Gromače (Dry-Stone Walls) 10-64, 1964
oil on canvas
130 x 130 cm
Otona Gliha (1914 – 1999) is a doyen of Croatian gestural abstraction veering towards the pictorial matter of Art Informel. He is a painter of ideograms, a painter of land and a painter of culture (I. Zidić). The artist’s primordial principles of painting are epitomised by the never fully elaborated synchronicity between Old Church Slavonic Glagolitic script engraved in stone and the typical, adopted coastal dry-stone walls – the so-called gromače (pl.). Since prehistoric and ancient times, cattlemen and farmers have built these walls to delimit space and to mark the boundaries of arable land, as well as pasture areas. Gliha gradually elaborated and abstracted the motifs within the painting and developed his own style. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb in 1937 (Lj. Babić, O. Mujadžić, M. Tartaglia). Under the influence of Cézanne and Fauvism, in the mid-1940s, he created landscapes featuring a newfound colour harmony and vividness. In 1954, he began to summarise the motif that transformed the abstract visual elements of the first Gromače. Gliha’s painting Gromače 10-64 (1964) displays an intense material colouristic relationship with the primordial motif. We see a screen of quivering magma rendered by the furrowing, absorption and glowing of the achromatic and, to a lesser extent, coloured segments of the composition, which are woven into the white structural fabric thus creating contrasts and overlaps between the line and the surface, as well as their density, like a formative pictorial positive and negative. Gliha described the motif of dry-stone walls as urban-architectural-sculptural beauty. He has also created a prolific drawing and a more modest printmaking oeuvre, wall paintings, stone mosaics, as well as the ceremonial curtain of the Croatian National Theatre (Barske gromače, 1981) in Rijeka. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the “Vladimir Nazor” Lifetime Achievement Award (1976).
Text: Željko Marciuš, museum consultant of the National Museum of Modern Art © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023
Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Photo: Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023