HIMN to the NATURE and to the LIFE ON EARTH
Denis Kraskovic, the artist, a sculptor by his vocation and academic degree, produced, and still does, both the painted wooden sculptures and the iron sculptures (his great cycle named “NO”). Being a multilateral and a polyvalent master, he uses a large variety of media in artistic communication to bring forward his ideas, phantasies and visions: the drawings, paintings, carved reliefs, modeling the wood and iron, the cartoons and animated films as well as the still photos and video cameras. On his work, the crucial influences were those of film, animation, strip, visual mass communications, the alternative media like the experimental film and video art. That’s the reason why he uses them to create and emphasize his preoccupations – in a word, to proclaim his world.
He always models, both his sculptures and two-dimensional media like drawings or paintings realistically – even veristically and naturalistically. The realism was immanent to the art ever since and its flame never died nor does it now in the contemporary artistic streams. Of course, it’s stronger today than ever before. Certainly, it is to emphasize that the realism is a tough and enduring form of expression. Comparing the most different segments in the contemporary art of 20-th century and the situations and conditions within many recent and actual artistic events, the first thing we see is a big comeback to the figurative and realistic. Terry Eagleton, the English professor of literary theory and a leading figure in the cultural theory today, is writing: “Speaking about the cultural establishment, the Modern Art also could, as well as in the culture of 60-th and 70-th, consider the realism a given fact. Indeed, the realism proved to be the most resistant form in culture of western history and conquered all the rivals. So, that’s leading to conclusion that here there is something deeply rooted in the psyche of the western world. Valued was the art reflecting the world were we could recognize our selves. But why was this so highly valued is not an easy question. The answer has much more to do with magic than esthetic. The realism was a thing the new movements wished to destroy. Yet, their experiments in art and a way of thinking depended upon it. The cubist painting would have never been looked at with such a rage if we haven’t been so intertwined with a non-cubist easel. The dissonance is leaning upon the sense of harmony. In a way, the modernistic assault on a realism failed. In the Thirties already, the realism came back again. Yet in Sixties and Seventies, the new studies made one more, bold attempt to dethrone it, helped by modernistic art. This effort, too, was avoided successfully (1).” Well, even today, the realism experiences some kind of rehabilitation. A stubborn persistence on realistic & naturalistic proceedings is for Denis Kraskovic, a sculptor, the matter of conviction and the artistic point of view. His sculptures and paintings are living, pulsating, vital, actual, technically done, narrative and convincing by nature, especially the animals, as I already mentioned in one of my earlier forewords (2). He frequently features the animal (zoology), plant (botanic) and mineral (mineralogy) motives. Also, he made a serial of drawings of the world’s most endangered plant and animal species. In nature, there has to be the continuity. With his work, the artist tries to warn the people on the crucial role of constant, eternal dialectic of The Same and The Different, keeping the order of the world. His line of animals, those wonderful creatures, seemingly illustrates an association on a Jorge Louis Borges’ text citing “a certain Chinese encyclopedia” where is written what could the animals be: a) the property of the Emperor, b) embalmed, c) tamed, d) a suckling, e) the sirens, f) fantastic, g) stray dogs, h) the ones included in this classification, i) those jumping wildly, j) innumerable, k) drawn with an extremely fine brush made of camel’s hair, l) et cetera, m) those who just broke a jug, n) the ones looking from distance like flies (3). Denis does not bother with the encyclopedic character of creatures living in nature – much more, he likes to create them, in his humorous, optimistic and joyful way. a tautological amalgams of their true, natural look. His whale, a sea lion, the seals, penguins, elephants, a lamb and all the other lovely animals are already the anthological works of contemporary Croatian sculpture. The wooden sculptures covered in color are a step forward to the hyperrealism. With humor and serenity, he made his art unresistingly attractive, and even more so when enriched with the best of the infantilism; the master proved himself a supreme artist and never did nor ever does want to grow up. His inner, eternal child creates the art one must but love just for the lack of any trace of existentialistic phantasm. It’s a joy itself, a pleasure, a love for creation simply because that’s the way he feels the life. His Sacred exhibition confirms the thesis. Made in polyester, (on distance, for a while, from the wood and iron), his St. Francis of Assisi preaches a sermon to the animals. Of them, thirteen are listening: five pigs, two dogs, one sea lion, one giraffe, one sheep and one lamb, one hyena - but a hen that calmly picks her grains. All animals are painted in vivid colors, but the hyena, a carnivore, is black and in greatest contrast to St. Francis whose figure is white. A bird sits on his hand in presenting its own kind. All the figures are stylized. It is essential to say how “ we understand the artist choose the Saint through a common love for all the animals, there are yet some more relation on the other levels. Denis is well known for his works with the ecological awareness and Saint Francis is a protector of ecology. The message of this Saint, his stand against the materialism, as well as his love for the poor was extreme even in his time.”(4)
The chicken picking a grain and not listening to St. Francis’ sermon features again in miniature proportions: eating not a corn grain, but a real grain of Moon sand. Keeping in measure with microscopic dimensions of the grain from the surface of Moon, the chicken itself is also a miniature. The Museum of Nature in Zagreb, namely, is a home to the three grains of the Moon sand, a gift from the American president Richard Nixon to Josip Broz Tito, his Yugoslav colleague, on the occasion of his visit in year 1970.
