Diavolo in Me, 2019
acrylic on canvas
220 x 300 cm
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, relief paintings, sign installations, targets and crosses. He shapes the sketchy internal projection into a pictogram, a paraphrase of Da Vinci’s man with arms and legs outstretched or an illuminated sign on a traffic light. With the series Night Paintings (2009), Novak restores the corporeal and the image of reality to the sign. In the information-saturated contemporary age, the painting Divalo in Me (2019) from the series World Without Measure, shows the horror of (self)existence in the brave new world. The seemingly ordinary scene from a café with formulaic characters is transformed into a horror-caffe, with a referential self-portrait of a loner in a crowd devouring everything around him with an ominous gaze. The inscription intensifies the state of horror, and the red silhouette of a lonely rider is dedicated to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti-westerns and the heroic times of the generational subjective idealism. 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 consultant 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