Bojan Šumonja
Rain Dogs, 1994

Bojan Šumonja (1960) is one of the most prominent neo-expressionist painters in Croatia. He studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice (prof. Tramontino’s class, 1984), and gravure printing in Milan until 1987. The artist’s powerful painting, torn between the mythologems and the profane (I. Zidić, 2007), is based on the method of citation in the postmodern manner of interpretation of tradition (figure, landscape, history of painting, drama, myth, diabolical and divine, tragedy, allegory), poetics of the comic book and film, and the more recent legacy of the Transavantgarde and the New Wild. Two Venice Biennale exhibitions, held during his formative years, verified postmodernism as a censorship of the iconoclasm of modern art (B. Oliva, 1980, Transavantgarde; M. Calvesi, Art in the Mirror, 1984). The latter emphasises art that reflects on itself. Precisely through the dialectic of painting tradition and the postmodern reaction of artists’ reinterpretation (Velázquez, Goya, Manet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Immendorf, Kiefer…) Šumonja metamorphoses the painting with quotations (Las Meninas, 1991, 1992, Green Luncheon on the Grass 1995). He also creates unconscious-mythical works (The Rape of the Labin Women, 1992), as well as the neoexpressionist-surreal compositions with deep psychological meanings (Sleeper, 1996 – 1997). In the 2000s, he started the Sheep series, wherein he uses a zoomorphic metaphor to critically observe the system, and he continues it with his latest paintings, expressing his concern for the outcasts. At the formal-visual level, there is a gradual densification of the image in the late 1980s, which culminated in a visual rupture in the mid-1990s by depicting the dark side of man and the world. In the 2000s, the composition is gradually refined and expressed as a clearer and calmer whole (Sheep, 2006). With its saturated composition, the painting Rain Dogs (1994) provokes the mystery of the personal-profane, dark conflicts symbolised by the surreal aesthetics of an empty cupboard, blurred apparitions and diabolical wild dogs. Šumonja has shown his work at more than 200 group and 90 solo exhibitions and has received multiple awards for his work. He is the founder of the Poola Gallery in Pula.

Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2022

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