Curator: Iris Slade

Exhibition display: Matko Trebotić, Iris Slade

Jealously keeping everything good adopted from being an architect, Trebotić patiently worked on his own path into the pure painting. In 1992, the artist's search resulted in Traces, expanding until 1996 into a cycle of more than sixty works. They, undoubtedly, mark a turning point of the artist's opus, and as a sign post for the deciphering the works' polysemy, the artist offers theirtitle. Traces suggest the existence of fragments of reality (early Croatian chapels, skulls, cypresses…) that have long become the identification marks of Trebotić's iconography. Their perseverance and significance within the space of the painting bear witness to a tight connection with his own artistic past. However, although on a motif level he still remains a prisoner of the moemory that governs the inner necessity, now Trebotić expresses himself in a new artistic language. The hand, used to architectural dicipline and clarity, has loosened up, so a meticulous and delicate countour line has been replaced by an intermittent brush stroke. Compared to what was before the object has moved away from the perceptional. Motif-signs, as a base for for the composition's structure, have been remarkably made infrequent. Gesture and colour have become the dominant content of the painting. For Trebotić, changes of hand and colour are mutually conditioned by a blue tone. Preponderance of the blue, as the least material colour, is logically connected to the aspiration towards the dematerialization of the form. Conditionally speaking, while the eatly works were dominated by the narative component through the personal interpretation of the heritage and the universal, Traces actualize the artistic reality.

Refering to the artist's words we should view these changes in Trebotić's poetics as a mastering of the canvas, that is in the end manifested as a predominance of the painterly over graphic, which is also confirmed in the disappearance of the graphem-writing. For a long time has a system of letter and number designation represented a specific cold frame that controls and stabilizes emotions (I. Zidič: Matko Trebotić, monograph. Mladinska knjiga, Ljubljana, 1988, p. 43). In Traces, a pen handwriting has been replaced by a brush one, expressive gesture has taken place of the rationally controlled stroke.

In recent works presented at this exhibition has taken one step further in the same direction, which in Trebotić's case meansthe complete affirmation of the painting métier.

The cycle of seven paintings, significantly called Tracing Bluebeard marks the starting point and the base for the new works. The aforementioned cycle is a part of the author's multimedia project inspired by the Béla Bartók's opera The Bluebeard's Castle, which is based upon the impressive fairy-tale by Charles Perrault about the ruler of the blue castle and his fiance Judith. Precisely speaking, Bartók has used somewhat altered version of the gloomy and passionate legend of a cruel master, Bluebeard, and young and beautiful Judith (…), a remake by Hungarian poet Béla Bálasz (I. Prijatelj Pavičić: „Konceptualni okvir mračnog svijeta bajke“, HNK Zagreb, Zagreb, 1999.).

The encounter of the lyrics and music, motifs and symbols, wa vizualized by Trebptić through the opera scenography, scenography sketches on paper, edition of graphics (verse by Igor Zidić) and the aforementioned seven paintings on canvas.

The whole project is marked by number seven. There are seven doors and halls of the blue castle through which Judith passes revealing Bluebeard's secrets. The symbolism and semantics of this number in the story create a base for Trebotić's interpretation of the subject. As the project was realized in different media, their characteristics caused different ways and possibilites of artistic interpretation.

The initiating impulses in scene forming were given to the artist by his own experience. Since the eighties he has been creating installments using forms and objects which posses strong symbolic change or become symbols through the artist's intervention. Using the same principle Trebotić created scenography sketches-drafts. Respecting the story's chronology, the artist defines the place of the action on sketches by motifs-forms whose meanings surpass formal recognition. The space is associative and saturated with symbols that provoke various connotations. This method is based upon the selection of the story's key features. For example,: a tree denotes Magic Gardenm and its particularity is denoted by a floating vox that opens an associative field of many hideen secrets. At the same time, Trebotić will present Bluebeard's Armory by bloody painted palisades.

