В конце сентября 2013 года, всех жителей села Хлебине и поклонников хорватского наивного искусства ожидало долгожданное радостное событие. В Галерее наивного искусства в Хлебине, состоялось открытие большой ретроспективной выставки одного из самых ярких и самобытных представителей так называемого "второго", послевоенного поколения наивных художников - Драгана Гажи (1930-1983). Это мероприятие было приурочено к памятной дате – 30-летию со дня смерти классика хорватского наива и Хлебинской школы.
Конечно же, эту выставку ждали – последние персональные (посмертные) выставки, прошли уже достаточно давно – в Мюнхене (1989) и в Копривнице (1999). К тому же, Драган Гажи, наравне с Иваном Генераличем и Йосипом Генераличем является одним из самых известных и почитаемых уроженцев села Хлебине. Не забудем отметить и Франьо Мраза, и Франьо Филипповича, но объективно, роль и значение этих хлебинцев в искусстве Хлебинской школы немного иные.
На выставке было представлено 38 работ Драгана Гажи из всех периодов его творчества, начиная с портрета брата, выполненного карандашом в 1950 году, и заканчивая картиной «Жатва» нарисованной в традиционной манере маслом на стекле в 1983 году, году смерти художника.
|Давай выпьем. масло/стекло. 800х600 мм. 1968 г.|
|Петух. масло/стекло. 900х900 мм. 1977 г.|
|Женщина с кувшином. масло/стекло. 490х390 мм. 1963 г.|
|Портрет моей Весны (Дочка в цветах). масло/стекло. 500х400 мм. 1975 г.|
|Молодой хлебинец. масло/стекло. 300х300 мм. 1980 г.|
Я также получил приглашение участвовать в этом замечательном событии, что явилось для меня большой честью. На выставке была представлена картина из моего собрания – «Портрет Игоря Мицхиелия» (Portret Igora Michielija).
|Портрет Игоря Мицхиелия. масло/стекло, 500х400 мм. 1971 г.|
Для меня интересна и ценна эта работа. Драган Гажи считается лучшим портретистом в хорватском наиве. На этом портрете изображен реальный персонаж, давний друг художника. Режиссер и сценарист Игорь Мицхиелий (ныне уже покойный) был одним из основателей HTV (хорватского телевидения), главным редактором студии народных программ на Загребском телевидении, и снял очень много фильмов о традициях, фольклоре, этнографии и т.д. всех регионов Хорватии, в том числе фильм о Драгане Гажи.
|Драган Гажи, супруга Бара. Хлебине. фотографии 1960-70-х.гг.|
А спустя две недели (мне думается неслучайно...), на сайте www.koprivnica.net в рубрике «Картины из прошлого» была опубликована заметка о съемках фильма о Драгане Гажи (1971) где на одной из фотографий можно увидеть и Игоря Мицхиелия, правда находящегося в рабочем процессе съемки…
|И.Мицхиелий (согнувшись проходит под камерой). 1971 г. фото Vladimir Kostjuk.|
|Драган Гажи во время съемок фильма. 1971 г.фото Vladimir Kostjuk.|
Фильм Игоря Мицхиелия о Драгане Гажи был включен в программу мероприятий и был показан в галерее, во время торжественного открытия выставки.
В число официальных мероприятий посвященных памятной дате вошло и открытие мемориальной доски Драгана Гажи на его родном доме. Это большая дань уважения к творчеству и заслугам скромного, обычного, «маленького человека», как оказалось много сделавшего для всемирного признания своей малой родины, своего крохотного подравского села под названием Хлебине.
Introductory article by professors Marijan Špoljar from the exhibition catalog "Dragan Gaži" in English. Gallery of Naive Art Hlebine, Croatia.
It might perhaps not be entirely appropriate or very much in the spirit of critical thinking to start a text about an artist by evoking memories of his personality and character. The way he really was and the way he presented himself do not indeed have to have any direct repercussion in the painting. If it were all so simple and if the relays of the artistic lines of force were so one-way we would have in the oeuvre necessarily to read just a schematic transfer of life into work. And yet, we dare to do so, for, faced with the inexorable flow of time, direct testimonies are sometimes more valuable than indirect information, immediate insights into the artist work more useful than reiterative second-hand judgements.
