Maske

 

Nada Žiljak

NADA ŽILJAK rođena je u Zagrebu 1944. u slikarskoj obitelji. Završila je likovnu akademiju u Zagrebu 1967. i specijalku 1970. Slobodni je umjetnik. Radi u mnogim tehnikama: ulje na platnu i papiru, crteži, akvareli, pasteli, grafika; suha igla, bakropis, linorez.
O njenom radu objavljene su mnoge publikacije, monografija crteža 1995., monografija autora Đure Vanđure 1993. U tisku su monografije akvarela i bakropisa. Njeni radovi nalaze se u mnogim svjetskim muzejima i privatnim zbirkama. Izlagala je na tridesetak samostalnih izložbi: Hrvatska, Austrija, Mađarska, Egipat, Bosna i Hercegovina, Njemačka, Ukraina. (1997.)
http://www.ziljak.hr
http://www.gallery-hr.com

CIP - katalogizacija u publikaciji
nacionalna i sveučilišna knjižnica - Zagrab

UDK 75 Žiljak, N.

Žiljak, Nada
Nada Žiljak: Maske / Tekst Branka Hlevnjak, - Zagreb: FS, 2004.

ISBN 053 - 199-018-2
1. Hlevnjak Branka
I. Žiljak, Nada -- život i djelo
http://www.ziljak.hr
http://www.gallery-hr.com

 

 

Colouring in the Works of Nada Žiljak

The Maske (Masks) and Atelijer (The Painter’s Studio) painting cycles dating from the beginning of this millennium (2001 – 2004) reveal Nada Žiljak as an excellent colourist of erotic themes, an area less and less exploited today.

In her painting cycle entitled Maske  (Masks) the artist lets her virtual masks pour their hearts out through erotic dreams and sexual pleasures following the thought that only the hidden person really discloses himself. During the fictitious carnival projected on her canvases, the painter’s characters give way to their growing passion, in the heat of the night, intoxicated with alcoholic beverages, lead by the exciting consciousness that everything they are doing at the moment or are going to do in the time to follow is hidden and disguised. The artist allows them to derive pleasure from their anonymousness, in other words as masked individuals they do not belong to their real persons, but to the false, one-night and allowable occurrences, the usual phenomenon of masquerades. Therefore, by painting the ancient custom of masquerades and showing the figures of individual couples in her pictures, Nada Žiljak has created a cascade of virtual events, colouristic and sketched follies, erotic rapture and sexual blasphemy; she has discovered an inexhaustible source of themes that are unusually inspiring and have taken her to the area of filled surfaces, colouring, where colours play a dominant role.

In Nada Žiljak’s new cycles colours are the carriers of the painting space and illusions of movement. The depth we are looking at with the power of our imagination is not determined accurately up to the point when another colour, a different one, is discovered within the first colour. The same as when we are looking at the sky in its colouristic surface and then we discover with excitement another surface behind the clouds or below the Milky Way, of yet another, darker galaxy. Under the dark layer of the initial flaming colour, we suddenly discover layers on the formerly uniform canvas surface. The artist provokes the eye by leading one’s gaze through the painting and offering the basic thematic and emotional contours, denying at the same time rational mastering of structures.

In the works of the cycle entitled Maske (Masks) the mysteriousness of the maskers and their lust for physical possession and giving is transferred onto the viewers who share the excitement of the painted contact, the anticipated lust, the obvious pleasure, scenes of minor intrusion, veiled anticipation and, sometimes, uncovered maskers. The artist forms the seen and comprehended area with layers of colour, with the rhythm of complementary collisions and tonal splendour, magnificently rhapsodic, thematically supported by the masquerade night. The painting composition and structure are occasionally above the plot and displace it outside the picture’s frame, leaving only the atmosphere of warm nights, colouristic fineness and coloured mystery in the “take”.

Very well acquainted with the contemporary painting metier, Nada Žiljak sometimes leaves the painting surface bare in order to encourage the impression of certain openness. She gives the canvas space to breathe, lets the viewer feel the artist’s act in making the brushstroke, to see the layer structure, reach the symbols of analytic painting that stresses the factualness of painting as a truth by itself. Therefore, the artist has enforced this elementary, refined, constructive colouring of acrylic paints with the intriguing theme of general physical excitement. The themes of eroticism as a psychic category of hidden desire for general merging and forgiven lechery, the force of lust and deceit are rotated in the pictures.

By putting on a mask everyone seems to leave one’s duties behind, as well as one’s self-restraint, and one’s own self. Imaginary masked characters experience all the veiled and revealed acts of love. However, the maskers are not always in the front plane. Often they are shown only through a shattered composition, in the light that shines through the background or lights up the scene. These are paintings whose modernism is pleasant to the eye that is used to unfinished quality, meet the intellect that seeks mysteriousness, brings joy to one’s senses because of the fullness created.

Eroticism as the Life Source

Kraljevna i žaba (The Princess and the Frog), a pastel dating from 2001 is the first picture from the Maske cycle printed in the FS-Fotosoft 2002 calendar. The bright yellow color is opposed to the green. The dark sketch of the hand that is about to touch the breast of the black-faced woman clad in a transparent dress is the artist’s symbolic announcement of eroticism’s own innocence that is woven into the wisdom of folk fairy tales, and is therefore as such the foundation in the education of mankind. And the message of the artist seems to be: “What is a masquerade to man other than a short-term right of the adults to play as children do at the game of being someone else?” And the other character they are impersonating in disguise helps them fulfil their own restrained desires.

