In Flames

Opening an exotic wound in front of the audience, is how a music critic described Lou Reed singing on the album Take No Prisoners, recorded live in New York’s Bottom Line club in 1978, and it left an indelible impression on me. Since then, I have spent forty years trying to find an opportunity to use those exact words in a text or visual arts criticism. That day has finally arrived, because Josip Tirić’s painting, when he is at his best and absolutely true to himself, without calculations that the parsimonious local art market is known to force the artist into, deserves this magnificent description. I conceived this modest in size but visually powerful exhibition and Tirić’s first presentation in Split, as an uncompromising choice of eight oil paintings created between 2015 and 2019, and that is only from the canvases I found in his new studio at the moment of selection. Even though they are not part of a previously conceived thematic unit that we have grown accustomed to in art practice since the period of post-conceptual art, the selected paintings are tethered together most importantly by – the vehement gesture and expressive colour palette, which make Tirić the “most painterly” of painters from the generation that graduated around 2007 and brought figuration, in a big way, into focus of the contemporary local painting practice. The expressive tendency in Tirić’s painting is so emphatic that on the narrow surface of the painting, from the motif’s edge toward the edge of the canvas, forms and colours are developed as distinctly autonomous painting materials with almost abstract qualities. In other words, Tirić, unlike others in his generation, does not paint to narrate, but narrates in order to paint, because of his particular inclination that requires a narrative type of content as the conceptual framework within which he will realize his primeval painting energy. In contrast to his generation, Tirić’s conceptual starting point, his focus or inspiration are not based on the programmatic criticism of reality that will be mediated with a studiously elaborated compositional content or exhibition unit. By addressing the observer’s senses directly, Tirić will base his expressive power and persuasive compositions on the feeling of anxiety generated by his visual language. It is essentially a visual experience of gesture and colour that appear, with their autonomous existence, as if they will simply undo and abolish the motif. As a matter of fact, this is how forces of social reality deal with individual destinies caught and conditioned by historical events.

Motifs that are presented in the selected paintings are the skull, a boy, church dignitaries, a house in nature, young man with a palette and the man in front of a porch. Personally, I was surprised by the ease with which the synergy of selected compositions constitutes a complex narrative about the dreariness of contemporary Croatian society and its never resolved dilemmas about the relationship with the church, position of the artist, demographic breakdown, migrant crisis and xenophobia. Some would say I am exaggerating. I wouldn’t say so, intuitive truths are always stronger, while meanings, and beauty for that matter, are in the eyes of the beholder. Of course, Tirić’s mastery makes them evident.

Branko Franceschi

Josip Tirić, (Travnik, 1982 Bosnia and Herzegovina), graduated painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 2007, when he received the Academy Award for the most successful graduate in the academic year 2006/2007. He received the HDLU Award for Best Young Artist in 2011. Tirić lives and works in Zagreb.

Solo exhibitions

2018 - On the Border, Forum Gallery
2016 - Baptism of David, Greta Gallery
2015 - Figure 3, Zucatto Gallery, Poreč
2014 - Purple Circle, Barrel Gallery, HDLU, Zagreb
2009 - They're Coming, SC Gallery, Zagreb, Croatia
2008 - Vladimir Buzancic Gallery, Zagreb
2008 - Vladimir Filakovac Gallery, Zagreb