History of Nature reduces all the area of the visible to a system of variables and their value is defined not by the quantity but by a totally clear and always complete description. The very identical scheme applies Denis in constructing his own animals, plants, minerals, people: a loud, clear, realistic language of form. The great proliferation of creatures living on the surface of the Earth, the structures included, may enter both the succession of the descriptive language and the area of mathesis - the future general science of general order. This constitutional and very complex relation may establish itself in a seeming simplicity of visible and described. In the broad world syntax, the different creatures adapt to each other: a plant communicates with an animal, a land with a sea, a man with everything around him. Similarity is imposing closeness that, on its side, is heading back to similarity. Place and similarity are intertwined: so we see the moss growing on a shell top, plants growing on the deer horns, various sorts of grass live on the human faces and there is an odd, mixed properties zoophyte - a plant and an animal in the same time (5). The world is the universal mutual “correlation” among the things. There are as many fishes in the water as are animals on the land, or, the objects in the water and on the land, made both by nature and by man are as numerous as the objects in the sky, so corresponding to each other. Finally, we can find everything that possibly has ever been created contained in God, ‘The Sower of Existence, of Power, of Knowledge, of Love” (6). Looking at the consistence of plant – and Denis made a sculpture of a seed, the true and symbolic origin of a plant life as a metaphor of all life in hymnic celebration and singing - a plant suits a rough beast that, by his feelings, suits to a man who, by his intelligence, adapts himself to the stars (7).” Many analogies exist. For instance, an ancient analogy of a plant and an animal: the plant is an upside-down animal with a head turned downwardly, its mouth – i.e. roots – reaching deep into the ground. Its feeding principles climb from the ground up and rise through the body of stem and finally reach the head – a canopy, the flowers, the leaves; the roots are the lower part of the body, a plant itself is the upper part. Similar to the animals, where the net of blood vessels starts also at the lower part of the belly while the main vein rises up toward the heart and head. On the top is a man.
In his works, Denis has always a man in a mind, looking at the flight of the birds (Picture E, if only you and me, my robot, may be so free) in seeking the highest ideal, freedom, or, contemplating a distant past, a prehistoric man and even starting a dialogue with him ( A Conversation with a prehistoric man ).The man is always proportional to the sky, to the animals and plants, to the Earth, metals, stalactites, or storms. Standing high among the faces of the world, he is correlated to the dome of the sky yet he turns round its principles bringing it closer to the analogy of human animal and the land he is living in: land is its meat, the stones its bones, the deep rivers are veins, its bladder is the sea and seven main body parts are the seven main metals hidden deep in the mines. (8) Denis is well aware of a changing in nature, of a fact that nothing lives forever and exactly that’s what gives him the essential alibi to be sincere in art, to do nothing outside himself, never to lie but always to speak his truth. That awareness of the passing nature of everything explicates itself in a picture “Everything’s passing” where the water sinks down the drain and, as his own paraphrase of the “Dance of the Dead”, a painful theme of a Death dancing in a ring with various representatives of social classes.(9) In his humorous way, in this version of “Dance of the Dead” Denis incorporates into the ring, not only the skeletons - the symbols of death, but also “the dancing” members of animal and plant species ( a bear, a cactus, a monkey, a sunflower, a kangaroo, the slippers and amebae and also a tree). Kraskovic introduces that way to his art the temporality, a time category. Important by all means is to point out that the art of Denis Kraskovic is ultimately sincere, direct, and even when speaking about the death and the transience of everything, he still is a firm optimist, enjoying the world and life as they really are. That makes his art so intimate, autobiographic. Following, as he always does, his great heart and his great love, he also painted his unfortunate love (a painting called “Salamander”).The giant red lizard and an elephant border a figure of a young woman in black, a non-color, that long ago laid over Denis’ soul. A very emotional sculpture “Sylvia and Vlado”, though, is a witness that Love is what’s leading us all and emerges victorious at the end. Sylvia is a tortoise and Vlado is a butterfly sitting on her back. They are in love. He lives but one single day and she’ll mourn the next hundred years. Here, again, time is a factor in a world’s rhythm of life, in nature and in all the life there is, also, to all what it brings and takes away and takes away to bring back again - and so for all the eternity. We are the part of dialectics of constant movement. By it we live and by it we die.
