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Kuzma Kovačić - Nature, Culture and Religion as Correctives of Modernist Sculpture

Vinko Srhoj ; Odjek za povijest umjetnosti, Sveučilište u Zadru

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 859 Kb

str. 169-186

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Affirming himself during the postmodern period, it is as if sculptor Kuzma Kovačić never cared about the appearance of the new artistic trend. His oeuvre does not display any inclination, not even a rudimentary interest in postmodern compiling and referencing of historical sources. The age of fragmentary visual models creaed by the idea about the loss of cultural unity which attempted to construct itself on the shards of the broken ‘art-historical vase’ did not seem to touch him at all. On the other hand, Kovačić is not a follower of the preceding modernist period which emphasized the experimental nature of art, formal and analytical models where subject matter was identified with material and technique. It seems that in his case, the call of heritage and stories from the native region had outshone any interest in being part of the chronological succession of trends and generations. Grgo Gamulin once wrote that this sculptor ‘observes and forms the seasons, sea, stations of the Cross, sermons, epistles,
evangelists and saints’. It seems that he is not so much looking towards what is new on the artistic horizon as towards what the home region of Hvar, the Mediterranean and Christianity have left imprinted on the millennial physiognomy of landscape and people. Kovačić wants to direct our attention to the context of culture and tradition, but also to the structure of surface, and in this, between the
private and collective, the significant and insignificant, the intimate and public, he does not see any obstacle. Equally so, he does not make a difference between the traditional representational materials in sculpture and he extensively uses trivial everyday material: cotton, glass, sponge, resin, paper, cellophane, cardboard, plexi-glass, polyester, silver and gold leaves, sand, soil, polystyrene, nails, quicklime and light.
The philosophy of Kovačić’s oeuvre convinces us that nothing in the world is so insignificant so as not to have a particular role in the grand scheme of things. Thus, behind proud structures of human vanity, behind large buildings, imperial residences, triumphal arches, but also in nondescript stones of human modesty one can find the hidden wisdom of eternity. For this reason, even when producing monumental works such as the doors of Hvar Cathedral, Kovačić does not indulge in the ceremonial pomp of the glorious past. Besides, he does not belong to those who reconstruct large building complexes, he is not attracted to the monuments of earthly powers and wonders of the world which aim at the sky which remains always equally distant. On the contrary, he is fond of the scratches on the wall, a clumsy record in stone, which resist the progress of time as if by a miracle, outliving many famous palaces and dilapidated temples by its perpetuity.
It can even be said that these frail impressions which defy transience impress him more than the structures envisaged and created to last unchanged forever. The doors he made for Hvar Cathedral are a good example of this. They have nothing in common with the classic Gothic-Renaissance forms. Here, Kovačić seems to address deeper layers of
traditional forms, and in compact and robust forms we recognize the early Christian manner, but also that of the folks people’s touching sentimentality (and piety) which did not care for the refined rules of elite culture.
Neither did Kovačić lose his head by pleasing the snobbish politicians and the newly converted believers when he worked on the so-called tasks of national sovereignty, following the late 1990s change of government in Croatia. However, it can be noticed that he
moved away from the works such as “Velegorki”, “Lo, the Sea is Sweating with Blood” (“Evo se more znoji krvavim znojem”) and “The Description Of the Origins of Croatian Sculpture” (“Opis početaka hrvatskog kiparstva”) to the lyrical realism evident in his depicting of popes, saints, the “Altar of the Homeland”, Christ, The Last Supper, Franjo Tuđman and Gojko Šušak. Of course, this does not mean that he has lost vitality and potency, nor that these works are bad, but simply that he took a turn towards a certain type of realism and depiction of figures, instead of representing them as signs and symbols, as he had done before the “renascence of national sovereignty”.
One of the large public projects by Kuzma Kovačić was the “Altar of Croatian Homeland” on Medvedgrad. This project, executed during the presidency of Franjo Tuđman (1994), caused much public dispute, whether concerning the restoration of the feudal burg or the idea that altars without a liturgical purpose should be erected to the Homeland. However, it was generally accepted that Kuzma Kovačić’s sculptural complex was the best that happened to this lay sanctification of the place. In spite of the drawing on the geometry of Croatian chequers, with Medvedgrad Kovačić also showed that he is neither a minimalist nor a reductionist who distils forms into
geometric purism. His geometry is narrative, his cubes and glass shapes contain the trace of human hand, stamps of the ages and symbolical signs. However, his projects, connected to state commissions, were criticised by parts of the general public, not because of their insufficient artistic merit and obsequiousness to political establishment and their doubtful taste (in particular that which likes to see itself as generating projects of national sovereignty and veers towards kitsch), but because of the political context which was causing hatred. The same happened to the monumental public statues of Franjo Tuđman and Gojko Šušak which were evaluated mostly in the overheated political sphere of opinions for or against the persons
portrayed. Not many, not even the apologeticists of HDZ nomenclature, considered Kovačić’s sculptures and their form. Perhaps the best example is the statue of Dražen Petrović which, unlike those mentioned, had no political context and thus did not cause any controversy. In any
case, it is certain that even when working on large public statues or in churches, Kovačić is equally successful in mastering the monumental form, and in the intimistic rendition of the miniature form which represents the majority of his oeuvre (and also the best). In doing so, the dimensions themselves (i.e. large scale) do not mean that Kovačić has given up on sculpture which is inherently
intimistic, compact, non-representational and which directs its power towards the core, rather than expanding into external rhetoric.

Ključne riječi

Kuzma Kovačić, sculpture, religious art, public monuments, Altar of Croatian Homeland

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Podaci na drugim jezicima: hrvatski

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