closer to this paradise as well as our expulsion from Eden when we compare the conditions of these places with the rivers and lakes that are part of our cities. This is how we are faced with the urgent need to change the relationship civilization holds with nature. It is in this way, that Mikolji’s shots are able to transmit an expressionist, surreal and conceptual nature to his photographs, filling them with emotion, premonitions and paradoxes.
Amongst paintings and drawing:
Ivan Mikolji’s aesthetic is centered in fish like shapes that he has been in contact with for a great part of his life, specially in the last couple of decades that he has dedicated his life to the photography of fishes in rivers, lakes and brooks. This is all thanks to the great impact that as a aquariusm fanatic he felt, by seeing his first Altum or Angel Fish, it was in this moment that he determined his destiny: to become a river investigator and explorer.
Tribute to the Angel Fish-Altum
“The first time I saw an angel fish, I was immediately captivated by it. They looked so majestic and elegant, like a beautiful creation of nature.” (Ivan Mikolji)
And as he saw his first adult fishes at a friend’s house, he asked himself,
“Where do these creatures come from? Their habitat must be just as magical as them.”(Ivan Mikolji). Without a second though, he asked his ichthyologist friends where he could find these fish in their natural habitat. As soon as he heard the answer he sealed his destiny: he had to go to the Pavoni river near Puerto Ayacucho, in the Amazonas. He made his way to this place and as he arrived he was surprised to see that cacique Curripaco, of the Pavoni river community could identify the fish by his scientific name, Altum based on a drawing Mikolji drew of the fish. He was surprised by the fact that the cacique knew the scientific name instead of the commonly used angel fish, as he asked why he knew him by that name, his life was determined by the answer:
“We ate all of them.”
They had poisoned all of the fish, using the barbasco technique that allowed them to kill hundreds in each caño. He knew that city searchers were able to capture this beautiful fish by dazzling them with light during the nighttime. This ignited his passion and has led him to challenge himself to find these endangered fish and photograph them so they can be known, this way creating awareness and minimizing the impact. What he didn’t know at the moment was that his photographs would become the axes of his artistic language, because through his paintings and drawings he was able to relate to them in his urban and family life. It was then that he became aware of his life philosophy: “To preserve we must know.” (Iván Mikolji)
How he came about this majestic creatures was not out of luck but thanks to an intense search and investigation, and when he was able to find them to document them in their natural waters. Thanks to this, he came across the colors he now draws and paints with, that respond to the chromatic of the waters and plants they live in, and not those of the fish.
This is why the angelfish is a fundamental part of his studies as a photographer, investigator and visual artist, and this was only the first of over one hundred expeditions that he has carried out through the Venezuelan territory in the search for this dimension of life on earth. He has found a new purpose to his life, in this search to create a global awareness to preserve these species in their natural habitats, that just as their habitats and jungle societies which coexist with the angelfish, are being destroyed.
Blue Fish Inspirational Tribute
His artistic language put him in direct contact with another of his passions, the water as landscape and theme, that is widely present in his sketches, drawings and painting as part of his iconography. He has dedicated his life to this obsessive discipline of the creations day by day of pieces that he develops in series as a tribute to these chains of life, which he investigates and he now honors through his serie “Peces azules”.
Each one of these tributes, are a tribute to beauty and diversity of the selected specie. It is through this that he was developed a artistic language, fundamented on expressionism and organic abstractionism, that merges the anatomy of a fish with the elements of the riparian landscape such as rocks and slabs of rivers like those of the Orinoco river and its aquatic reflections. Each on of his pieces successfully blends organic, inorganic and landscape elements, that are expression of his experiences.
The circular shapes present in this serie’s pieces is linked to both the fake eyes and the cultural context in which these fish live, and so he dedicates his pieces to the indigenous tribes Warao, Yekuana, Baniva, Piapapoco, Yaruro, Curripaco and to mythical characters of this amalivaca societies. He showcases in these pieces, the shapes and colors of elements inspired by these cultures. In the drawing “Ennakine” his visual language is revealed and works to integrate his Ichtyform serie with his iconography, and in this particular drawing the viewer is faced with two eyes,, the real one located in what would be the head and the fake one in the area close to the finn. In this way, parts of the fish’s anatomy are formed by structures inspired in leaves present in the aquatic surface, such as those found in the bottom of rivers and caños of the photographic reflections.
