Faces are like books. Life span fills the face, that relentless tide of life, and before the water recedes, I record everything in colour. Eugen Varzić
After a magnificent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art Dubrovnik where Eugen Varzić presented his rich 2016-2021 oeuvre, the exhibition The End brings an intimate selection of works created exclusively during the lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic has globally changed the dynamics of the entire world, and life as we knew it has literally been put on hold. But despite the many negative consequences, lockdown forced us to stop and smell the flowers. In the pursuit of big goals and desired accomplishments, we often tend to forget the most important thing – how to live. Lockdown really forced us to stop rushing recklessly and doing things by inertia and encouraged us to look at our own lives, family and friends and that everything we have, material and immaterial, we do not take for granted, but appreciate every moment, fully aware of the fact that under the new circumstances actually everything can disappear overnight. In the context of the fruitful and rich work of Eugen Varzić, the pandemic had a negative impact on the artist’s work by postponing a number of planned projects in Croatia and abroad, but at the same time opened the possibility of developing his own painting story. Namely, in the last two years of his life underchanged circumstances, Varzić did not stop his artistic work, but changed his approach and continued to work with dedication. The new circumstances brought by the global pandemic have formed a new vision of the world, new rules and new ways of communication, interaction, socializing and exchange of information, impressions and opinions. Varzić used lockdown time for everyday painting, while the imposed isolation went to the artist’s advantage, because loneliness is necessary for creation, and the creative process itself helped the author to distance himself from the noise of extremely contradictory and negative news and information we were exposed to on a daily basis. While new technologies and social networks enabled maximum virtual connectivity and networking, Varzić continued to create and communicate primarily through his works. While in the early stages of the cycle presented he selected and painted foreigners he would find through social networks, during the pandemic the artist focused on family, friends and acquaintances whom he would invite to his studio and photograph their faces which would then, in further work, became the starting point for the emergence of a new work. The change in the approach and selection of the model was very much felt in the final work. His paintings from the beginning of the cycle represent a note of often unknown individuals, where the author himself weaved meaning and content based on provided visual and physical guidelines, but by selecting family membersclose and familiar people through socializing and interaction in real, not virtual space, he opened a completely new world in which the artist absorbs energy, remembers the expressive facial expressions and captures the desired frame with a camera, and weaves into the work the personality, story and con- tent that was realized during the socializing in the studio.
It is important to point out that the recorded frame, i.e. the selection of photographs, is only the starting point from which Varzić creates his work. Namely, the author chooses people who can tell his story, but avoiding a literal interpretation. Brave individuals thus become the main actors in the experiment where the artist puts the models in different roles, takes photo of them and through communication and gesticulation receives their energy and gets to know their personal story. The visual starting point develops and becomes more complex during the process of making the work by Varzić weaving his own content into the told story, forming a unique context and thought. Ultimately, the author, as he himself points out, paints life.
An old folk proverb says that ‘knowing oneself is the beginning of wisdom’, and knowing oneself and forming a concept about oneself through one’s own thoughts and beliefs requires a direct turn to property in order to explore oneself from the inside out. One of the rare self-portraits in this exhibition, First Days of Madness, testifies the process of selfknowledge. The self-portrait, which multiplies as the main centrally positioned character with a crown on his head follows a series of other, smaller, vanishing and emerging interpretations with a range of different facial expressions, speaks of a range of emotional and mental states an individual is capable of going through and surviving under extraordinary circumstances. These are the most intimate insights we can reach by plunging into the depths of our own thoughts, feelings and actions, and going through this process through communication with ourselves, but also with models and their personal stories, Varzić really paints life in its sincerity and nakedness with the aim of displacing the observer outside his own comfort zone and leading him to a series of questions that the author too asked himself, and he found the answers through the process of creation.
The portraits are mostly frontally positioned with a direct view of the observer. Even when the head is slightly raised or in half profile, eye contact is present, and a wide range of pronounced facial expressions nonverbally communicates with the observer through embodied emotions, states, and thoughts. The author usually selects close-ups, focusing on a key segment of the face, while the rest continues in the observer’s thought process. Portraits range from an extremely calm face and a focused focus (Yohanan Ha’Matbil, Merjema, Last Nights, Crossfade, Sleepless Angel, Star of the Sea, Rock and Roll) to very often maximally emphasized facial expressions and gestures of the model (Davide, Sirens, Coming back to life, Heroin). A wide range of interpretations continues through achromatic and extremely minimalist depictions (Bella Ciao, Christian, Missed) through almost monochromatic solutions with a single accent in a different colour (Last lights, Testa matta, Crossfade, Star of the Sea) all the way to fully coloristic expressions (Merjema, Sirens, Heroin). The richness of colours, shapes and different textures expressed through clothing, make-up and fashion accessories makes a kind of artistic and semantic complement of the embodied character and the interpreted story. Compared to earlier portraits, the richness of over emphasized make-up, jewellery, tattoos and other elements that enrich the story, move away from reality and build their own world of possibilities and experiences by delving into the subconscious and repressed. While ancient official portraits marked the status, reputation and position of power in society, Varzić’s portraits are free, honest, experimental and show the other side of our personality – not only the decent and polished, i.e. a kind of mask we wear and with which we perform in public, but also the weird, relaxed, silly, funny, ironic, disappointed, sad, resigned, angry, melancholic, thoughtful, rebellious, wiggly, cheeky and playful side… i.e. all faces and all layers of personality that make us unique.
On the one hand, the works are a kind of nostalgia for the past that we remember by getting to know each other, socializing and gaining new experiences imbued with a sense of carefreeness and freedom. Most mode- ls carry an aura of getting out of the dark, i.e. getting out of the loud and smoky spaces of clubs that no longer exist in this ‘new’ world. Elements such as make-up, jewellery and clothing are a revolt against a major sociological problem that arose during the pandemic, and which mostly affected young people deprived of the most beautiful times of growing up with music, going out, first crushes and loves. Varzić most often takes his daughter as a symbol for today’s youth who grow up closed and deprived of human touch and social interaction. The rage and anger of young people and the longing for life that is blocked overnight is interpreted through a series of works. And while Last Lights artistically evokes the atmosphere of the last lights before morning reflecting on the face of a person coming out of the night, the monochrome Crossfade goes a step further and represents a psychological moment of transition from pure happiness and pleasure in sorrow, i.e. transformation, which occurs when the youth immersed in the night and its magical charms leaves that intoxicating world in the morning with the arrival of light. Although these works refer to the state of the transformed world, they simultaneously speak of humanity, life, youth, old age, hope, aspirations and possibilities. It is worth mentioning the work Future, which, as the name suggests, interprets the vision of the future as seen by the author. A greenish-bluish coldly lit face emerges from the darkness. Eyes like a mirror of the soul mirror our future. It is bloody, fraught and naked, and as such shatters the illusions that we persistently try to build and encourages us to realistically see what awaits us. In addition to a number of portraits and occasional self-portraits, reference should also be made to the ever present landscapes in Varzić’s oeuvre. The landscape in the author’s work most often represents a kind of pause, i.e. a mental pause in the process of completing one and creating the next cycle of works. The night scene of the landscape lit by car lights along the road, as the name suggests, marks the moment of returning home, while Life through extremely muted, dark black-grey tones with only an occasional influx of reddish colour shows a view from the inside out. Through the half-open window, but also the bars, we see nature. It is so close, and yet so far away. The nature we perceive as a return to ourselves in a global pandemic situation and a constant call to ‘stay home’ acts like an elusive dream.
What is intriguing about The End cycle interpreted through the theme of portrait, apart from the artistic features such as the recognizable handwriting and the reflection of the spirit of the time, is the way the artist perceives himself. ‘I do not belong anywhere. At least that’s how I feel, and the feeling is perfect. There is no drawer in which I will be crammed …‘ are the words with which Varzić defines himself, but also the models he chooses for his paintings. They are atypical, characteristic and completely different from each other, which emphasizes the richness and diver- sity of humanity. Just as self-perceptions like the ‘mental mirror’ reflect how we see ourselves, so Varzić’s portraits are not just a mere set of physical traits. They reflect the emotional states, desires and needs, values and roles we hide within. The individual is often torn between reality, desire and expectations, that is, what he really is, what he would like to be and what others expect him to be. Each individual portrait is one story, one page of the author’s intimate diary, and it largely depends on the internal dynamics of the person portrayed – whether it will be shown in the form in which it acts towards the surrounding world or will allow the observer an insight into its own process of self-evaluation.
Varzić’s works are not calming, but they initiate and emphasize movement, engagement and the exchange of thoughts and impressions. They do not provide the final answer, but the impetus for development, movement and relocation from the safe and the known, and the imprint into the unknown. Because every end is also a new beginning.
The exhibition title The End does not literally mean the end, but a change. Each process, including the cycle of works, has its own development course. The End was created under extraordinary circumstances and brought to life and recorded the uniqueness and specificity of the situation in which we found ourselves as individuals, but also as humanity. It will certainly be interesting to reconsider, soak up and view this cycle as the time goes and when we will be able to remotely absorb its content into which we are currently fully immersed.
