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Ivan Kožarić
Naslućivanje proljeća
tuš na papiru, 354 x 520 mm
Ivan Kožarić, Naslućivanje proljeća
28. IV. 2006.
The February of 1998 was the warmest February since the recording of global weather conditions was started in 1856. In Croatia also spring seemed to have arrived a few months early that year, and there were even a few veritable summer days when people swam in the sea. This fact stirred up Ivan Kožarić, a hypersensitive artist and a lover of nature who devoted many of his works to the natural world. Provoked by the sudden warming, he briefly stopped pondering the ontological questions of art and started pursuing a seemingly frivolous goal which - paradoxically - requires an extremely experienced, in fact an insanely self-confident artist: the attempt to register and subsequently express and illustrate in painting the morbid beauty, so unusual for February, of this nature awakened all too early, to capture the primeval vitality, regeneration and power of nature and its life, as well as the atmosphere of spring heat.
Kožarić portrayed this early arrival of spring in elementary and spontaneous, soft and sensual aquarelles, directly, without any iconic or other intermediation, using a generous amount of water and only a dash of green pigment. He presented twelve of these works around Easter 1998 at the Zagreb City Gallery, in an exhibition entitled suggestively A Bagful of Solar Energy. Playfully - like a child using watercolours for the very first time - the artist spread the colour in distinctive wide, gentle, dense, unconstrained and refined brush strokes. His aquarelles of a bright palette radiate with freshness and vitality, they simply sparkle and glitter as they depict the brilliance of sunlight, the green of pastures, the greenish light of Lonjsko polje, the reflections of the Sava river and the Jarun lake, and capture the Zagreb sky in a whirl of blue highlights. Occasionally, large, dark watery blots seem to float across the sheets of paper, resembling clouds, whirlpools or vortices, which assemble into strange lyrical formations as watery green or blue backgrounds. In a remarkable way Kožarić also records the slightly morbid changes in the colours of a landscape awakened too early from its winter sleep, even a certain monstrosity abundantly present in the prematurely blossoming scenery.
Since that time, every spring Kožarić portrays not only the beauty and power of the awakened nature in its full splendour but also the fact that spring - whether it arrives on time or too early - is an unsettling season that lets human sensuality blossom in its entire spectrum, especially affecting human lust.
This year, with his slightly diluted inks, still free of anything representational, through his colouristic segments with their full-blooded and sombre green hues and nuances, Kožarić reacts once again to spring days by suggestively capturing their loveliness and their changes and - what has always been his theme, even more strongly present in recent years - celebrates life itself by celebrating nature’s beauty, its cyclic regeneration and man as part of it.
An ascetic reductionism coupled with a strong artistic message is a constant of Kožarić’s works. Free of any mimetic illusionism, he tries to objectify in ink something of utter delicacy and subtlety - the blueness of spring skies, in an attempt which many artists would deem impossible, even sacrilegious. What emerges through the filter of Kožarić’s exceptional colouristic sensitivity are blue, sky-blue images, reaching from transparent and light to thick and dark, even black, monochromatic nuances, always without a discernible gesture. His skies renounce any illusionist transcription, and appear before us as empty, essential and speculative blue surfaces.
On the denotational level, these latest skies with their mental flexibility, contemplativeness and spirituality continue Kožarić’s gaze toward the heights. The "sky" in this case does not denote a local phenomenon (such as the sky above Zagreb) but encompasses everything under the sun, which for the ever-optimistic Kožarić - a person who adores life - represents a source of undisguised delight. It is only the black one among these skies that we are ready to interpret as a point at which our eyes are directed, as a metaphor for our limitations, always present around us and even more so within us.
The skies are at the same time autoreferential. In their elementariness, their simplicity, their softened gesture, in their way of ignoring the traditional painting métier, their ethereality, their shifts in the hues and shades of blue, the thickness of ink, the rhythm of strokes and textures they also raise issues of dematerialisation, monochrome painting, multiplication, stereotype and repetition of artistic manners, the (lack of a) need to create new paintings today, in an era of relentless competition by electronic and other contemporary media. Kožarić thus - as ever - touches on important questions of today’s art in a casual and humorous manner.
An important part of Kožarić’s expression of the spring lies in its iconic dimension: the floral motifs - flowers, single or bundled - this year also inspiredly executed in pastel colours. These simple motifs were created spontaneously, in an instant and by only a few resolute strokes of the artist’s hand, since the idea they incorporate has been mentally completed long before. Above their distinctiveness, these works are examples of an incredible vitality and creative energy concentrated in simple strokes, of a freedom of spirit, a remarkable creative paradigm, of asceticism, reduction of form and minimalism in general, as Kožarić reduces the world of great ideas onto the small format of a sheet of paper. They are examples of reduction, lapidarity, denseness, but also of maximum concentration on the essential, of gestural strength and, above all, of refinement.
Ivica Župan
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