This fish is capable of mimicking the environment that surrounds him, and in this way creates designs and colors on his body as a result of method used for survival under natural selection. Mikolji honors the indigenous groups Yaruro of Apure (in danger of extinction), who have inhabited the territory extending down to the Orinoco river and this fish specie by creating parallels between both societies, which are both under threat due to a concept of progress fundamented in the limitless growth. The piece is composed by two symmetric and angular bodies, whose shape resemble the photographs of the underwater reflections of the moriche palm trees of the Apure river.
The drawing dedicated to Amalivaca, the creator deity, and the wind between the Caribes and the Orinoco river, is one of his most stylized drawings, because it is directly related to the wind and its expressionist and expansive geometry. The colors, that compose it, transmit chromatic contrasts that adopt colors from black, to blue, to green, to yellow, to fuchsia and even red, harmonizing, as part of the drawing.
“I. Piaroa”, creates a musical rhythm between the body parts highlighting the structure and colors. The author creates a dualism between the real and fake eye of the fish on the caudal area, located on the area where the head of the fish should be. This represents an abstraction of the Piaroa masks, commonly used in their ritual dances like the Warime. In this way, the fish like form elements of the drawing are merged with the archaic culture with a rich cultural legacy.
In drawing and sketches, the author’s favorite material is the pastel crayons due to the smoothness over paper of the material and the quality of strokes he is able to perform with it. In painting he prefers acrylics because of the speed in which he can see the finished result of his creation. This directly links his creative side as a drawer and painter with the perceptive speed necessary to obtain the correct frame with the use of a digital camera.
Every single one of the artist’s pieces are the result of his work in his workshops, in this way he has been able to create an artistic language that is intimately related to the aquatic and underwater landscape. This is evidenced in the presence of curves, angles, geometric shapes and serial elements of each piece. As well as, the restless strokes and dynamic echo both in the external shape and in the colors linked to the kaleidoscopic reflections of the light over the surface of the water and the bottoms that characterize a huge part of his pieces, such as the “Altum 92”( image 15). Piece created with pastel crayons over Canson paper with blue strokes that resemble the aquatic reflections of a clear sky over the water and the reds and yellows that remind us of the river landscapes’ sunrises and sunsets, but that also in some cases remind us of the echo of the colors of the aquatic plants.
The fins of this Altum merge chromatic solar elements as well as the greens of the Gran Sabana aquatic plants and the underwater reflections of the Apure river in these images, like reflections of the “river’s skin” facing us with a synthesis of elements as part of a expressionists stroke.
Drawings such as “Altum 174”, ( number 32 in the database), highlight the thicknesses and spontaneity of the stroke as they reinterpret and distort symbolically this tribute to the underwater life. With geometric constructive forms, the author recreates the features of the angel fish. Its chromatic conditions are associated with red, greens and blacks which are characteristic of the types of plants found in Caño Cristal en Colombia de fotografías (156). The angular and serial structures that form these bodies are not only linked to the fishes’ anatomy but to the stony formations of certain areas of the Orinoco river that can be identified in images such as “Amanecer 23”. The chromatic areas are designated with a gray color and bluish tones while the black strokes are inspired in the reflection of the light over the surface of water, giving origin to the undulating shapes and dynamics done through fast strokes inspired by the iconographic elements of the author’s vision of the world.
In this piece, there are certain elements that can be associated with the shape of rocks, molded by time and the force of the current of the Orinoco river. The predominant colors blend uranium, aquatic and telluric elements of the underwater bottom into the same visual speech, organizing them into top, middle and bottom and so it is that the three cosmogenic layers are present.