Sonja Švec Španjol, mag.hist.art.
»(…) My Face
Soul of your scorched deserts
Incessantly carried away by the spirit of weary dreams(…).«
Karol Wojtyła, Song of the Hidden God
I approached the writing of this text about the painter Eugen Varzić, an exceptional figure in the Croatian art scene, from the stance that it should be viewed through the prism of an autonomous art, one that does not draw on any artistic trend, or any interest group in the artistic life of Croatia. He is his own, proper to himself. A painter who respects tradition, he is steered away in his wanderings from the traps of contemporaneity so-called and taken in the direction of painting that is apparently traditional, and yet completely contemporary and critically focused on everyday life, socially aware of the disintegration of European civilization, above all of the ruins of Mitteleuropäische culture. Varzić – the artistic path of whom I have been following for years – who in many ways follows his own dictates in his search for an artistic direction, took me in his work to numerous questions about how to interpret someone’s work of art, artistic stimulus, no matter how banal it seemed. The pathway of painting, i.e., creativity, is often a labyrinth of memories, composed of the artist’s training and their sensory and spiritual reactions to previous situations in life. The philosopher Plotinus (205-270 BC), who worked in the twilight of Graeco-Roman civilization, believed that art is beautiful because it contains a spark of the spiritual, bringing into it the concept of form. Shape is something that the artist gives to raw matter. In fact, it is form that comprises that element of spirituality and soul. Therefore, the beautiful is something that is an internal and a human concern, something that the artist bestows on the unprocessed object. For the one that is looking at the work of art it is beautiful because it sets up, as Plotinus says, a harmony with his soul. If something is created from the soul – and the face is a mirror of the soul and the theme of this exhibition – one who observes the work recognizes that and sets up a consonance with the transcendental self.
Art, according to Plotinus, ennobles the works of nature. The artist gives nature a spiritual factor and forms it into a beautiful shape. Plotinus also thus defines art: a work of art is not beautiful in terms of its form, but beautiful in terms of the soul of the artist. A work of art is not beautiful because of symmetry or appearance, because the appearance of some statue is produced with the agency of matter, and matter cannot go from the ugly and unformed to the beautiful and the formed all by itself, but only through the artist’s soul in which this beauty is already inherent. This theory of Plotinus largely holds true for Varzić’s artistic oeuvre as a whole, and very much so for this latest cycle.
The individuality of an artist is very often evident in his communication with the observer, and with the very message that his work conveys. Strong personalities whose artistic expression is distinct and strong are not popular in their milieu and often tend to be kept in isolation. The verses of the poet Konstantin Kavafis (1863– 1932), in the poem Che fece … il gran rifiuto: “He who refuses does not repent. /Asked again, he would still say no .Yet that no, the right No, drags him down all his life” are as if written for such people.
EUGEN VARZIĆ – ARTIST OF THE BEAUTIFUL
In a consideration of Eugen Varzić within the imaginary context of artists who choose to remain outside artistic trends, we might well recall the ambiguous Dubrovnik painter Milovan Stanić (1929-1989), and even more so the painter and illustrator Arsen Roje (1937-2007), who for years lived and worked in New York and Los Angeles when on the American art scene, from the 1970s to the 1990s the leading trends – Pop, Minimalism, post-painterly abstraction, hyper-realism, conceptual and performance art, the use of photography, experimental film and video in the new artistic practices – were born and replaced in a tempestuous unfolding of events. But Roje remained his own identifiable self. Arsen Roje did his creative work inside a very strong system – museum-gallery, market and mass-media – which rode roughshod over any individual artistic position, however prominent. The same thing holds true for Varzić’s visual quotidian, for it has to cope and find its way in the same ruthlessly competitive conditions in art – the challenge for every actor in this system is to make a breakthrough, succeed, make a reputation, and then survive. Varzić the painter is in a constant visual search, creating fresco cycles, great murals, public mosaics, easel painting and sculpture; an artist, then, of huge potential. Like other outsiders on the Croatian art scene, he was always very well aware of what he was getting into, accepted the struggle for existence forced upon him, completely aware that there could not be and should not be any drawing back. Varzić is not in this alone for there are several Croatian artists who have made a successful world career, but have never been acknowledged in their homeland.
Croatian art history students will never learn about Kristijan Kreković (1901-1985), a prominent Croatian painter and architect who spent most of his life in Peru; he was trained in Vienna and Paris, and during the last part of his life he was settled down in Palma de Mallorca, founding the Museo Kreković. The painter Kreković is certainly one of the most important Croatian painters to be involved in the art of the portrait. Art critics consider him one of the greatest portraitists of the 20th century. He portrayed, among other people, Mahatma Gandhi, of whom he was a personal friend, the British Queen Mother, Sweden’s King Gustav V, and many others. They will not learn about the world-famous painter Justina Cici Tommaseo- Sursock (1923-2015) either. This is an artist who is a one of a kind on the Croatian art scene, whose destiny in life makes her only comparable with the painter Ida Verona from Prčanj. In the course of her artistic path, Cici Tommaseo painted portraits of crowned heads and VIPs – such as members of the Rockefeller family and Farah Diba. She painted a portrait of one of the most famous Lebanese singers, Nouhad Hadda, aka Fairuz; and it was in front of this portrait in Beirut, that in 2020 President Macron bestowed on the singer a major French decoration for services to culture. These examples, two artists, whose work was done in the privacy of their studios, yet in contact with all the glamour of the world’s jet set, are never going to be evaluated in Croatian art history as parts of the canon, for what is involved is above all a selective interpretation of art history.
Cherry-picking is a constant in the ideological ambivalence of society, and there is a similar problem in Croatian literary history, which has been unable to fit banned writers or Croatian poets from abroad into the school curriculum. It has been unable to create an integral art history or literary history of the Croatian people, only to follow the well-established totalitarian examples permitted in the cultural structures of the state. Thus, we will not even mention the name of the great Croatian Dominican aesthetician Rajmund Kupareo, of world renown, whose new departure brought a new division of the whole of art to the art of the words, the art of line and the art of movement. In the field of aesthetics, that is, the theory and critique of art, he published one book in Latin, five books in Spanish (of which the central work is El valor del arte – axiologia estetica, Santiago de Chile, 1964) and three books in Croatian The Artist and the Riddle of life: essays, 1982; The Speech of Art: Essays in Aesthetics, 1987; Man and Art – Essays in Aesthetics, 1993), and a series of articles. In the essay Art as a Special Human Value According to Thomas Aquinas, Rajmund Kupareo clearly noted: “Art differs significantly from theology, which according to Thomas uses metaphors for ‘necessity and benefit’, while art uses them to achieve ‘artistic pleasure’.”1 In this postulate, Rajmund Kupareo called it a “modern theory of the disinterestedness of art.” He held that art, even when it depicts evil, sharpens the sense of good and ennobles the reader and viewer, and it is the “outsiders” of the Croatian art scene who all their lives aspired to art with the aim and purpose of celebrating the joy of life to the world around them.
In the canon of the new, secular, hierarchy of values, Dubrovnik bishop and cultural studies specialist Pavao Butorac, author of the major work of cultural studies Problem of Culture, of 1966, fared not a whit the better than Kupareo.
It is worth quoting from this book, which is emblematic of the current period as well: “Modern ideological and social movements are marked by extreme radicalism and, what is still worse, exclusivism. All of this has come together in such a way that, against the basic ideas of Christianity, man is ground down in the machine. This very collocation man-machine is an offence against the nature of order, but it is a major offence when it is implemented in life so ruthlessly that a man cannot stand against it without being crushed. Only virtue and truth can refresh freedom and advance culture. Modern social and political movements have proclaimed virtue weakness and truth deceit…. If our generation does not live from the sap of the past, and the future from our endeavours, only a glimmer of a memory will remain of culture.”2 This very art was of civil inspiration and it has been, that neglected part of Croatian art history, its core during the centuries. Silence, torturous silence and contempt, and the degrading attitude of the non-purged in the process of systematically working to silence great middle class intellectuals or push them into a corner, tending very deliberately toward their oblivion. In spite of the marginalisation of the artist-cum-Croatian defender, who wove his youth into the creation of a better society, the painter Varzić is building his own world.
Malcolm Gee in his book Dealers, Critics, and Collectors of Modern Painting: Aspects of the Parisian Art Market between 1910 and 1930 wrote that in 1981, the market was the main arena in which non-academic painting was valued.3 Europe went through a period of intense dehumanisation, on both sides of the Iron Curtain. In 1948 Bartlett Newman wrote: “Modern art, caught without a sublime content, was incapable of creating a new sublime image, and unable to move away from the Renaissance imagery of figures and objects except by distortion or by denying it completely … We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of Western European painting. Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ, man, or “life,” we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings. The image we produce is the self-evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history“.4 What is, in fact, modernity, at all? The concept of modernity in art history was brought in by Baudelaire in his essay “the Painter of contemporary life” published in Le Figaro in 1863.5
History of art is mostly founded on the art criticism of the destruction of beauty, and it will often happen that we do not seek from artists of middle class art that they be incorporated in the many other forms of sacredness in everyday life, and it is actually such themes that the great painters have transformed into a new quality.