We are then not interested in the psychological and human profile of Dragan Gazi so as to be able to concern ourselves with the mentality of the man and his public or hidden personal characteristics: we are drawn to such an approach above all because in a personal picture it is possible — in a particularly careful listening and reading — to recognise the occasion for and the hidden character of the work of art. Knowing the circumstances and the intimate world of art — the emotional, mental and psychological complex — enables a deeper sounding of his work. Many of the hidden and unclear signs in the picture or sculpture can be interpreted by an insight into the real world of the artist's life and its enigmatic and publicly unknown other side.
There is no great mystery or riddle in Gazi's life that needs uncovering or that needs special investigatory tools or procedures. But like every man he did have some internal and external marks that determined not only his attitude to the outside, to the world, but also and above all, inwards, to the artistic experience.
On the other hand, the area of his creative work is not any very complicated world formed from multiple and diverse impulses, requiring a demanding stylistic and technical procedure. A simple life for a simple art, we might say. Or as some firsthand witnesses said: he just held his peace and worked.
Gazi was silent because he had been burdened from his early years by cares and woes against which he would battle the only way the son of a peasant mostly knew anyway: with work, patience, resistance and hope. Luckily, he had a tool more than his fellow combatants, a tool that was able to help him for this work to have not only pragmatic framework but also — as in Generalic's picture Peasant Jobs- to look, to listen, to feel and to record and materialise as internal commentary of his being.
In this silence and work there was some higher system. Gazi was not a shy and bashful chap to retire from the public into his ivory tower. He needed quiet, peace and isolation in order to reach the internal area of the solitariness of painting in which disturbance, creative tension and the monologue were the premises for the creation of a work. In other words Generalic's silence was loud indeed. Sometimes, provoked by some inconsistencies and injustices or prompted by the polemical tone of his rare dialogue partners he would become really vocal, open and venomous, with biting ironical jabs that some artists do possess as their hidden armoury. In these moments he would reveal the piled up feelings and frustrations, the pain, the injustices and all that life brings as its inevitable accompaniments. Only a man's character and sensitivity will determine whether these feelings can be overcome, and how, or else be channelled and tamed, the manifestations of them becoming socialised.
When one says that his life is inscribed into the work, that Gazi's faces from the portraits and scenes from landscape describe not just real persons and landscapes but his own life, then this is not just an ordinary, simplified handy figure of speech but a real fact. Real to the extent that a poetic procedure can be equated with life and truthful to the extent that it is possible to find truth in an artwork.
The famed Hegedusic precept that the Hlebine painters had to look at the life around them and to show that was applied by Gazi more literally than all the post-war naive painters. This fact was long ago referred to by Vladimir Crnkovic, the greatest authority on Gazi's painting, when he stated that "Gazi is a chronicler of the life of the peasant; his paintings are an authentic testimony about people, their lives and the milieu in which they live. They show everything in a concrete time and space: he paints the typical rural buildings, the farmyards, the familiar people and the landscape of Podravina."'
If the master's precept was brought to life by painting in Generalic's Zemlja period as a dart that above all hit the social and political dimension of life, in the case of Gazi, the Hegedusic doctrine was reflected less in its critical dimension, more as a stimulus for the social stratification of the village in times of social changes and for a realistic draught on all dimensions of rural life, with the inclusion of deep psychological analysis. Instead of an image of social and class relations, now it is psycho-social probes of the given setting and the real lives of people that are concerned. So we shall not find in Gazi's paintings explicit poverty, injustice, primitivism, rebellion and all possible form of social injustice. Rather, through a realistic incision into the real atmosphere of rural life, we shall sense and feel or find under the picture of the vital element, the acerbity, the sadness, the melancholy and the life drama, or resignation. Of course, there is no want, as in the oeuvres of all the Hlebine artists, of anecdote, but this funny or burlesque touch will only be an addition or incidental part of a serious, sometimes sage painterly practice, mostly marked with poetic realism.
