The Mimara Museum, Zagreb - The Passion of the Christ and Resurrection, March 16-29, 2013.

CROATIAN VISUAL ARTISTS, PASSIONISM – ROME

(the exhibition of the sculptor Zlatko Čular and the painter Maja Dolenčić-Malešević in ¨the Croatian Louvre¨, the Mimara Museum, on the theme of The Passion of the Christ and Resurrection, March 16-29, 2013)

by Bogdan Malešević (Croatian author from Zagreb, the son of the painter Maja Dolenčić-Malešević)

From the beginning of the bloody years for Croatia's freedom in 1991, the festivities of the so called Passion Heritage have been held in the metropolis of Zagreb. Ten days before Easter different cultural events, such as exhibitions, concerts, traditional local melodies, performances, recitals, receiving awards and round table discussions have been held. What all these events have in common is that they all carry the christological and passion mystery in themselves-the Mystery of the Passion and Resurrection.

The 22nd Passion Heritage will be held from March 16-27, 2013. It will be rich, one Gesammkunstwerk, the expression of central theme through the arts. From the very beginning these events were organised by the Passion Heritage society. There are artists, priests, and professors in it with Master of Arts Jozo Čikeš as art administrator. The organisers are not satisfied only with events and performances. In the last few years a series of thick volumes of scientific research has been published, The Passion as an inexhaustible inspiration of culture, which are the fruits of scientific symposiums held in different geographical localities not only in Croatia but also as the Croatian passion genius, for example in Boka kotorska or in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is evident that the basic phenomenon of culture associated to the basic Christian mystery is being discussed. I am writing this text after yesterday's opening of the 22nd celebration of Passion Heritage held in ¨the Croatian Louvre¨ the Mimara Museum in the luxurious decor with talks of the city and governmental representatives with the performance of Kajkavian Passion according to John (the passional of Northern Croatia in 1683) by the ensemble Collegium pro musica sacra and the opening of the exhibition of Death and Resurrection of Christ. The works of one sculptor and one painter from the Zagreb Šalata are presented (from the art colony in the city centre), the sculptor Zlatko Čular and the painter Maja Dolenčić-Malešević whose artistic expression of christological and mariological mystery has been conjured up by academician Tonko Maroević.

Maroević notices that two established Croatian visual artists, authors exhibit at this year's exhibition. They are longtime authors dealing with human figure and spiritual dimension of existence where both disciplines, sculpture and painting complement each other. The catalogue of the exhibition has been produced with Čular's part in black like The Passion, and Maja's white-grey as the Life of Christ. Maroević writes that sculptor Čular grasps the subject of Crucifixion from the personal perspective of long-standing dealing with human suffering, drama of corporality and ecstasy of dying which characterize the Croatian sculpture from master-teacher like Vanja Radauš to the colleague Valerij Michieli from Šalata. ¨Having decided to present the Crucified Christ int he whiteness, cleanliness and detachment of gypsum or plaster, he added to the image the qualities that place him above ordinariness and narration.¨ Such lined with paper plaster in Čular's use has harshness and directness of enformelistic surface and modeling itself is far from pronounced voluminosity or descriptiveness of the corpus. The sculptor does not aim for imitation but suggestion and this is his experience of The Passion which differs from sculptures made by order as now the Pieta for the top of mount Srđ above Dubrovnik.

In pastels of Maja Dolenčić-Malešević Maroević recognizes special empathx, sympathy, some Franciscan humility and sensitivity that characterize the painter's world from the very beginnings through the cycle of Angels in 2000 to this christological pastel cycle.

Writing this article as an author (I am also the author of works that carry the passion Croatian mark whose ¨ecumenical-passion¨ novel Two Witnesses translated into German, was honoured by the letter of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I) and the son of the mentioned painter who lives on Šalata in the circle of artistic studios. They are on the ground which Zagreb Archbishop Antun Bauer donated to the Croatian artists about a hundred years ago. My late father, the painter Duško Malešević also supported this community.

After this special exhibition at the Mimara Museum (ontologically distinctive for Croatian nation and art) my mother and I will go on a pilgrimage to Rome on the occasion of the Year of Faith carrying one cycle of her works, some of which we will donate.

As a long-standing reader of Inside the Vatican I must mention some of these facts because it seems to me that they are in a special way associated with the inner drama of Rome. I believe my novel Roman diary, which I wrote during my studies in 1994, will soon be translated into Italian.

Knowing Rome well as a symbol of faith and art and in a special way this sympathy is also seen in the pastel of my mother in 2000, Angels above Rome or Angels above Vatican which are on the title page of the pocket edition about my mother's painting in Italian. This pastel can be acquired in some bookshops in Rome and all over Italy.

Personal human, religious and artistic destiny of our family and the community of the artists from Šalata (whose religious works decorate many churches and church spaces in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and further) is obviously in many ways associated with Rome even if we visit Vatican museums and carry ontological artistic expression of the Croatian genius, passion and ecumenical, with regard to Europe, East and West.

My mother is the author of the portrait of God's Servant Ana-Marija Marović the painting which hangs in the bishop's chapel in Kotor in Monte Negro. She is also the author of the portrait of God's Servant Croatian Ursuline Mother Claudia whose evaluation takes place in Rome and who devoted her life for the conversion of Russia, and the author of The Way of the Cross in the enamel technique in the seminary church on Šalata.

Zlatko Čular is the author of a great sculpture of John Paul II in the Croatian National Shrine in Marija Bistrica, and our neighbour the sculptor Josip Poljan the author of the sculpture of Cardinal Stepinac in Krašić.

Nowadays all these not only represent our Christian tradition or ¨works by order¨ but the ripe synthesis of the religious and artistic at the time when all of them already have their monographs and their opus is studied.

Last month I suggested my mother Zurbaran's exposition of Saint Alphons Rodriguez stigmatization, one special passionism where Jesus and Mary from heaven stab with Their Hearts the hearts of saints.

This idea motivated my mother to express her own experience of our everyday prayer to Two Hearts and our friendship with Jesuits.
I can't forget my mother's enthusiasm for Botticelli when she visited Firence as a young artist. When I was in Rome I experienced in a special way the carisma of Passionist Saint Gabriel, blessed Lorenzo Salvi etc.
According to my opinion the special religious-artistic spiritual dialogue between Zagreb and Rome is felt deeply. We visit Rome by boat, across the sea, from Loreto where Juraj Ivanić, the Croatian pilgrim whose viscera was cut by pirates and who died in front of the Mother of God…

Translated from Croatian by Boža Rabo.


Maja Dolenčić-Malešević (author) with art historian Mr. Darko Šnajder in the background.


Acedemicians Mr. Josip Bratulić and Mr. Tonko Maroević at the exhibition opening.


Acedemician Mr. Tonko Maroević opens the exhibition.


Collegium pro musica sacra preformes Passion of the Christ.


Collegium pro musica sacra preformes Passion of the Christ.


Maja's pastel paintings.


Čular's sculptures.


Visitors.