 

With her excellent knowledge of the essence of visual symbols, the artist has used the symbol of human hair to protect herself, the viewers, as well as her virtual masks from spells and sin that might take place during the virtual masked balls as a result of hidden and awakened sexuality. The picture bearing the title Kosa (Hair) pastel, acrylic, dating from 2001 has the sketch of a young girl with very long hair. At her feet is a many-coloured mask with the expression of rigid laughter characteristic for hard masks. But more than the very pleasure that one can imagine being experienced by the one behind the mask’s grin is the opposed character of the young, slim, naked girl. Her thick, curly, long black hair with which she can hide all her beauty covers her back like a cape, revealing symbolically all of hair’s nobility and power. Like nails, hair is in tight contact with the human being even after their separation. One’s hair is like a keeper of virtues, as well as a person’s character in eastern as well as in Christian civilizations (J. Chevalier and A. Gheerbrant; Dictionary of Symbols, Zagreb, 1987).
Protected thus by the very first picture in the cycle, Nada Žiljak has lead us through erotic and physical pleasures of her masked couples at several occasions, publishing her painted works partly in calendars for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004, and exhibiting them as well at exhibitions in Zagreb, Rijeka, Opuzen, Pecz and Sv. Ivan Zelina.


Gradual Introduction into the Theme

With her picture Dodir (60 x 50 cm) (The Touch), the artist begins her three-year long cycle of pictures where she is becoming more and more involved in an increasingly stronger colouristic recklessness and more emancipated as a painter and liberated in respect to eroticism with the help of the theme leading her. Dodir is still an introductory picture where silly maskers of naughty strutting are “persuading” the artist to take part in virtual eroticism. The mask and its hand touching the unmasked woman’s breast tip (of self-portrait characteristics) are not in the same space and time dimensions. The woman in the picture does not take part in the dance of the maskers, but obviously feels the touch and is embarrassed.

The artist slowly leads us into the events of the painted night. Šaputanje  (Whispering) dating from 2001 is a picture in screaming green colours of inner lighting. Everything is green: the background, as well as the faces. A tight red costume and a long reddish clinging dress clearly stand out in the picture. Two women are whispering, as if they were gossiping about the first scene of Dodir (The Touch). The combination of the red and green is like a lit fire or spark in a “juicy” yellow-green background. The colours are more clearly expressed or at least give out the same charge to one’s senses, as does the open and dishevelled drawing of the slim figures.

Poljubac (The Kiss, 2001) is a canvas slightly larger in size (75 x 55 cm) and is suddenly altogether in a different rhapsody – with a different rhythm, a stronger colouring, a new “plot”. This is the well-known handwriting of Nada Žiljak in respect to sketching and composition virtuosity, but now in a new colouring association. Surface plane has acquired its significance. The colours are independent, but once again dependent in respect to the whole. The bright red details are a brilliant effect within the prevailing green-and-lilac scale. These red details are the cheeks of the masked lady, and also the red face of the mask. The kiss presaged in the picture’s title is actually a kiss-in-anticipation. Even if we could not clearly see the sketch, the rhythm of the colours, their association and the red accents will make us expect the passionate moment of the expected contact. Due to its form elements this is the painting that notifies of the painter’s new cycle painted in the past three-year-long period as the mature colouristic phase of Nada Žiljak.

Acrylic Painting as a Challenge

Poziv na ples (Dance Invitation) and Igra (The Game) painted in 2001 are pictures of colouristic magnificence where the screaming blue and green many shade background shines with an inner fictitious lighting onto the images in the front plane; slim and dynamic, in movement and gesture. These are those pictures of mysterious seductiveness where nothing is happening in terms of a plot, but the colours are making space, sounds, scenes happen that do not allow the eyes of the viewer to be content with the viewed, but force him to search, wander, to take part and accept the rhythm of the artist’s inner composition, to reconstruct the painter’s music that has been leading her to unknown goals. At the same time this rhythm is pleasant and inspiring from the painter’s and thematic point of view, as a scene viewed from a window, and providing excitement with its offer in discovering unusual details as part of the whole; small sensations of unexpectedness, lighting dispersal, or the insinuation of something taking place “behind it all”.

Even though the Maske cycle is a thematic entirety, it has been painted in different painting techniques. The most significant novelty in Nada Žiljak’s rich and distinctive opus is the use of acrylic paints. As she herself points out, acrylic paints behave in a completely different manner if compared to oil paints or any other technique. They have their freshness, they dry rapidly and require a different manner of colour mixing, i.e. getting colouristic results. Therefore, in this new research of the very technique in painting with acrylic paints, the painter has discovered her own manner of work and has made it subject to the needs of her own compositions. Perhaps it was due to the eternal and constant theme of the Maske cycle as well as that of Atelijer, the erotic quality of which is deeply rooted in numerous civilizations, i.e. in the history of art, that Nada Žiljak has begun to love colours in their full purity and power. She has given new flourishing motion to the surfaces, linking them, constructing them and revealing them in stronger large wholes, acquiring thus a new painter’s poetic quality.

