Katamaran Art

Curator: Iris Slade

Opening: July 2nd 2020 at 9 p.m.

During his public art life which began in 1956, Vasko Lipovac received 28 awards for his sculpture, prints, monuments in public spaces, painting, drawing, illustration, scenography and lifetime achievement, exhibiting in almost a hundred solo exhibitions and over 200 group exhibitions. Split's favorite and one of the most popular Croatian contemporary artists left this world 14 years ago, leaving us with an enormous, inspirational opus and, today, each new display of Lipovac's works raises special interest with the audience.

His solid and diverse education, attained at the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb – together with his creative curiosity – created a humus which encouraged the growth of his passion for experimenting with different techniques and materials, which creatively complemented the motif/theme diversity. Lipovac was interested in the ambient and habits related to the sea as well as religious and erotic motifs, sports and so on. Adapting these motifs to the content (but always relating to his own habitus) and placing them in his 2- or 3-dimensional forms, he managed to show his distinctive expression which causes emotional reaction to the observer. Some of the protagonists from Lipovac’s artificial worlds seem to show an aristocratic dignity, some evoke melancholy, some are witty and other provoke with their eroticism and lasciviousness.

Boka Kotorska and its magical mountain-marine landscape were the key starting point for shaping the lyrical and nostalgic poles of Lipovac’s characteristic visual expression. This is the most exposed and recognized part of his opus, made up of seascapes, ships in the open sea, sailors and captains, couples in love… These moments from his youth were saved from oblivion and transposed into fascinating visual poetry. There is no doubt: this initial genius loci owes its permanent presence in this opus to the ambient of Split. Still, this same work belongs and doesn’t belong to Lipovac’s living spaces, because its specific universalism makes it close and understandable to all Mediterraneans.

Although the abstract visual idiom was more popular at the time (even with Lipovac), he stayed really close to figurative expression and the material world, boldly reaching for traditional and anachronous contents burdened with traditional conceptions. Following this trail, he lucidly established his own visual iconography and – although he interpreted some motifs repeatedly – he never let go of his creative candour. This goes for eleven of his (never exhibited before) works in wash ink and/or tempera on paper, taken from his family collection and including 4 matrices for prints that were already exhibited. The repertoire of motifs for these prints includes depictions of individual ships (sailing ship and steamboat type) at troubled or smooth sea, and a sailor’s silhouette. They’re all painted in shades of black, with only three works showing shades of blue or red. What if the motif doesn’t grab our attention? If we take our time and focus our attention to the visual components, we will notice that the important content is actually this: the tense balance of stylized monochrome shapes which dominate the scene and the liberated movement which shows its autonomous transparency, minimizing any descriptive duties. Instead of the hypnotizing contemplative timelessness of Lipovac’s works that we’re used to, here we are facing a concrete time, engraved in the brush’s playful trace. The fiery spontaneity in execution, the consciousness present in the prints’ matrices and the imperfection of the artist’s hand are all a part of a unique artistic code.

Vasko Lipovac was born on June 14, 1931 in Kotor. He graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts in Zagreb in 1955. From 1955 to 1959, he participated in the Master Workshop with Krsto Hegedušić. He has exhibited in about a hundred solo and over two hundred group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. He is the author of public sculptures: the monument to Dražen Petrović in the park of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne (1995), the monument to Marko Marulić in Vukovar (2006) and in the Sculpture Park in Santiago de Chile (2007), the Red Flower in front of the Faculty of Economics, Business and Tourism in Split. He also made the bronze doors for the church of St. Mary in Kotor (1989). He artistically furnished the interiors of numerous hotels ("Argentina" and "Babin kuk" in Dubrovnik, "Berulia" in Brela and "Marco Polo" in Korčula, "Marjan" in Split) and public buildings (Center for Culture, Maritime Museum in Kotor). He also created book illustrations, scenography and costume design. He has received a number of awards and recognitions for his work. Vasko Lipovac died in 2006 in Split, where he lived and worked since 1967.

On view until July 21st, 2020

The exhibition is financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Croatia and the City of Split.