“My art is expressed in hardwood and stone, but the essence of art is not made of wood nor stone, it is beyond space and time. Art is a song and prayer at the same time.”
- Ivan Meštrović
For this post, I’m going to take it back to August when I first started this ART-venture in the beautiful city of Split, Croatia.
One day, I visited the Ivan Meštrović Villa, the Croatian sculptors’ once residence now turned gallery space that houses some of his most acclaimed marble, bronze and wooden sculptures. If you know me at all, then you know how excited I was to spend the day at an art gallery but this was no ordinary art gallery. The gallery is actually a villa, located off the coastline and faces the Adriatic Sea with incredible views.
The Ivan Meštrović Gallery does a fine job of telling the story of the sculptor who went from humble beginnings as a stonecutter's apprentice to an exalted position in the international art scene. The gallery not only houses his works of art but it also hosts cycle artists, showcasing contemporary sculptures and paintings. By placing these contemporary works of art in a new context, it produces a very specific face-to-face interaction that arises when one artist is present in the spiritual and artistic space of another. This months cycle artist was Enca Kovačević.
Kovacevic's paintings were displayed in a small room that had large-scale sculptures of women aligned along the back wall. The contrast between these traditionally dressed women and the paintings of bare women was so powerful. On the one hand you have stone carved statues of strong, powerful, traditional women standing proud and tall- and on the other hand (right in front) you have colorful paintings of exposed, vulnerable, faceless women in a variety of poses. Two entirely different artists share the same space and unintentionally create a powerful experience for the viewer.
I walked around the rest of the villa and admired Meštrović’s bronze scultptures in the garden area before going inside. The gallery includes an impressive selection of his large-scale works, alongside religiously-inspired works and intimate portraits of family members. While, creepy at times, I really got a sense of his style in sculpting the human figure and his dedication to learning a variety of stylistic techniques. After walking the entire villa, I walked further along the same road, about a 5 minute walk, to go see the Meštrović's Crikvine - Kaštilac, a 16th-century summer house bought by Meštrović in 1939 and converted into a chapel. Inside lies what is arguably the artist's most stunning creation, a cycle of 28 wooden reliefs based on the life of Christ. The result of 35 years' work, the cycle incorporates motifs from ancient, medieval and modern art, combined to produce an emotionally powerful piece of spiritual sculpture.
Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon huh?!