The Alexandria Quartet as an Inspiration

The rich, luscious atmosphere of the night and darkness where masked lovers hide, the over-saturated sweetness of the pink painting Žudnja (Lust), or the contrast between the ghostly black male mask and the bared body of the woman as in the paintings Poslije ponoći (After Midnight), Požuda (Desire), Raspojasanost (Dissoluteness), etc., were inspired by the intellectual poetic work of Lawrence Durrell (India 1912), - The Alexandria Quartet written in 1958. The four books are a lamentation on life, a compact description without moralizing, and an inspiration for the painter. The Alexandrian high society masked ball, in expectations, gossiping, unveiling, extraordinary, criminal acts, described by Durrell in just a couple of pages have come to Nada Žiljak in her moments of painting as a personal virtual experience, as a reflection of adopted pictures filled in with scenes coming from her own imagination and emotions.

The links between Nada Žiljak’s Maske cycle and Durrell’s descriptions of the Alexandrian carnival come through those identical cobweb links or loud channels through which artists receive the matter for their personal creativeness. This spiritual web participation seems to be taking place and lasting from Mesopotamian and Egyptian roots, Coptic and Zaratustrian mysteriousness, two-thousand-year-old Christian world efforts to give humankind a higher level of morality. During this extensive period it has resulted in universal symbolic signs and ideas, spreading continuously with the help of art as well as nomadic wandering. Civilization’s symbolic exaltation with masks is built into Nada Žiljak’s world of Maske (Masks).

Thematic Attractiveness

Nada Žiljak paints eroticism as the driving life force, its power of sustainability, necessity for survival. There is no sin in the offering of the female nudes, no evil, no procuring acts: the women have voluntarily and passionately lifted up their gowns exposing to disguised maskers their gates to Paradise, believing that behind the long-nosed clown, the black skeleton, the green character with the turban, the silly triangle cone, there hides a beloved, lover (male or female), letting oneself go in the circumstances of sweet pleasure in merging with the secret seed of life, the warmth of the of divine presence’s spark.

It is interesting how the painter’s familiar handwriting of hiding and revealing coloured surfaces has a new altered role here in creating the flickering atmosphere of erotic lines of magnetic force, flickering of candles, sudden flashes in the moonlight. These small groups of collected colour in all their difference play an important role in achieving the final mood, for disclosing exhilaration, for surface structuring, all so very characteristic of modern and contemporary art. With her new cycle Nada Žiljak has strengthened the construction of painting space, granting it longer and more tranquil segments, inside of which shorter and disrupted colouristic rhythms take place, independent in respect to the painted event. The picture’s rhythm corresponds with the inner sensibility, with intellectual logic of the painter’s world that by no means wishes to lose communication with the viewer.

The painting entitled Zelena rukavica (The Green Glove) dating from the year 2003 was painted in an expressive manner where coloured surfaces were thickened into a unique experience of darkness and lighting. The dark purple, green, black are lighted in smaller surfaces with yellow, white, orange, red. The erotic atmosphere of the masker-lover and the female lover are created with the colour contrasts, a special suggestiveness of light and warmth. The short line (of the horizon) positioned high in the “golden cut” has its realistic suggestion in the light warm body of the woman, while the man is in the dark. Thus the colouristic tension is simultaneously the thematic tension, although the bodies are not built in any other way but with color. Only the faces and the distinctly stressed theme of the green glove have the elements of a sketch. Nada Žiljak who is an excellent sketcher deliberates here entirely as a painter. On the other hand, viewers are seduced in the same manner by a surprising scale of colours ranging from soft ones to dramatic ones, from dark ones to light ones, the artist herself, one dares say, readily surrenders herself to the subject matter from which she derives her inspiration.

The picture Ptičji maskenbal (Birds’ Masked Ball) woven with dreamlike contrasts of soft lilacs, pinks and greens, is a new kind of a painter’s poetry. The same way the colours are gentle and flower-like, so is the theme supernatural and dreamlike. Taking off her mask of a woman, a woman-bird appears with the body of a woman. Of course we could list many examples of this exciting theme in literature, we could determine with symbols the multiple and deep roots of the bird representing the soul, and the general divine benevolence to humans. What is interesting here is how the artist uses the general theme of masks to impose unexpected symbols upon the viewers, intelligently and in many colours, even charmingly including them as well in the possible masked ball.
The ease and simplicity with which Nada Žiljak constructs her painter’s world is something that is specific for her creativity. The artist blends and re-blends reality and dreams, the seen and the unexpected, physical and spiritual with incredible skill not only in the Maske and Atelijer cycles, but in her whole work too. As she paints a wide range of figurative representational works of art, merging them into large graphic, pastel and painted orchestrations, her paintings are always at the borderline of abstraction and reality, structurally very concrete and contemporarily formed in a completely individual manner.

In the iconography of her Maske cycle painted at the end of 2003 and the beginning of 2004, Nada Žiljak introduces the observers of the maskers. The observers are birds and cats. Sometimes they become more important than the very maskers. The picture Znatiželjna ptica (The Inquisitive Bird) standing on the rock and plucking at the masker-bird’s hat distracts the attention from the nakedness of the woman leaning on the rock and by her bewitching masker. In fact, the whole exciting act of male and female joining is neutralized by the bird, rebelling against the maskers, but not against the naturalness of the very act. This interesting thematic inversion speaks for the justified licentiousness of the painter’s participants. The artist symbolically poses the question of hypocrisy through the bird that is, by the way, placed compositionally in the front plane. Which masks are real, and what is natural?

