The author of this exhibition, Mrs. Nada Žiljak, a college graduated painter and a renowned fine arts artist from Zagreb presents some forty works in oil on canvas and acrylic paints on canvas and paper under the distinct and common title Masks.
The masks represent forms of grotesque species, and according to the science of symbols they may provoke awe, fear, laughter or irony. In the history of art masks bear the image of having supernatural powers that are directly linked with life’s realities (a good catch, a plentiful harvest, a fine artistic expression). Masks are used to demonstrate power, divinity, phantoms, archetype characters, myths and all that is carried by humanity as part of its collective memory. Masks are found in medieval miniature paintings and in plastic art, as well as on decorations for consoles, column capitals, and keystones. They were a very gratifying motive for European expressionists, especially for fauvists and cubists.
The artist does not actually conceal with the masks, but implicates less fine or finer impulses of everyday aspirations and brings to life the myths that interpret the origin of now. She governs and supervises her spiritual world with the masks and thus interprets life’s complex variety by varying mythic and astral characters and forms that intertwine and complement each other.
Using masks as a gratifying motive pattern the author presents her innermost experience transposed into the art of painting. In a way masks are only the placet for presenting the artistic habitus, manifested with gorgeous coloraturas, tonal scales, thickened structure, in a lyrically expressive and poetic manner. Characters in intimate, ecstatic and creative moods dominate the surface plane painting compositions, with coloured surfaces in the background of some of the works. Mythic creatures, satyrs, fairytale scenes, and impressive (but unobtrusive) erotic contents are incorporated into the paintings by subtle and free construction of forms and structure, and a rich palette of colours. Therefore, a rich and hypersensitive painter’s world is skillfully transposed into a universal fine arts tongue where no one can remain impartial. The special emotions and feelings of the artist while she paints her works suggest how gratifying the motive patterns are for her. An orchestration of strong and bright colours dominates: carmine red, a less open green and blue, and the openness in composing the pictures in ochres and similar accentuations. The artist skillfully uses symbols, revealing a part of her subconsciousness, where a variety of associations and deep sensuality is positioned. The masks are full of vivacity, in a rich palette, clear pigmentation, free in their carnival fashion behavior.
Every artist chooses his media, the means and motifs for expressing himself adequately. Masks are the ones that have chosen their artist here, and she has fully used them to express all her creative poetics. This creates the harmony of motives, fine art and innermost feelings. The realization of her own fine arts tongue is evident here, and therefore the works are clear, concise, they seem compact and have a clear common term of reference. For an artist of such illumination and quality, masks are a very adequate pattern and are the sublimate of her inside world, expressed through the fine art of painting. In the same extent that the masks in the paintings reveal, they are on the other hand the barrier towards those who cannot reach them with their feelings, talent and fine arts knowledge. The author summons the viewer to penetrate this magical, hidden world. To write this text was also a challenge for me as a writer. Mrs. Žiljak discloses her art simply and truly to those who wish and are able to view these works of fine art sincerely, without prejudice, in other words - in the manner the works were made.
The artist is really skillful in using all the elements of fine arts and an education in fine arts goes along with this naturally as something to be understood, but she does not impose this as a final solution. With her masks she makes a significant step forward towards an art that is at the edge of understanding and interpreting. Dechamp’s idea that the secret lies in what a creative individual does outside himself may be applied to Nada Žiljak, because thus the artist comes closer to the universal by means of creativity, the joy of creating and love; characteristics that are immanent to the artist.
In my opinion, this exhibition is a fine and lovely gift to art lovers in Vinkovci. Not so long ago Mrs. Nada Žiljak had a similar wish in presenting herself to the Vinkovci world of art and culture: concisely, clearly and to tell something about herself and her intimate feelings by using a specific fine arts tongue. The Maske cycle is a relatively new series of works and not investigated sufficiently by chroniclers as yet. I feel that this exhibition will be an impulse for many to investigate their own subconsciousness and perhaps their own emotions in respect to those wonderful archetype scenes hidden somewhere deep in our inner space. Perhaps someone will be inspired to express them in their own specific way, the same way this exhibition’s author has done.
Prof. dr. sc. Mladen Jurišić