Alma Božanić Čače:

Island as a Symbol of the Artist's Quest for Self-Discovery

© Alma Božanić Čače photographed by Žaklina Antonijević

 

"Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated."

- Auguste Rodin

    © Alma Božanić Čače: The rocks of Vis Island, south Dalmatia. Source: @alma_art

"A return to the source"-this is how I would describe the discovery of the Croatian contemporary artist Alma Božanić Čače, living and working in Split, southern Croatia.  Alma's carefree and warm approach brought me immediately to my homeland, and her inspiration from the imposing rocks of Vis, one of the last remaining hidden treasures of the southern Adriatic Sea, intrigued me to learn more about her artistic expression. Alma describes her work as abstract expressionism, a style that implies a personal expression of a deeper emotional and subconscious state.

 

The island of Vis, Alma's birthplace, is a symbol of the starting and ending point of her artistic discovery, the return to innocence, to the essence of life, a symbol of force, protection, and truth. The overall work of Alma Božanić Čače is directed towards simplicity and the removal of any unnecessary outside influence and clutter. In the same manner, as Zao Wou-Ki, one of the greatest modern Chinese masters, who argued that the paint brushes serve to isolate things from chaos, Alma uses the extravagant hand-made brushes of dry plants, palm leaves, and wooden sticks, to portray her unique, purified interpretation of nature. The use of tick brushes allows the application of unaltered, broad strokes, common to painters of abstract expressionism. "I love to experiment with traces, different applications, and different ways of absorption," Alma adds. 

© Alma Božanić Čače: natural paint brushes from wood, dried leaves and plants 

© Alma Božanić Čače: Alma during a performance in the Vitturi Gallery, Museum of Kastela in Dalmatia, South Croatia, 2023

© Alma Božanić Čače: natural brushes with india ink

I was curious to understand where Alma's interest for painting came from, especially keeping in mind that she was growing up on a remote island that was the major maritime arm base during Tito's Yugoslavia, and completely closed to foreigners until 1989. "I was 10 years old when my father's cousin, a surrealist painter who lived in Peru, came to our town Komiža with a bunch of rolled canvases and held an exposition. I was completely fascinated by the painting of Venus laying down and looking in a mirror. He also painted my portrait.  I remember asking myself how could one create such a thing, produce such a strong effect, and I knew from that moment that I wanted to do the same," Alma explains.

© Alma Božanić Čače: Komiža, watercolor, 15x21 cm, 1999

As a daughter of a shipwright, Alma adopted from an early age an admiration for wood. She would often create compositions of painted driftwood and frame them, or paint directly with oil paint on wood. Nature is, for Alma, up to this day a source of endless possibilities, a sort of life teacher that communicates emotions, principles, and messages to humans. This romantic impulse to embody nature, rather than to illustrate it, is an idea present in the work of abstract expressionists such as Edward Dugmore, or William Blake, whose own ambition was to render the contemplation of nature as a transformative experience. It is not surprising that one of her absolute favorite artists is Hiroshi Senju, one of the few contemporary masters of nihonga, a Japanese school of painting based on traditional materials and styles.

© Alma Božanić Čače: A Midsummer Night's Dream, oil paint on wood, 220x100 cm, 2013

Alma's recent series, called Metabolism, exposed recently in the KVART gallery in Split is probably the most mature work so far, where she manages to leave a strong impression with her, now recognizable, signature technique. The name for this series was given by the Croatian art historian Vanda Franičević, who wrote the text for the following exhibition. "The term Metabolism is used to describe a never-ending cycle, an ongoing process of sedimentation of the limestone rocks, a multi-level cycle of regeneration, so similar to human metabolism", explains Alma.

 

There is an interesting contrast between the straightforward composition and the complexity of the technique and materials used in this series, such as acrylic, canvas, collage, ink, paper, retex, or transparent foil. With Pink Metabolism exposed in the KVART gallery, among collages and drawings on paper in a smaller format, Alma made a step forward in her technique, by experimenting with acrylic on canvas.

