Ma De – Zdenka Bilušić
Ma De – Zdenka Bilušić

Ma De – Zdenka Bilušić

Epic portraits of this era – this is how the new cycle of paintings by Eugen Varzić, known as Ma De, could be summed up. The artist, with a broad range of interests, from drawings and paintings for which he is renowned, to sculptures and mosaics, consistently surprises us with the energy and richness of his imagination, on the border between dream and reality. The backbone of this cycle, with its seemingly enigmatic title Ma De, is the artist’s mother. With these two little words, she addressed him, speaking everything through those two small syllables, encouraging him, expressing sometimes doubt, sometimes enthusiasm, sometimes uncertainty but always speaking love. And as the author says, a mother’s love is closest to God’s, hence these works are extremely emotional. One might assume that they are painted with free, broad strokes, but they are, in fact, extremely stable compositions. His freedom has never been characterised by arbitrariness. He constructs scenes clearly and systematically, establishing the framework of the painting with pencil sketches, creating a grammatical being, syntax, and building a network upon which he, like a spider, weaves portraits, faces, and figures with colour. With just a few shifts and oscillations, at first glance, this network seems uniform in its coherence and rigour, but only at first. Then, he unleashes it in uniform, short rhythmic strokes, creating a rich fluid of translucent colour masses. In the age of absolute obsession with selfies, image, impression, it is good to bring a little order into that omnipresent voyeuristic chaos, as only art can do. After all, artists and their works are always products of the time in which they live and the culture to which they belong. The portrait, one of the oldest artistic motifs, as old as civilization itself, has never lost and will never lose its value, interest, and appeal. Varzić treats it as material, creating situations in which the world of media and popular culture reveals its manifold potency. In his own way, the author creates complex narratives and critical reflections on our reality with urban hermits, strong personalities, timeless values, and beauty itself. It is always difficult, and perhaps even pointless, to extract someone’s art from its socio-cultural context and observe it through one’s own lens. In a time morally and aesthetically devalued, a time of complete commercialisation and weakened spirituality, Varzić does not attempt to act revolutionary, he does not bother with a moral reaction to the contemporary world, with necessary engagement. He changes the world by drawing attention to it, to the beauty in supposed deviations and the faith that will emerge and always recreate order in chaos and/or rearrange material and spiritual reality. Art is not there to provide answers or to be a catalyst for social change; it is there to pose questions. And Varzić wonders, he wonders Is there a God, Mother?, M(Other) and with other ambiguous or polysemous titles of his works. And he answers with refined language, adhering to the principle that presenting a problem in itself is not enough, there is no value without achieving the artistic aspect, without strong visual and aesthetic properties. It is precisely in this that the strength of his persuasiveness lies because, in addition to the semantic, phenomenological, and social content he deals with, he speaks about spirituality and paints, more than others, the spirit of the times in which he lives.

Many old and contemporary masters used to jealously treasure and hide their trade secrets. Varzić, on the contrary, has no qualms about publicly displaying his skills, which he developed after graduating from the Academy of Applied Arts in Rijeka, both independently and through workshops with Eloy Morales and Antonio López García, as well as through numerous other collaborations and projects. He has been classified into realism, hyperrealism, and even surrealism, yet he creates, establishing a visual dialogue with the model: mother, wife, child, acquaintances, and strangers alike… To stand before a model means setting oneself a completely concrete task, committing oneself to completeness, focusing on the eye rather than the overall impression, meticulously listing all elements, counting wrinkles, capturing the gleam in the eye, skin, hair, meaning capturing the kind of objectivity that is true and transforming it into imagination. The motive thus becomes motivation, and the author establishes an image, both real and experiential. We do not remember everything related to our encounters with people, and our spirit does not accept everything. The artist chooses the shadow, sound, heat, spark, flash, and leads us from the eye to the senses. This emotion, nourished by concrete light and colour, thus becomes a memorial ecstasy of a portrait which could or could not be defined as such. Carefully graded situations in which various values ferment, above all, the life of light and the finest gradations of colour on Varzić’s palette are delicate and melodic, in the service of the essential experience of personality, man as the image of God. The culture of painting and the disciplined rhythm of brush strokes will ultimately produce portraits rich in values and an interestingly treated background that intentionally remains “unfinished” in places. Varzić paints as he breathes, with visible metric refinement, delight in colour, and although there is always a present photographic resemblance to the model, in the end, each of his paintings has its sensual and meditative aspect.

Zdenka Bilušić