Josip Vaništa
Composition III, 1964
oil on canvas
100×130 cm

Josip Vaništa (1924-2018) was, according to art historian and critic Igor Zidić, a universal artistic figure and paradigm of Croatian culture. In his Book of Entries (2001), Vaništa wrote the following: “I searched for the right to mistakes, to contradictions, to metamorphoses”. In terms of the poetics of the absurd, his drawings are also non-drawings of sorts, his paintings non-paintings and his activity in the Gorgona Group non-activity. Having been a founding member of the Gorgona Group of Croatian Neo-Avant-Garde artists and art historians (1959-1965) – a socially isolated phenomenon which brought together individuals who shared a spiritual affinity – Vaništa advocated a neo-avant-garde spirit, freedom of art and mind, which heralded the contents of the later New Art Practice movement. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1950 under Prof. Marino Tartaglia, and taught at the Faculty of Architecture between 1951 and 1994. What mattered to him in his drawings was not only the outline of his figures, but also the whiteness from which his motifs were birthed. Following in the footsteps of the tradition of Modernism (Josip Račić, Milan Steiner), he created an oeuvre of single-motif meditative paintings in which whiteness is a metaphor for coloured light. In 1961 he started reducing his motifs and themes to a series of monochrome paintings. Featuring a tonal duality, his Composition III painting from 1964 is a great example of his minimalism. The surface of the painting is cut across by a horizontal flat line, of which Vaništa said that it was “the only residue of content, of theme in painting without illusionism”. Vaništa’s minimalist method heralded future tendencies in art, while his awareness of the conceptuality of painting replaced factuality with verbality, ultimately replacing the process of painting with a precise description of the same process. After the 1970s, he returned to the poetics of Realism with his watercolours, which are his most important works from this period. He also did illustration, book layout, produced theatre stage sets and authored several books. He became a full member of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1994 and won the 2006 Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Award given yearly by Croatia’s Ministry of Culture.

Text:Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art ©N ational Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb
Translated by: Ana Janković
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb

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