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THE ARSIS AND THESIS OF THE WIDE OPEN LAND

The joy of quickly finding one’s own space and one’s own expression may become darkened or fade under the pressure of self-satisfied repetition. However, it would also be a pity to let go of a thread once discovered, or to give up on what has been gained (in terms of subject matter, motifs, disciplines) and not try to move on, deepen, and develop the sensed possibilities of expression, branches or side streams. When it is a matter of the traditional medium of painting or the now classical genre of the landscape, it would seem that all possibilities were exhausted long ago and the basic options used up in the works of previous generations.

Hari Ivančić, however, has succeeded in speaking out in a convincing and authentic manner about the complex, visual truth of the Istrian landscape. He chose to testify creatively to the setting in which he was born and where he lives and works, and he got to work immediately after finishing his studies. Over a little more than a decade of work, he has already created a relevant opus, coherent and homogenous, both in terms of his dominant thematic incentive, and his serious attitude to the premises of his craft. He started with what was seen and experienced, but he did not stop at fleeting impressions or atmospheric changes, but he reduced the world in question before his easel to its basic rhythms, to vital symbols, to the logic of gravitation, with a tendency to refined sublimation.

From the very beginning Ivančić painted his homeland seen from a bird’s eye view, from high up (from the top of a hill), as the land spread out, as though straining towards infinity. On the surfaces of his paintings, the fields, plains and clearings are arranged horizontally with narrow belts of horizon under the very top edge. This remainder of “sky” has absolutely no mimetic function, but it comes in handy as orientation for a careful understanding of the picture, as a signal that the force lines of the painting are quietly settling on one another or that they are drawn together by gravity, pulled downwards.

On Ivančić’s early pictures the horizon still showed a slim cypress tree or perhaps a cubic house, so the picture was given a recognizable denotation of character, a form of “metaphysical dimension”, with the appropriate melancholic nostalgia, with the patina of days long past. The artist, in removing the final remains of the illustration of the setting, was not moving towards abstraction, but this came from the need to emphasize the artistic characteristics of the visual basis, and of course the structure of substances used.

We must, for who knows which time, remind ourselves of the famous saying that one should tend one’s own garden, or go on trying to make systematic use of the soil from which we originate. In the case of Hari Ivančić, tending his garden is in no way literal (neither is the landscape of Buzet tame like a garden), but the way the painting is treated has similarities to digging, ploughing, turning furrows, weeding excess additions. That is to say, the paint is added in thick layers, which seem to melt into one another, or partially overlap, crossing one over another, but not covering the lower layer completely. The roughness, the relief of the pigments, also adds something direct, decisive, “workmanlike”, so the painting, despite being organized and structured, retains in itself the spark of organic life, the ability to renew itself, so to speak.

It seems that Hari Ivančić succeeds in reconciling a maternal ecstasy of informal origins with a structural understanding of the composition of a scene. He is assisted in this by the fundamental strictures of the motif itself, the fact that the division of the landscape is geometric in itself, that the lines of fencing and hedging are mainly orthogonal, that the lines of the ploughed field are of necessity parallel. Ivančić’s paintings are regularly composed, with the moderate rhythm of parallel bands, the skilful juxtaposition of darker and lighter areas, the balanced exchange of tectonic “arsis” and “thesis”.

The artist’s view of the land at times seems to be a view of the open sea, since he sees and interprets its elements; he feels its character of powerful restrained motion, in its thick waves. Even in use of colour, Ivančić at times is close to the sea, giving way to the challenge of the blues and strong purples. But the main colours in his titles are drawn from the Istrian geological map, mentioning the white, grey and red soils. Whilst the red comes with a bright, flaming glow, in all the other solutions he prefers closed, muted, subdued tones, where at times a detail breaks through from what appear to be ashes with a stronger emphasis.

On the screens of Ivančić’s canvases there are lines of parallel strokes, one above the other, flowing, stripes or ribbons of appropriate colours, creating ten or more vertical levels. A slight move away from the horizontal adds some dynamics, and spots or smudges arising from his temperamental mood give meaning and life to the linear direction. Aware of the danger of the overwhelming principle of the horizontal organization of the scene, the artist recently has tended to interpolate elements to “disturb” or break up the structural continuity, in order to create or achieve balance in the more complex concept of his composition. We could use musical language to speak of a staccato effect, or the introduction of deliberate “buzzing” into clear tonality.

Concluding with a presentation of the current phase of Ivančić’s art, we assess highly the skill of his gestures and use of colour, and express our respect for his fidelity to his original principles, but we will not forget to praise his need to gradually enrich his range of subject matter, we give credit for his vocation not to rest on his laurels, but once again (and over and over) to test the reasons and possibilities of his own interpretation of the world to which he is emotionally and existentially bound.

Tonko MAROEVIĆ, August 2007
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