Ambient installation Fra Didak’s Signpost to Salvation (Adoration of St Domnius) by visual artist Matko Trebotić, will be exhibited in the Chapel of St Arniro, co-patron saint of the city of Split, ahead of the Feast of St Domnius. The artist approaches the celebration of the city’s patron saint on a symbolic level, opting for a simple solution with a universal echo, the Greek cross, which points to the dual symbolism of the cross inherited from the advent of Christianity and the first persecution of Christians, martyrdom and holiness, referring to the Salonitan martyred Bishop St Domnius and the Herzegovinian benefactor Fra Didak Buntić. Matko Trebotić, who even after half a century of continuous work shows no signs of lacking either will, inspiration or stamina, has recently shown this new work for the first time and has won first prize in the competition marking the centennial anniversary of Fra Didak Buntić’s death, which is going to be commemorated with an exhibition at the Franciscan Museum and Gallery in Široki Brijeg.

Aperspectival content, meticulous selection of colours and Informelist solutions of Trebotić’s levitating cross in the Chapel of St Arniro, bring the visitors closer to the intangible and the mystical, revealing the spiritual and otherworldly, to the extent they are willing to attribute such extraordinary powers to the arts. Discernible within the chaos of the painting is Trebotić’s preoccupation with the process achieved by accumulating thick layers of acrylic and the use of non-painting media in the construction of the image, drawing, by which he concretizes and collects agitated strokes of paint executed using the dripping technique. For Matko Trebotić, creation is a solitary activity performed in isolation, in the haven of the artist’s studio, turned away from external stimuli and towards inner value. The artist’s work process ranges from complete withdrawal to the need for (self)validation. Persisting in the production of an inexhaustible number of painting versions, Trebotić’s concepts are constantly flourishing, and are not following the usual path or the expected slowdown of life dynamics. Painting is his existential happiness and unequivocally his destiny.

Trebotić’s cross evokes the advent of Christian art marked by symbolism: modest incisions and abrasions in the catacombs, the sign of the cross or the fish and an occasional humble allegorical figure. In this recent work, the artist has used his inherent style to combine Christian symbolism with abstract expression inspired by the power of the Mediterranean sun and the colours of his homeland (lavender, Mediterranean herbs, Brač stone), thus reconciling the spiritual with the earthly, keeping some of the mystery and inaccessibility of paintings in the catacombs. The work’s lyricism is confirmed by the splendour of colouristic sensibility, which offers Mediterranean experience to the observer caught in the chromatic labyrinth. The whiteness of the canvas is contrasted with the intimately coded experiences of the outside world. In recent years, light, the cognitive basis of reality assumes the key role in Trebotić’s paintings. The illumination of the cross dissolves shapes into colours, before it recognisable symbols of small crosses and Glagolitic letters are erased, the scene is narrowed and spiritually redirected.

In the context of recent events, Trebotić’s painting is offered as a necessary beacon, which, by remembering the saviour of the Herzegovinian paupers and the guardian of Herzegovinian children Fra Didak Buntić, leads, illuminates and dispels dark looming perspectives, inspires optimism and faith in the most general sense, in humanity and the future.

Matko Trebotić was born in 1935 in Milna, the island of Brač where he attended the first three years of primary school. He continued his education in Split where he graduated from the Classical Grammar School. He graduated architecture in 1961 from the Architectural Faculty of the University of Belgrade. After the initial architectural success at home, he moved to Germany and collaborated with numerous architectural offices (Bochum, Essen, Dusseldorf). In 1971 and 1972 he attended as the „Meisterschuler“ the print department of the famous Folkwangschule Essen – Werden, class of Prof. Hermann Schardt. He has exhibited throughout the Croatia and the world. He has also published over ten graphic-poetical maps in collaborations with notable Croatian and foreign writers and poets. He is also the author of the Adriatic Polyptych – four formal curtains for the National theatres in Split, Dubrovnik, Rijeka and Šibenik. Several monographs were published about his work, as well as several films have been made. His works are kept in private and public collections in Croatia and abroad. He lives and works in Split.