Series of Heads, 1978
mixed media, oil on paper/hardboard
122.3 x 275 cm
Ivan Lesiak (1929 – 2008) is a prominent Croatian rebellious-engaged-figurative, surrealist and popist sculptor, painter and graphic artist who confirms the thesis of the permanence of the figurative (Z. Rus) even during high modernism with its aversion to figuration. He is a distinguished member of Biafra, an art group operating in Zagreb (1970 – 1978), opposing abstraction because it deprives man of a central role in art. Since 1974, they have been staging exhibitions and actions on the streets. A sharp, sometimes harsh expressiveness is characteristic for Lesiak, and his themes are the cumbersome problems of reality. He deals with the issues of humanism and freedom in modern society, but also with references to ancient Egyptian art (Self-portrait with Nefertiti, 1974), antiquity, the stylistically belated surrealism and pop-art, outlining the contrasts between rudimentary humour and melancholic bath. The artist’s expressive and strong figuration and naturalistic procedures are characteristic in all media. He also found inspiration in the paintings of L. Signorelli, M. Stančić and M. Chagall and the anxious part of M. Krleža’s philosophy of literature, whom he also made portraits of (reliefs Krleža, 1984; Krleža 1986). The newspaper collage-painting Series of Heads (1978) is a multiplied typological portrait of hippie-predators who are devouring everything around them, with elements of a kind of pop-naturalism. He holds a degree in sculpture from the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, 1959 (F. Kršinić). He took study trips to Greece, 1963 – 1964 and Egypt, 1973 – 1974. He also created reliefs in the spirit of poetic symbolism, and in his drawings and prints he deals with consumer society and contemporary civilization. His aluminium reliefs are displayed in the public space in Zagreb (Journey of Love, 1987). His works are kept in numerous collections and museums in Croatia and abroad. He was the recipient of the “Josip Račić” Award in 1983 and the “Vladimir Nazor” Award in 1996, as well as the HDLU Award in 1997 and the HAZU Award in 2003.
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