Nada Žiljak’s paintings from the Maske cycle are portraits of fictitious characters and couples. Each one of them is made of different tonalities, and of different compositions where colours and their relative rhythm suggest to the viewer the seriousness of the moral offence, true love, sympathy, hopes, the complexity or simplicity of individual characters hidden or revealed behind masks. The maskers are people and that is the reason the painter gives them certain firmness of character, determining a different character for each one.


The Erotic Atmosphere

The painter’s lighting flowing out from the inside of individual colours creates the painting’s atmosphere, but also the possible psychological values of the painted virtual couple. Colouristic painting off spiritual states of virtual persons and eccentrics is sometimes very difficult. The brownish turquoise color in the painting entitled Žuta prostirka (The Yellow Cover) or the red, brown, lilac in the picture Na prostirci (On the Cover), both dating from 2003 suggest complex relationships, difficult decisions and sullen thoughts. Night lighting is not shown anywhere in a concrete sense, but is also the reason for special colours. At the same time it is the colour that is by all possible means suggesting lust, deceit, the excitement of the forbidden.

In the painting Skriveni pogled (The Hidden Glance) dating from 2004 in brownish lilac tonality, the blue batches of color create the impression of open space. It is a question where the lovers are situated, lying together and clinging to each other tightly. Have they escaped from a masked ball and are surrendering to their desire not hiding themselves completely? Somebody has seen them, even more so – this person is watching them while they are beginning to lie down on the ground and are preparing to surrender themselves to the incomprehensible call of feelings? The person standing above them is mysterious, because the painter has deliberately failed to show the borders between the images, and with the painting’s title she has suggested that the lovers are being viewed during the awkward moment of total joining. However, the artist does not wish to moralize because she is engaged firstly in painting emotions, passion and ecstasy. The dynamic composition with one vertical and two lying images is brought into harmony with the colouristic atmosphere of the anticipated ecstasy. Sensuality, together with the mentioned associations is enhanced by the light color of the woman’s nude body and the dark bodies of her clinging partner and the viewer from the side. In such an atmosphere the viewer unconsciously identifies himself with the lonely figure that is obviously satisfying his curiosity by forbidden viewing of the pleasure of others.

In several paintings the artist creates triangles: i.e. two happy and one lonely human being. By painting eroticism, the theme of loneliness seems to her like a harmonious rhythmic code, an accent that shatters grouped masses making the picture lighter, giving the painting a coloured counterweight but also the plot logic. However, the singled out image is not destined to sadness in each picture. On the contrary, some of the lonely maskers are actually jolly and self-content. But as they are covered with masks, the question logically posed in the same manner is the following one: what lies underneath? The allusion to clowns and their false laughter opens a new layer of sub-questions.

For instance, in the painting entitled Ples (The Dance) dating from 2004, the lonely mask seems to be a short plump gentleman, very pleased with himself. This very masker could be the master of the house who has organised the masked ball, now deriving pleasure from the voluptuous company of his friends and acquaintances. The dramatic effect in the picture is achieved by the very mean, triangle-formed mask of the devil, around whose neck clings the slim figure of a blonde.

In this triangle we are more worried about the girl than the solitary masker. Because it seems that somehow people tend to put on those very masks with the help of which they are subconsciously displaying as a person with their own hidden desires. Therefore, in the painting Ples (The Dance), the blonde girl with her hair combed into a neat ponytail embraces the really menacing mask with full confidence, knowing, perhaps, that under this mean “beast” hides her heart’s valiant. And, is not the story of the beauty and the beast actually the most erotic of fairy tales; a symbolic display of the spiritual overriding the physical; a symbol where physical repulsiveness is overcome and richly rewarded with beauty? This is what is actually taking place in the picture. Nada Žiljak leads us to a multitude of ideas that are derived from seemingly simple and harmoniously balanced pictures.

Painted Rhapsodies

Nada Žiljak’s painting cycle Maske and Atelijer are full of symbols, obvious ones as well as associated ones. New and different aspects are revealed in every picture, hidden symbols of the second plane, the third one, or merely a new one altogether; one that is created with each repeated viewing reading. To an attentive viewer the symbols of these paintings impose on one as an inexhaustible source of sensuality resembling a grand painter’s rhapsody. The consciousness and subconscious are evoked, the known and mythological embracing of the painted, but without the existentialist nausea; on the contrary, - with pleasure and excitement corresponding to the viewer’s readiness to surrender himself to this unique artistic flight of fancy.

Eroticism is painted with the warmth of colours and their “depth” where one’s gaze dives into, attracted by mysterious forces. In this saturated painter’s space there are short, but precise sketches of movements, gestures, lustful hands, possessive fingers, bared thighs, stretched out bodies, seductive glances, soft flesh. It is sufficient to recognize, just one, two, three characteristic lines among the slim figures revealing all of the lasciviousness or innocence of their associations.

The painting Plava livada s mačkom (The Blue Field with the Cat) makes the viewer wonder where the artist has placed her erotic plot. Although the title sets the plot in a field, the blue colour in its tonal hues takes one’s thoughts away and searches for another kind of reasonableness. The floating, weightless position of the bodies suggests a couple of lovers. They seem to be floating in a semi-dream state, into a space whose colouristic value encourages one to think of ecstasy, rapture and the celebration of love. This floating arrangement reminds one of Chagall’s newlyweds and Slavic fairytale quality, confirms the artist’s affirmation of humanity.