In the situation in which, in the seventies, the Croatian Naive, impacted by commercialisation, the change of the principles of life, and the decline in the creative power of some of the artists, moved into a dangerous mannerism, Gazi the longest and the most deeply retained the immediate authentic attitude to his motif and the reasons for a full creative expression, which sometimes encouraged some critics to say that " Gazi's painting grows out of life, not from some assumed fixed principles and views about life and art."'
And now, to get back to Gazi in our memories, to the painter and man in whose life art and reality overlapped. We know him at the time when the hardships, the tough life, the personal dramas and tragedies were already behind him, at a time when he could give himself over to painting and his hobbies. But still something "irked him" and there were still conditions when this calm, contemplative and mild man would become for a moment choleric, ready to defined his principles as if at that moment his interlocutor, actually a peace-loving character, were attacking him viciously. This then was the polemical, the engaged side of his personality, that pole that reacted immediately to the complex manifestations of life. It was the dark, the critical side of his personality that did not always allow the social and political changes in the social context and his personal life to be reflected directly in his painterly expression. Although in one statement Gazi
concluded that "the former dark shades in my paintings were the reflection of the difficulty of life. Now I paint with brighter hues, for life has become better for me and my family", it is clear that the paintings from this happy period bore (true, more covertly than overtly), a profound and often tragic existential truth and expressed the "realism" of the manifestations of life.
The tough realism in Gazi's paintings is a particular value and a special feature within the Hlebine School. A realism shot through with naturalistic details, on the one hand, and with elements of naive stylisation, the grotesque and the allegorical on the other, is not an unknown factor in this painterly movement. On the contrary, from the first day these features and values were to be found in the works of the pioneers of our naive painting. With time, this original Zemlja-style realism withdrew in front of other values, leaving the broad field of documentary painting to routine minute-takers of the image of the former rural life and the imitators of other people's experience. This led to a mannerist, stereotyped variation of the motifs of rural life, which lost on the way the elementary attitude towards the content and the personal experience of the motif.
Gazi is different from the first day, not only in that he — endowed with talent — showed an undoubted sense for the narrative value of the painting but also because he was also able to raise this narrative feature to level of visual art. Having once mastered the basic postulates of responsible painterly work, then, excluding any possibility of compromise or flirting with popular versions of the naive painting, Gazi remained an individual, with a feeling for the direct interpretation of life. If we say that the heightening of that originality is one of the main features of the Hegedusic educative principle in his work with the peasant-painters then it is clearer why we speak of Gazi as one of the rare successors of the pre-war naive and as an author who was able to raise an immediate relationship with his village milieu, signified with its social and psychological values, to the level of the poetic depiction.
Critics have divided the oeuvre of Dragan Gazi into several phases and talked of the values and particular features of the individual sections of his work. In the monograph Dragan Gazi' Vladimir Crnkovic divides the oeuvre of the author into several phases: Beginings (1946-1954); the Realistic-Veristic Phase (1954-1967); the Bel canto period (1967-1973) and the Bipolar Period (1973-1983). There is at base nothing to add to or subtract from these divisions: meticulously following the biographical stages, the psychological and social circumstances that determined some procedures in life and art, making many critical observations and evaluations and recording as well as, should there be a need, analysing the pictures from his oeuvre, Crnkovic in his book has provided arguments enough for an evaluation of Gazi's overall position within Croatian naive art, as well as given a number of precise analytical visions that have more clearly indicated the occasions, determined the sources, diagnosed the influences, established the contextual framework and considered all the poetical achievements of this painting.