© Alma Božanić Čače: Pink Metabolism, black and pink acrylic on canvas, 2020

© Alma Božanić Čače: collage on cardboard, 2021

© Alma Božanić Čače: collage on cardboard, 27x27 cm, 2021

© Alma Božanić Čače: collage on cardboard, 27x27 cm, 2022

 

Alma has found a stronghold for Metabolism in the calligraphy technique, which helps in mastering linear movements, especially in ink paintings. The process of recycling is another typical element of her work. "Since 2018 I am recycling papers that I use as markings, to isolate parts of the painting that need to remain clean. My desk is a huge pile of different sorts of papers (laugh). I use them for my collages," Alma explains. Experimenting with different types of paper to test the absorption of the color is an important element of Alma's work. She uses rice paper or Washi, an absorbent type of paper called Bugačica (in Croatian), used in restoration, Fabriano paper, Munken paper-for smaller formats with ink wash, or simple newspaper mounted on canvas.

© Alma Božanić Čače: from the Metabolism series, acrylic on retex, Vitturi gallery, 2023

© Alma Božanić Čače: Metabolism installation with retex material, 2023

Alma prepares each of her exhibitions separately, in a way to adapt to the gallery space. For the purpose of her exhibition in the Museum of the City of Kaštela (Vitturi), a large Renaissance space, she created a specific installation with retex materials. "Retex helped me to see the drawings on a large format, transparency helped me to see the back layers - and this is something that I assumed would work as gently as paper," she explains. The retex installations were also part of a group exhibition 6STart, held in the spaces of Alliance Française (The French Alliance)in Marmontova Street in Split. After this exhibition, Alma's interest will shift towards researching the effects of ink wash on different types of natural surfaces.

 

Alma is a team player, she loves creating within an artistic collective which allows expanding and investigating new ways of expression. One of her upcoming collaborative projects will be focused on the subject of intuition. When I asked her what would be her favorite piece of art so far, she replied: "I consider every work that presents a step towards something new a favorite one". Alma pointed out one specific work from the Metabolism series where she experimented with pink color, a step outside her color palette, which required work on moderation in the use of applied techniques. 

© Alma Božanić Čače: METABOLISM series, ink on canvas, 2022

As a supervisory board member of the HULU association in Split (Croatian Association of Fine Artists) and a creator of art workshops for children and adults in the Cultural center Zlatna Vrata in Split, Alma is aware of the necessity for joint actions to conduct change within the current inert and restricted social scene in Split. "I think that it is way more interesting and powerful to connect with other artists, through collective exhibitions and projects, that will allow us to spread consciousness among children primarily, and then adults, about art and how to perceive and consume art. I wish that we could break this barrier of fear of emotional experiences that keeps people away from art. People are turned towards materialistic things and I don't think that they truly understand the meaning of art". 

 

With this meaningful aspiration, we could just wish Alma the best of luck in expanding her barriers and finding new ways of collective action!

© Alma Božanić Čače:  Metabolism series, acrylic on canvas, 150x120 cm, 2022

More about the artist: 

Official website: www.almacace-art.hr

Instagram: @alma___art

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Comments

malik
a month ago

Alma, vrlo zanimljivo posebno što sam Te navikao "gledati" kroz male formate... Čestitam...

Jadranka Matkovic
2 months ago

Super su vam slike

Nikola
2 months ago

Alma this is very impressive. Thank you for sharing. Nikola

Daniela Cikatić Javorčić
3 months ago

I really like Alma's art because it is authentic and emotional. It gives us an experience of nature and allows us to feel the material which has become rare and therefore precious in today's virtual world. Good luck, Alma!

Lada
3 months ago

Absolute perfection on so many levels, especially for those who are familiar with island of Vis and it’s rock formations.. Alma has captured the soul of it. Her artwork is brimming with emotions. It is a powerful ode to ever changing beauty of coastal nature, and of her ancestors. Beautiful 🌊💙

Edita
3 months ago

Bravo Alma,predivno,ponosni na tebe👏👏👏

Ivana Gabričević
3 months ago

Emotionally charged, originally, I like it.

Branimir
3 months ago

My dear Alma,your art deepens perspective of life and at the same time soothes mind in some nostagic plot twist.. ❤️

Karin Grenc
3 months ago

Fascinating!
Live, strong, poetic painting. I love it