Drawing in Croatian contemporary art

19.05.2005. - 10.06.2005.

RIGA GALLERY, 19th May 2005 - 11th June 2005

"Linear Structures" is an exhibition presenting a current status of drawing in Croatia. Exhibition's modest presentation scope does not prevent it from aspiring to portray all the interpretative width of medium within characteristic local uninhibited creative art surrounding.

Such a curatorial standpoint gains a special importance since the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, which has been trusted with conception and realization of the show, has also been organizing international drawing exhibitions ever since 1968. We have learned from experience that its basic problem is how to define the drawing. During more than three decades, the submitted works have been distancing themselves from a classical medium-definition at an increasing rate and speed. Hence, rigid adherence to the attitude that drawing is – to simplify — an achromatic trace on a paper background, has become counterproductive for the manifestation's quality and appeal. Bound to its own commitment to contemporaneity, the Museum has embraced all the changes of artistic attitude regarding the discipline. From colouristic provocations at long-past beginnings of the international drawings exhibition, to the more recent contamination of the disciplines and dissolving of their boundaries, we have arrived at today's position where the only definition is the artists' standpoint claiming that the drawing subsumes everything conceived on linear structure. Purist particularity of definition has been replaced by a permissive generality of voluntarism. What's gained and what's lost? Our activity is pragmatically directed at interaction with audience and unburdened creativity. It happily and craftily draws on all the offered options aiming at interesting, provocative and attractive exhibition. For this reason, this exhibition of ten authors offers a wide scope, from traditional comprehension of the medium to its realization in real and virtual space.

Igor Eškinja has earned his reputation by his outstanding connection of abstract and figurative, spatial and two-dimensional, metaphor and sign. Eškinja's compositions are actually reduced ambients where detailed perfection of minimalist aesthetics gets applied to a phenomenal world, while iconic contents dissolve in carefully balanced illusionist compositions. Most often he uses industrial materials applied directly onto a wall or floor, just to be destroyed after the show ends. This remarkably calm and eye-pleasing, however, conceptually radical minimalism has found its most powerful expression in one of his first works: an elaborated dust-rug that vanished without a trace under the foot of the first visitor who entered the showroom.

Ivana Franke succeeds in materializing the immaterial to the utmost degree. Her transparent spatial structures serve as a mere linear basis for capturing and materializing the light. These hardly perceptible works are actually spatial constructions, often made of many hundred meters of nylon thread and/or transparent adhesive tape. Audience most often sees it as an optical illusion, wondrously rigid and spatially defined light trace or momentary flash of a rainbow segment. Ivana Franke focuses at articulating space with colourless light through a restrained exchange of lit up and floodlit. Her feather-light creations demand visitor's patience, concentration, time, empathy and often persistence of a researcher.

Though elongated lines of steel constructions by Krunoslav Vrgoč reveal elegance, beside the transparent compositions by Ivana Franke they seem like a heavy metal machine. Vrgoč is a sculptor by profession and most often he creates in metal and/or its combinations with wood and fireclay. His works express his peculiar fierceness, temperament and vitality. Vrgoč shapes his spatial drawings with physical power and a welding device, clearly delineating their physical appearance. In accord with such a procedure, a powerful light source projects the construction upon a wall and floor, fusing the spatial grid with its shadow as equal protagonists of an spatial drawing.

Tomislav Buntak is a painter of luscious colourism and exceptionally ample production. His golden-silver utopia "The Final Victory of the Celestial Army" has begun as a series of small compositions sketched in a notebook in 1998, and subsequently grew into a monumental ambient scene as was seen at the 16th International Drawings Exhibition where he has drawn over all the walls of one of the showrooms. At first, critics were somewhat reserved towards his escapist vision of utopian society of naked golden-skin humans, inhabiting a silver desert of a fairy world. For a long time, everybody's first impression was that such a seemingly infantile theme and morphology which happen to be so untypical for the epoch deserve no serious consideration. Finally, wholeness of Buntak's compositions, his full-blooded drawing technique and intriguing subtexts of his character's (a)sexuality have achieved a consensus so rare for an audience, regardless the age or aesthetic standpoint. Actually, it was his drawing series done with golden and silver felt pen upon canvas, with its fluorescent colour variations, that won him appreciation even from the sceptics.

Discrete emergence of Tomislav Čeranić has provoked a similar kind of flat-footed surprise and reluctance to spontaneously accept poetics that is essentially different from the spirit of times, despite the artworks' evident qualities. This erudite from a picturesque medieval Dalmatian town of Šibenik imposed himself upon the arts scene by minute drawings of fantastic architectonic chimeras of perfectionist execution and completely anachronous theme. Čeranić reminds us of long-forgotten renaissance image of the artist as an educated individual and independent thinker who ideally joins mental and kinetic, i.e. skill, medium and imagination. His compositions are most easily described as mandalas evolving from their centre images of historical buildings, chosen and merged according to the expressiveness of their architectonic order's morphology. Čeranić's artworks display stroke and tone whose even quality verges on machine's inhumanity. In time that renders greater importance to a concept than to realization, works by Tomislav Čeranić testify of inexhaustibility and permanent importance of the traditional drawing discipline.

