In the Museum of Fine Arts, Ana Sladetić creates a playful and unconstrained environment in which social problems are passed through an optimistic filter and paintings, etchings, embroidered fabric, LED lighting and ceramic sculptures, albeit seemingly chaotic, coexist harmoniously. Having realised her concept using an entire range of available art objects, traditional and contemporary media, she shows that her creative imagination easily transcends one form as she engages in complex site-specific projects. The artist uses humour, an attractive and striking colourway aligned with the principles of consumer psychology, the economy of attention and a mish-mash of motifs based on repetition, as strategies for communicating serious messages and a critical engagement in which she re-examines ossified cultural patterns that define our modern life: gender stereotypes, irresponsible use of natural resources, media-visual pollution, disappearance of handicraft.

A permanent motif that is multiplied through all media as a pattern, thus connecting structural segments of the Visuality of Artifacts exhibition is the motif of the vessel. Ostensibly an extremely simple utility object, it is a surprising and almost trivial choice with abundant contextual potential. The motive behind the selection of pottery vessels is partly autobiographical, since some of them, like the artist herself, come from Slavonia. They are archaeological artifacts and oil lamps from the Vučedol site, traditional gourds and rakija brandy pitchers with ethnological motifs, and pottery from the artist’s household. Furthermore, Ana Sladetić incorporates in her works antique hydra water pitchers, porcelain teapots and jugs included in the installation Porcelain Song by the visual artist Momčilo Golub, on permanent display at the Museum of Fine Arts, and industrial packaging of today’s products by renowned brands. By selecting archaic pottery that is obviously handcrafted and industrial packaging, she highlights aesthetic, creative and ecological violence, which threatens the utter collapse of the value system, because of the need for accelerated production and consumption.

In addition, consumerism reinforces gender stereotypes in a subtle and covert manner. The advertising industry thus uses women to sell hygiene and personal care products, and men to sell alcoholic beverages. Ironically, the artist juxtaposes a woman from an advertising campaign for a renowned brand of oil and Meštrović’s sculpture of a woman from the Museum of Fine Arts’ display, thereby pointing to the durability and stability of entrenched social postulates and the intertwining of art and life. She notices the patriarchal stamp in the phallic shape of the traditional Slavonian rakija brandy pitchers.

Consumerism is camouflaged in all spheres of contemporary life, but it enters the domain of the visual through kitsch, which is enhanced by neon lights and the recognisable iconography of consumer culture in the Visuality of Artifacts series. Everyday life moves into the space of new visuality where algorithms serve up information calculated to be best for us. The cyber world is noisy, teeming with colours and contents, vying to control our attention. The exhibited works are reminiscent of the aforementioned personalised online environment, an information universe that is constantly expanding and is presented as part of our personal world, despite being its illusion.

In her work, the artist problematises the impact of social processes on the visual sphere, but also on human lives. She assumes the position of an engaged observer who uses visual language to intervene into the current context. At the same time, the choice of using witticism as a communication tool may appear inappropriate and peculiar, but Ana Sladetić’s exhibition gives us permission to peel off our packaging and for a moment be spontaneous, ourselves. It certainly would not hurt to, now and then, accept the suggestions of that tiny person from deep within our being to “anchor” us in the world.

Ana Čukušić

Ana Sladetić earned her Bachelor’s and PhD degree from the Academy of Fine Arts, University of Zagreb. She has received a number of awards for her work, including the Kranjčar Gallery Award at the 35th Youth Salon (HDLU, Zagreb, 2020), the prize for best exhibit at the World Youth Art Festival exhibition (Seoul, South Korea, 2017), ex aequo at the 25th Slavonian Biennale (Museum of Visual Arts, Osijek, 2016), the first prize at Celebrate Originality - Adidas in cooperation with the Museum of Street Art (Zagreb, 2010) and the Grand Prix at the 30th Youth Salon (HDLU, Zagreb, 2009). She has participated in more than 170 group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad, and has staged 20 solo exhibitions (Zagreb, Rab, Rijeka, Samobor, Koprivnica, Ilok, Paris, Berlin, Wiesbaden, St. Mary's City, Maryland, Maribor). She has also participated in numerous artist-in-residence programs in Germany, Belgium, France, Finland and the USA. She works as an assistant professor at the Academy of Arts and Culture of the Josip Juraj Strossmayer University in Osijek.

In her works, Ana Sladetić pushes the boundaries of what we see and experience. She is inspired by the contemporary world of communication and available technology in dialogue with traditional media, as well as the important influence of traditional art on the contemporary way of life. In addition to showing immediate and intimate croquis from her personal life, which the artist perceives as notes that materialise the cognitive process and later grow into conceptually more complex works, her recent works also include technological achievements, such as a series of drawings in which line turns into sound, interactive images that explore the effect of thermoactive paint that reacts to the warmth of the palm, sculptures that demonstrate the way sound vibrations are transmitted through the human body, interactive needlepoints and watercolours with protagonists transformed in 3D animation.