Nada Žiljak’s paintings are not simple compositions, easily read. On the contrary, the pleasure of viewing them is filled in by numerous small surprises, in respect to form as well as colouristic opposing of the basic theme. Thus the two red images in the background of this picture seem to be announcing possible danger. The colouristic grouping in the lower part of the picture seems to be suggesting transitoriness. To the right beside the cat there is suggestion of some other images, as if someone else was present there as well. Lengthy viewing of the painting does not shatter the initial illusion, but its innocence is beginning to be doubtful, or at least that it would survive during a longer period of time. This is a complex composition that besides the basic romantic leitmotif has a whole multitude of tonalities, rhythms, contrasts merging into a painter’s harmony that does not necessarily have to be disintegrated into parts, but on the contrary, must be viewed as an integral sensual fullness.

In the same way that there are more complex and meaningful music pieces in music, there are also more simple, warmer, intimate and more romantic picture compositions among Nada Žiljak’s works. In comparison to the large format painting Plava livada s mačkom, the painting Zaljubljene maske (Masks in Love) is of smaller format and is different in respect to the content/formal complex. In accordance with the title, the colours confirm the fresh greenish-yellow, with a touch of pink. These colours are optimistic, promising. Their symbolizing spring and awakened nature is in complete accordance with the clinging masks. The artist has given them her colouristic blessing and has succeeded in showing the exciting state of being in love. The sincerity of feelings in the picture is not disturbed, interrupted nor questioned. This picture is pure formal and coloured joy of mutually shared emotions. It is also an open invitation to the public to take part in the joy displayed in the picture.

In the Quest of Truth

The colouring that has appeared in Nada Žiljak’s newer works for the first time more intensively in the Maske cycle as a certain mature step forward and, has also inspired the creating of a parallel cycle of paintings under the common title Atelijer. This was not mere chance. The artist’s studio has always been the place for eroticism. The space where nude beauties, as well as nude men made it possible for artists to have a view of the corporal landscape, of valleys and hills, slopes and lakes, anatomy, tactility, graphism and the integral beauty of the human body. The human body as the divine creation has always been considered an enigma worthy of studious attention, conquest. The body, i.e. the nude, is both the scientific and the creative corroboration. The theme of the artist and his model in the artist’s studio imposed itself on Nada Žiljak as a natural sequence, almost like an obligatory part of the erotic cycle.

The painting U atelijeru (In the Studio) dating from 2004 is of classical composition: he, the painter, is marked with a painter’s beret in front of the easel; she, the model is stretching out on the sofa. She is lying down and enjoying herself. Enjoying the artist’s gaze that is caressing her hair, eyes and lips. We can imagine his gaze gliding over her neck, breasts; analysing every detail, searching for lighting effects, for colours that would show the softness and tactility of her body, graphism that would draw the hair, the form that will give importance to this exciting visual adventure.


Nada Žiljak’s erotic adventure starts with sketched lines. She in fact identifies herself with the painter in the studio who is actually deliberating on the characteristic tension of the nude model. At the same time she is the painter of the painter who is exploring and discovering the attractiveness of the nude. Simplified in sketching terms, but symbolically, the artist forms her stretched out model while she is simultaneously attracting the artist’s attention because of far deeper painter’s queries than her personality.

Nada Žiljak forms the painting surface with special coloured fields. These fields change form from squares to labyrinth walls, from shallow color application to atmospheric blurry coats of paint. And the models posing in

virtual studios are universal symbols of tension and excitement, a provocation to tactility, an invitation to virtual touch through glance.

In the painting U atelijeru (In the Studio) Nada Žiljak has painted the warmth of the artist’s studio in tranquil and suppressed colours. The distance between the artist and his model is significant, but their association has been determined by fate. Both the artist and the model are very tiny in the picture, emerged in a pleasant atmosphere that is destined to become public.

Linking the motif of maskers and the painter’s studio, Nada Žiljak has set a logical bridge between the masked and an artist’s concentrating on sensuality. Both the art and the maskers aim at outmanoeuvring the ordinary. Exempted from the “rules of the game of life”, where all have their life role and written scenarios legalized by social powers, only the artists and maskers have taken off here their daily average person masks. The other face of their reality has been absorbing the artist’s attention for a several years now.

The reality painted by Nada Žiljak in the Maske and Atelijer cycles is eroticism as the foundation comestible that she has dedicated to her numerous compositions. Thereby she describes the fine nuances in the connection between eroticism and the art of painting. These interrelations of both cycles are merged into an exciting whole.

The Principle of Duality and the Questionable Hypocrisy

The same as in the Maske cycle, colour gives the basic atmosphere to the paintings of the Atelijer cycle. The black contour drawing is found more often as a sketch than the picture’s skeleton. Colour creates the harmony of tones and rhythms, in one moment it is sharp, then warm, then light, and then dark. The drawing remains to be the ground for comprehending the picture, it’s theme, but the colour provides the quiver, fulfilment and beauty. The drawing seems to be the necessary space of a pause, the sweet melody within a harmonious composition.

