Eugen Varzić, a painter who lives and creates in Poreč, surprises us time and again with the energy and ease with which he creates an imaginary world where dreams and reality intertwine. In his latest series, which can conditionally be named “My Dreams and Confessions (Confessiones),” he confesses to us the known characters of the world that surrounds him: from childhood, youth, family, to icons of contemporary life.
To be Josip – the interpreter of Varzić’s dreams – is not an easy task; he must find the keys to discovering a world beyond reality and at the threshold of dreams in the labyrinth of suppressed imagination. In his unique way, he has created a dreamlike world and a beauty that beckons one to experience life and dream of the future. The artist’s multi-faceted journey leads us to a place where wonder becomes admiration and indescribable joy. He recaps his one-year cycle through his paintings.
Saint Augustine of Hippo vividly writes about the presence of the absent in memory: “I mention a stone, I mention the sun, even when the things themselves are not present to my senses; but in my memory, their images are certain.” The artist Varzić descends into the depths of his soul with this new artistic cycle, which, like Saint Augustine’s Confessions, becomes a history of his life, wanderings, friendships, and companionships.
Saint John of the Cross, the great mystic of the modern age, sang: “I live, but not in myself: / I live your life, and may die with the pain of not dying, (…)”. This Spanish mystic submerged into the depths of human nature in his poem “Dark Night,” saying: “I stand without sequence of thought / And to the loved white face inclined: / And my soul entirely rested / In the midst of those lyres, / Not remembering where, wandering, my mind dived in.” The dark night of Varzić’s creation signifies the path that the artist’s soul must traverse to achieve union in Love, and with Love, after the catharsis of artistic creation where he releases the burden of suppression, ascending like Jacob on the ladder of the spirit.
Dreams, light as those in the midsummer night, or heavy and gloomy from the depths of winter, open up a diverse gallery of characters. Imaginary icons of faith – true representations – emerge before us, intertwined with monochromatic backgrounds, brought to life by the artist’s brush. The slavery of the Swiss credit and liberation from that burden are depicted through the figure of a man waving the Swiss flag before a mountain of debt. A bather wraps her towel around the loss of the freedom to reach the sea, now sold to new masters of life and death. In truth, she represents a real Russian woman. The rhinoceros, drawn by the painter Dürer, symbolizes strength and the restraint of passion. In this cycle, the artist has created a whole menagerie of animal depictions, from a shark – which never sleeps – to deer, birds, bears, and turtles. There is also a Russian soldier without pants, an icon of the weak soldier in a system of hopelessness and alienation.
Yes, alienation, the coldness of human contact, is portrayed in the figure of a girl titled “Transfer 14.” With exquisite refinement and skillful blending of imagined elements, harmonized palettes, and cubist forms, he symbolizes – in a metaphorical sense – safety within his artistic language. The artistic language of contemporary spirituality becomes clear and definitive, carrying deep Christian roots, love for the brother man, and the burden of cultivated sensitivity to the alienation of the present day. The Carousel (diptych), where circles close, tells the story of repetition, the sorrow of loss, while in the figures of the Masters of Cats, Branko Mrkušić, and Vojo, the artist speaks with a deep language about the new urban surrealism of symbolic characteristics. Resembling Giorgio de Chirico in the metaphysical sense, inspired by mystical and fantastic surrealism, Varzić creates a unique imaginary world, an atmosphere of sadness, transience, but also the recognizable empathy of the broad Slavic soul. The Phantom of Freedom – Vojo, Ticijan, and Homo volans – gains its meaning in the artist’s world.
His family is like a rock on which the portrait of Romana expresses love and security with a lyrical note. She is always at the center of his universe, portrayed in warm tones like a new Eve. The new world is presented in the figure of his son, Ego, and the Mother whose heart burns, depicted with classical Catholic iconography, is an expression of immersion in the depths of his own roots and confirmation that the painter Varzić is not part of the new current, now known as the new Croatian realism – he is a mystic. The mystical heart of love overrides all hardships and evil in the nightmare of moral relativism of the present, where the artist creates.
Varzić is a sharp critic of society, who, through the image of an old woman (his wife’s grandmother) with a pentagram, refers to the aging Europe, powerless to compete with other continents. The figure of a man with a horse’s head confronts the Trojan horse of insincere friendships. The Christ with a dislocated face is a paradigmatic sign of losing connection with the Logos, the ruler of human souls in the dehumanized and godless society in which we live, and thus the artist continues his explorations from the previous artistic cycle, where Christ crucified in cosmic space is lamented by angelic tears. Iconoclasm of the modern age, the erasure of Pantocrator by advertising billboards, is a daily occurrence in our materialistic world. This painting is the best answer to the absence of the closeness of His face erased by alienation of the soul.
Art is a mirror of the soul, reflecting the hidden world of the beyond. The Homo ludens, hidden within all of us, and its ups and downs are painted here in originals with their cats, nightmares, and sufferings, which people do not recognize in their everyday lives.
Contemporary man is an alienated man without empathy towards “the brother man,” which was made apparent by Francis of Assisi eight centuries ago during the Christian renewal. Everyone is equal in Varzić’s paintings, like a macabre world of the twilight of human souls. The remnants of family-locked secrets, as mentioned before, are revealed in the Slavonian portrait of a man in a skirt, as well as in the collective family portrait. By deconstructing segments of the portrait into prismatic forms, he seems to break down the characters into new forms of a foreign world, using a dominant technique and language of the image, where the inner self is suppressed before the reign of visual media.
The new artistic cycle, Varzić’s confessions, points to an essential fact that he is, let’s reiterate, a painter of the new mystical and fantastic Croatian surrealism. His painting, founded on Christian roots and educated at the Rijeka Academy, finds inspiration in his subconscious based on classical art and the legacy of great Italian painters of the 20th century, following in the footsteps of Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà.
The melancholy we feel in the artist’s new cycle is a result of society’s critique, exploration of traditional values, self-reflection, and the search for a solid foundation. Varzić’s mystical and fantastic surrealism is unique in its sincerity, unknown on the contemporary Croatian scene, and the result of the artist’s intense contact with numerous artists from neighboring countries, free from national frameworks.
“Confessiones,” my dreams and confessions, is an artistic cycle that will undoubtedly leave a mark on the new wave of figurative painting in Croatia with its mystical surrealism. Political engagement, social awareness, and societal criticism are expressed through the language of surrealism, dressed in the guise of seemingly realistic painting but veiled in the fantasy of mysticism.
The authenticity, confirmed by life experience and a genuine approach to his calling, has elevated artist Varzić to the orbit of reputable figurative painters in the broader Istrian art community, where he lives and creates in the safe harbor of his family, carrying within him the waves of the Pannonian Sea.