To be frank, by way of comparison we should mention as an example of design the Chapelle du Rosarie of Matisse (1869-1954) in the town of Vence on the French Riviera. This sacred space, which is reckoned one of the better known modern sacred spaces, is lit with stained glass windows designed by the great French artist, in almost the same decade, in which Ivo Dulčić, in the then Socialist Republic of Croatia created much higher quality and more wondrous approaches to stained glass and frescos in Croatian churches – we might recall just the Church of Our Lady of Health in Split, or the revolution in religious art on the other side of he Iron Curtain. All of this has been put forward for the better understanding of he artist Eugen Varzić.
He has modelled himself on he takes his cue from, the Old Masters, working in the museums of Europe at getting into direct contact with the great masters and their techniques of painting.
Special places are occupied in the investigative focus of Varzić’s interest in achieving excellence in art by Rubens and Velázquez. Las Meninas, the masterpiece of Velázquez, has always attracted huge interest from art criticism, Fritz Saxl having written: “We are confused for we feel that Velázquez has suddenly turned this genre theme into a representative court painting”6. Achieving grandeur from ordinary motifs, from ordinary people, and their transformation into a new category of value, is a feature of the Varzić style of painting.
We have already cited a number of art historians and their diagnoses about the constant of the destruction of beauty. For instance, Guy Sircello in the essay A new theory of beauty sets up a hypothesis in which he turns the attention of the reader to the situation in the 20th century: “Western civilisation of the twentieth century is paradoxical, for although it has created beauty in abundance, it has not paid serious attention to the understanding of beauty. Many of its artists either ignore beauty or else spurn it. Although they have not been able to stamp it out, they have often succeeded, although not as often as legend pretends, in making beauty artistically beside the point.” Sircello claimed that the beauty of an object cannot be comprehended only in its properties. Beauty cannot be brought down to just physical properties, but has to be observed in its natural setting, non-material substance, while in a definition of beauty it should not be reduced to just its physical make- up.7
Varzić is an inheritor of the old values and without any inhibition creates a personal world, when from a portrait of some person he transforms his personal message into a message addressed to the observer of his artwork.
EUGEN VARZIĆ – MY FACE
The painter Eugen Varzić is a particular personality in the Croatian art scene for he has directed his growth in visual art, the path of his artistic research, in a different direction. We are dealing here with the building of the visual art of a contemporary Croatian painter on the heritage of the current visual trends of American painting of the 20th century, which is formed on the basis of a heterogeneous visual heritage created on the waves of immigration.8 Contemporary American painting has always been directed towards naturalism and realism in the visual presentation. The tendency for creation in the literalist spirit of the trompe-l’oeil, relying on pragmatism – the American philosophical trend – is a constant in American art the whole of the 20th century.9 Here we are not talking about illusion, the magical need for the reproduction of reality, but of giving new meanings to the persons and objects that surround us in everyday life.
In this uncertain quotidian, awaiting for new times, the disappearance of all and any scruples, we wonder if there are any people who are capable of change. With a cynical smile we mention the word conversion. Perhaps in human history there was but one conversion, which led to a change of spiritual values and the writing of new pages of history from the ground up. Artistic conversion is very different; it is a conversion of a material nature, but with the development of spirituality, the artist does indeed experience his or her own conversion, of which the new visual cycle is the confession. Painter Varzić with his powerful drive to respect material, the painterly tradition and the search for new paths, entirely follows the doctrine of St John of Damascus (676-749): “I do not worship matter, I worship the God of matter, who became matter for my sake, and deigned to inhabit matter, who worked out my salvation through matter. I will not cease from honouring that matter which works my salvation I venerate it, though not as God.. …Do not despise matter then; it is not deserving of contempt, for nothing that God created is despicable.”10 Artists are in a constant battle in their tussles with angels of the spirit in order to retain the spirit, knowing that the OT patriarch Jacob in Genesis wrestled with the angel in order to keep god by his side. Various reactions arose in the 20th century to the continuum that had been sustained in the art historical context: revolt against tradition, experimentation with media, techniques, forms and contents, radicalness in all forms of creativity, in which both artist and work took on new roles. Christians are like Jacob in a constant fight, wrestling with the angel of the ego.
In one of his essays about art, Tin Ujević wrote: Art is, after all, an opposition to order without soul, and an opposition without order…” Respecting order and matter more than most Croatian artists, Varzić created a well-received sacred cycle, but in his painting he is a great critic of contemporary social movements and with it he impulsively addresses criticism to the society in which he lives. His painting is not a painting that is its own raison d’etre, rather a form of painterly resistance to a society in crisis.
Going along his painterly path, Varzić must have for certain have borne the flotsam and jetsam of artistic training, aspirations and searches, and the approximately American-oriented trend of figural
painting led him purposively to the last visual cycle started in 2016, the gradual development of which led to the cycle presented here. It all started with the portrait Nona [Italian/Istrian for grandmother], which appeared in an earlier cycle of paintings, Noire. But the figure of Nona, a person with whom the artist has a special emotional relationship, opened up totally new worlds for him and took him along on new paths of art, leading him, as Archangel Raphael took the little Tobias, towards freedom of creation. The future will show how Nona became an artwork that introduced Croatian contemporary art, in the person of Eugen Varzić, to a new undertaking of visual investigation on the horizon of the general European artistic scene. The wisdom of a woman who survived all the changes of Istria during the 20th century, from the fascism that strangled things Croatian in the land of Istria, to the communism that got into Istria with the Croatian liberating struggle and yet suffocated the general Catholic humanism with the murder of the blessed Miroslav Bulešić. Departure without return, the coming of the new men – all that Nona, personification of Croatian Istria, has observed, leaning on the washing machine on which there is an ordinary kitchen tea-towel. This cloth with which the past is covered: sediments of the Grdoselo inscription, the Istarski Razvod, the plagues, wars, exoduses – codes of the memory of the Sacred Wisdom. Nona is Sacred Wisdom, the Saint Sophia of the land of Istria. Varzić the painter is like Grant Wood with his painting American Gothic, has with respect to motif created an iconic image of the state of the Croatian identity of Istria and the historical fraughtness of the 20th century – in the eyes of a woman, guardian of the hearth and of tradition. This is not the weary Europe of an earlier cycle, it is the iconic figure a a woman interpreted with a contemporary visual language, where the banality of the scene is raised to the throne of spirituality for all times.
This painting is the key to the understanding of the new cycle of pictures, created as the fruit of personal development in the visual workshop of Eloy Morales in Spain and constant independent building upon visual capacities and thinking of the moment in which one lives and creates. Instructed by the experiences of Antonio Lopez Garcia and Eloy Morales, Eugen Varzić, after totally mastering the contemporary technique of oil painting is focused on the investigation of the psychological area of the individual. Morales offered contemporary realism and the transformation of the ordinary into the out-of-the-ordinary, in the classical manner, and at the same time into the contemporary portrait. Morales conveyed the classical painterly principles – arte figurativosa – to the international painting community that attended his art workshops. Varzić profited from the Spanish setting, understanding first of all that there is a different world that the selective art criticism in Croatia has no knowledge of, the phenomena of which it is unable to assess in any trustworthy manner.
We have to underline how much the current art and critical scene has been created upon the destruction of civil or middle class Croatia, the negation of the tradition of middle class painting. For many critics, figural painting is a kind of elitism, sometimes avant-garde, but isolated from the mainstreams of contemporary art.12
The Croatian contemporary art scene has been too long apart from the many visual circles within the Western European ecumene, however much it vaunts its own openness to visual trends in the former regime, that of the second half of the 20th century. Varzić’s artistic path is a certain testimony to the search for reconnections with the contemporary European visual avant-garde, in the circles, what is more, of visual artists of the highest quality.
We have to look at Varzić as non-conformist and perfectionist, as an example of the excellence of the Croatian artistic scene, as antipode of the great Armenian-American painter Tigran Tsitoghdzyan and his understanding of the contemporary portrait, through the transformation of the face with the hands – in the mirror of the soul.13 Tsitoghdzyan is of the same generation as Varzić – both of them had their own particular artistic path and created in other parts of the world their own visual language of contemporary figuration, a new and vital portrait in the mystery of artistic creation.
Pietro Annigoni (1910-1998), who in 1947 gathered around his manifest of Modern Realist Painting the painters Gregorio Sciltano, Carlo Guarenti, Xavier Bueno and Giovanni Acci, offered a new realism, arising organically on the tradition of Renaissance art, as the polar opposite to the avant-garde that burned all bridges with tradition and aesthetics. As art historian Bernard Berenson said, Pietro Annigoni was a painter who was intelligible to all for his visual language was simple, the language of the pure heart open to everyone.14 Hence he was a painter of crowned heads, artist whom painters respected, artist who stood out against the tyranny of anti- aestheticists, the invented elitism of art for a small circle of the chosen – progressives, constantly asked whether he was into verismo, naturalism or realism. He like Varzić was just a painter of the beautiful and the intelligible, the painter everyone wanted to paint their portrait.