In Gazi's biographies, 1946 is given as the year in which he started to paint. Although this year does indeed mark his first attempts at work outside the school curriculum, we are dealing here with occasional drawing and watercolouring within an informal painting discussion group that Ivan Generalic started immediately after the war. The practice was based on a course in the basis of technique and on work together in nature and in the setting of the village. Several photographs of the period record the rural youths Gazi, Filipovic and Dolenec together with Generalic observing nature and rural activities, and setting them down on paper. Although there is evidence of Generalic's instructions about painting on glass as early as 1946, and the instructions of Hegedusic from a year later, little of that would be transferred to watercolor, and to oils on glass, it seems, until 1954. Although these formative years are partially heavily laden with the didactic practice of the time and the intentions of cultural policy, Generalic's advice and in particular the support of Hegedusic must have without a doubt determined Gazi's deeper interest in painting. The first more integrated results were visible from 1954, when for the well known 8" exhibition of peasant-painters put on in Koprivnica and the collective show in the Peasant Art Gallery in Zagreb he painted several landscapes and genre scenes in oils on glass. These paintings still owe something to the stylistic uniformity of rural amateurism and a certain inclination to academic form, but the free stroke, the fresh palette, the supple composition and the realistic intention give reasons enough for the occasional review of the time to address him as "an impressionist of peasant painting".4
But the sense for the life situation and Hegedusic figures soon transformed this impressionism into realism. In the middle of the fifties, Gazi had already become the chief representative of naive realism, and with his portraits was to stake his claim as the most profiled and most independent of all the painters of the 2"' generation of the Hlebine School.
Gazi probably got the idea for and encouragement about making portraits of his fellow villagers from Krsto Hegedusic. The founder of the Hlebine School was during these years, institutionalising his artistic authority, to work quite a lot in the complex of the naive, supporting the realist (post-Zemlja) inclinations of Gazi, Filipovic and (later) Lackovic, and sending Dolenec to the art academy. Since at the same time different critics directed some of the artists in opposite directions (Mica Basicevic headed Generalic, Skurjeni and Rabuzin o towards the irreal, to the fancy, dreams and myth; Grgo Gamulin pointed Vecenaj and Kovacic towards burlesque and the fantastic) and so informal and yet nevertheless mutually opposed poles and critical groupings appeared. Gazi, Hegedusic's figurehead, was to taste some of the consequences of these antagonisms (finding it hard to get into the Gallery of Primitive Art, for example), but his creative work did not suffer in essentials.
Gazi did portraits of his neighbours from the middle of the fifties. He employed two, correlative indeed, procedures. On the one hand there was a series of portraits of actual faces, busts or head that had their own name and surname and local sobriquet; on the other hand, there were portraits that came into being as a collective measure, as a kind of synthetic procedure in which several physiognomic types were integrated into a single face, into one type.
If the faces are completely individualised in the first group, the second group of portraits recalls certain figures, but above all because they are giving type features, signs of the social status and characters of given groups. So My Grandmother and Old Man Kranjcec are really portraits of these people. Yet the genre scenes from the village fairs, fetes and casual or occasional meetings are full of figures of individual characteristic types of peasant. Here Gazi did not refrain from using several times the same or very similar features that he had constructed himself, or derived by varying certain stereotypes from the Zemlja compositions of Krsto Hegedusic. This last item shows that Hegedusic was
an immediate mentor, and indicates that the instructions, counsels and certain notliterally taken recipes could be of some use for the formation of the personal poetics of some of the naive painters and sculptors. There was only one rider: the artist had to have the strength and the talent to take from a given reading or lesson those values that corresponded to his personal vision, sensibility and character, and had to form a new and autonomous whole from these values.
Painting in times of dearth and with but scanty knowledge, these first naive painters of ours really did not know of any art different from the works of the rare experts who talked with them, nor did they see any reproductions of works apart from those that the teachers well-meaningly drew their attention to. So it is not uncommon that in many worthwhile works of the strongest personalities of the Hlebine School there should be variations, analogies and even quotations and that this line should go not only as far as Hegedusic but much further as well. Authors who refer to Gazi's recollections of Hegedusic, and then via him of Generaliс and of Brueghel, and then even of artists of the Italian quattrocento are fundamentally correct.
