The twelfth exhibition of the One on One cycle at the Museum of Fine Arts presents the work of sculptor Ljubica Buble Dragojević (Trogir) and painter, sculptor, and illustrator Nikolina Ivezić (Zagreb). At the first glance, one may say that each of them has her own artistic niche and her own audience. Whereas the art of Buble Dragojević is largely intimist in nature, that of Ivezić is provoking, ironical, and socially engaged – as two different ways of reflecting upon and manifesting their respective personal and artistic positions.

Ljubica Buble Dragojević was born in 1960 in Split, where she completed her secondary education in 1979, at the School of Fine Arts. She graduated sculpture in 1984 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, class of Prof. Branko Ružić. Lives and works in Trogir.

During the many years of her work, the sculptor has alternated various formal elements from different periods and sources, which collide and intertwine in her art: from the sculpture of her professor Branko Ružić, over clasical medieval sculpture and painting, to popular art and crafts. Even though overtly recognizable, they have been appropriated and adapted to the artist’s modus operandi to such an extent that they seem to operate as the indivisible aspects of a clearly profiled poetics. In the spirit of postmodernism, the past has been revitalized here in an individualized garment. Firmly anchored in figuration all these years, Buble Dragojević has been using sculpture to build her own refugium, finding place for humans and saints, plants and animals. Despite the later poetic variations and the widening register of motifs, the unique red thread visible in the early artworks continued to signify the opus of Buble Dragojević. Her artistic expression has remained inspired by emotions, both sweet and bitter, incorporated into the fragile structure of form and imprinted into the expressive surface of her sculpture. The way in which Buble Dragojević has created her own visual code on the firm foundations of artistic heritage reaches its completion in her choice of motifs, which are often inspired by the past, be it as images from her native region or as elements of historical and cultural heritage. Over the years, the artist has produced various thematic series, from her portraits of extraordinary women to ships, goats, trees, and cats, as well as a series dedicated to the Virgin with Child.

Most of the artist’s opus has been made in gypsum, with the addition of wire, hemp, newspapers, and various pigments in some of her artworks. Even though gypsum is basically amorphous, fragile, and sensitive, and above all a modest, “deaf and lifeless” material, as the artist tends to describe it succinctly, it can be very gratifying when in the right hands. Differences in the representing concepts within the opus of Buble Dragojević are evident in the very epidermis of her sculptures. In other words, the character of her facture is directly linked to the interpretation of her work as a whole.

Reflecting upon the given space in correlation to her artwork, Ljubica Buble Dragojević decided that she would exhibit some of the animal and floral sculptures from her previous opus, as well as her recent series on birds and animals titled Brothers and Sisters of St Francis. Besides her renowned Cats, Goats, and Trees (1998-2002), this includes the most recent sculptures created especially for this exhibition. Same as with her earlier work, the titles describe precisely what is represented: Goat, Rooster, Hen, Peacock, Grouse, Bird, and Piglet. Regardless of their date of creation, the animal sculptures adjust readily to the given space, as if it were part of their own living environment. That is why Ljubica’s menagerie needs no pedestals. After all, they are indicators of the artificial, the sublime asylums for art that views the ordinary aspects of life from above. Thus, gathered together at the Museum of Fine Arts, there are clever and curious goats exploring, angry cats lurking, and a harmless feathered company just seems to mind its own business…

All these features remind of different emotional charges that were at work in the moment of their making. Eventually, one should indicate the atmosphere evoked by the artist’s latest series, composed of somewhat smaller, yet gracious animals and in very tender colours. Under the telling title Brothers and Sisters of St Francis, these sculptures reflect a sort of “coming to peace with the world.” One might say that the artist’s view on life and her living environment has become more cheerful and more tolerant. But regardless of the nature of emotions that move her, Ljubica Buble Dragojević creates sculptures to be observed and enjoyed, surprising and delightful at the same time.

(Curator: Iris Slade)

Nikolina Ivezić was born in 1970 in Zagreb. Graduated in 1998 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, pedagogical department, class of Prof. Eugen Kokot. She has presented her work at 50 solo exhibitions. Winner of two awards. Lives and works in Zagreb.

