AND WHAT ELSE DID YOU SEE? - I COULDN’T SEE EVERYTHING!Series, 2010-2012
And What Else Did You See? - I Couldn’t See Everything! brings together painting and war photography. It is based on a press photo taken by Ron Haviv in 1992 during the Bosnian War. The shot shows an armed and uniformed soldier – sunglasses perched on top of his head and a cigarette in his hand- who is about to kick with full force a woman lying facedown on the ground. The photo from the series called Blood & Honey: A Balkan War Journalgave rise to extensive comments and discussions.
Milak’s 24-part series of black-and-white painted copies of this image takes its title from this photograph. When asked by a journalist, “And what else did you see?” Haviv replied, “I couldn’t see everything!”1. Susan Sontag, one of Milak’s reference points, was openly critical of the documentary value of this image: “In fact, the photograph tells us very little – except that war is hell, and that graceful young men with guns are capable of kicking overweight older women lying helpless, or already killed, in the head”.2
Whereas Haviv only gradually realized that he had become the witness of a crime once he had taken this shot, this thought must have been constantly in Milak’s mind as he was painting.
As Dr. Leon Krempel - curator of the exhibition at Haus der Kunst in Munich - pointed out, Milak "investigates and explores Haviv’s photograph, which has to be read and re-read like an obscure text; in some places he sharpens the focus, in others he blurs it, thereby changing the mood and the expression of the image. In so doing, he is addressing issues that have always arisen in painting, although here they originate in a photographic original: the rear-view figure and faces in profile, for instance, but also the practice of grisaille painting, which both heightens the level of abstraction and allows the painter to use light, contrasts, and depth of field in the way that they appear in a photograph".3
This project was presented at the exhibition Bild Gegen Bild, in the Haus der Kunst in Munich 2012.
1. It has not been possible to trace the source of the interview with Ron Haviv cited by Milak. Milak’s source was a Serbian website BnBo, accessed on 03.09.2012.
2. Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, London, Penguin, 2003, p. 81
3. Dr. Leon Krempel, curator Haus der Kunst, Munich