Renata Poljak

From 9 March to 2 April, the National Museum of Modern Art is premiering, at the Josip Račić Gallery, the exhibition News by the internationally recognised Croatian multimedia artist and director Renata Poljak. Conceived by art historian Branko Franceschi, director of the NMMU, the exhibition showcases a selection of works on paper and video from the eponymous artist’s cycle created in the period from the COVID - 19 pandemic to the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

Preoccupied with social and political issues for more than two decades, Renata Poljak “speaks” about the current situation. Instead of the original news, she adds text to the newspaper photographs that she appropriated and interpreted in the drawing medium, in which she describes her own experience of what she has seen and read. As Branko Franceschi writes in the accompanying exhibition catalogue - (...) The transfer of a newspaper photograph into a traditional fine art medium, gives its proverbially secondary status as a visual design element of a newspaper article, the aura of an artistic act and, implicitly, eternity. The aura also includes the associated text written in a confessional, diary atmosphere and style, which takes us directly inside the artist’s emotional state and thoughts. In synergy and relying on each other, the textual and visual elements of the work combine the ubiquitous media image of daily events, now recreated and appropriated by hand with a written and published textual description of the artist’s subjective reflection, thus achieving the fullness of the intended effect. A work of art as a point of convergence of the public and the personal, the informative and the reflexive, the factual and the emotional, the objective and the subjective.(...) – and continues -(...) From the phenomenological standpoint, The News indirectly demonstrate the status of the mental space that modern civilisation is shaped around. Our experience of reality is completely immersed into the system of generating and shaping “the news of the world” as the starting point of our personal experience of existence. From the aspect of the current creative paradigm, in turn, by introducing her long-neglected drawing skill into the repertoire of performative strategies, Renata Poljak tells of the wider phenomenon of overcoming the dichotomy of traditional art disciplines and media art that marked the decades at the turn of the millennium. We can optimistically conclude that the nearness of the end has its good sides.

Artist's Biography
Renata Poljak was born in 1974 in Split. After having obtained a degree as a visual arts professor in Split in 1997, she continued her post-graduate studies in 1999, at the École Régionale des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, France. In 2020, she earned a graduate degree in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. In 2002, she was the recipient of the ArtsLink scholarship at the San Francisco Art Institute (US) where she was a visiting artist and mentor to post-graduate students.

She participated in the artist-in-residence programs in the MuseumQuartier, Vienna in 2004, Cite des Arts, Paris in 2007 and 2008, the prestigious Art in General, New York in 2008, followed by Skowhegan, a residential art program in the state of Maine, US in 2009, ArtOmi in the state of New York, US in 2010, as well as the Residency Unlimited in New York in 2011 and 2013. She has also spent 3 months in the residency program at the Centre Les Recollets in Paris. In the spring of 2010, her selected works were showcased at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and she also participated in the Biennale of Contemporary Art de Rennes. In November 2010, her selected works were exhibited at the Carrousel du Louvre in Partis
as part of Paris Photo 2010. In 2012, she staged a solo exhibition of her films at the Palais de Tokyo, as part of the Festival d'Automne à Paris.

Her solo exhibition at the Stephan Stoyanov Gallery in New York was included in the three best exhibitions to see in New York in January 2013, by the New York weekly The Village Voice, while in November 2014, a notable retrospective of her works was opened simultaneously in two galleries, the Optica Art Centre and Occurrence in Montreal, Canada.

Among recent group exhibitions, Poljak has participated in the Prophetia exhibition at the Fundazió Joan Miró in Barcelona and the Stories from the Edge at the Kunsthaus Graz. In 2016, she showcased her recent project Partenza at two solo exhibitions in two Croatian museums, galleries in Zagreb and Paris and the Danubiana Museum in Bratislava.

In 2017, Verlag für moderne Kunst from Vienna published her art book titled Don’t Turn Your Back on Me, which includes essays by Elisabeth Lebovici, Alaine Clair Feldman, Mladen Lucić and others.

In 2018, a solo exhibition titled Yet Another Departure was held at the Salon of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, and her work was one of the eleven selected from over 800 artists for the final exhibition at the Metropolitan Art Centre in Belfast, as part of the MAC International Art Prize 2018. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, three of her recent films Yet Another Departure, Porvenir and Split had their debut at the Oberhausen Film Festival, Oberhausen, Germany. Porvenir has won 5 awards at various film festivals. Lars Henrik Gass (director of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen) has included Porvenir in the Top 5 film in 2020 on the Kinoscope platform. In 2019 and 2021, she has participated in the international juried exhibitions Proyector 2021 in Madrid and the Ostrale Biennale in Dresden 2021 and 2023. A review of her solo exhibition Porvenir at the Kranjčar Gallery was published in the Critics’ Picks section of Artforum.

Translated by: Robertina Tomić
Images:  From Renata Poljak's the "News" exhybition display at the Josip Račić Gallery. Photo: from the NMMU's archives and Goran Vranić © National Museum of Modern Art, Zagreb, 2023

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