The same as all of her paintings Nada Žiljak’s painting cycles Atelijer and Maske may be easily viewed as creative informals where peaceful surfaces interchange with colouristic accents. The colours are obvious in brushstrokes and surfaces, sometimes square-shaped, thicker, thinner, clean and covered, always structured in a special way. But each formal group has its background in the artist’s reflective system.


The painting Plavi trosjed (The Blue Settee) dating from 2004 speaks symbolically about dualism. The dominant blue color is interwoven with tiny effects of yellow that appears both above and under the settee. Thus a floating atmosphere of the space has been attained. However, the male and female figures at the left side of the painting are clinging closely together, turned with their backs to each other. Are they the painter and his model? They seem to be tied to an invisible post. Or are they the post of shame? Are they a husband and a wife sentenced to inseparability? They are always together, but always contrary to each other: the female person as the jin force (the earth, passivity, indulgence, dark, weak, the female natural principle) and the male person as the jang force (the sky, activity, firm, strong, light, the male natural principle), the symbols of inseparable opposites, the principle on which life functions. And this is not all! Stretching out on the settee above them is a young girl with blonde hair. She is posing, alluring, waiting. The colours stress the desire; provoke fidgety thoughts by sparks of understatement, blue dreamlike state, a solitary person’s self-sufficiency. Do they also show a winner’s glory?

The artist has posed many questions with this painting, and created an intellectual tension and colouristic pleasure to the eye in search of possible erotic responses. There is no need to determine them. Everyone can find his or her answers here. This is because the painting is really very intriguing.



In numerous paintings coming from both of her cycles Nada Žiljak reveals the different types of hypocrisy of her images. Like the writer Durrell who has revealed to her many different types of experience and different insight in respect to people but never in the sense of judging them, so does Nada Žiljak in her mature and very personal way of sketching figures know how to create a very vivid and convincing gesture by making minimal shifts of the alignment. From painting to painting, from character to character, in slight distortions, stresses and tension of the stroke/alignment one sees subtleness, selfishness, meanness, pleasure, carnality, dedication, depression, zeal, etc. Although the sketches of human figures are often almost pictographic, the skilful sketch of the painter reveals possible gestures and the feelings that go along with them. They are manifold in meaning and often posed as a constant inquiry in respect to pragmatic hypocrisy.

In the painting Žuti suton (The Yellow Dusk) from the Maske cycle the standing image is equated with the old Roman god Janus with two opposite faces in the “triangle” composition. The masked image is identified with the well-known symbol of hypocrisy. Namely, while his company is stretched out on the floor resembling a drunken married couple, the masked standing image seems to be talking to them. However, behind the mask, the sketch clearly shows a face looking to the opposite direction, as if searching for a more interesting collocutor, a desired she-mate and a possible lover in the painting’s undefined distance.

Events taking place during a masquerade as painted by Nada Žiljak are often typical for social interrelations. They are painted sharply, lighted and illuminated from numerous sides.


In her paintings from the Atelijer cycle, as well as in those from the Maske cycle, the artist has succeeded in painting lighting and rhythmic tensions, dramatic quality that warms and cools our implemented attitude towards eroticism, provokes us to ponder upon social relations, summons us to reconsider morals and hypocrisy. One of the paintings that direct us to the history of the artist studio’s eroticism is the painting entitled Dodir (The Touch) dating from 2004. Two images are standing in the painting all in brownish pink tone: the model and the painter. She is undressed to her knees and placed in contrapposto in the classical pose of old Greek Venuses. Her head is tilted and has an expression of sweetness and innocence of Boticelli’s Venus. The man, a contrast to her slimness is rather fat with an arm stretched out towards the model. The black hair and the beard as well as the clothes reminds of an old Roman toga and moves the plot towards Roman admiration of ancient Greek sculptures. The painting does seem like a peeled off mural. Its colouristic structure is in the role of a time machine. It stresses the experience of antiquity. At the same time the artist converts into reality the cultural “cradle” of contemporary eroticism, as well as her own personal artistic eroticism. Eroticism is, undoubtedly, the artist’s constant preoccupation.

The symbolic title Dodir (The Touch) that does not really exist in the painting (because the man has only stretched out his hand towards the woman not really touching her) reveals the insight of the presentation of this and other Nada Žiljak’s works where she stresses the wondrous power of unfulfilled desire. Desired and unfulfilled erotic streaming is symbolically shown through an unfulfilled or conjured relationship between the painter and the model, and the painter and her works. Whether it has turned into reality or not, eroticism in Nada Žiljak’s paintings is painted as the driving force of art.


