Sweetness in light
the incurable incandescence of being
Although trained in graphics at the Art Academy in Zagreb, Croatian artist Mirjana Vodopija predominantly creates objects and installations, although she does also engage in drawing and photography too. Her work is based on a study of the behaviour of light: the nature of light, its spiritual significance and its relation to time and space. This unusual interest makes her one of the most unique artists currently practising in Croatia.
Born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1963, Mirjana Vodopija studied graphics at the Art Academy in Zagreb and graduated in 1987. Since then, her practice has evolved from two-dimensional prints and drawings to sculpture, installation and photography. Her current works now involve a study of the behaviour of light, which is articulated through the creation of luminous objects and installation-environments.
The richness of Vodopija’s practice appears to be founded in a fascination for new developments in natural science, yet the artist declares, ‘In my artistic research I have been guided by the natures of light itself – not so much in it’s physical sense, but rather in the spiritual value it carries.’ Whether her works are meditations upon the metaphorical associations of light or the scientific dilemmas of space and time, Vodopija has nevertheless carved out a unique space for herself in the Croatian contemporary art scene, which is otherwise dominated by social concerns and art historical disputes.
Branko Franceschi, an art historian and curator of the Miroslav Kraljevic Gallery in Zagreb, has pointed out Vodopija’s distinctive approach: ‘Mirjana Vodopija is a unique personality on the Croatian art scene. She doesn’t have any predecessors or obvious models. Her body of work develops with its own interior logic, without clinging to the fashionable.’ He continues, ‘Her success is not based on provocation or shock, but on the consistent quality and high standards of her beautiful, imaginative and intelligent works.’
Vodopija’s early works were large-scale drawings executed in mixed media, and, to quote Franceschi again, ‘demonstrated her precise drawing skills, subtle usage of colours, imagination and ability to control complex compositions’. An interest in space, which was soon to become one of Vodopija’s focal concerns, was already apparent in the complicated spatial structure of these early works.
Following her drawings, Vodopija began constructing sculptures, using a range of light materials such as wire and fibres. The elegant objects were usually based on variations of the spherical form and were often suspended from the ceiling, such as in ‘Satellites’ (1995). For Franceschi, their ‘elongated, aerodynamic forms, unfolding in the spatial centres of the galleries, suggested interstellar journeys’. Such an impression may have been emphasised by Vodopija’s use of lighting, which was employed to create dramatic settings for her sculptures.
Light was soon to become Vodopija’s predominant interest and, as she began to play with the rhythms of light sources, she introduced time as another feature of her work. Despite such developments in her practice, Vodopija still draws upon the skills that she gained during her training in graphics. An exploration of light would, perhaps, remain incomplete without an investigation of shadows, and it is both real and computer generated shadows that Vodopija casts upon transparent surfaces in works such as ‘Oval’ (1997).
Light, time and shadow all come into play in the installation ‘Horizon’ (1995). One enters a completely darkened space. A light projection gradually becomes visible, its intensity increasing slowly and then fading away and appearing once more, forming a pulsing cycle. The ‘horizon’ is the line of contact between two white images of the shadows of leaves. Rotating at different speeds, the movement of the projections brings to mind the turning of the hands on a clock, while the pulsing light seems to echo the viewer’s breathing.
In ‘Ambience’ (2000), Vodopija’s artistic vocabulary becomes sparser, the viewer’s experience increasingly disorientated. Again, one enters a pitch-black space. As one’s eyes begin to adjust, a constellation of incandescent filaments becomes visible, soundlessly and hypnotically circling above one’s head.
Vodopija’s recent photographic works, ‘Night in the City’ (2001) and ‘Windows’ (2001) focus on views of the interiors of rooms at night. The former comprises two photographs of interiors lit not from within, but from reflections of the cityscape, while ‘Windows’ is a series of 32 photographs of either the lamps or chandeliers that light up private interiors.
In one of her latest works, ‘Filaments Drawing’ (2002), Vodopija returns to drawing but does so through installation. About 80 electric bulbs are placed behind a sheet of red plexiglass, which obscures their basic function by rendering all but the filaments of each bulb invisible. The lines of the filaments – the source of light from the centre of each bulb – together form a delicate, complex structure that Vodopija refers to as ‘a drawing in space’.
Vodopija has won important awards for her works and many of her pieces are in collections, mainly in Croatia. She has had 18 solo shows to date and has participated in over 100 group exhibitions worldwide.
Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts
Mirjana Vodopija was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1963. She trained in graphics at the Art Academy in Zagreb and graduated in 1987. Since 1985 she has staged 18 solo exhibitions to date and has participated in over a hundred group exhibitions worldwide. Her practice is based on a study of the behaviour of light and involves the creation of luminous objects and installations. She has received significant awards for her works and is a member of the Croatian Artists Association. In addition to her artistic practice, Vodopija is engaged in set designing for Croatian Television.
Selected Exhibitions 1995–2002
Exhibition / Installation,
2002 ´In Focus: Homemaker´, SCCA, Zagreb
´Walls and space, 15 international exhibition of drawings´, Rijeka
2001 ´8th International Cairo Biennale´, Cairo,
´3rd Print Triennial Inter–Kontakt-Grafik´, Prague
1999 ´VII Biennale Intergraph Alpe´ – Adria, Udine (Italy)
1998 ´Contemporary Croatian Graphic Art´, toured Budapest, Pecz (Hungary) / Bratislava (Slovakia) / New Delhi (India) / Ankara, Istanbul (Turkey) / Beijing, Qingdao (China) / Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) / Bucharest, Ploiesti (Romania) / Tehran (Iran) / Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogykarta, Bandung (Indonesia) / Cairo (Egypt) / Sofia (Bulgaria) / Mainz (Germany)
´Grands et Jeunes d´aujourd´hui´, toured Paris, / Luxembourg / Dubrovnik / Zagreb
1997 ´exchange Zagreb – Venissieux: Martek, Vodopija´, Lyon
´Triennale mondiale d’estampes petit format´, Ville de Chamalieres, Auvergne, France
´Cherchez la Femme´, Hungary, Szombathely Keptar
´New Croatian Art´, toured Santiago Chile / Valdivia (Chile) / Sao Paulo
1996 ´Contemporary Croatian Drawing´, toured Beijing, (China) / Rijeka (Croatia) / Ljubljana (Slovenia) / Lisbon / New Delhi / Paris
´Natura Naturan´, Trieste
´Natura Mortua´ - 5. International Triennial Ecology and Art, Maribor (Slovenia)
1995 ´Trace di grafica croata´, Torre Pellice (Italy)
´Mediascape 3 - "Turbulence of Transition" - International symposium for arts, media and culture´, Zagreb
´Checkpoint´ annual exhibition SCCA Zagreb, Zagreb
Biennial of Young Artists, Rijeka
2001 Prague, 3rd International Triennial of Graphic Arts, 1st Prize
2000 Zagreb, Annual Croatian Artists Association Award for Young Artist
1999 Zagreb, 2nd Croatian Triennial of Drawings, National University Library Award
1997 Zagreb, 1st Croatian Triennial of Graphic Art, Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences, Graphic Art Department Award
1988 Rijeka, 11th International Exhibition of Original Drawings, Promotional Fond for Fine Arts Award
1987 Sombor, 9th Triennial of Contemporary Yugoslav Drawing, Purchase Award
2002 ´Connections´, one-month residency project, Tamarind Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico, SAD
1997 ´exchange Zagreb – Venissieux´, one month residency project, Ville de Venissieux, France
This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.
(01 April 01 - 31 August 01)