His photographic and artistic languages share common grounds in many of his works, like in the iconography of triangular Altum fishes, whose shapes resemble the levitating rocks (las piedras levitantes,) ( photography 7 and 8). The fake eyes that are predominant in his drawings and paintings can be seen in the solar roundness of the symbols found in the Atures petroglyphs (fot. 46-47-48). It is important to highlight that Ivan Mikolji makes an emphasis on the fact that he does not wish to create a tridimension illusion of his bidimensional pieces, this due to the echo generated in the surface of stony slabs of the Orinoco river, as can be identified in fotografía (4)-título, that serves as another reference to the iconic lanscape. This same structure serves as the visual center of the “Amanecer (fot. 23) en los Atures” photograph, an image that shows slabs positioned in obtuse angles of approximately 180 º.
These same elements used for his Orinoco river compositions are a unifying part of Ivan Mikolji’s iconography in his drawings and paintings, as can be seen in his painting “Orcidochrome Altum (1)”, 2015 (Nº58) where he transmits a sense of seriality through the curve of his dorsal, anal, and ventral fins of the Angel fish, inspired in the shape of stony slabs, that cover the crisscrossed lines associated with the reflection of light over water, adding force to the visual impression of movement of the frame.
In the center of his painting, Ivan Mikolji creates a labyrinth where one of the external lines reaches its limit, resembling Ariadna’s yarn. The symbolism related to the labyrinth speak of the moon, woman, water and the teluric. In this piece the author accentuates the valences associated with earth and as a visual similarity is created between the snake and the labyrinth due to the curling of both, they are equally associated to the cycles of life and death due to the opossums’ changing of skin. In the painting tribute (Fot. 346 of FM database) as part of the of underwater reflections of the Apure river series, various lanceolate leaf shapes are present.
The thorny features of the marine hedgehog in his paintings and drawings are directly linked to the lionfish, which he has photographed in various occasions. It is in this way that diverse parts of kingdoms and species are merged in each one of his works transmitting a cosmic communion sensation. This can be easily identified in the type of stroke used in the background of the Altum 1 painting. A painting with chromatic tones characteristic of a Orinoco sunrise. The circle as part of the upper part of each one of the tributes possesses connotations linked to the son and to the fake eyes used by fish to escape their predators.
The perception of a dematerializing reality is what the artist wishes to portray in his drawings, by overlapping lines of color. This same technique is found in his painting on paper where the overlapping of chromatic layers are dominated by the seriality of its geometric forms, as can be seen in the Pez Ángel Verde, 2016 (Number 54of the database) painting.
The drawing of fish like ensembles is part of the author’s artistic language, as can be seen in the small format series, that seek to transmit to its public the social nature of certain fish species. This is how the artistic pieces of the artist synthesize and re create his passion for fish and natural aquariums.
Eduardo Planchart Licea
Phd Historia de Arte Latinoamericana UNAM
Ivan Mikolji ha creado un lenguaje fotográfico en sus paisajes acuáticos y subacuáticos, al realizar un hermoso registro de estos acuarios naturales a lo largo de más de 10 años. Estos portafolios fueron realizados en su mayoría en el Estado Amazonas y en Guayana, Venezuela, zona de uno de los mayores pulmones del planeta, poseedores de las reservas más importantes de agua dulce de Latinoamérica.
La plástica de Ivan Mikolji, se centra en formas piciformes nacidas entre paisajes ribereños acuáticos y subacuáticos a los que ha dedicado más de dos décadas de su vida. Aventura que se inició gracias al impacto que tuvo en él, ver por primera vez un Pez Ángel del Orinoco o Altum, esto determino su destino al convertirse en un investigador y explorador de ríos.
Para Mikolji el arte es una vía para acercarnos a la toma de conciencia de la problemática acuífera y para que la humanidad actúe en defensa de ese recurso vital, indispensable para el sustento de la vida, y sin él destruiríamos la ecología planetaria de la que depende la humanidad.
Eduardo Planchart Licea
Phd Historia de Arte Latinoamericana UNAM