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Zlatko Keser is an artist of imaginative scenes in which figural and organic associations are shot through with free chromatic fields and signs. His work is marked by an infantile style and a cultivated colourist material of uncommon and fierce contrasts. In cycles of drawings, often of erotic contents, he is close to Surrealism and Art Brut. He does luxuriant oils, obstreperous collages, frenetic drawings, varicoloured ceramics and practises an idiosyncratic style of fresco painting.

Zlatko Keser, with his boisterous vigour, wild and unstoppable temperament, lays down on the surface of the canvas great sequences and nexuses of signs, symbols and icons of all the religions, the magic and myths of humanity, defined by their very selves. His Faces are thoughts and feelings that seethe, that spatter in the body of the painting at a temperature of more than 40 degrees and that in their explosive desperation, the chaos and the vortex, convulsively raise the questions about the unutterable and undepictable source of heaven and earth, the comprehensive truth of a single and unique battle.

In his Diary with Line 1987-1997, Zlatko Keser wrote: “I quest for the world of authentic experience, not for the world of childhood that is sometimes foisted upon me”. Ten years earlier, in the same Diary we can find this record: “Brutality – that is artistic truth, for it is direct and pure like a thunderbolt strike”. For Keser painting is the extreme truth that expands outwards in all directions, on canvas, on paper and in the spirit of the painter who does not cease to raise metaphysical questions. Keser writes in his notes: “Why the big format? Because then the painting hurtles down on the observer, offering the most intimate thing. Real intimist painting is large in size. There can hardly be anything aforethought in it, because it would be seen at once”. Keser has never changed his approach to painting or to paint, mixing very seldom, and asserting that “the greatest art is not to lose the primary by technical touching up”. His new painting will once again be metaphysical painting, and always breaking out of his works, from 2010 to 2017 as well, is angst, and always present is his obsessive search and lust for, as Zdenko Rus once wrote, the missing or impossible presence of the absent ur-beginning.

Jasmina Bavoljak

The Reality of the Unreal

Where do they come from, those lines and colours that well up in Keser’s paintings? This question opens the work of Zlatko Keser up to those mysterious spaces from which, if we can so express ourselves, the diverse forms come into view. When we say that they come into view, it necessarily implies that they existed even before the painter visualised them in the material fact of the work: in line, in colour, in form. Even before their existence in the actual material, Keser’s forms existed outside, above and beyond actual material, in another, a different, reality, in unsubstantial reality, in the metaphysical, that is, the irrational. We might here add in with respect to Keser’s painterly procedure the claim of Henri Focillon: “Just as every substance has its formal vocation, so every form has its substantial vocation, inscribed already into its internal life”. Our quest, then, as the

painter’s work convinces us, is taking the right direction in responding to Keser’s art by referring to the fact that it too has its own “internal life”, its spiritual reality, and that precisely this fact is a structural component of his art and the wellspring of it in which we have to look for its point, creative motivations and challenges. And so we invoked the claim of the French theorist in order to confirm our quest in the proper conclusion that “every form” that we read off in Keser’s paintings has its own “substantial vocation”. Indeed, if we follow up Focillon’s thesis, then we can conclude that Keser even earlier directed and “inscribed” form into that mysterious space of the human being that the theorist delineates with the phrase “internal life”. From all this it is clear that Keser is not a painter who with exceptional art describes objective reality and builds up the narrative component of his idiom. On the contrary, in the process of reduction, he eliminates the descriptive. Clearly, however, he does not dispense with its point of origin, but glances off it associatively and with symbolic connotations deepens his own expression of the

elementariness of visual substance – paint. It is with paint – pigment, colour – that Keser frames the “internal life” and, as the theorist teaches us “in the abstract creates the concrete, in the weightless, something that has mass”. The painter too must surely point us to the judgement that with his work he shapes the “internal life”, for he explicitly expresses it with the names of the paintings, like, for example Head – Simultaneous Contrast, Anxiety – Transformation of the Disturbed Mind, Hole, and so on. In spite of the fact, as we have mentioned, that by the process of reduction the painter diminishes the narrative component, its clear outlines condense in marvellous forms the powerful upwelling of lines and colours from the infinitude of his own being. Henry Read says “the human face represents just a parchment on which the internal experiences have written certain signs”. And these “internal experiences” are the same ebullient, dynamic and mysterious forces that drive Keser’s creative process in which he inscribes them on the parchment, in the materiality of colour, with his substantial personal style of a powerful and unique visual expressiveness.

Milan Bešlić

Academician Zlatko Keser was born in Zagreb on January 23, 1942. In 1967 he took a degree in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, class of Oton Postružnik.

From 1967 to 1969 he did a graduate course and earned his MFA. From 1971 to 1975 he was an associate of the master workshop of Krsto Hegedušić. In 1982, he became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 2004 he became a full member of the Department for Fine Arts of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts. In 2014, he became emeritus professor of the Academy of Fine Arts. In 2016, he was given the Vladimir Nazor Lifetime Achievement Prize. His active interests include prints and wall painting, book illustration and stained glass, and he has worked in the fresco technique (on frescos in public spaces in Koprivnica and Zagreb).

The exhibition is open evry day till 3. march 2018., from 10.00 am to 17.00 pm. The entrance is free for all visitors.

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