Unlike many of her former painting cycles, which made her artistic expression recognizable among the lovers of contemporary Croatian visual arts, Nikolina Ivezić presents herself in a somewhat different light at the Museum of Fine Arts. So far, Nikolina has been known to the Croatian public through her unpretentious, cheerful, and playful compositions with powerful, contrasting colours and a simple iconography, suitable for the idle hours of our modern consumerist society. Using a variant of Pop Art since the beginnings of her artistic career, she has created a personal and very particular visual language, which she has been using to transpose the street life, the current phenomenon of narrow-mindedness, cheap consumerism, and the deviations of the modern society onto the painting surface. I am on purpose speaking of a “surface” rather than the canvas, since Nikolina mostly uses painted laminated Styrofoam onto which she applies tin plates. Such “relief paintings” made of cheap materials accentuate the basic features of her artistic expression, which is, besides the abovementioned Pop Art, also based on Bad Painting, the style of comics and pin-up magazines from the 1950s, and the aestheticism of erotic and porn industry. A fusion of all these elements, guided by the artist’s inspired and provoking thinking, has led to one of the most lucid episodes in the Croatian contemporary art, which is specific primarily in being completely authentic and resisting easy labelling as any particular style or trend. Contextualizing gender inequality, or rather the domination of sexism, which despite numerous moral and legal codes that pretend to ban it seems more present than ever, becomes two-tiered in Nikolina’s specific iconography, for she simply presents the facts and, instead of looking for a culprit, seeks to define the crime (if there is such a thing) and to divide it equally between both sexes. This extends her painting matter to become a general critique of the society, whereby the artist uses the apparently careless and playful narration of pin-up posters and the aestheticism of comics in order to create an artistic form of camouflage. In this way, she speaks in a completely authentic language of a sort of activism without separating the reality from the world of dreams, irony from the truth, or refined sarcasm from tragedy.

However, the two new painting series presented in this exhibition, although made in Nikolina’s recognizable painting manner, based on swift and intentionally bad, or rather careless drawing, evoke a completely different atmosphere from the one that we are used to.

The two series can be roughly called “black” and “red”. Without abandoning her usual aestheticism of the comics, Nikolina has in fact come closer to it than ever before, as each of the paintings represents an imaginary comic panel and interpreting them together completes the whole. The red series, which Nikolina began a year before the black one, speaks of female intimacy, of those personal, boring, yet common procedures that she performs far from the curious gaze of others, in solitude. Compared to her previous paintings, these ones, although red, seem somehow subdued, tired, and alienating. It is a sort of artistic introspection and the scenes of shaving her armpits and legs, puking, going to the toilet, or cleaning it, certainly do not exhilarate the observer as her earlier paintings did.

In these artworks, colloquially called self-portraits, the artist’s intention was to use completely ordinary and bizarre everyday situations in order to show not only the asexual, bare, and intimate side of a woman, but also her state of mind, which she must deal with when alone among the four walls. The paintings metaphorically present how tired and sick one can be of the living reality and the monotony it produces, which then leads us to the series of truly black paintings. This autobiographic series is done in an almost sketchy manner and describes some unpleasant events that have accumulated, intensifying from bad to worse: a car broken into, an ensuing accident, fainting, hospital, house seizure, nightmares, cancer operation, visiting a friend in prison, euthanizing an old pet, an empty fridge, and eventually death of close friends.

Between these series, there is a Wall of Shame, where Nikolina writes down in chalk how much various people owe her, inviting the visitors of her exhibition to join her. Perhaps it is these unpaid debts that initially trigger the bad things happening to us in life: the early slips in morality and ethical behaviour that start a series of downfalls of human dignity, eventually leading to general material and moral hypocrisy. In this exhibition, Nikolina speaks of it spontaneously and frankly, publicly presenting a very personal story, which is similar to the living experiences of most exhibition visitors.

(Curator: Mladen Lučić)