Zvonimir Matich, paleontologist of the mind
In analysing the human perceptual system, Roman Gubern designated as an iconic compulsion the natural impulse to impose a certain order on the cognitive magma, that is, to reduce reality to shared symbols. But paradoxically the symbolic image often becomes entangled and cryptic, as in the iconography derived from hermetic traditions.
The age-old struggle between the iconic impulse and the longing for the preservation of the enigma is expressed in some way in the paintings of Zvonimir Matich, where fragments of an intercultural vocabulary are layered as relics of rock art on strata of eroded matter.
Impressions of the African savannah are shaped in the form of zebras, monkeys and elephants emerging from coarse surfaces whose cracks refer to the lapses of memory, and whose rusty patina is a transcript of (the mixture of) memory, sensation and imagination.
He blurs the boundaries between nature and language, sometimes being organic membranes in the form of water waves, sap flows or igneous spirals expressed as cosmic power.
At other times, we seem to be admiring the millenary paintings that decorate the caves of Ajanta. It does not matter if Matich visited this or other sanctuaries during his travels in Asia, because what is left is the sensitive and spiritual assimilation of an ancestral cadence. Something of the exquisite sensuality of the Buddha's lives narrated in those Indian caves is evident in the series that Matich dedicates to Asian cultures, but the story itself disappears in favour of the pure psychic imprint, in a process of purification in which the figure is often swallowed up by pure sensory lava.
The red series could evoke that Pompeian red characteristic of the Villa de Boscoreale. And just like the Pompeian frescoes, naturally preserved by volcanic ash, they are the expression of a frozen time, Zvonimir's paintings also open a hole to enter the tunnel of time.
The artisanal treatment to which Matich subjects the canvases, with graffiti painted on layers of pigmented stucco, is in itself a metaphorical reconstruction not only of the cognitive mechanisms and strata of memory, but also of the ancient procedures of fresco painting. But the artist is not interested in reproducing the mural techniques but the transformation of those ancient paintings into remains sublimated by their ruined state.
Traces of shared memory, inextricable reminders and personal experiences, which result in purely mental images.
By anaad / In Arte Actual 13 November, 2013
"Every word is a landscape." So says Henri Michaux in “A barbarian in Asia”, talking about Chinese poetry. However brief a Chinese poem may seem, the visual information contained in its ideograph is extensive and kaleidoscopic, almost infinitesimal. In the blue word, he explains, the signs of splitting firewood, water and silk are contained. Like Michaux, Zvonimir Matich has also travelled through Asia and his kaleidoscopic vision has returned with him, fertilised and reconstituted by the vitamins of otherness, which require the outdoors, the sun, to activate. From direct experience. Myanmar, the former Burma, was a place of pilgrimage for the artist, and in the near future, Mongolia and China, from the Gobi desert to emerging cities, where skyscrapers proliferate and the semiotic forest grows. The titles of his most recent paintings make references to these places and, for that reason alone, they open the appetite and fantasy: Ping'an, Qiaotou, Lijiang, Khatgal, Chuwsgul Lake. "Every word is a landscape," we said. However Zvonimir Matich is not a Chinese poet, but a European painter. He asks for certain material proofs of the existence of things. In the same way that St. Thomas demanded to touch to believe, painting demands in it materialisation, if not the carnality of the sensible. The multiplicity of referents for abstract ideas is manifested, in a physical way, in a development of strata, colours and forms that are discovered one below the other, apparently as a product of chance or of the slow and wise necessity of Geology.
In his mission the painter is assisted by his extraordinary technique, which has been well developed over many years, working wonders with stucco and pigments. In the blue word, in the Chinese ideogram, the crunch of the silk, the smoothness of the water and the work of the woodcutter are contained. All at once. Painting as tangible as that of Zvonimir Matich poses the same challenge of synchrony. His red series is monochromatic but multiple in its senses: the red of the oriental lacquer, the stamps with which the painters sign, and the colour of cinnabar. And, of course, the colour of blood. He is telling us a story of passion and a geological romance both at the same time. A foresight, too, of the trip to China that he would undertake at the end of the series. The problem of time has been solved in different ways throughout the history of Art. In the same painting, painters such as El Greco could share several chapters of the same story. The Garden of Earthly Delights shows us the life of the antediluvian men, their never-ending orgy. When we close the doors of the triptych, what El Bosco teaches us is how everything was after the withdrawal of the waters. That painting in grisaille shows the world as a favourable place for excavation and the palaeontology of existence, life and even of guilt. The colour that appears, in a surprising way, in the last paintings of Zvonimir Matich, comes from an eager excavation, a struggle against time, on the grisaille surface of the pure earth, in the telluric aridity of oblivion.