EUGEN VARZIĆ AND HIS FACES
Eugen Varzić belongs in a group of painters that transcend national borders, one that is closest to the phenomenon of the New Realism and the New Portraiture in post-war American art, as we have already pointed out, the best known representative of which is Jamie Wyeth. Both of them had the experience of war – one in Vietnam, one in his own country in the Homeland War. The similarity in character and in the artistic vein could not be more apparent. Varzić is an artist who heeds the world around him and wants to record the things that interest him, for painting is a way of recording the world, and it is his world. Painting is in fact his personal journal. Painter Jamie Wyeth in one interview clearly said that painting was his way of thinking, as playing is to a pianist – every day one has to practice, to fight with the empty canvas. We can say of painter Varzić that he is a painter of the truth, like the proposition that Romain Rolland put forth in his novel about Michelangelo: “The science of the truth and the art of the truth have always existed and will last forever.” 15
Like Jamie Wyeth, Eugen Varzić is constantly in search of new artistic techniques and open to experimentation. Eugen’s self-portrait is among the very peaks of the genre in contemporary Croatian fine art, while with the portraits of Andy Warhol (1976) and JFK of 1967, Wyeth put portraiture in a prominent place of American painting, as painterly answer to social issues. Like Annigoni, Varzić shapes the world of faces in hieratic isolation, transforming them into socially committed messages. In his portrait Varzić has with outstanding technique shown his concern for the morrow, and with his look suggests to the observer that many things are still unsettled, many processes of the national catharsis not yet finished. The self-portraits of the periods of the Renaissance and the Baroque, and all the way to our age, are the most interesting in terms of painting, for the artist looks critically at himself in the reflection of reality.
Yohanan Ha’Matabil, a young Croatian intellectual, carried on the waves of a deformed society abroad, is crushed with his spiritual fractures, testings of himself, the loneliness of distance. The desert of distance – the tender flesh of misunderstood man becomes one of the key figures of the final part of the cycle that was born upon the profound wisdom of Nona – that great painting of Croatian contemporary painting. Bloodshot eyes of sleepless nights are a condemnation of this current Croatia of the privileged , the monstrous political structure and the hypocrisy of equality Andagrathia / Ndrangheta / ἀνδραγαθία – heroism, its consequences that leave fractured soils, are painted in the artist’s self- portrait in such a way as to leave the scars, a kind of reminiscence, with an entirely Schiavoni-esque strength, of the portraits of Eloy Morales.
With his face in the self-portraits Aswir shakhsi’, Asshole, F20, War in my head, First days of madness, 45, the artist looks at the world in a committed way. With the self-portrait, hooded, Trieste, he speaks of the process of seeking for the first City, a place of civilised encounter, place for the exchange of ideas, culture and inward- lookingness, and not just a place where one[s daily bread is bought, because it is cheaper than in the Croatian shops caught up in the steel embrace of foreign capital, which sucks out the lifeblood of Croatian people. Aswir shakhsi’ , which is Arabic for portrait, depicts the artist masked in a black mask, like a commando, ready to have it out with the injustices of the time.
The portrait 45 is a lyrical portrait of interior spleen, an observation on the transience of life First days of madness can be seen as a contemporary reminiscence of Titian’s composition Allegory of Prudence where the artist paints himself as king of fools, just like Titian, pondering whether by fleeing from everyday life he can achieve the fulfilment of justice.
Who can be king of time?
The artist’s wife Romana and their children and friends are constant sitters and are transformed into new imaginary worlds of portraits – Christine, Winter, Night, My Love, Night. Two portraits of Romana as Romana orans and Romana femme fatale, certainly create an interesting diptych in the new Varzić cycle. Romana – eyes fixed on heaven, hands clasped in the manner of Tsitoghdzyan, where reality of mother and wife are brought out in all the coarse reality, like Varzić’s Nona is a reflection of an Istrian Croatian woman, guardian of the hearth.
This Pop Art posing is an upgrading of contemporary religious feeling, inheriting from the great masters of earlier periods who created a new iconography. Like her antipode, the fatal Romana is an observer of the world to which she is every day exposed, from the corrupt state establishment, the fight for the family, and in the illusion of glamour is the queen of her world. With the bravura of his artistic technique, which many envy him on, with his portraits the painter Varzić has set new canons of post-modern iconography.
Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia is a kind of triptych in which in the figures of three Pula girl students the fates of the three countries are pondered, their feuds, fears, historical ballast and uncertain pledge for the future The triptych for the first time tests out the allegories of the three countries and the fates set out, like the famed portrait of Sharbat Gule, the Afghani girl from the front cover of National Geographic by Steve McCurry of 1984. The smeary makeup tells of the loneliness of these girls in the wee small hours, coming back from their evening out.
What comes after the night?
A new day comes, and time flies and brings an uncertain future. In the same way, the tender and fragile Slavonia, with a look fixed directly on the observer, interrogates our wretched politicians, slaves in the service of invisible powers that be, asking them what they have made out of the granary of Croatia, why it is impoverished and abandoned, this noble land?
A new goddess Flora – Merjema, garlanded with flowers, dripping makeup in the composition Sleepless Angel or Last Night, is a new beauty – chipped innocence, while petals open in the early dawn with the first gleams of the sun.
His daughter Eva is another common motif in Varzić’s painting, in pictures like Crossfade, Davide, Rock and Roll, Sirens, Heroin, Eva, Coming back to life.. These are topics that test out contemporary parenting, all the traps, all the dangers that wait for the contemporary family.
Similarly, son Ego in the compositions Dyslexia, Ego and Starcatcher bears the message of the riddle of contemporary upbringing, parents’ fears and concerns for the welfare of their children. Portraits Paris, Seagull (her name is Greta), Adam, Testamatta, YR, Future, R(p)ain, I woke up like this, Christian, Star of the Sea (najmat albahr), Missed, Death – frightening, liberating and inevitable, Professor, Closer, Summer kisses, winter tears, Morning sky and Vasputnik, create a group that was born out of the memories of the artist.
The ugliness of a French model of African origin has its own message – as if it had come from some of the artworks of Spanish painters who painted the world of dwarfs and court jesters. The physiognomy reminds us of the head of a tortoise, for here the artist, like the Mannerist painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo, plays with associations from nature. The composition Alice, only with its uncommon appearance, confirms the artist’s interest in the model, which both Velázques and Caravaggio also went for. Models of people with their life stories are interesting with their particularities. Portraits are created with the patient work of taking over the white of the space with numerous sketches, among which Scylla Charybdis, a study of the eye, confirms Varzić as a virtuoso of the drawing.
All the models recall some event, some moment of the artist’s life. But his mother – Room has its deep lyrical strength, for the emotions and the inner pulse of maternity are visible on her, expressed in the sfumato of the morning light. The composition Mother (signing) and Doused, in a sense are deviations, but they have the poetics of twilight, which also shines out from the composition Bella Ciao, a young girl in the recognisable S-line of the Gothic Madonnas.
Kiss and 100 are certainly themes chasing up the Baroque topic expressed by the phrase Sic transit gloria mundi. The transience of emotions, the gleam in the eyes of Varzić’s portraits – faces of our everyday life, of situations in which we have all been, tell of a profoundly human painter with a huge painterly charge, who leads us in the direction of the truth of the beauty of everyday. It is very important to confirm the fact of the great technical adroitness of this artist of ours, which dominates all the portraits, one of which has been decanted into a great mural in Vukovar with a message of peace and toleration in this unquiet world.
The series of portraits of his own family, of acquaintances, suggests a lasting interest in the process of examining private life, for in conversation with the model, the artist can shape a creative interrelationship. American painter Jamie Wyeth, painting his father Andrew, went this same way through the 1960s. Painting is in fact Varzić’s diary, a constant fight with the whiteness of the canvas and a search for new challenges. He has thus opened a new chapter of Croatian contemporary painting, in a completely separate direction. With his independent development, inherent in himself, he took it off into the course of American art, and is surrounded by friends, absorbing the best of European experience, achieved a painterly technique worthy of the Old Masters.
