Category Archives: English

Old University Library

Pročitaj na hrvatskom.

I love the old libraries. There are a few of these in the very center of Zagreb, my hometown. Back in the days while we were students we used to go to one of them. During our exam periods, we would spend days there studying for our tests. At some point, it was also possible to study in the Old University Library. As my parents were telling me ever since I was a child, you could study there reading in the light of your own secession lamp. My parents were also telling me stories about the big owls that are decorating the library’s roof. And also, a lot about its secession interior and how its architect, Rudolf Lubinsky, was truly great. Today, the library serves as The State Archives, and you can visit it only by making previous arrangements. Or you can wait for some kind of event to be taking place in that building. There is this annual manifestation in Zagreb, a day in which you can visit all the museums for free. Over the years, this library was my primary target of many such visits. And I must say, my parents were right. Its interior is really magical. Even by day, but especially by night because the lights create so many contrasts.   

It was during one of my visits to this building that I’ve seen an inspiring scene. This visit took place during one of these Zagreb’s annual events. After that year, they turned the manifestation into a digital thing because of the pandemic. First, I did the preparatory drawing. I used to call these sketches, but they are more like studies. This time, I was working on the drawing even longer than usual. I was changing it a lot and altering many details. But some other circumstances of the pandemic also contributed to my prolonged drawing.

However, I’ve changed my process a bit. Usually, I would decide in advance which parts of the linoleum block would stay uncarved and would be printed black, and which ones I would carve out and let them stay white on the print. This would all be resolved in my preparatory drawings. This time, the drawing stayed in pencil. And I was deciding about which parts will be black and which white during the actual carving. That made the carving process even more exciting. But it was also longer…I spent a lot of time checking how the block would look when printed. I was checking it using the frottages much like the ones below.

I based my decisions on whether a certain part of the linocut will be carved or not on a question: Is that part representing light or shadow? But I also decided to make some parts look like a negative of the picture. So the areas that are in the light I’ve shown as black and vice versa. 

This time I used Armstrong’s battleship linoleum. When making the last two linocuts, I used some kind of substitute material. At that time, I couldn’t get a hold of my beloved battleship. Luckily, the people from the art supply store where I usually buy it managed to find another roll on the top of some shelf in their warehouse. Armstrong’s battleship linoleum is more difficult to carve, but I love it all the same. 

Here are some phases of the carving. I loved the elegant rhythm that the chairs and lamps create. I also loved the curtain at the entrance in the great hall that reminds me of the ones they have in theaters. And above the entrance and the curtain, there is a painting by Croatian painter Mirko Rački. I read in schoolbook by my late university professor Radovan Ivančević that this was one of the first renderings of an aviator ever. In this painting, as it is written in the same book, there is also a symbol of medicine- a doctor with a skeleton looming behind him.

There are two more doors in the big reading room. The big one at the front is closed, and a small one, in the distance, is open.

People in the scene: an elderly gentleman (who has very nice shoes) that does his research in the light of his secession lamp. And a young couple in the background that is faced towards the exit.  

The carved block.

First inking for a test print.

The finished linocut and my favorite details: the aviator and the secession lamp. Here it is, The Old University Library and the romanticism of a bygone era.

If you wish to buy this linocut, you can get it here.

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Original text translated by Slavica Nuić. Pročitaj na hrvatskom.

Having moved to a new flat, it was time to get down to the business of gathering up old furniture, refurbishing it and giving it a fresh coat of paint. My first concern, by all means, were the chairs so that my jolly guests could have something to sit on. Luckily, old chairs, at least the plain wooden ones, were not hard to find, but finding one which was not wobbly was an entirely different matter. Be that as it may, working out a remedy for rickety chairs was put off for the time being. The turning point was a sign that caught my eye at some young designers’ exhibition. It said “The chairs are for display purposes only. Please do not sit on them as they may collapse.” Realizing that a similar sign would come in handy on my dining room wall, we fixed the loose joints to prevent things from going awry.

This whole matter of my rough-and-ready job of fixing chairs had only added to my surprise upon visiting The Museum of Second AVNOJ Session in Jajce. The central hall used to be the place where Yugoslavia drew its first breath. Several rows of dilapidated chairs of all sorts (which once accommodated Yugoslavia’s founding fathers), harked back to the early days of my flat redecoration. Nonetheless, they still had their allure as the light pouring from the back door created shadows that made the chairs look as if dissolved and entangled in an intricate web, creating thus a peculiar scene of the pivotal historic event.

Unfortunately, historical facts are not my strong suit, so I asked the ones known as historically savvy to help me out. At the first mention of these chairs, Luka, the historian, pointed out that it was not without reason that these chairs were so shabby as there was a backstory to it. In his words, many historians have concurred that Jajce had witnessed the complete affirmation of the cult of personality that had been created around Tito. Judging by the original photographs, both the presiding and the delegates were seated on plain wooden chairs while Tito was comfortable in his armchair. Moreover, a couple of days prior to the meeting, Tito had posed for his bust by Antun Augustinčić, which was soon displayed in the meeting room.

For me, my deep fascination with the chairs, deprived of any ideological overtone, in this way made the emptiness of the room even more striking; the room where, as Luka has taught me, once Yugoslavia had been formed and Tito had become its marshal, resolutions had been sustained by general acclamation.

In the process of sketching out the chairs, the first step was capturing the curious rhythm and interplay of shadows through a rhythmical interchange of black and white surfaces.

The process of carving…

And a bit more of carving…

The test print was printed in black, but there was no intent to keep it that way…

This linocut was supposed to be in colour. Since there were some areas of diluted Indian ink on the sketch as well, I first started with tone combinations.

The next step was increasing the number of potential colour combinations, so I detached the top part of the block with a gauge to make the process of applying colour easier.

Ovaj vrtuljak zahtijeva JavaScript

A new variation…

The first step in the process of making this variation was printing the background in yellow, and the next steps were applying the ink separately on every part of the key block.

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And the last variation, which was printed in the same way, combines the positive with negative. Just like my chairs mixed with their shadows.

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Filed under art in process, English, linocut, printmaking