Zagreb, June, 2012
(1) Terry Eagleton: Theory and there after, Algoritam, Zagreb, 2005, page 63.
(2) Foreword to the exhibition NO, Klovicevi dvori, Zagreb, 2002, page 63………………
(3) Michel Foucault: Words and Things, The Archeology of Humanistic Sciences, Golden Marketing, Zagreb 2002, page 9
(4) Marta Kis: The Foreword to the Sacred Exhibition, Student Center Gallery, Zagreb, 2009
(5) U.Aldrovandi: Monstrorum Historia, Bononiae 1647, page 663
(6) T. Campanella: Realis Philosophia, Francoforte 1623, page 98
(7) G. Porta: Magie Naturelle, Rouen 1650, page 22
(8) M. Foucault: as before, page 40
(9) The theme of “Dance Macabre” – Dance of the Dead- ubiquous in 14.sen. Europe, following
the catastrophic plague bringing death to 2/3 of Europe’s population. The theme is a memento mori , a constant reminder that we are all mortal. It was popular again in a Baroque, 17. and first half of 18. Century
OH, MY ROBOT, IF ONLY YOU AND ME WOULD BE SO FREE
Acrylic on canvas
Trausdorf am der Wulka, Austria
CONVERSATION WITH PREHISTORIC MAN
Wood and blacklead
Mixed media on paper
DO NOT CUT ME OFF
DO NOT PULL ME
Acrylic on canvas
ST. FRANCIS TALKING TO ANIMALS
Height = 135 cm
SILVIJA AND VLADO
BURNING BUSH AND A BALL
Acrylic on canvas
CAT AND SNAKE
Acrylic on canvas
THE HORNED ELEPHANT
Acrylic on canvas and wood
Kostanjevica ob Krki, Slovenia
Height = 300 cm
DO NOT INTERRUPT ME
Balloons filled with helium
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
Plaster, polyester, metal and wood
TAKE THE ROAD OR TAKE THE RIVER
MAN ANIMAL PLANT
Acrylic on canvas
Height = 110 cm
Acrylic on canvas
STABAT MATER, 4:52, 2006.
DENIS KRASKOVIC was born in Zagreb, Croatia, in 1972. Graduted in his native town from the School for Applied Art and Design and was teaching here on Sculpture department from year 1996. - 2007. In year 1994. graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, on Sculpture Department in Professor Stanko Jancic's class. From year 2007. is a Assistent professor at the Osijek Art Academy, Visual Art department, teaching the Sculpture and Public art. In year 2010. graduated as a magister from the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana on Sculpture under the mentorship of a professor Joze Barsi. Awarded with a number of prices, among the others with the Grand Prix for year 2000. on the Youth Salon in Zagreb. Exhibited on many individual and group exhibitions in Croatia (Zagreb,Split, Rijeka, Osijek, Rovinj, Pula, Labin, Koprivnica, Sisak, Dubrovnik, Sibenik, Brod) and abroad (Budapest, Berlin, Vienna, Los Angeles, Turin, Prague, Olomouc, Metz, Tel Aviv, Krakow, Johannesburg, Lubljana, Maribor, Skopje). Made some public sculptures, the best known is "a Whale" standing on a lake Jarun in Zagreb, then the sculptures "The Sea Lion" and "The Lamb" placed near Arena in Zagreb.