Shown at this exhibition are landscapes that form a particular unit in the artist’s work. We would mention at the outset two landscapes : Going to Town and Ordinary Day, made in the manner of the American Precisionists, drawing on Cubist realism. Belonging to the same group are the landscapes Casisa, Šibenska, Life, Morning has broken (the silence of night). This American art trend deals with urban topics, reducing and analysing the form of monumentalised entirely ordinary visual topics. The members of this trend are Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, Morton Schamberg, Preston Dickinson and Ralston Crawford.16 Like Pop Artists, the Precisionists in the 1920s and 1930s, as metaphors of moral integrity, painted modest buildings, streets… The line of real modesty, humility and visual sincerity is a constant in Varzić’s painting. In visual themes of everyday life we can find finding the self along the lines of the American painting of Andrew Wyeth who, in his isolation and solitariness, with extraordinary skill, presented the world around him, creating a kind of poetics of loneliness.17
Andrew Wyeth, painter who lived in harmony with the world around him, with an integrated vision of the world,18 is close in his investigative vein to the painter Varzić. Such are also pictures of static atmosphere and an internal poetic of the kind that we find in numerous American art schools, like that of Keith Jacobshagen and his calm landscapes. The painting of Andrew Wyeth might, in its sombre range of colours and the stylisation of the landscape, be correlated above all with the earlier cycles in Varzić’s painting.20 From the Istrian scene of Contia to the Slavonian Babina Greda one can see in the melancholy, the dusky tones, some kind of search for peace. Dark and subdued landscapes are characteristic of both Andrew Wyeth and Pietro Annigoni. Eugen Varzić draws on the tradition of American painting and thus in the artistic dynasty of the Wyeths we can find the guiding principle with the help of which he builds and develops his art. Here it is primarily about Andrew’s son, James (1946), who started his career as an artist with a posthumous portrait of John F. Kennedy (1967), stemming from thorough research into the late American president.21
With this cycle of faces and drowsy landscapes, Eugen Varzić has rounded off a period of five years, once upon a time of the [now] politically proscribed term of “five year plan”, but the number five is generally a mark of the expansion and dynamic development of a great visual talent – the broad Slavonian spirit, nourished on and drawing on the tradition of the new figuralism of the Hispano- American visual tradition.
Vinicije B. Lupis
 Zdravko GAVRAN, Ljepota kao prosjaj vrijednosti i umnosti, u: Rajmund KUPAREO, Um i umjetnost: eseji, Zagreb, 2007., i pretiskano u: Rajmund KUPAREO, Prebivao je među nama. Tri suvremena prikaza o jednom davnom događaju, Zagreb, 2019., 179–181.
 Pavao BUTORAC, Problem kulture, Dubrovnik, 1966., 7–8.
 Briony FER, David BATCHELOR, Paul WOOD, Realism, Rationalism, Surrealism: Art between the Wars, Hong Kong, 1994., 3.
 Ann Eden GIBSON, Abstract Expressionism; Other Politics, Yale, 1997., 9.
 Briony FER, Introduction, u: Francis FRASCINA, Nigel BLAKE, Briony FER, Tamar GARB, Charles HARRISON, Modernity and Modernism. French Painting in the Nineteenth Century, edicija Modern Art Practices and Debates, tiskano u Italiji, 1993., 9.
 Jonathan BROWN, Images and Ideas in Seventeenth-Century Spanish Painting, Princenton, 1978., 87.
 Guy SIRCELLO, New Theory of Beauty, Princeton, 1975., 3.
 Jules David PROWN, American Painting: From Its Beginnings to the Armory Show, Skira/Rizzoli, Ženeva, 1987., 7–9.
 Barbara ROSE, American Painting. The Twentieth Century, Skira/Rizzoli, Ženeva, 1986., 7.
 Contra imaginum calumniatores, I., 16, izd. Kotter, 89–90.
 Santiago SÁNCHEZ ECHEBERRÍA, Ciclos, procesos y consciencia, u: Eloy Morales Dibujos y pinturas 1996–2011, Madrid, 2011., 3.
 Briony FER, David BATCHELOR, Paul WOOD, Realism, Rationalism, Surrealism, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1993., 1.
 Rebecca KILLMAN, Tigran Tsitoghdzyan: Reflections in the Age of Technology, u: Visual Language Magazine, 3 (7), New York, 2014.
 Bernard BERENSON, Annigoni, Pagliai Polistampa, Firenca, 2000., 1.
 Romain ROLLAND, Michelangelo, Zagreb, 1940., 17.
 Barbara ROSE, nav. dj., 34.
 Barbara ROSE, nav. dj., 48–49.
 E. P. RICHARDSON, Painting in America: From 1502 to the present, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1967., 420.
 Jules David PROWN, Nancy K. ANDERSON, William CRONON, Brian W. DIPPIE, Martha A. SANDWEISS, Susan PRENDERGAST SCHOELWER, Howard R. LAMAR, Discovered Lands, Invented Pasts, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1992., 190–192.
 Betsy JAMES WYETH, Wyeth at Kuerners, Press of A. Colish, Inc., Mt. Vernon, New York, 1976.
 James H. DUFF, An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art, Little Brown & Company, Boston, 1987., 57.
Cerova 8B, Kukci, Nova vas, Croatia
Tel. +385 52 456 184
Mob.+385 98 420 428
Host – Eugen Varzić
Pionirska 1, Poreč
Duration 9 months, 3 hours a week (3×60 min)
Beginning of October 2022
Work in the atelier
1 st group – HOBBY – 9 am to 12 pm – Tuesday
They process their own works of art through painting exercises in the acrylic technique or elaboration of their own artistic expression, based on artistic precedents. Socializing as an imperative, according to the system of a relaxed morning with painting.
The monthly price is 80€ – 602,76 HRK per month, and a place in the workshop is guaranteed by sending an email and paying an advance payment.
Send your inquiry HERE
2nd group – PAINTING – 6 to 9 p.m
For students with prior knowledge of drawing and painting.
Painting exercises in the acrylic technique are covered, through monochrome painting, tonal painting, coloristic approach, and elaboration of one’s own artistic expression, based on artistic precedents.
Learning and acquiring knowledge and skills as an imperative.
The monthly price is 80€ – 602,76 HRK per month, and a place in the workshop is guaranteed by sending an email and paying an advance payment.
Send your inquiry HERE
NEW GROUP – basics of drawing and painting – 6 to 9 p.m. – Tuesday
In the 2022/2023 season, we are starting the initial program!
The art workshop deals with drawing as the basis of artistic expression, and the use of various drawing techniques, from pencil, charcoal, ink… Drawing is done on a template, and the motifs of still life, spatial representation, head and figure drawing, with mandatory sketch drawing, studio sake.
Painting exercises are covered, in the acrylic technique, through monochrome painting, tonal painting, coloristic approach, and familiarization with the basics of painting technology. We will also deal with the watercolor technique.
Along with guidance and mentoring in the art workshop, participants will be exposed to the theoretical use of art language and the basics of painting technology, as well as short presentations from the history of art.
The monthly price is 80€ – 602,76 HRK per month, and a place in the workshop is guaranteed by sending an email and paying an advance payment.
Send your inquiry HERE
ONLINE ART WORKSHOP
The 2022/2023 – the start of the online art workshop depends on the epidemiological situation and primarily interest.
After registration and confirmation of participation by payment, written instructions (exercise description), a template for the exercise and a link with video content or art exercise are sent. After completing the task, you send the result by email for correction and further instructions. The link is available for seven days.
Send your inquiry HERE
SMALL GROUP – painting – oil
Once a month
Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
10 – 14 hours
16 – 19 hours
Lessons in teaching painting techniques with oil on canvas, paper and wood. The focus is on portrait and landscape painting, in the spirit of realism and hyperrealism. The exercises are performed with professional painting equipment, which is available to you in the atelier and there is no need to bring or buy anything additional. The workshop also includes exercises in painting technology.
The languages in which we conduct art workshops are English, Italian and German.
The price of the advanced course is 400 € – 3,013,8 HRK
Send your inquiry HERE
I note that the workshops will be held with all current epidemiological measures. In the studio, 90% of the materials for painting exercises are provided.
Thank you for your time and I hope to meet you!
Send your inquiry HERE
Art workshop on social networks
Course for 1 €: 7,53450 kn
There are different types of love and passion. In most cases they are oriented towards other living beings. However, we can also be emotionally attached to objects and places that remind us of certain people and events, with passion often being a guiding principle in our work, hobby or career to which we have dedicated our life. Love can be romantic, sublime or obsessive, yet there is an amusing type of love – ludus. We perceive this type of love as play. It is free from expectations, from an extra burden, so it is truly enjoyed. The spirit of ludos can be found in recent works by Eugen Varzić as well.
Painting as a way of life. Life in which painting is like breathing. Life in which the answer to external and internal, positive and negative experiences of reality can be found in a painting. Eugen Varzić lives his painting. It is characterized by continuous research, experimentation and development. The sensibility that is constantly questioning, encouraging and pushing the artist forward has resulted in a collection of works under the title of Ludus. Its title reflects the feeling present in those creative moments within which Eugen Varzić’s art reaches a level when painting becomes pleasure and play turns into a process in time. It continues to be thematically linked to the world of figuration, with the motif of the human figure in the form of a portrait or self-portrait, but the approach to the motif and the content changes significantly. Each painting becomes a painting-concept, with its strength enabling it to be displayed on its own, irrespective of other works created in the same period. Each painting represents searching, questioning and taking a stand. Taking into account the experiences of Antonio López Garcia and Eloy Morales, after perfecting the technique, Eugen Varzić focuses on researching the psychological field of an individual. His earlier poetics of silence, present in some urban vedutas and forests like Forest Swords, has been replaced with a loud inner cry. Along with the perfection of technique, the expression without any censorship or restraint emerges as the most prominent feature. In his recent works a portrait is just a starting point for his own interpretation, the basis for the elaboration and creation of a completely new work, in the same way that ludus finds feelings that an individual possesses more important than the person encouraging those feelings. The painting becomes an area of freedom where a physical resemblance to the model is still present but there is a significant transformation in psychological interpretation. The merging of the visually recognizable outer person and the completely new impressed inner person creates a new identity, thereby resulting in the beginning of a painting’s life. The transformation triggers a wide range of reactions and emotions, from enthusiasm to apparent anxiety.
