Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The Art of Viktor Mitic

"JFK" 
The creativity of artists never ceases to amaze me. But the mediums employed by Viktor Mitic in his art might take the cake. He is best known for his bullet hole paintings and his rain paintings. Yes, you read that right. Mitic has used both guns and the natural elements in the creation of his work. You wouldn't be alone in wondering how he developed these unique styles. Happily, I had the chance to visit Mitic in his Siesta Key studio where he shared his work with me. 

Mitic grew up in Serbia (then Yugoslavia) and served one year in the military. (The alternative to this service was a ten year jail term.) And while he didn't see any combat, he did learn his way around a gun. Soon after he completed his service, he emigrated to Toronto for college and discovered a different take on art and art history than what he'd been exposed to in his home country. Upon graduation, Mitic settled into life as an artist, never afraid to experiment with different styles and techniques. 

Mitic was surfing YouTube one day and came upon a video of soldiers shooting up religious murals. Some would view the act as pure blasphemy, but with his artist's eye Mitic saw the end result as a type of graffiti. He decided to try "painting with bullets," using ammo as a tool of creation rather than destruction.

"Blasted Guernica" (2010)
Mitic began painting iconic images and then outlining them with bullet holes. The style is reminiscent of what you might see in children's connect the dots coloring books. The incorporation of bullet holes lands differently depending upon the work. When it's an image of JFK or John Lennon or Picasso's "Guernica," the bullet holes amplify the tragedy of violent events in our past. But he's also employed the technique in paintings of more mundane scenes such as a group of women at the beach or polo players racing down the field. In those works, it's hard not to consider how guns have become a part of our daily lives. 

In case you're wondering, Mitic takes his paintings to shooting ranges when he's ready to add the bullet holes. Mitic's homage to "Guernica" required thousands of rounds of ammo given its size. It is approximately 12' x 26' -- the same dimensions as Picasso's iconic painting. (Note: This seems a good time for a reminder that all images can be enlarged by clicking on them.) For his JFK and Lennon works, he shot the same caliber guns used in their assasinations.

"Incident" (2012)
Mitic's bullet hole paintings are both disturbing and intriguing. But his commentary on gun violence went to a whole new level with "Incident," a school bus nearly obliterated from the deluge of gun shots.

Mitic got the idea for the work in 2012 after a spate of gang violence in his hometown of Toronto. The incident brought gun violence in U.S. schools to the forefront of Mitic's mind. It had been more than a decade since the shooting at Columbine in which 12 students and one teacher were killed and more than 20 other people injured. According to a report by the Washington Post that was updated in January, there have been 394 school shootings since 1999, with more than 360,000 students exposed to gun violence. 

Mitic purchased a small school bus and moved it to a secluded location. He enlisted the assistance of some "gun enthusiasts" (whom I would call right wing gun nuts) to create the work. More than 6,000 rounds were shot into the vehicle, with devastating effect. 

"Incident" was initially displayed at an art festival in Toronto. But in 2013 Mitic took his art work on a tour of Washington, D.C., where it was displayed in multiple locations, including in front of the White House and the Mall. For additional images of the bus, click here. This is one time a trigger warning is truly warranted. The work is deeply disturbing. 

"#441" (2007)
It's hard to move on after that, but not all of Mitic's work is so intense. Take, for instance, his rain paintings, which came about by happenstance. Mitic sometimes paints outside, and a rapid change in the weather one day led to rain pouring down on his canvas. It could of course have been a disaster. But Mitic liked the effect, and so he began his unusual collaboration with nature. He refers to the works as "acid rain paintings." (All rain is somewhat acidic even if the pH value is higher than what technically makes it "acid" rain. Thank you, Google.)  

That's not to say that Mitic takes a que sera, sera approach to these works. Yes, he often finds the way the rain has impacted his work pleasing, even exciting. But on other occasions an emergency fix is required. He now creates these paintings with a blowtorch at the ready to quick dry the paint when the rain has done its work. In art, as in life, it's all about finding the proper balance. 

Mitic's studio is a study is creativity. 
You probably won't be surprised to learn that Mitic works in other styles and mediums than what I've focused on here. This picture from his studio will give you an idea about how diverse his art is. In addition to the bullet paintings, there are works from his Stripes series and a couple of paintings I'm not quite sure how to characterize. And, yes, the sculpture in the foreground is gold plated (and carries a commensurate price tag). Mitic is an artist who's not afraid to experiment with new styles and mediums and see where it takes him, with some unexpected results. 

For a terrific article about Mitic and his work, click here. It includes some images of the complicated installation of "Blasted Guernica" at a gallery in Toronto and a short video of Mitic at work. And to explore more of Mitic's work, click here to get to his website. The "Rain Painting" video shows him at work on some of these paintings starting around the 3:30 mark. Enjoy! 

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