Zoltan Novak
Ecce homo II, 1992
oil, metal, wood/canvas
130 x 130 cm
MG-6320

Zoltan Novak (1963) is one of the most prominent Croatian painters of the postmodern Narrative Figuration. He develops it in correlations and with references to reality, visual arts, film and literature. He was a student in the Department of Art Education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb (N. Koydl, Z. Keser), and he graduated in the class of Z. Kauzlarić Atač in 1997. Since 2004, he has worked as a professor of painting at the same institution. Since 1998, his painting has been imbued with the determinants of Art Brut and Neo-Expressionism, which he has been formulating since the early 1990s, using the method of reductive figuration, into the paradigmatic sign of the Walker. In 1994, he created the fully formed depersonalized Walker, which he then rendered in paintings, silhouettes, painting-reliefs, sign installations, targets and crosses. He shapes the sketchy internal projection into a pictogram, a paraphrase of Da Vinci’s man with outstretched arms and legs or an illuminated sign on a traffic light. With the series Night Paintings (2009), Novak gives the sign a corporeal and realistic representation. The painting Ecce Homo (Eng. Behold the Man) from 1992 is a paraphrase of Pontius Pilat’s words as he pointed to the bound, whipped and crowned Christ and presented him to the crowd. It is a plausible metaphor applied to wartime in Croatia that shows the painter’s sensitivity to man’s position torn “between the horror and ecstasy of life”, desolation, general mortal danger and the search for meaning despite the brutal events of war. The painting is executed as a painting-relief with a silhouette of a crucified walker in the centre of the composition, prominent in front of an indented cross. In the course of his thirty-odd years long painting career, he has staged numerous solo exhibitions in Croatia and abroad (Rome, Paris, Munich, New York, Berlin), and in 2009 he was the Croatian representative at the 53rd Venice Biennale.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum advisor of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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