In Eugen Varzić’s new cycle of paintings, a recognizable note of engagement is present, but at the same time, there is a distance from the everyday, manifested in philosophical contemplation of the world surrounding him. With his gift, demonstrated in the ease of creating a figurative world, artist Varzić has opened a window into a new realm of the human soul.
The great poet and theologian of the Armenian Apostolic Church, St. Gregory of Narek, said: “It is not about his gifts, but about the Giver, whom I always yearn for. I do not seek glory, but the Glorified, whom I desire to embrace. It is not rest that I seek, but the face of the One who grants rest to those who pray and ask.” Like the Armenian theologian, Varzić has plowed the hard soil of his heart to be able to accept the Word, or rather the understanding of the world that surrounds us, seeking to dispel illusions and darkness and detach his heart from the darkness of the material world and the delusions of our environment.
The artist’s sharp spirit contemplates the Crucified, lost in unrecognizability on the cross of alienation, over which angels of despair weep with bloody tears. Difficult times await us when faith will be trampled upon, and faith in heavenly protectors will vanish. Angels will become silent in the heavens and be hidden in the deep ravines of human oblivion, but angels are our guardians, and they are everywhere. According to the understanding of the Bible, angels protect the world and its creatures from harm, restraining evil forces: “Four angels stand at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds so that no wind will blow on the land or on the sea…” (Revelation 7:1). We wonder, where are the angels today? At the very beginning, the Church encountered angels, and ever since, they have been accompanying it, watching over every step. It seems as though in this modern world, the contact between people and angels has been disturbed. Modern man, a product of rationalism, who has reduced faith and religious content to a minimum, for whom God is distant and does not interfere in our lives, has become insensitive to personal encounters with the invisible world. Angels, who are images of God’s majesty, have no place in a faith that struggles with the great problems of this world. Angels need to be called back into our lives, for they can help us break free from the invisible claws of the material universe, allowing a new balance between the visible and invisible worlds within our souls. When we pray, angels pray with us, helping us experience the presence of God. The theology of angels proclaims the mystery of God’s omnipresence; they are witnesses to God’s proximity. The prophetic cycle of truth critically brings us back to a world without angels, a gloomy future in which the Church needs to be reborn.
Pope John XXIII said: “We should never neglect the veneration of the angels who stand by each one of us.” The Pope emphasized: “My good angel inspired me to do this and that. I often talk to him.” Pope Paul VI taught that angels and saints participate in the governance of the world. Therefore, we should hope that angels will descend with joy on Varzić’s new canvases, like a heavenly arc. We will feel the breeze and hear the rustle of wings. Instead of angels, however, the artist predicts that the horsemen of the apocalypse are coming from the other diptych towards the lost man.
In Psalm 5, it says: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry, my King and my God, for to You, I will pray earnestly.” The artist, lying on the ground of oblivion, next to the long-lasting road of elephants, along the shore of the tiger, contemplates the national symbol – the flag with a child – the fruit of earthly love. Alongside the horsemen, Varzić’s animalistic world includes Dalmatian dogs, once warrior dogs that accompanied Croatian nobles in battles against the Ottomans, all the way to the Battle of Mohács. Dogs – the only animals allowed to enter churches, friends of St. Roch – the miraculous healer during the period of the plague, and St. Dominic, who set the world on fire with the torch of spirit. The Istrian suffering land, full of churches of St. Roch, the preventive saint. In his artistic expression, Varzić also carries the thread of Istrian heritage – he depicts dogs as guardians of Good on his paintings. The paintings of Varzić’s new cycle also bear the contemporary iconography of codes, the nightmare of alienation, and the coldness in which Paul’s Love, expressed in praise of Love in the Corinthians, disappears like snow on mountain peaks. Love, love, it is the only thing that can save us. Trampled symbols of the nation – the tricolor flag in the paintings speak of the harsh reality of a sold homeland.
Perhaps only the imaginary Croatia, as described by the poet August Harambašić in the poem “To Croatia”: “They have torn off your royal robe, wounded your divine body, You are a sad slave, a true martyr; They tied your hands with betrayal and malice, made you a victim of base selfishness, Yet my heart still worships you (…)”, will survive in the future through Varzić’s paintings. Everything is subject to criticism, including the dreams in which the artist lies on the path of elephants, the well-trodden path of truth for centuries. The artist is covered with the grass of oblivion. Codes that dehumanize everything, as everything is marked with a stamp, codified, soulless. The loss of privacy, reduced to a code number of a new enslavement, and the lack of privacy are evident in the contemplation of crinkles – the struggle against ACTA. A man who floats in the happiness of true values in harmony with God’s laws still offers hope. A nightmarish world of dreams reflecting the sad present of loss of absolutes and susceptibility to dangerous relativity. Preserving the values of the Christian civilization radiates from an apparently completely alienated cycle of art close to the once-praised painting of dead European culture. Eugen Varzić, a painter with a Catholic worldview, has preserved all the values of the two-thousand-year-old universal Christian civilization on Croatian soil, surrounding us from the early Christian basilica of Bishop Mavro of Poreč to the present day. This is the art of the present moment of Christian civilization, and we can ask ourselves why the mystical worlds of gold and angels with depictions of saints – depictions of the Heavenly Jerusalem – have disappeared from us. This excerpt of visual present is the most eloquent critique of the society we find ourselves in. Homeland, Truth, Love, Faith, Pride – all these concepts are present in this cycle. Eugen Varzić, through the icons of cultural heritage and Christian civilization, has critically spoken about the present and its problems. In conclusion, we repeat the words of St. Gregory of Narek, that we should not seek glory, but rather the Glorified, whom we will love in the New Jerusalem in the New Heaven.