A Painter’s Licentiousness

Colouristic saturation of the theme and its erotic powers are characteristic for this collection of work. In the painting Crvena soba (The Red Room) dating from 2004 the painter is standing in front of the just lightly marked easel. In order to recognize the plot of the painting, it is more important to notice the painter’s stretched out hand than his painting. The nude model is sitting on the floor. Within this simple sketched association there is a whole list of painting elements by which the erotic tension of the picture is reached. There are two dominant colours with which the artist constructs the opposed relationship: turquoise and red. The painter’s working mantle is turquoise and it is reflected on the face of the woman who is modelling and sitting with slightly spread legs. This gives her an unnatural expression of excitement. It also links her gaze with the painter’s body: her head is painted in the color of his body (working mantle). On the other hand the whole space of the painter’s studio is imbued with the pink colour used to paint the model’s sensuality. Neither the easel nor the canvas is clearly seen in this space. The only visual support is the sketched back of the chair. The room is “burning” with the painter’s desire to dominate his lust by painting its forms, while at the same time he is giving way to inner passion with which he is absorbing the erotic streaming provoked by visual sensations. This special artistic approach to eroticism, where the most intimate erotic merging are at the same time the most sophisticated ones, has existed since the ancient Egyptian art, and Nada Žiljak has emphasized it by repeating a similar title several times.
The painting Crveni atelijer (The Red Studio) reproduced in Foto Soft’s calendar for 2004 is a picture of complementary colours where the burning relationship between the red and the green give meaning to the frail image of the painter and the unusual shadow, or the marked chair placed in a position that is revealed as erotic to those who tend to have such associations. And it is the red color that is actually seducing them.


The beauty of the new paintings from Nada Žiljak’s cycle comes from the sensible erotic thought and the rich painting system. They are paintings of transferred realism, virtual forms, situations as a result of fantasy and concrete painting compositions, that may be regarded as surrealistic only conditionally.

The painting U Osijeku (In Osijek) dating from 2003 is composed with a double shift of reality. Parts of the studio are seen: the chair, the paints and the easel. However, the central picture within the freely formed space is blurred. Is it the painting of a painted picture where the images are those of lovers? Or is it a mirrored picture in the studio room where the molested woman-painter is seen? The woman in the picture (of self-portrait characteristics), within the real picture, is resisting very mildly, or more precisely – she is leaning strongly on the table with her body and her hand in the invisible but at the same time anticipated act of coming together with the image that is clinging to her.

Nada Žiljak is a great master of small gestures/movements. The images in this painting cycle appear to be alive and plastic. A strong enough symbolism determining them in their intentions is set with the application of marginal painting and sketching interventions. The artist is not a slave to colours. Therefore, red is not at all an obligatory symbol of eroticism. On the contrary, the painting U atelijeru 9 (In Studio No. 9) is a-flame with green colour, in that part of the picture where the two nude images are placed. Only a slightly marked gesture of the woman’s hand points to a sexual game that is taking place. However, the colours suggest awakened nature, the state of being in love bringing together couples in the basic mission of life’s permanence.

The symbolic imagery of this possible Nature’s embrace where lovers are caught like fish in a net was painted by Nada Žiljak in the painting U atelijeru 4 (In Studio No. 4). Two nude frail bodies are bent towards each other arch-like and resembling fish that are wriggling in order to save their lives. They are positioned opposite a dark bear’s piece of fur that does not resemble a rug due to its dominant colouristic position, but as a powerful symbol of primeval beginning, cave homes, a natural shelter. Opposite to the fur is an easel, as gentle as the lovers. The dark fur takes one’s glance away from the naked bodies, from the easel and imposes on one with its natural, benevolent, furry and warm patronage.

However, the Maske and Atelijer cycles are not necessarily erotic in their entirety. There are paintings in the Maske cycle that show merry and unburdened masks, groups of people, passers-by, as well as the paintings from the Atelijer cycle where the man-painter and woman-painter are alone or in conversation with friends. However, in the context of the integral whole, the artist’s quest for answers as to eroticism’s nature, those formal as well as the essential ones may be found in each painting belonging to these cycles. In the paintings showing loneliness as well as in the quiet nude studies, there is the thought of the need to prove one’s own existence.

The painted self-portrait of the artist lying alone stretched out in the studio in front of a painting, in arch-like form, is if she herself was searching for mutual contact with her own imagination. Nada Žiljak paints intellectual craving. She paints creativity as a spiritual need for merging with the source of one’s own spiritual inspiration. This is the reason for the paintings of loneliness in the painter’s studio where grey and black colours dominate, where there are lonely images with bowed heads, contracted bodies, making them seem anxious, all the same – erotic. They express artistic lust for spiritual inspiration, sensual passion for creating, intellectual insatiability to dominate forms, tension in the expectation of the moments when one is completely dedicated to the act of creating and the final finding of spiritual unwinding that creates the works. A series of gloomy paintings from the Atelijer cycle tell about the creativeness and artistic depression that appears as the necessary void ready for new spiritual fulfilment.

In Place of a Conclusion

During the period 2002 – 2004 Nada Žiljak has created Maske and Atelijer, two significant cycles of paintings painted simultaneously, enriching further her rich and fertile painting work. These thematic cycles are made in various techniques, from pastel to acrylic, as well as in their combinations. Both the cycles may be analysed as to their thematic and formal keys, although the theme is more an inspiration to the artist that the final goal. The merging of the colour and sketch in modern treatment make these paintings integral wholes that are sophisticated and harmonious. Nada Žiljak finds the space to create her worlds in the tradition of modern abstraction and surrealistic freedom.

The cycles entitled Maske and Atelijer are fresh and new. They confirm the image of Nada Žiljak as an artist of inexhaustible strength, with deep feelings and with a painter’s reasonableness.

