In this post I will mainly be talking about The Croatian Association of Naive Artists, however I will briefly mention the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb as I feel they both encompass the same spirit of the need to create art and the catharsis that it provides.
Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting the Mirko Virius Gallery in Zagreb, Croatia. The artist’s exhibited at the gallery are all Naive Artists, in the sense that they have had little or no formal artistic training. They also adopt their own creative style which is normally characterised by its childlike or ‘naive’ quality. Proportion and more importantly, realism is not the focus of these works, yet the simplicity and imagination of these works somehow presents a truer reality.
Sometimes formal training can remove the wonder and true creativity of the practitioner, or it can insert certain ideas and concepts into the artist’s mind and force their hand into a certain discipline or style.Whilst it is great and necessary to learn about what has come before, sometimes creativity needs to come from deep within the artist, without any restraints.
The gallery is named after Mirko Virius, a peasant and self-taught painter who became a forerunner of Croatian Naive Art after participating in the First Exhibition of Peasant Painters. Despite only being an active painter for three years (1936-1939), his paintings captured the politics behind social themes in paintings such as The Beggar, The Plowing and The Overturned Cart. Virius was arrested during World War II due to his political activities and taken to a Nazi concentration camp in Zemun, Serbia, where he died in 1943. His tragic fate was immortalised by his friend Generalić, who painted The Death of Virius, one of his most famous paintings.With these events you can begin to see just how important a role naive art has played in Croatian history.
I feel more of an affinity myself towards Naive Art, or Outsider Art, in the sense that even though I have an arts education background I do not feel that connected to the mainstream art world. I create work purely because I cannot imagine not doing so and I create work primarily for myself.
This leads me on nicely to the Museum of Broken Relationships. A museum in Zagreb dedicated to the trinkets and mementos left behind after a relationship fails or ends. The catharsis involved with celebrating and displaying failure instead of so-called success (there’s a whole day dedicated to couples, Valentines Day, and nothing for people to celebrate being in a fabulous relationship with themselves!) is similar for me to the catharsis that comes from naive art, where the work is the most important thing, not wether they learnt under a certain master painter or are represented by a top end gallery.
This is an image of one of my favourite exhibits. The couple were attempting a long distance relationship and each time one travelled to visit the other they cut off a leg of the caterpillar. As you can see they didn’t make it through all of the legs, but the hope that they imbued within this object is incredibly powerful.
I am also including a link to a good friend of mine’s blog. Clare Brown is currently living in Split, Croatia (I’m not jealous at all…..) and has written a piece about her visit to the Croatian Museum of Naive Art (which is just up the road from the Mirko Virius Gallery).