Robert Ćaleta / Magical world of Roby Rubens
Robert Čaleta‘s Robi Rubens’s Magical World is a collection of 20 (100 x 70 cm) Indian ink drawings. They were created during the ’80s and their first and only presentation until now happened in 1990 at the author’s apartment/studio. Because the collection was also conceived as a serigraphy edition, further displaying of the drawings did not make sense before they were printed. In the following years, digitalizing the templates was, both technically and financially, an impossible task, so the collection was only occasionally shown to a group of close friends. Luckily, during one of these meetings, the author was persuaded to try again.
Robi Rubens is not an actual person. Still, this map describes his imaginary world in 20 scenes. Similarly to the real world, the system that connects different places and levels is not balanced. The unit is held together by strict geometrical order on one hand, and a fairy-tale naivety on the other. Its style is based on the idea of merging Japanese prints and medieval illuminations. This seemed logical to the author because both systems use ornament, symbols and expression in narration. Further upgrade was defined by the intention to bring into Rubens’s world elements from art history heritage (from Secession to present day). Similarly to a film, the understanding of every scene/image relies on the comprehension of the previous ones. This text does not have pretentions to explain the images, nor do the images serve to illustrate it.
While observing the scenes arranged into layers within compositions of each drawing, I found myself on the path that started with some kind of visual hesitation, analogue to a loss of sense. It proved necessary to descend into the untranslatable and suffer its impact. Simultaneously, the exchange of visual codes remained rich, flexible and fascinatingly subtle despite non-transparency of language, or maybe thanks to it. Their lively grouping seemed inspired by the elements whose ordering was not determined by any protocol in advance, although it may be completely opposite. Due to a lack of certainty, what seemed a static image to me at first became a chess board eventually – space not for observing, but for playing. With personal projections.
To be focused inside that game and get completely involved in it means entering into an artwork the way, according to a legend, a Chinese painter did when he stepped inside his unfinished painting. Here, every discovery is as strong as it is fragile, and the only ones who manage not to get lost in it are the ones who can remember all the clues imprinted in them along the path by the fragments of the riddle. Regardless of whence they enter Rubens’s world. By obscuring borders between true and false, real and imaginary, the magical world is close to poetics of post pop art. It is a model of intertwined simulacra, a game of illusions and phantasies in creating situations more real than reality. Through passion for humoristic representation and presentation of geometric structures in non-purist manner, it promulgates the principles of bad painting, term introduced by art critic Marcia Tucker in the ‘70s.
In any case, regardless of the side from which we approach it, Robi Rubens’s Magical World, using its eclectic quoting, collaging and montage of different stylistic patterns, expressionistic accentuation of subjective and intimate (as well as the desire to be a meeting place of the author’s and observer’s indulgence), represents a complicated compound of symbolical, narrative, fictional and decorative elements. Thus, in a valid way it reflects Postmodernism – a spirit of time it was created in. For the first time, with this exhibition, the doors of this quite surreal world are open to the audience. To everyone interested. At their own responsibility, of course.
 Walter Benjamin, Umjetničko djelo u razdoblju tehničke reprodukcije, Život umjetnosti 6, Zagreb, 1968.
 Roland Barthes, Carstvo znakova, AC, Zagreb, 1989.
 Ibid. (3)
 Miško Šuvaković, Pojmovnik suvremene umjetnosti, Horetzky, Zagreb, 2005.