His trips are there, and there are also the gazes of the people and their clothes and the blue that the lakes inherit from the sky of Mongolia. These alluded trips are a constant in the life of the artist, who does not know how to stand still. An email from Zvonimir suddenly arrives in my inbox. He has found a internet cafe in Ulan Bator and decided to send me a greeting. Next he’ll send you a photo from Tanzania. He has also toured North America, its uncontaminated landscapes, but also its cities: New York where he lived for six months, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, and South America: Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Peru .... a definite preference for the deserts that make up the collection: The Gobi, Atacama, which he admits is indescribable. Hence the need for painting, in terms of presentation rather than representation. These trips and these landscapes have also brought him closer to the soul of the people, the Mongolian shepherds, with whom he lived for a few days, sharing "his food and his songs", surprised by the generosity of the nomad. Zvonimir and I have known each other since we were boys. He does not know this, but I wrote a story in which my character visited a lake in Mongolia where dinosaurs used to bathe. He has been there, but I was there first, even though was in my own imagination. The memories of that place that spring to mind confirm to me some of my dreams, including the existence of the great saurians, whose remains feature in his paintings. The shadows of animals, elephants or zebras also appear in African-inspired paintings. Asian steppes or African savannahs, which all of us carry inside us, like dreams, are also reflected in the paintings of Zvonimir Matich.
Alejandro J. Ratia Zaragoza, febrero de 2008
English translation Carolina Paschalides
Faced with the tendency to innovate by means of the spectacular and revulsive, we sometimes come across the art in the intention to rescue. This option, which demands a commitment that is far from superlatives, requires in turn a sensibility and a cultural-intuition that nowadays seems to have a safe value.
General Co-ordinator of the Associació Catalana d’Artistes Plastics
On a glance you will recognize that the work of Zvonimir Matich, who is presented at the Balldovina Museam Tower, allows or minds to travel in an attempt to discover and reveal references that allude to the idea of time.
Synthetic sgraffitos collected from the artist’s memory, schematic drawings, points of references, symbols and signs, all become pretexts for a series of states of mind and mental concepts that are based on the material nature of the work itself.
You can find in it an iconography not created for its co notational identification, but for the conversation of the own game projected by the artist through his intuition according to subjective parameters, towards the extension of the support. By looking closely we come across surfaces of land, extensions of altered, diluted colours in which the subject appears in marked and cracked spaces, as a sign of knowledge and sensibility, awakening signals and references, creating a language of its own.
The material and the process are the essential point of references from which the artist creates and presents his discourse. Presenting some cases, like a mosaic or sequential space, where the signs are disappearing as fragments of a unique measured shape.
Other works are made up of wasted, diluted, cracked surfaces, like an index fingerprint, creating a story in which time is set by the author, creating a work in the present, based on individual and personal situations. Relating gestures and signs, languages which refer to contents in which corporeity and treatment are the artistic objects, a reminder of its slow and rational execution.
Lidia Gorris / Jordi Dalmau
Professors of Fine Arts, University of Barcelona
His canvases are the loose leafs of a poetry book dedicated to the universe.
Paris – July 1998
Purity, vitality and integrity are some for describing the thoughts of Zvonimir Matich. His work reflects a relationship between the real world and his own very special view, which we could define as being fundamental, timeless and intimate.
The work of Zvonimir can be described as something blooming in an oasis of asphalt. It is exactly this naivety that fills us with fresh air, while allowing us to see the simplicity, purity and the symbolism of his creations. The spiritual reality is in the work: in the fundamental shapes, in the curved or straight lines, in the material and in the colours, which are the carriers of light in his work.
The canvas, the support for his work, is a very elaborate material, based on stucco and pure pigments in powder form; ochre, earth, blue and white are his favourite colours, generating notions of cracked spaces: Zvonimir paint and creates structures in the void.
