Kontrec-Meglić-Težak are the names of three Croatian artists who are exhibiting their paintings, sculptures and objects at the Audi Gallery in Bratislava from December 7 to March 1, 2017. The presentation of these three outstanding contemporary artists is a happy encounter between the mature artistic experience of Croatian-German conceptual artist, painter and sculptor Anita Kontrec and that of Gorana Težak and Monika Meglić, painters who belong to the younger generation.
Croatian-Slovakian friendship is well nigh proverbial: we share a similar (Slavic) language, commom cultural roots, and a number of other cultural experiences. Visitors to Bratislava are soon reminded of Zagreb’s city atmosphere and feel instantly at home in the Slovakian capital. One crucial difference between our two countires is that Croatia has the wonderful Adriatic sea while Slovakia does not have access to the sea. For over a century Croats have been glad to share their coast with tourists from Slovakia, who have always been welcome guests.
Besides tourism, Slovakia and Croatia have established vigourous trade and cooperation. The only thing missing so far has been cooperation between the artists (especially the visual artists) and art institutions of the two countries.
Beginning of Long-Term Artistic Cooperation
The Croatian and Slovakian art scenes, especially in terms of the visual arts, differ in many respects, having absorbed different influences. Very few Croatian visual artists have exhibited in Slovakia, and vice versa. Such a situation ought to be changed. With this exhibiton of contemporary Croatian artists we are starting a major cycle of exhibitions to be held in several Slovakian and Croatian galleries. This ambitious project is supported by successful businessman and collector Igor Turuk from Bratislava and the Zagreb Laval Nugent Gallery. One should note that the exchange already started with an exhibition of the most recent scuptures of famous Slovakian sculptor Jan Tapak at the Laval Nugent Gallery in Zagreb this October. Croatian painter Željko Seleš, who paints on glass in the tradition of Croatian naïve art, has, in turn, shown his work in Slovakia. He had a well-received presentation of his works in Visoke Tatre this autumn, at an exhibition organised by Igor Turuk. Slovakian-Croatian painter Lydia Patafta exhibited at the Laval Nugent Gallery in 2015, showing a part of her major Bratislava exhibition to Zagreb artlovers. The show of Anita*s, Gorana*s and Monika*s work in Bratislava brings the artistic cooperation between Croatia and Slovakia to the highest level.
Audi Gallery Show: the Differences and Similarities in Artistic Expression
At the major show at the Audi Gallery, visitors can see some fifty art works – paintings, sculptures and picture-objects by these three prominent Croatian artists. At first sight there would appear to be a „contradiction“ between the conceptual works and unique innovative artistic techniques introduced by Anita Kontrec (which, within the contemporary artistic production in the world – as far as I know – have never been seen before in this form) with the formally more traditional painting techniques and figurative approach of the two younger painters. Nevertheless, these apparently „opposed“ artistic styles and manners do create a new dynamic and an inspiring synthesis. The mimetic and narrative approach characteristic of Monika*s and Gorana*s painting complements the architectural and ambiental approach in Anita*s paintings and installations. In spite of their differences, the three artists – Ko-Me-Te from Zagreb – also share several common features: they all use painting as a medium for artistic expression, but above all, the three painters are sensible and sensitive artists. Another common aspect of their work is that the three of them, with their philosophy of life (which in spite of some differences, shares many features) and belonging to different generations, they nevertheless express their inner worlds in a highly individual and authentic way. It should be said that Gorana Težak and Monika Meglić studied together and earned degrees in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in the class of Professor Duje Jurić.
Anita Kontrec – Common Ground between Painting and Sculpture
Anita Kontrec is a prominent Croatian artists who has spent the longest period of her artistic life and career in Cologne, Germany. Anita was born in 1954 in Zagreb where she earned her university degree in English language and literature, sociology and cultural anthropology from the Faculty of Philosophy. Parallel to her academic interests and studies, she attended the sculpture class of Professor Ivan Sabalić at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. Her artistic life started in the seventies; in the eighties she presented her art work – primarily her conceptual installations and sculptures – at several outstanding solo and group shows in Croatia.
In 1989 she moved to Cologne, quite a loss for the Zagreb and Croatian art scene. Nevertheless, coming to Cologne she proceeded with intense artistic activity and has exhibited her work at some of the most outstanding art insitutions and galleries in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Once she’d moved to Germany she no longer showed her work often in Croatia, but the shows and projects she conceived and organised had a serious impact on the Croatian scene and were hosted in the most prominent Croatian museums and galleries, such as Klovićevi Dvori, Museum Atelijer Meštrović and Karas Gallery in Zagreb. She fully made up for her „absence“ from the Croatian art scene with a major retrospective Kružni tok/ /Roundabout/, shown at the Prsten Gallery in the Meštrović Pavillion in Zagreb (in an exhibition space covering over 700 square meters) this September. With her retrospecitve she showed a selection from the different stages and periods of her artistic development over four decades. Her retrospective is accompanied by a monograph which is a key contribution to contemporary Croatian art. Without Anita*s artistic work, contemporary Croatian art would be incomplete and would be missing an essential aspect.