In accord with a multidisciplinary procedure of contemporary artists, Mirjana Vodopija's oeuvre encompasses a whole range of techniques and their variations. Although a professional graphic artist, she acquired most praises for her luminous objects and drawings that are peculiarly merged in drawings by filament. Basically, these are static and kinetic compositions made from different illuminating bodies within a dark box with its front being covered by darkened glass. A viewer perceives shapes of light-producing filaments that come in endless meandering industrial variations. Vodopija's light machines and drawings are continuation of a rich Croatian tradition of constructivist minimalism which prefers usage of the actual active apparatus in realizing aesthetic volition or in demonstrating an attitude towards the technicist obsession with complex and elaborated mechanisms. Her drawings by filament are executed in many versions, from the small format cubes to the spatial installations generated by light fixture assemblies stretching all over the wall or ceiling.

David Maljković based his swift national and international rise upon painting which wittily and intriguingly explored the relationship between aesthetic and social function of visual arts and related structure of museums and galleries. Lately he has directed his interest towards existentialist and socio-politic reflection on nature and destiny of art creation. His projects are medium-complex ambiences which include performances, sculptural and painting installations, ready-mades, videos, drawings, collages, photography.... Maljković's drawings, though figurative and theme-based, are by their nature non-descriptive and non-narrative, bringing about a pronouncedly surreal atmosphere. The plot evolves in gravity-free spaces, with variable scale, where up-down and front-back relations are submitted to a power of author's vision. It is all about the eternally evading meaning of art and guidelines of one's own creativity, altogether transposed into visual images.

Duje Jurić is one of the most prominent representatives of geometric abstract painting, which is permanently present on the Croatian art scene. Before him nobody ever displayed such an imagination in developing basic raster through so many various procedures, from paintings, kinetic objects, compositions with interpolated text, to objects like coffers and closets, virtual and space... Special chapter of his oeuvre comprises site-specific and ambient drawings, drawings assuming performing elements and fluorescent wall drawings requiring ultraviolet light. Jurić's compositions regularly develop by repetition and variation of a basic construction element that is always linear. While the colourist works pay special attention to the tonal values and colours' complementarity as an essential painting's space, his ambiental works steadily refer to the real spatial conditions. Such a spontaneous adapting to a medium reveals one Jurić's of the most sensible Croatian artists. This worldview also integrates a simple magic of effects like ultraviolet light, which is able to separate an invisible drawing from a white background of the gallery wall.

Painter Tina Gverović also uses ultraviolet light in creating site-specific wall drawings. She was prised for her ambients whose exchange of light colours suggests mood shifts. Parallel to these works Tina also creates large-size wall drawings with motifs that first appeared as sketches drawn over neutrally painted tonal renderings of the existent mise-en-scenes. Their semantic independence was proven when they begun appearing independently upon the walls of exhibition rooms, ghost-pale and mystic like ectoplasmic traces. While stressing the fiction of the scenic space as scenographic images, the same drawings in a real space seem to destroy firmness of the architecture and finally question the reality of the very images. Silent emanation of Tina Gverović's art provokes wistful, nostalgic moods that seem to get absorbed not only into the visitors' souls, but to the walls of the exhibition room as well.

The strongest existentialist charge in this selection can be found in apparently totally cool, even somewhat cold drawings by Dario Šolman. His motives are scenes captured from high standpoints , easily located in New York, where the author presently lives. In some of the scenes the spectator can recognize image created by Šolman – a squarely modular robot-line human. The scene's composition is resolved as a comics or a film frame, a visual particle of the naration. Some of Šolman’s drawings are realised as a comic strip, while cityscapes serve as a basis of digitally generated animated films which recently became a focus of Šolman's creativity and also the central point of his fascinating online film diary. Up to date, all his films include the same protagonist, whether alone or accompanied by his replicants, placed in archetypal spaces of metropolitan alienation like subway stations or fast city roads. Šolman's poetics is beyond the critic of global capitalism and resultant unification of the manner of life and privacy. It steps beyond individual feeling of alienation and loneliness. His cityscapes are realistic, while his protagonist is abstract.

This survey attempted to include everything, from the refined emotions to a muscular impulse, from phantasmagoria and aesthetic explorations to the sophisticated reflections on the issue of civilization. Linearity of the drawing vehicle possesses a loose, friable structure. However, it is resilient enough to absorb fullness of the contemporary art procedures and sufficiently dense to encompass layered referentiality of modern thought. Leafing through the catalogues of 37 years of Rijeka's International Drawings Exhibition, one can clearly discern the changes in the authors' comprehension of the medium as well as the essential shifts of institutional attitude towards the drawing. From clarity and certain naive rigidity that characterised the manifestation's early days to the liberal acceptance of complexity of the present day medium-interpretation, which some like to dismiss as a complete loss of criteria.
Creativity has never burdened itself with demarcations and academic classifications. The least and the most we can do is to articulate its wide flux into as resonant cadences as possible.

Curator Branko Franceschi


The exhibition was realised as part of the Cultural-cooperation programme between The Ministry of Culture of Republic of Croatia and the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia thanks to the financial support from the Ministry of Culture of both countries.

Supported by RADIO “NABA”

Organised by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rijeka, Croatia ( and Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art.