The portraits of close and well-known people such as the works entitled Winter and Slavonia, with stressed, warm ruddy flesh tones, are further highlighted by the captured light that forms the details, thus defining the final attributes of the face devoid of tension and agitation. His earlier portraits gradually give place to nearly achromatic portraits entitled I Woke Up like This and Mirror, where the tonal gradation defines the people that can be associated with the characters from some old films, i.e. those intriguing personalities with a story that is yet to be discovered. As a result, there are some highly expressive portraits, disguised, screaming from their inner selves in order to tell a story of a nation, idea, emotion or love. The key role in the expression transformation belongs to so-called transitional paintings that are created between the cycles. These are urban vedutas or the forest motifs that assist therapeutically in an unknown area of searching and creating something new. There is something intriguing and a bit frightening in those transitional works, especially in Contia and Babina Greda.While exposing the soul of the author, they simultaneously enable direct awareness through the vulnerable and the processual. Play has resulted in freeing the colours, motifs and symbols in the works of a silent cry, drowning and portraits with closed eyes as well as the motif of arms telling a story and conveying a message in an equally strong fashion. The titles of the works are as important as the works themselves. Their source is real life and they convey messages given by the model. They never have the literal meaning; they rather tell a story or consolidate the impressed content. They can be the first or the final information on the work. As often as not unexpected, provocative or symbolic, the titles are sometimes brutal, but they always leave a glimmer of hope.
His recent works are a certain diagnosis of our reality. Close scrutiny, great assertiveness and a fertile imagination are the means that help Eugen Varzić record the state of man and time. The first work that was created as a painting-concept was Andragathia. According to the artist, the painting shows the face of Europe today. The Greek and Roman ideals representing the foundations of Western culture, philosophy and art followed by devastation, then moral corruption and the degradation of human beings when all of us have become a kind of commodity to be exchanged or sold are all condensed into a face dominated by a penetrating look with alternating emotions of passion, rage, coldness and sobriety caused by what has been experienced. The portrait is communicating in a direct, focused and sober manner with the viewer, while completely negating the wrinkled and bloodstained face with droplets of pulsating blood dripping off it. The white mask intensifies the sense of coldness and highlights the exposed look as well. The eyes mirror our past and possibly our future of an individual, community, nation or ultimately the whole mankind. A silent cry is present in another disguised self-portrait entitled Asshole. The face embodies a psychological evocation of all the feelings and emotional states of a nation. It is a pain and disappointment of those who are leaving but also severe criticism of the system, society and politics, which is slowly but inevitably leading to the self-destruction of the country. This is not a drama spread all over the place but rather an expression concentrated in the soul of an individual carrying the burden of the entire nation. Being aware of the situation while not being able to alter the reality is worse than any type of physical abuse. When injuries are being inflicted on a person, he/she can distance himself/herself emotionally but when that person is being emotionally injured, mental suffering becomes nastier than any physical suffering. This is confirmed by an incredibly strong expression of the face disguised with a Croatian national symbol.
Being a close-up portrait just as two of his previous self-portraits, the work entitled Night, My Love is a portrait of the painter’s wife, but instead of a silent cry, there is a concentration of content within the female character’s mind. By closing her eyes she prevents communication with the viewer, which leads to the contemplative state within the soul itself, while her head slightly erect, a series of tiny but clearly visible details drawn on her face, heavily shaded eyelids, the colour of rotten cherry on her lips and her rainbow dyed hair clearly express a concealed resistance. The sincerity pervading each work of art by Eugen Varzić in visually and emotionally powerful criticisms of the society does not support despair, but rather calls for action, with every action beginning with an idea, reflection or reaction. Otherwise, indifference is the most obvious confirmation of a lost battle.
By remaining faithful to the area of figuration and realistic representations, Eugen Varzić reveals what we have never known or we have never dared see. When recording visible and psychological reality, it is important to have a process that will liberate and encourage new ways of expression. The sensibility that makes him feel restless and constantly pushes him forward, supported by truth and newly gained freedom as well as by self-confidence in his expression, opens up a wide variety of new opportunities. A work entitled Mother was created during the experimentation process. It got its name from a sign expression formed with spontaneous movements of the palms and fingers; actually, the work is dominated by the intensive blue that steers the attention of the viewer to the gesture that forms the said sign expression. A painting entitled Sunday suggests maturity and the beginning of a new chapter. The image of an old woman emerges from the dark, with the dark background outlining the component of humanity. Her soft grey hair, her face illuminated by the sunshine, her arm resting on the table and a pensive look to the side. Every detail on the woman’s face, body or clothes is a piece of the puzzle of the lived life. Paolo Segneri’s statement that a face is a throne on which the soul sits demonstrating its dignity to everybody seems to have been written just for Eugen’s image of the granny. The wrinkled skin reveals her age and her face with a life written on it tells a story that becomes part of collective memory. The thread that links all his recent works is a layered representation as a reflection of the complexity of humans. Such a layered representation and expressiveness affect the viewer, while the emotions and reactions alternate depending on an individual’s experience.
Once the technical aspect has been mastered and the mind is mature, free from all barriers, play begins and gives place to expression, i.e. to the exposure of the soul in all its aspects. All this without any restraint, calculation or hesitation. Works of art created by Eugen Varzić include the things good and bad, beautiful and ugly; they also involve happiness and sorrow, praise and criticism, hope and hopelessness. The artist interprets the world in a sincere, intuitive and free manner. Through continuous work and development he attempts to stimulate an emotion and reaction that could affect an individual, the community, the world. In doing so, he reaches the boundaries of brutality, while occasionally breaking down moral barriers. To shake up a human, that is to stimulate even the slightest shudder of the soul gives meaning to the overall activity.
Sonja Švec Španjol, art historian
To scratch beneath the surface of the everyday and simple. Doing what you love, loving what you create. Almost ritualistic. For an artist, it is both the beginning and the end. To always pose new riddles of appearance and reality… Agreement with reality in the understanding of art in ancient times was synonymous with truth. One of the most influential concepts of ancient Greek aesthetics, mimesis, denoting the imitative and representational relationship of art to reality, was either understood as an illusion or as a sensory given. For Plato, all art was the shadow of a “shadow”, a senseless copying of something that already exists. Aristotle brought art closer to creation and discovery. Cognitively, the artist does not copy, he interprets with his state of mind. It is precisely one such state of mind that is meditatively focused on aesthetics that acts on the first, that maps emotions, experiences and dreams.
Dealing with a new approach to an old topic, Eugen Varzić creates his own reality with a completely fresh body of (self) portraits. A portrait (French portrait, from Latin protrahere – to bring to light, to disclose and from Old French pourtraire – to draw) as one of the oldest artistic motifs, is not just a transfer of physical characteristics, but also a note of an individual’s identity. In the manner of the American precisionists, Varzić experienced a qualitative upswing with a series of portraits often labeled as hyperrealism. Searching for his own development path, taking tradition as a starting point and advantage, he followed the work of foreign authors such as S. Velasco, A. Garcia Lopez and J. Butler. The rationality of form and shape, the legality of technique, in the intuitive need to create, Varzić perfected in Madrid at the seminar of Eloy Morales. The latest cycle of paintings expresses the artist’s need to establish new emotional levels with people from his immediate vicinity. A turning point in the author’s creativity occurred with the creation of a paradigmatic portrait called Nedjelja, a portrait of his wife Romana’s grandmother. The recent art cycle gets its significant beginning here – a trivial scene is deeply emotionally and connotatively elevated. Life, all the changes and constants of a time are written on the face of a nonna. Deposits that life carries. It is a work that exists, among other affirmed works of young artists, within the new realism on the domestic art scene. There are no limits, reality is multidimensional, constantly changing and completely fragmentary. Varzić’s portraiture is not aimed at satisfying the formal artistic nature of the work, his painting is a visual sensation that seeks curious views. By mirroring his own personality in the self-portrait 45, Eugen Varzić reflects on the loss of the center, personal or collective, on the refraction of reality that is no longer illusory only on the canvas. Self-awareness is not fractal as much as a reflection of one’s own character.
