Reverse Glass Painting

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The Technique

Starting with a clean piece of glass, I begin by signing my name backwards. In reverse. Owning, claiming and dating the work long before the last brush stroke is placed. 

From there each detail is painted in, foreground added before background in accumulating layers - with time allowed between each layer for the paint to dry and the dust to be brushed away. 

Most often I begin each work with a paper sketch which I place under the glass and use as guidance. Colours, patterns and details are never set from the beginning, but evolve over time in an intuitive process that keeps the sense of play, process and adventure alive until the last brush stroke has been blended.

In some of my works the background is never painted in and the piece becomes an on-going conversation between colour, line and shadow.

The Croatian Tradition 

Croatian artists have been working in the "ulje na staklu" (oil on glass) technique since the early 20th century when an academy trained artist-activist, Krsto Hegedušić, visited the village of Hlebine in 1928 and encouraged a few of the villagers to pick up paintbrushes in the winter months and paint 'what they knew.' 

Originally painting on canvas, paper or wood, the grandfather of the Croatian Naive tradition, Ivan Generalić, began painting on glass in the 1930s. Characterised by rural views and scenes of village life, early Croatian Naive paintings are often bleak despite the rich tones, bright colours, and fine detailing that the oil on glass technique allows.

Today, artists no longer focus solely on agrarian themes and the paintings are as varied as the artists themselves.

Croatian Artists Today

Many Croatian Naive painters can trace their artistic development back to the Hlebine school in some way, but very few ever recieved formal training in the technique beyond the basics of putting paint on glass. For this reason, Croatian Naive painters are considered "naive" both in the appearance of their stye and in the sense of being almost entirely self-taught. 

During my time in Zagreb I visited several artists who helped me in developing my own work. Following in the naive tradition I have undertaken no formal training in the technique, but was introduced by one artist to another so that I might develop my own individual technique through observation, trial and a fair amount of error. The process, for me, was complicated further as I was doing it all in a foreign language.

I am particularly indebted to Ivica Fišter, Katarina Krvarić, and Željko Šeleš for their friendship, encouragement and always warm welcomes.

Other artists I met along the way include the legendary Ivan Večenaj and his son Mladan Večenaj, Vladimir Ivančan, and Ivan Andrašić

Want to Know More?

Zagreb offers a selection of galleries and museums that feature the works of Croatian Naive artists. For background start at the Croatian Museum of Naive Art (Hrvatski Muzej Naivne Umjetnosti, HMNU) in Gornji Grad. After a tour of the historical painters, check out more recent paintings in the nearby Gallery Mijo Kovačić, which showcases several paintings by the same artist. For the best collection of works by artists working today, next visit the Mirko Virius Gallery near the Dolac Market, home of the Croatian Association of Naive Artists (Hrvatsko Društvo Naivnih Umjetnika, HDNU) - they display and sell works by their members, while also holding temporary exhibitions throughout the year. And for those who haven't seen enough, visit the Naive Art Gallery (Galerija Hrvatske Naivne Umjetnosti) off Trg Ban Jelačić. As with the Mirko Virius Gallery, you can go in to buy or just to look. 

Planning a Visit to Croatia?

If you are travelling to Croatia and are interested in buying any pieces direct from the artists themselves then you may wish to contact Vladimir Medjimorec. He can arrange studio visits (and provide translation) for those serious about Croatian Naive art. 

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