The traveller with binoculars - Aleksandar Zograf

Komikazen 6° Festival internazionale del fumetto di realtà, Ravenna 2010

Zograf, well-known not only to readers of comic strips, but also to those who have carefully followed events in the countries on the other side of the Adriatic, represents one of the best examples of how comics, contemporary history and reporting by pictures, can be correlated. The artistic work of this journalist-cartoonist is centred on the representation of reality, seen with the oneiric eye of a cartoonist who wants to represent himself as the candid eye of observation. This oneiric aspect and that of the research into the processes behind the development of dreams and the mechanisms implicit in them constitute one of the themes that is transversal to his work (as evidenced also by the book Psiconauta, also published in Italian).

Certainly Zograf became famous during the 1990s following the bombardment of his little town, Pancevo, and the letters and stories in comic form that were published in the USA and then also in Italy, while NATO was launching its so-called intelligent missiles. But Zograf had already been active since the end of the 1980s and thanks to this previous activity of his he had contact with numerous cartoonists around the world. 

He was published at that time in publications with limited circulations or that he produced himself, but the fundamental elements of his style were already there in embryo. The disenchanted and wide-eyed view, the strong subjectivity with which the reader finds himself looking at and reading the stories, the line that recaptures a certain naive way of drawing. All this was already present even then. 

Certainly the difference in his comic strip production lies elsewhere, that is in putting himself at the centre of the narration of his own stories. This aspect became a distinguishing feature of the Serb cartoonist immediately after the bombardments. His incredulity in the face of what he was experiencing and the need to recount how daily life was carried on while the “unwritten” rules of war-time were being broken, motivated him to make himself the principal character of his comic strip. He wanted in this way to emphasise his highly subjective approach (he was not trying to be a journalistic or historical chronicler) and at the same time he certainly sharpened his perception of reality in what he was recounting, given that one of the things that one loses most quickly in war-time conditions is a recognition of what is happening to the enemy and wherein lies truth in information. Hence there appeared both a sense of limitation (I am telling you this story solely from my modest point of view), and of truthfulness (it is my life and I am in it). 

This way of story telling then became Zograf’s stylistic monogram, whether he recounts to us brief and thunderous snippets about the cities that he visits, or when he causes us to break into his dreams. This traveller with the binoculars of the visual metaphor leads us to discover details and continents that our eyes, myopic from the habit of seeing things half asleep, could not otherwise know.