This line of recollection is particularly to the fore in the landscapes and genres scenes where certain landscapes, figures, situations and buildings are repeated in variations, bearing some memory of their distant models or indirectly referring to the sources of their reminiscences of motif. But Gazi was no compiler, nor was he an author uncritically to appropriate others' values. On the contrary, it was his strength to be able, without denying himself models, traditions and favourite places from his artistic reading, to be able to create and construct a totally new whole. Without wishing to conceal or camouflage anything or to justify it as mere coincidence, his figures and landscapes are both a typical image of the life of his native ground and also an image of the image of this native ground.
The dominant part in this first period of the Gazi oeuvre consisted of portraits. First these faces occupied almost the whole of the composition, with a background that is only just adumbrated or handled entirely as an amorphous surface filled with a thick application of dark paint; then with a wide open landscape picture in the background. In both cases the portraits are most often painted in half-profile, with a lively and clear physiognomy, and strong voluminous emphases and a precise drawing that defines the character. However, more than the portrait faces of concrete people Gazi's oils on glass are a gallery of types, of characters, psychologically nuanced and socially defined figures that are reconstructive representations of not just concrete persons but also convey the atmosphere, the internal, quiet life of the place. Gazi then is not a mere chronicler of life nor an ethnographic recorder, but an artist-observer, who in his best works transcends reality, creating a "trustworthy painterly poetry".'
From the mid 1960s, Gazi gradually abandoned the painting of individual faces, and increasingly developed the concept of large, panoramic landscapes with depictions of rural architecture or with scenes of typical peasant jobs and customs. Most of them are winter landscapes, houses, fields and copses covered with a thick blanket of snow, calm, symmetrical and harmonious depictions of some slightly unreal, idyllic life brought to a stop. Vladimir Crnkovic calls this period that of "bel canto", later renaming it the art for art's sake phase, explaining the term by Gazi now finding the internal life of the picture and its non-utilitarian poetic meaning more important than the documentary recording of faces, states and events. We do not thereby deny our artist an immediate, emotionally engaged attitude to motif, a particular empathic approach and the search for internal
harmony. With the change in motif, the altered angle of vision and brightening of colour, his typical, almost psychological focusing does not vanish: instead of the face of people, now it is the face of the land, the homescape, the landscape painted in such a way as to reveal the profound connection between author and countryside, his practically "pantheistic attitude to nature". At the same time, this painting is a direct dedication to the "classic" Generalic of the thirties and forties, in the manner of the free use a system of painting focusing on a broad, panoramic gasp, where lyricism and monumentalism are combined in a manner that is rationally uninterpretable but nevertheless poetically understandable.
In the last ten years of work the painting of Dragan Gazi was marked by a combination or parallel use of two methods and thematic units. The real and the lyrically exalted, the material and the supernatural, the focused and the panoramically extended alternate almost like clockwork, but never without emotional fellow feeling with the subject that they deaI with.
Without any pretensions to giving some kind of final evaluation of Gazi's work we shall nevertheless state our final opinion that his art is one of the strongest segments of the Hlebine School. In debt from the points of view of style and theme to his predecessors, he nevertheless established his own line in painting. It does perhaps give off a great deal of realism, plenitude of figuration and sometimes narrative expansion, because of which it might seem to some that there is too much literalness, too little poetic development. However, Gazi's naive realism with its toughness and literalness in fact emphasises the elementary level of painterly speech and highlights the harshness of life. The directness of this language seems to have sprung straight from the everyday life and setting of the painter: without that his painting would not be able to count on the unrepeatable painting conviction and vitality breathed by almost every single painting.
1. Vladimir Crnkovic: Gazi, Koprivnica, 1983, p. 28
2. Vladimir Malekovic: Dragan Gazi,catalogue, Zlatar, 1975
3. See n. 1.
4. J.Vrancic, in V.Crnkovic: Gazi, p.16.
5. Vladimir Malekovic: Hrvatska izvorna umjetnost [Croatian Primal Art], Zagreb, 1973,