The facial expression is the main focus of a series of works in which each individual “I” is blamed like daylight, and the question of the identity and status of the individual remains unknown. Naturalistically painted faces are visual extensions of the close, family or friendly relationship between artist and model. The author’s fascination with the painting is not a set of allusive physiognomies in close-up, personalities line up before us, roles line up. The understanding and interdependence of self and the Other in these works is the trigger of stories, states and beliefs. A gallery of differences and similarities at the same time. Completely artistically honest, portraits are records of life. Records of faces that remember everything. Committed and energetic, the artist’s brush manipulates flatness, provokes illusion. With photography as a template, Varzić completely dematerializes the painting canvas. With tonal modeling, he emphasizes incarnate (the color of the human skin), playing with an unrestrained structural line in the representation of hair and different materials. With veristic precision, Varzić provokes a sensory provocation that takes place on the stage of the painter’s canvas. The narrative is hidden, dependent on the observer. About the one who is more than an observer. Which gets involved face to face, eye to eye.
There are no unique truths in art. Seeing the world is conditioned by our (lack of) knowledge, and imitating reality is only one symbolic form of representation. The madness of hyperproduction of images leads to the question of the aesthetics not only of the digital space but also of the aesthetics of contemporary art in general. Despite the fact that contemporary art is mostly oriented towards conceptual works, some authors are returning to the traditional understanding of art as a skill, they are returning to figurative art, paying homage to the old masters of past centuries. Varzić’s painting is not a representation of a new media image, his intention is to create a new, unique given. The constant of the creation process is the true constant of his life. Art is cause and effect. In those moments, thoughts and ideas are directed in a special way, they are directed to the uncertain sweetness of always new challenges.
Slikar Eugen Varzić posebna je osobenost hrvatske likovne scene, jer je svoj likovni razvoj, odnosno istraživački put usmjerio u drugačijem pravcu. Radi se o izgrađivanju likovnosti suvremenog hrvatskog slikara, na baštini kurentnih likovnih stremljena američkog slikarstva XX. stoljeća. Američko slikarstvo oblikovalo se na temelju heterogene likovne baštine nastale na valovima useljavanja. Suvremeno američko slikarstvo uvijek je bilo usmjereno ka naturalizmu i realizmu likovnog prikaza. Tendencija stvaranja u duhu literalstičkog duha trompe-l’oeila, nasljanjajući se na američku filozofsku struju – pragmatizma, stalna je konstanta tijekom cijelog XX. stoljeća u američkog umjetnosti. Ovdje se ne radi o opsjeni – magičnoj potrebi reprodukciji stvarnosti, već o davanju novih značenja osobama i predmetima koji nas okružuju u svojoj svakodnevnici.
Isto tako slikar Varzić prati suvremena likovna promišljanja figuralnog slikarstva koja su prikazani na velikoj izložbi Encounters New Art From Old, održane 2000. godine u The National Gallery u Londonu. Prije svega njegov opus jest dijalog suvremenog slikarstva i ugledanje na tradiciju velikih majstora. Odbacivanja mita kako je moderna umjetnost posve odcjepljena od tradicije, odnosno kako likovna baštine se ne odražava u suvremenosti, Varziću je bila više nego jasna. Pa zar Rubens nije kopirao Leonardovu Bitku kod Anghiaria i Caravggiovo Polaganje u grob ili rani Manet Titiana, Tintoretta, Velázqueza i Delacroixa. On ne poseže za klasičnim uzorima poput Malcoma Moreleya Alfreda Leslia, Luciana Freuda, Richarda Hamiltona, Davida Hockneya ili Paule Rego. Njegova empatija za stare majstore je drugačija – oni nisu medij stvaranja suvremene inačice stare kompozicije, on u njima prije svega gleda velike uzore, visoke produhovljenosti. On nije Encounters, on je sljedbenik spiritualne esencije umjetničkog pregnuća, koji otvoreno pokazuje na potrebu likovne izgradnje umjetnika na tradiciji velikih majstora i podizanja likovne tehnike kako bi se omogućila što veća likovna sloboda. Likovna sloboda postoji samo onda kada umjetnik suvereno vlada svojom likovnošću u misaonom procesu umjetničkog stvaranja.
U ovoj neizvjesnoj svakodnevnici, iščekivanju novih vremena, nestanku svakih skrupula pitamo se da li postoje ljudi koji su u stanju da se promjene. Ciničkim osmjehom spominjemo riječ obraćenje. Možda je u ljudskoj povijesti postojalo samo jedno «obraćenje» koje je proizvelo stubokom mjenjanje duhovnih vrednota i pisanja novih stranica povijesti. Umjetničko „obraćenje“, je nešto posve drugačije obraćenje materijalne naravi, ali razvojem duhovnosti umjetnik uistinu doživljava svoje „obraćenje“, a novi likovni ciklus je njegova ispovijest. Slikar Varzić koji je svojim snažnim porivom poštovanja materije, slikarske tradicije, ali i traženja novih puteva posvema poštuje nauk sv. Ivana Damaščanskog (676 – 749.):“ (…)Ne častim materiju, već tvorca materije, koji je postao materijom zbog mene i udostojao se prebivati u materiji i izvesti moje spasenje posredstvom materije. Neću prestati stoga štovati materiju po kojoj mi je došlo spasenje. Ali je nipošto neću štovati kao Boga! (…) Ne vrijeđaj, dakle, materiju: ona ne zaslužuje prezir, jer ništa od onoga što je Bog stvorio nije za preziranje”. Tin Ujević je u jednom svom eseju o umjetnosti napisao: „Umjetnost je, ipak opozicija redu bez duše, i opozicije bez reda (…)“.
Varzić poštujući red i materiju kao rijetko koji hrvatski umjetnik je ostvario zapeženi sakralni ciklus, ali je u svom slikarstvu veliki kritičar suvremenih društvenih kretanja i impulzivno svojim slikarstvom upućuje kritiku društva u kojem živi. Njegovo slikarstvo nije slikarstvo koje samo sebi razlogom, nego vid slikarskog otpora društva u krizi. Nije poput ranije spomenutog Alfreda Leslia koji svojim Caravaggesknim realizmom monumentalnog genere slikarstva oslikava američko „demokratsko“ iskustvo, bliži je slikarstvu Chucka Closa i dramatiziranih predimenzioniranih portreta.
Svakako, Varzić je u svom likovnom putu nosio razne naplavine likovnog obrazovanja, stremljenja i traženja i okvirno američki usmjerna struja figuralnog slikarstva smisleno ga je dovela do posljednjeg likovnog ciklusa začetog 2016. godine. Sve je započelo s portretom None (Nedjelja), koja se pojavila u ranijem likovnom ciklusu Noir. No, lik None – osobe s kojom je umjetnik imao posebni emotivan odnos otvorio mu je posve nove svjetove i poveo ga na nove likovne puteve, vodeći ga poput arkanđela Rafaela malenog Tobiju ka slobodi stvaranja. Budućnost će pokazati, kako je Varzićeva Nona (Nedjelja) postala umjetnina koja je uvela hrvatsko suvremeno slikarstvo u novi poduhvat likovnog traženja na obzorju opće europske likovne scene. Mudrost žene koja je preživjela sve promjene Istre tijekom XX. stoljeća, od fašizma koji je gušio hrvatstvo istarske zemlje, komunizma koji je ušao u Istru kroz hrvatsku oslobodilačku borbu za slobodu i ugušivši sveopći katolički humanizam kroz umorstvo blaženog Bulešića. Odlazak bez povratka, dolazak novih ljudi, sve je to Nona – personifikacija hrvatske Istre promatrala, naslonjena na perilicu na kojoj se nalazi obična kuhinjska krpa. To je krpa kojom se pokriva prošlost; taložine od grdosleskog natpisa, Razvoda istarskog, kugâ, ratovâ, egzodusa – kodovi su to sječanja „Svete Mudrosti“. Nona jest Sveta Mudrost – Sveta Sofija istarske zemlje. Slikar Varzić je poput Grant Wooda sa svojom slikom American Gothic, po pitanju motiva stvorio kultnu sliku stanja hrvatskog identiteta Istre i povijesne bremenitosti XX. stoljeća – kroz oči žene, čuvarice ognjišta i tradicije. To nije umorna Europa iz ranijeg ciklusa, to je kultni lik žene interpretirane suvremenim likovnim jezikom, gdje je banalnost prizora podignuta na tron svremenske duhovnosti.
Ova slika je ključ za razmjevanje novog likovnog ciklusa, koji je nastao kao plod likovnog stasanja kroz likovnu radionicu Eloya Moralesa u Španjolskoj i stalnim samostalnim nadograđivanjem likovnih sposobnosti i promišljanjem trenutka u kojem se živi i stvara. Za mnoge je figuralno slikarstvo određeni elitizam, ponekad avangarda, ali i izolacija od glavnih struja u suvremenoj umjetnosti. Hrvatska suvremena likovna scena predugo je bila izolirana od brojnih likovnih krugova unutar zapadnoeuropske likovne ekumene, koliko god se hvalili svojom otvorenošću likovnim strujanjima u bivšem sustavu tijekom druge polovice XX. stoljeća. Varzićev likovni put određeno je svjedočenje traženja ponovnih veza s suvremnom europskom likovnom avangardom i to u krugovima najkvalitetnijih likovnih umjetnika.
