Duje Medić / Mother Mountain + Parisian studies
From one drawing to another, from one series to another, Duje Medić is shifting to an artist who is increasingly intriguing and delighting. Many contemporary painters succeed in fixing our views for their works, but rare are those whose graphite dust shows poetry and prose and all the drama of some time, some being. What are stories without sound, color or smell? Mute, with all the shades of gray, with washed out aromas. Well, they are not …
Medić is an illustrator and narrator of memory, nostalgia, homeland … A great fan of the material and immaterial folk treasures, a young erudite who constantly learns and conveys, shares, recites, preserves and reinterprets. Using the pencil, he adds depths into thin layers on paper. When they become dense, darker than the night ruled by Šorko, the local Brela devil, governs, they are transformed into heavy, monolithic and three-dimensional sculptures threatening in silence. The evil spirit displayed by the artist as a wine bladder made from goatskin, although having a lovable name, caused several deaths, according to stories from Duje’s native Brela. In order to overcome Šorko’s curse, the one who met him below the mountain at night had to stay silent for at least seven days. Although they knew it, some unfortunate people could not keep their mouth shut becuase of the shock, and they would suddenly disappear into the night, forever.
Another long, empty night became the tomb of innocent souls of young men from the Upper Brela villages from which they were abducted and taken to the womb of the mountain during World War II, where they were judged only because they existed. One mother, a story says, found her son dead and carried him on her shoulders over the mountain to their house and buried him in the grave of another man, to eventually bury him with dignity in the family at the end of the war. To honor this profound sorrow, Duje has built a chrysanthemum, so meaty and sad that it looks like stone, a chrysanthemum that is reaching heavens, our only goal. Petar Gudelj, the greatest unknown Croatian poet, whom Duje admires, wrote these verses on a similar theme:
„Oko tvojih starohrvatskih mrtvih,
oko njihovih kostiju na visokoj breljanskoj stijeni,
Lastavice ili su njihove duše.“
“Around your ancient Croatian dead,
Around their bones on the high rock of Brela,
Swallows, or their souls.”
How photographically precise was Duje while drawing them… So strong, fragile and monumental, they produce unusual vibrations in our senses. The bones that turn to dust, become dust, but it is not just dust that remains. These are the remnants of the righteous ones who will be united with souls in flight on the Day of Judgment. In stories and legends about heritage, Medić does not miss saying something about the impressive Servant of God, Bishop Nikola Bijanković (1645-1730), who was greatly celebrated and respected in Brela, Makarska Riviera and surrounding places all the way to Herzegovina. The local population mentioned him as a deity, a holy man through whom God’s supernatural acts are realized; they approached him in trouble and prayed for God’s help. Many were kneeling and leaning on his grave in prayer, hoping for his intercession, bringing their clothes or some other objects seeking his blessing. Many prayers were heard and this way, Nikola continued the struggle for the salvation of souls that he began during his life. Although the respect and call of his name diminished, it never ceased. People like Bijanković are a model and a warning. Intimately tied to his character and work, Duje Medić portrays Bijanković as a completely unexpected motif of a skull with a richly decorated miter and beard. Duje’s fascination with the work of American artist Laurie Lipton got its material version in this drawing of Deot in 2018. With this drawing, soaked with filigree art, Duje Medić set the bar even higher and managed to overcome his own record of industriousness and excellence.
And in the exhibited drawings of Sea Sand, Preacher, Ordinance, People, Bench, Family, there are many other stories that are kept by the Biokovo – Mother Mountain, the one that menacingly rises over Brela and the surrounding villages. Strašna Kosa (Scary Hair) is the name of its protrusion. The villagers had always been afraid of this horrible bump that threatened their village constantly, and Medić painted it as a demonically distorted face. The cracked face of that undercover murderer is facing the terrified observer for the first time.
The traces of Duje’s pencils with age becomes more stable. Cobweb-like and soft creations are present but do not prevail. Duje is one of the few pencil masters who use this fragile tool to create three-dimensional, sculptural characters. Now, when they make such a clear and unambiguous statement of their stories, Medić can be classified into a new generation of story tellers. Is it true, is it historically grounded, is it verified …? Who would still care, as long as their minds and souls are reached by the stories of mountains that occupy the whole being by offering oblivion of worries and pain? Duji’s Brela story is a new return to the old world that we are consciously or unconsciously tied to.
In addition to the cycle of Brela stories, Duje Medić is also presenting in Salon Galić his peculiar “Parisian studies”, a cycle that Duje started in Paris in 2016, during his stay at the Cité des Arts residence. Going to the Louvre and one of the most interesting Parisian museums Quai Branly (devoted to non-European cultures), Medić was thrilled with the different portraits of ritual masks of African tribes, their deities and idols of ancient civilizations. He then painted in his sketchbook, on small prints with only 10 x 14 cm: the most varied masks built on gray tones on a white background. He masterfully “carved” them to the last detail, so it is no wonder that it seems that they can be separated from the background and put over the face as an object with three dimensions. Medić’s cycle continued to grow even after leaving Paris. Returning once and again to photos taken during the residency, Duje has developed a cycle of miniature drawings that has reached thirty works, but a total of 20 works would be exhibited at the Split exhibition.
What links these two cycles is that they are deeply rooted in tradition, Duje’s constant incentive. Nothing can do so much to persuade him to repeatedly challenge his drawing skills, as can motives related to tradition. Duje’s masks are horrifying, humorous, sometimes deeply triggering, and sometimes ironical. The visual design of these archetypal masks influenced the expression of Duje’s drawings after his “Parisian discovery”. Henry Focillon’s thoughts on how the work of art is immersed in the changeability of time and belonging to eternity, and how it specifically, locally, individually and universally, interpret the seemingly fragile relationship of masks and idols of primitive civilizations with the old folk tales of Brela.
Duje Medić, from Brela, was born in 1986 in Makarska. In 2010 he graduated from the graphic department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, in the class of prof. Nevenka Arbanas. He is a member of HZSU. He has participated in eighteen solo and more group exhibitions in Croatia and abroad. He is the author of one graphic folder. Aside from drawing, he also does multimedia works and graphic design.