Branka Hlevnjak

   
Samostalne izložbe

1981. Zagreb, Galerija INA, Slike
1982. Zagreb, Galerija Kamensko, Slike
Zagreb, Galerija Nikola Tesla, Slike
1983. Zagreb, Galerija Zagreb, Slike i crteži
1984. Zagreb, Galerija IKRO Mladost
Zagreb, Galerija, Konferencija za aktivnost
žena u društvenom razvoju, Slike i crteži
1988. Zagreb, Galerija Klub 42, Crteži
Zagreb, Galerija Trešnjevka, Slike
1990. Zaprešić, Knjižnica Ante Kovačić, Slike i crteži
1991. Zagreb, Galerija Kontempora, Slike
Zagreb Studio galerije Karas, Slike
1992. Bjelovar, Muzej grada Bjelovara, Slike i crteži
1993. Zagreb, Galerija Kontempora, Slike
1994. Križevci, Galerija Ars, Slike
Budapest, OTP Bank Galéria, Slike
Zagreb, Galerija Vugrin, Slike
Osijek, Galerija likovnih umjetnosti, Slike i crteži
Karlovac, Likovni salon Ljudevit Šestić, Crteži tušem i kistom
Sv. Ivan Zelina, Galerija Sv. Ivan Zelina, Slike i crteži
Đakovo, Dijecezanski muzej, Slike i crteži
1995. Gospić, Muzej Like Gospić, Slike i grafike
Zagreb, Galerija Duh, Obale pune tišine
Rasinja, Galerija Škatulka, Akvareli
Zagreb, Galerija Židovske općine, Na obali Galilejskog jezera
Otočac, Narodno sveučilište, Slike i grafike
Velika Gorica, Galerija Kordić, Na prostirci od neba i tla
Zagreb, Galerija Instituta Ruđer Bošković, Slike
Kairo, Muzej moderne egipatske umjetnosti
Graz, Flughafen, Die Farbe im Raume der Zeit
1996. Zagreb, Društvo Podravec, Vedrina jutra
Zagreb, Dom umjetnika Hrvatske, Akvareli
Asbach, Museum Kloster, Dvije generacije
u hrvatskom slikarstvu s A. Kinertom
Pakrac, Starogradska vijećnica, Pamćenje
Zagreb, Galerija Forum, Slike
Vinkovci, Gradski muzej, Albert Kinert i Nada Žiljak
Bihać, Galerija, Grafike
Sarajevo, Galerija, Grafike
Čazma, Zavičajni muzej, Crteži i akvareli
Novalja, Galerija Era, Slike i akvareli, Kao vjetar kao more
Rijeka, Muzej grada, Grafike (s Z. Pozaić i N. Arbanas)
Parz, Künstelerzentrum, Kontakte “Grenzelos” (s grupom 91)
1997. Starigrad, Galerija Jerolim, Crteži
Kijev, Nacionalni umjetnički muzej, Slike
Sv. Ivan Zelina, Galerija Sv. Ivan Zelina, V. Devidé - N. Žiljak “Haibuni”
Sv. Ivan Zelina, Galerija Sv. Ivan Zelina
V. Mc Master - N. Žiljak “Vezani za toranj”
Zaprešić, Galerija Razvid, Bakropisi
Sv. Ivan Zelina, Galerija Sv. Ivan Zelina, Tam čist pod strehom,Ilustracije
1998. Pečuh, Müvészetek Háza, Pasteli
Sv. Ivan Zelina, Galerija Sv. Ivan Zelina, Ljubavna režanja, Ilustracije
Gornja Stubica, Galerija dvorca Oršić, Pjesma o sjaju vode
1999. Piešt’any, Slovačka, Galerija MM
Zagreb, Galerija FER
Umag, Muzej grada Umaga
2000. Bratislava, Slovačka, Národné Osvetové Centrum
Zagreb, Francuska čitaonica, Ilustracije
Sv. Ivan Zelina, Nada Žiljak, Slike
2001. Zagreb, Izložba darovanih slika, K.B. «Sestre milosrdnice»
2002. Pečuh, Müvészetek Háza, Pasteli
Sv. I Zelina, galerija Sv. I. Zelina
2003. Opuzen, Likovni salon Opuzen
Zagreb, Galerija ARS hrvatske kulturne zaklade
Rijeka, galerija DAR
2004. Vinkovci, galerija Slavko Šohaj
Osor, Galerija grada Osora
Sv. I Zelina, galerija Sv. I. Zelina
Varaždinske toplice,
2005. Zagreb, Vatroslav Lisinski
Mostar, salon galerije Jelić
2006. Osijek, Vernissage
Unešić
   
NADA ŽILJAK
Rođena je u Zagrebu 1944. Završila je Akademiju likovnih umjetnosti u Zagrebu 1967. i specijalku 1970. godine u klasi Alberta Kinerta. Slobodni je umjetnik. Radi u mnogim tehnikama: ulje na platnu i papiru, crteži, akvareli, pasteli, grafika; suha igla, bakropis, linorez. Svoje radove prikazala je na pedesetak samostalnih izložbi u Hrvatskoj, Austriji, Egiptu, Njemačkoj, Mađarskoj, Grčkoj, Ukrajini.. Radovi joj se nalaze u svjetskim muzejima i privatnim zbirkama. O njenim slikama, ilustracijama i crtežima objavljene su monografije iz pera Branke Hlevnjak i Đure Vanđure. Prikazi i kritike sakupljeni su na stranicama: http://www.geocities.com/galzelina/
http://www.gallery-hr.com
http://www.ziljak.hr