Prije svega, Varzićeva dva pejzaža: Odlazak grad i Običan dan, rađeni su u maniri američkih precizionista, naslonjenih na kubistički realizam. Ovaj američki likovni pravac bavi se urbanim temama, reducirajući i analizirajući formu monumentaliziranih posve uobičajenih likovnih tema. Pripadnici su ovog likovnog pravca: Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, Morton Schamberg, Preston Dickinson i Rolston Crawford.Poput pop art – umjetnika, precisionisti su dvadesetih i tridesetih godina XX. stoljeća slikali skromne objekte, ulice, kao metafore moralnog integriteta. Linija realne skromosti, poniznosti i likovne iskrenosti trajna je konstanta Varzićeva slikarstva. Kroz likovne teme iz svakidašnjeg života možemo razaznati samopronalaženje na tragu armeričkog slikarstva Andrew Wyetha, koji je iznimnom vještinom prikazivao svijet oko sebe, u osamljenosti i izloiranosti, stvarajući svojevrsnu poetiku samoće. Slikar Andrew Wyeth, slikar koji je bio u harmoniji sa svijetom koji ga okružuje, s cjelovitom vizijom svijeta, blizak je po svojem istraživačkom nervu slikaru Varziću. Isto tako: Šumski mačevi ,Običan dan, Contia, Babina Greda, Slika za Romanu/Materada, slike su statične atmosfere i unutrašnje poetike koje nalazimo kod brojnih američkih likovnih škola, poput pripadnika Keitha Jacobshagena i njegovih smirenih pejzaža. Američko pejzažno slikarstvo u svojoj lirici samoće Ferdinada Lungrena ili Georgia O’Keeffea podsvjesno je usvojeno u Varzićevoj tišini slike. Smirujuća tišina, bez jeke, uvodi nas u jedan drugačiji svijet bez zbunjujućih osjetila, kolorita.Slikarstvo Andrewa Wyetha moglo se ponajviše povezivati s ranijim likovnim ciklusima u Varzićevu slikarstvu, svojom zagasitom gamom i stilizacijom pejzaža.
Eugen Varzić naslonjen je na tradiciju američkog slikarstva i kroz američku likovnu dinastiju Wyeth možemo pronaći misao vodilju kroz koju svoju likovnost izgrađuje Varzić. Prije radi se tu o Andrewu sinu Jamesu Wyethu (1946.), koji je svoju karijeru likovnog umjetnika započeo s posthumnim portetom Johana F. Kennedya (1967.), nastalim procesom temeljitim izučavanjem J.F.K.
Valja ponoviti, kako Eugen Varzić spada u skupinu slikara koji nadilaze nacionalne granice i koji je najbliži fenomenu novog realizma i novog portretizma u američkoj umjetnosti poslije II. svjetskog rata, kako smo već istaknuli čiji je najznačajiniji predstavnik Jamie Wyeth. Oboje su imale i ratno iskustvo. Jedan u Vijetnamskom, a drugi u Domovinskom ratu. Sličnost u karakteru, umjetničkom nervu je više nego očita. Varzić je umjetnik koji osluškuje svijet uokolo sebe, te želi zabilježiti stvari koje ga interisiraju, jer je za njega slikarstvo način bilježenje svijeta – to je njegov svijet. Slikarstvo je njegov osobni dnevnik. Slikar Jamie Wyeth u jednom od intervjua je jasno rekao kako je slikanje njegovo razmišljanje, kao što je pijanistu sviranje. Umjetnik po njemu treba svaki dan se vježbati, boriti se s prazninom platna. Isto tako za slikara Varzića možemo reći da je slikar istine, poput teze koje je iznio Romain Rolland u svom romanu o Michelangelu. „Znanost istine i umjetnost istine, postojala je uvijek i postojati će uvijek!“.
Isto tako Eugen Varzić kao i Jamie Wyeth trajno je u traženju novih likovnih tehnika, te okrenut eksperimentu. Eugenov autoportet 45 spada u same vrhunce tog žanra u suvremnog hrvatskoj likovnoj umjetnosti. Poput Jamiea Wyetha koji u portretu Andya Worhola iz 1976. I Johna F. Kennedya iz 1967. postavio američko slikarstvo na istaknuto mjesto portetistike kao slikarskog odgovora na društvena pitanja, Varzić je iznimnom likovnom tehnikom u svom portretu prikazao zabrinutost za sutrašnjicu. On svojim pogledom sugerira promatraču da su mnoge stvari još nerješene, mnogi procesi nacionalne katarze neokončane. Slikarski autoportreti od razdoblja renesanse, baroka do naših dana su najzanimljivi, jer umjetnik kritički promatra sebe u odrazu zbiljnosti.
Umjetnikova supruga Romana, uz njegovu djecu i poznanike stalni su modeli i bivaju transformirani u nove imaginarne svijetove. Zasigurno, dva portreta Romane kao Romane orans (Prizivanje) i Romane femme fatal (Zima) tvore zaanimljiv diptih u njegovom novom ciklusu. Romana očiju uprtih u nebo, sklopljenih ruku u maniri suvremenog armensko-američkog slikara Tigrana Tsitoghdzyana, gdje se ističe realnost majke i supruge u surovoj realnosti, poput svoje none je odraz istarske Hrvatice – čuvarice ognjišta. Ova pop-artovska impostacija je nadogradnja suvremene sakralnosti nasljeđujući velike majstore ranih razdoblja koji su stvarali novu ikonografiju. Poput antipoda fatalna Romana biva promatračicom svijeta kojemu je izložena svaki dan, od korumpiranog državnog aparata, borbe za obitelj, te u prividu glamura biva kraljicom svoga svjeta. Bravuroznom likovnom tehnikom, na kojoj mu mnogi zavide, slikar Varzić je postavio nove kanone postomderne ikonografije svojim totalima portreta.
Serija portreta (Joel, Ljeto, Vatra, Blizanci, Lisboa) svoje obitelji, poznanika, sugeriraju trajno zanimanje u procesu propitivanja intime, jer umjetnik u razgovoru s modelom može ostvariti kreativni suodnos. Isto tako američki slikar Jamie Wyeth prolazio je isti proces šezdesetih godina XX. stoljeća slikajući svoga oca Andrewa. Za Varzića slikarstvo je njegov dnevnik, stalna borba s bjelilom platna i traženje novih izazova, koji su otvorili jedno novo poglavlje hrvatskog suvremenog slikarstva, u svojem posve odvojenom tijeku koje ga je odvelo u američke likovne tijekove samostalnim razvojem koje je nosio u sebi, te okruženim prijateljima i upijajući najbolja europska iskustva postigao slikarsku tehniku dostojnu starih majstora.
Umjetnički čin uvijek je akt velikodušnosti, tako je i Varzićev svijet jedan hortus conclusus iskrenog poimanja umjetnosti kao mjesta čuvanja likovnih vrijednosti na suvremen način u duhu suvremenog lirskog figuralnog realizma. Jednom u budućnosti bilo bi zanimljivo vidjeti zajedničku izložbu portreta: Tigrana Tsitoghdzyana, Eloya Moralesa i Eugena Varzića. Ovo pitanje za budućnost jest i okvir u kojem slikar Eugen Varzić stvara, platformu istraživanju poetike ljudskog lika, kao vječne enigmne, trajnog izazova koje bilježi sa lica obitelji, poznaninka i svojih junaka – „Junaka našeg doba“ kako je posao ruski književnik M. J. Lermontov.
 Jules David Prown, American Painting From Its Beginnings to the the Armory Show, Skira/Rizzoli, Geneva, 1987, 7 – 9.
 Barbara Rose, American Painting The Twentieth Century, Skira/Rizzoli, Geneva, 1986., 7.
 Richard Morphet, Katalog izložbe: Encounters New Art From Old, London, 2000., 1 – 336.
 Contra imaginum calumniatores, I, 16, izd. Kotter, str. 89-90
 Barbara Rose, o.c., 136 – 138.
 Briony Fer, David Batchelor, Paul Wood, Realism, Rationalism, Surrealism, Yale University Press, New Haven&London, 1993, 1.
 Barbara Rose, o.c., 34.
 Barbara Rose, o.c., 48 – 49.
 E.P. Richardson, Painting in America From 1502 to the present, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1965, 420.
 Skupina autora (Jules David Prown, Nancy K. Anderson, William Cronon, Brian W. Dippie, Martha A. Sandweiss, Susan Prendergast Schoelwe, Howard R. Lamar), Discovered Lands Invented Pasts, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 1992, 190 – 192.
 Joan Carpenter Troccoli, Painters and the American West, Yale University Press, Singaopre, 2003.187 – 188.
 Betsy James Wyeth, Wyeth at Kuerners, Press of A. Colish, Inc., Mt. Vernon, New York, 1976, 1- 324.
J. Duff, An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art. Boston, 1987, : Little Brown & Company, 57.
 Romain Rolland, Michelangelo, Zagreb, 1940., 17.