As a learned man, he reflects in his canvas the iconography and the symbolism of classical Mediterranean cultures. Bulls, stars, the moon and sun, symbols of power and enigma, are his reference points, which dance like a kite in the space of his paintings. What a magical world, the stardust living its trail in space! The drawing of his curved lines, taken from Greek art, delicately combines, the above symbology, while sometimes including metal elements joined to the context.
Zvonimir’s work is his channel for expression. It is his way to display a spiritual abstraction, thus attaining an inner purity in the execution of his work. He is interested in suggesting, in creating active attention that leads to inner motivation, in order to be able to discover what his work is trying to say. In the same way as Zen philosophy contains a constant escape from the material world towards the search for the most pure essentiality, in the work of Zvonimir, his inspiration is born a long, deep spiritual journey, as well as incisive philosophical meditation.
History of Art Director
Barcelona – February 1999
Zvonimir Matich in the heartbeat of the Universe
To feel excited about a trace of an antique culture, or to try to see the past through the vestiges of painting that remain on a wall eroded by the time could be a sign that a person is trying to connect with his/her own identity. But doing so through art, which is a cute sense of aesthetics, such as in the case of Zvonimir, is the proof that art connect with the universal mankind, thus overcoming the language and cultural barriers.
His painting technique is original. It combines handcrafts with art, in order for the idea to succeed without forgetting the material. He extend layers of stucco on his canvas, treats them with pigments, onto which he draws the lines that lead to an imagination, which is almost archaeological.
He has a scientific-humanistic background- he studied medicine for a few years at the Zaragoza Faculty of Medicine, although he finally got his degree in Fine Arts from the University of Barcelona - which can be seen in the way of him knowing how to give his plastic work a feeling of research. I know nothing about his early stages, but I suppose they must have been very imaginative. I understand that he needed them in order to progress towards the feeling of a collective spirit that he displays currently, and it will not be a matter of leaving them behind. He went through the process of metamorphosis we find in artist who truly want to be artists.
Spirals, circles, lines, hearts and asteroids are iconographic elements he insists on, since he feels the need to connect with the rhythm of the universe through the heartbeat of the life itself. Past and future come together in the present, and he concentrates on interpreting his own memories, and their projection towards the unknown, because it has not yet arrived.
In this way, the microscopes and telescopes we all have in our minds combine to investigate, through the observation of our own skin and sidereal flashes, the great mysteries of existence. We are ourselves and everybody else in our most intimate livings, but we are also like delicate strands that make up the Ariadna thread of culture. And therefore the very different situations – Zvonimir has travelled to many countries in order to discover all the basic aspects of mankind –always with the same end: the common nation of our feelings.
Occasionally we can find signs and shapes in his pictorial work that are evocative of landscapes, people, animals and inscriptions of millenary cultures. They are the equivalent of examples or parables that have meanings deeper than the representation itself. The same thing happens with his aesthetics, which try to find the abstract beauty of colours, so that through such beauty we can connect with an eternity in which plurality becomes single.
Josep M. Cadena for “El Periódico de Catalunya”
His plastic recreation of the vestiges of the past has allowed Zvonimir Matich to connect with the contrast features of the rhythm of life. He spreads stucco on his canvas and then enters with pigments and lines into the feelings caused by a wall eaten by the time or of what has been left by the millenary cultures on such wall. His research is not archaeological; instead it looks towards a future that is threatened by an overuse of technology, stating the values of sensitivity.
The painstaking handcrafted work does not take over the concept, instead of promotes it. The imagination that there could have been a day in which Zvonimir evokes us with his paintings has recovered the harmonic vibration that made it possible. Beauty is not in the shapes, it is in the concepts. I recommend visiting this exhibition.
Josep M. Cadena for “El Periódico de Catalunya”
Barcelona – March 2003
Zaragoza-born Zvonimir Matich is a cosmopolitan painter, better known in Central Europe or Catalunya, his place of residence, than in his own hometown. Those of us, who have been waiting for an exhibition where we can enjoy his works, can now go to Barcelona, where his latest works are on display. He describes his own technique as follows: “I carry out my work by superimposing layers of pigmented stucco on canvas, which I then subject to sgraffito.” A very careful staging, with an unusual subtleness, for a universal theme, the passage of time, suggested through aquatic images, which the artist seems to find rather than create, as in an archaeological dig.
Alejandro Ratia for “El Heraldo de Aragón”
Zaragoza – March 2003