And whereas the sketches are based upon libretto, the paintings are inspired by music. There the artist uses motifs and forms that for him carry a special meaning, churches, skulls, crucifixions… this time relating them to the context of Bluebeard's character and story. From the synthesis of the inner necessity (artistic predestination)and the artist's present volition, there arose the associative-narative statements of subjective expressions motivated by music.The same way, the role of the central motif as a carrier of the meaning's and composition's construction remained unchanged, but now the motif is visually by far more concisely articulated. Already in Traces, the artist has graduyll been reducing forms, alleviating the centre from design and symbolic saturation. And while in the first part of the cycle the xymbolic and actual centre of the painting is mainly formed by multiplied motifs, in the second part their number is considerably lowered. The artist focuses symbolic meaning on one or just a few meanings in the centre of the painted area, while the rest of the canvas is artistically articulated by a liberated gesture and vivid colour.

We meet similar methods, hand and expression again in the recent works inspired by the subject of Bluebeard. In this case, music was prime mover of the visual expression. Its strong impulse suppressed in Trebotić the dimension of emotional projection of his own starting-point, formed through the symbolic language of the heritage. The artist still uses the identical iconography, but in an altered context, stressing its universal, archetypal meaning. The ground plan of a church in athe centre of a painting will no longer (a priori) represent visual reflection of the local memory. Now, its meaning of the sanctuary is generalized but it can be read as a house or the substitute of Bluebeard's castle. The main character's personal experience will be visualised in Tracing Bluebeard IV by a free interpretation of the most powerful Christian motif – the crucifix. Instead of the innocent Christ on the Cross, Bluebeard, whose evil nature has been embodied in a monstrous creature of the man-beast, has been crucified. Placing him in a different context, the author gives that cruel and baleful character a possibility of redemption. The bleeding heart reflects all symbolic and connotative meanings of good and evil, salvation and madness.

Although music gave a starting impulse to the forming of the cycle, symbolic and in part artistic interpretation relies on libretto. Trebotić defines more closely his own conception by literally translating words into artistic language. Stell-blue colour has arisen from Bluebeard's name as a semantic and visual base of the whole cycle. In spite of the attributive realism of the colour, the crucified Bluebeard's figure, by a connection of the seemingly incompatible motifs, develops into a suggestive and wordly symbol that surpasses story's thematic frame...“

Iris Slade, from the exhibition catalogue

Marko Trebotić was born in Milna, Brač. He finished Classical Gymnasium in Split and he graduated from Belgrade College of Architecture in 1961. During the year 1971. and 1972. he attended the famous Folkwangschule, in Essen, as a “meisterschüler”, in professor Herman Schardt’s class. From 1970., he started to exhibit intensively worldwide, where he completed over a hundred independent and more than a three hundred group exhibitions..
As a painter, Trebotić found a pictorial formula, which has, in a creative and painterly exquisite way, managed to connect the local with the global, to express the heritability with the universal language, and to bring the local passéic vision to contemporaneity.
His syllabus possesses stylistic, iconographical and expressional completeness and recognizability. Five monographs about his work had been published, and his work can be found in many Croatian and foreign collections and museums.
He made a glorious piece “Adriatic Triptych” – formal curtains for the national theaters in Split, Rijeka and Dubrovnik.
Several television films are made about his work.
He published around twenty graphic-poetical maps together with prominent Croatian and foreign poets.

From time to time he makes spatial installations, as well as the theater and television scenographies. For his artistic achievements he received around twenty rewards, of which we will single out the “Vladimir Nazor” award in 1990., the Split City Award in 1991., the decoration of the Order of Danica hrvatska with the image of Marko Marulić in 1996., the award of the biennale in Seoul in 2000., and the award “Jure Kaštelan” in 2004. He also received the “Rudolf Bunck” – an award of the Croatian National Theater for the best visual arts work in the theater in 2006., an award of Split-Dalmatian county for an overall artistic work, the Rotary International’s award “Paul-Harrisa-fellow”, and the Split City Award for a lifetime achievement in 2009.