At the Bratislava exhibition this significant artist is showing her picture-objects in different sizes (ranging from two meters to twenty centimeters in height) as well as her sculptures in fire clay and bronze. Her picture-objects are not the sort of paintings we are familiar with. We could say that her work is actually a completely new segment of art production as she has developed unique techniques which have not been seen so far on the art scene and she has brought them to a high level of sophistication. Her pictures are three-dimensional objects made of synthetic resin mixed directly with several layers of high-quality (light resistant) pigments which Anita polishes over and over until she achieves the sophisticated textures and structures of her paintings. Some of these objects will be shown in Bratislava: „The Trace of Light“, „Three Saints“, „Squares“, „White“, and a number of smaller objects in a similar technique from the cycle „Stripes and Dots“. These picture-objects are unique because they are not made on a classic canvas framed in wood and are not painted in a classic way. Anita Kontrec focuses on the common ground between painting and sculpture and her works unite features of both: in them she studies the effects of colour, but also experiments with structure, texture, and volume. In spite of her exquisite and innovative technique, her focal interest is nevertheless her philosophical and conceptual framework. Her work references the tradition of Mark Rothko*s painting and the work of other leading modern and contemporary painters, but she has clearly developed an authentic artistic style. Her works correspond to the needs of contemporary architecture and have a strongly ambiental character. For the optimal presentation of her picture-objects, light – whether natural or artificial – plays an essential role: shining from behind her objects, light displays the many layers of different nuances of pigments and intensifies the coloristic effect of her objects. Besides light, Anita*s painting is characterised by her specific approach to colour: colour for her is pure energy. Each of her works is a unique experience.
Besides her more recent picture-objects Anita is also showing earlier sculptures made of fire clay („Fortresses“, Throne“) and bronze („Kailash“, „Trishul“, „Free Soul“), and the more recent work „Spring“ which is an attractive ambiental sculpture made of synthetic resin with pigments.
A New Synthesis: Combination of Contemporary and Traditional Painting
With their figurative-narrative approach to painting Gorana Težak and Monika Meglić are stylistically more classic, even „traditional“, in their artistic style though they belong to the younger generation; Gorana*s recent painting are the result of many years of the serious study of abstract painting. Considering the philosophical and conceptual framework of both these painters, their work is in the spirit of the times. They are re-discovering new „New Painting“, particularly in the context of contemporary Croatian art. Many artists from the younger generation of painters such as Stjepan Šandrk, Martina Grlić, Gorana Težak, Monika Meglić and Stipan Tadić, and sculptors (such as Nikola Vudrag) incline to realisitic painting, inspired by middle-generation painter Lovro Artuković. In spite of this general trend, one can see with closer observation that Gorana and Monika stand apart from other young painters. They have developed a more individual style – they are not as swayed by trends and their works are more authentic, grounded primarily in their own personal and artistic experience. These are the features which make them recognisible and afford them a strong artistic impact.
Gorana Težak – from Abstraction to Figuration
Gorana Težak was born in Pula in 1985. She has had a number of solo shows and took part in many group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. For many years she has been working intensely on an authentic artistic expression, free of any trends or influences from the Croatian or world artistic scene. She uses colour in a highly sensitive way: this is the main feature of her painting. Her artistic path has been different from the typical development for a painter: she first experimented with abstract painting and for many years has been making sketches, drawings and patterns in an abstract manner, bringing this to a high level of perfection. Her path to a narrative / figurative style has led from her abstract painting when she started introducing narrative elements, telling a „story“ yet still not quite abandoning her inclination to abstraction. Traces of it can still be found in the background to the narrative stories in her paintings. Her figurative style does not mean that she is decorative; her concern is rather to express deep human feelings and social and political engagement, this being especially sensitive for the least privileged members of society. In this context I draw attention to her new cycle of paintings called: „Nema zemlje za …./There is no Land for…“ At the Bratislava exhibition Gorana will show some of her paintings from this cycle, as well as her most recent work. Gorana*s painting is characterised by an unusual combination of chromatic and monochromatic segments, a combination of drawing and painting and descriptive and abstract elements, showing that she can both paint and draw with the same quality and intensity.
Monika Meglić – Master of Water Painting and Sensuous Pictures
Monika Meglić was born in Zagreb in 1987 to an artist family. The fact that her father, Vladimir Meglić , is one of Croatia’s most famous colourists has been a great advantage for her because she probably „inherited“ a refined sense of colour from her father. Monika*s paintings can be divided into two major groups: water paintings and oils on canvas. Works from both can be seen at the Bratislava exhibition. Monika is one of Croatia’s best water painters to appear over the last two decades. Her technique and the way she uses colour are immaculate and the themes she uses in her paintings are intimate and sensuous. They are mainly about dreams and subconscious experiences which she often combines with a self-portrait.
By combining a mixture of perspective and „flat“ segments on the canvas, as well as depicting herself with disproportionate legs or arms, she produces a suggestive and profound effect. Her paintings are full of engaging details, vivid colours and expressive contrasts. With all her deliberate and accidental „imperfections“, Monika still achieves a kind of perfection by balancing the elements in her paintings and her specific composition. Her candor and the intimate atmosphere on her paintings are suggestive and urge observers to reflect. Her oils on canvas, in contrast to her water paintings, work as if they were unfinished and unbalanced, which has a very specific effect. Her style and artistic expression is unique. Each painting of hers has a different composition; nevertheless, her „handwriting“ is alway recognisable. A characteristic detail are old carpets which, together with her self-portraits, are a recurrent motif.
The variety and authenticity of art works by Anita Kontrec, Monika Meglić and Gorana Težak exhibited at the Audi Gallery in Bratislava provide insight into a significant cross-section of contemporary Croatian art. Due to these vital coloristic gestures and innovative artistic techniques, the artworks by these three contemporary Croatian artists shine and radiate like comets – Ko–Me–Te – from Zagreb at the Bratislava Advent Sky.
Robert Kavazovič Horvat