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BEHIND THE SURFACE

The double and or multiple layers of Hari Ivančić’s paintings are something absolutely new in both Croatian and world terms, at least as far as the author of these lines is aware. For almost a year and a half, according to the artist, his oil paints kept separating and falling off the canvas, as it was completely saturated with material, and he would gather them up from the floor, time and time again, and return them to the vertical surface. This, actually annoying and frustrating situation, led Ivančić to paint on several layers of canvas (two to three), which he applies one on top of the other.

The closest historical example of a similar innovative practice was the work of the Argentine-Italian artist, Lucio Fontana (1899-1968) and his spatialism, which consists of monotone, mono-chromic pictures, perforated or cut with sharp objects. Fontana, by destroying his picture, showed us that alongside what is “in front” (the representation) there is also something “behind”, that is the picture as an object has three and not only two dimensions. His revolution functions on the level of the concept, and does not move far from that idea, although we can talk of the aesthetic dimension of the materialization of the idea.

In contract to this, Ivančić has not abandoned painting, but, on the contrary, he is multiplying it; he first paints one canvas, on top of which he stretches another (and a third), and again paints on it. After the painting on the second canvas has been defined, he cuts it, slashes it, and so we can see what is underneath through the gash. In other words, we do not know what the entire first canvas looks like, because we are only able to see part of it, whereby the idea of a palimpsest arises – a parchment from which an old text has been erased to make room for a new one. This is an association which takes us along the wrong path however, because the artist does not erase the layers of the picture, nor does he paint over them later, but the painted canvases are layered, as weavers layer carpets, one on top of the other. This is instead a case of the cryptographic organization of information, artistic messages which are hidden from us, which we know about, or at least sense that they exist in the places covered by the painting on top.

What is it that Ivančić paints? Landscapes – like O. Gliha, F. Šimunović or J. Janda, that is, his homeland, Istria (E. Kokot, Q. Bassani, E. Murtić …). It is a bird’s eye view, and the narrow edge of the horizon at the top of the picture ensures we recognize the motif. But this is no longer a figurative landscape, and has not been so for a very long time, which leads to (associative) abstraction, since the surfaces are so shimmery, irritatingly vibrant, optically oscillating, with various chromatic frequencies and valeric blending, that the eye of the observer loses any fixed point, any sure support, leading from the centre to the edges, or anywhere from anywhere. It is all centre and all edge, and we – like the artist before – are drawn into the picture, which is no longer merely an object, but a subject, we do not see only it, but it sees us, as the Slovene artist Bojan Gorenec asserted, back in the 1980’s. It is not Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey (1890) but it is not far from it, because as the artist paints the picture, so the picture “paints” (defines, mirrors, paints) the artist.

Naturally, we will recall Pollock and his “dripping” technique, which “drew” him into the picture and made him part of the painted field, but Pollock painted on the floor, with no distance, whilst Ivančić does so on an easel. The difference is in the elevation of 90°, and in both cases the results (on one of many levels) are the same or similar; the surface is a relief, material (like in informal art) exceptionally tactile and haptic, rich in colour. If we recall that Ivančić gathers the oils he uses to paint from the floor, because his surface, saturated with material, is no longer able to receive them, and if we know that he paints with a painting knife, then it will be clear to us that it is a matter of similar but also very different procedures and results.

The artist’s horizontal land, seen from the air (landscape) rises up, literally, and becomes a vertical wall, on whose surface, so rich in shapes and colours, we seem to see signs, letters, words, which are challenged by that vibrating variety. T. Maroević, three years ago, compared Ivančić’s earth’s crust with the earth’s skin, a powerful parable,which also holds water in architecture – a wall, whose crust (plaster) is the skin of the building.,

Istrian fresco paintings (a technique which requires great speed) or the painting by M. Detoni Fantazija oronulug zida (Fantasy of a decrepit wall) (1938) would take us too far, into a homeland or romantic theme, which are below the surface of Ivančić’s artistic habitat.

Therefore it has to be stressed that this is original, native born, innovative art, an artistic process from which new surprises still await us.

Berislav Valušek, July 2013
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