Mak Melcher:

Exploring the Relation between Space and Form

© Mak Melcher. Mak in his showroom/studio in Zagreb. Photo: Maja Bosnić

"Don't ask what the work is. Rather, see what the work does."

-Eva Hesse 

During my stay in Zagreb, I had a chance to meet Mak Melcher, a multi-award-winning Croatian sculptor of the younger generation, and professor at his former School of Applied Arts and Design in Zagreb, that he also graduated from in 2003, in the department of Ceramics. During his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Mak worked as an assistant to the sculptor Marija Ujević. In 2008, he graduated from the Sculpture Department in the class of Professor Miro Vuco. He has honed his craft working at the Ujević Art Foundry as a wax retoucher, collaborating with conservator-restorers in the Hedom company on the restoration of Upper Town façades in Zagreb, and to this day working as an assistant to the sculptor Dalibor Stošić.


During July and August 2019 Mak participated in the artistic residency Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. Up to this day, he has held 10 solo-exhibitions and participated in more than 30 group ones. He has also obtained several awards, including “Iva Vraneković” Award - Artist to Artist (2016), 3rd prize of the 32nd Youth Salon (2014), and an equivalent acquisition prize in the competition for the monument to Croatian defenders in Beli Manastir (2011). Mak is also a member of the Croatian Association of Visual Artists (HDLU) since 2009.

© Mak Melcher. Mak in his showroom/studio in Zagreb. Photo: Maja Bosnić

Our rendez-vous took place in the Botaničar café, a relaxed and somehow chic bar in central Zagreb. As soon as Mak entered the place, I realized that we were about to have a relaxed, unpretentious talk about art, with no strict direction. I was most of all curious to understand Mak's path towards art, keeping in mind that he grew up in an artistic family, as a son of the painter Zlatko Melcher. "I was born in Mostar in 1983, (Bosnia and Hercegovina) and lived there until the 2nd grade of primary school. It was probably in my father's voluminous atelier in Mostar that I got my first realization about the concept of space," he explains. With the tone of admiration regarding his father's influence, he added: "My father always had this unapologetic approach to his work. It was for sure quite a challenge for him to move from Mostar to Zagreb, and ensure the existence for himself and his family while working as a painter". 


Melcher's staggering clay sculptures show his deep fascination with the relationship between physical forms and their surrounding environment. His creative practice has some similarities with the Process Art movement that aroused in the 1960s and '70s, emphasizing the process and act of artistic creation rather than the actual finished work that comes out of it. Same as its original practitioners like Richard Serra or Lynda Benglis or Bruce Nauman, Melcher's artworks are created in the gallery, based on the initial sketches and the floor plan of the exhibition space. His clay installations disappear once the exhibition is over: they return to their initial state, becoming a material for new sculptures. 

© Mak Melcher. Gallery  Bačva, Zagreb, 2014

© Mak Melcher. Gallery  Bačva, Zagreb, 2014

Another similarity with Process Art in Melcher's work is the way his installations are displayed in space. Rejecting all artistic orthodoxies, his art is not for the pedestal, but rather for the floor, the corner, or, hanging droopily, from the wall. We can observe this in his installations "Atelier08" and "Atelier07": jute cloth draperies with clay, that partially reminds us of the draperies found on the statues of Michelangelo, or, later, of the Baroque saints.

© Mak Melcher. Atelier o8, Gallery Forum, Zagreb,2020

© Mak Melcher: Atelier 07, Radnička Galerija, Zagreb, 2017

Melcher's draperies live a life of their own, as his art, they evolve, setting up the process of disappearance. The muscularity of the work—present in both its laborious creation and then its resistance to the forces of gravity—reads loud and clear. The use of natural elements in their purest form emphasizes the tactile, human quality of Melcher's work. By considering space as a material, Melcher also gives a possibility to the observer to interact with the piece. Working at an overwhelming scale, he forces the observers to consider the way their bodies relate to his sculptures. This is especially visible in his clay installation from 2016, exposed at the PM Gallery in Zagreb, that immediately evoke Richard Serra's majestic steal sculptures from the 1980s.

© Mak Melcher: Gallery PM, Zagreb 2016

Though in admiration of Croatian artists of the younger generation, such as Damir Sobota, Predrag Todorović, or Aleksandar Bezinović, Melcher primarily draw shis inspiration from the world that surrounds him. Rather than talking about a specific artistic path or authors, his arousal comes from life situations, his students, space, and environment. Like Eva Hesse would say: "Life is a total thing. A total person giving a contribution. It is an essence, a soul... In my inner soul, art and life and inseparable". We do feel that Melcher portrays a deeper meaning of life's temporariness in his work, on an intuitive level that requires no precise definition. "I would say that the subject of multiplication is often present in my work, like in the case of my sculptural-ambient installation The Metamorphoses", explains Melcher. 

© Mak Melcher: Gallery Vladimir Bužančić, Zagreb, Metamorfoze,2012

Approximately 600 larvae sculptures scattered around on the floor of the gallery symbolize life, the artist's personal reflection on his journey since the very start, where the old red sofa from his parent's home represents an anchoring element of a beginning, like a reminiscence of a lost childhood. 

© Mak Melcher: Gallery Vladimir Bužančić, Zagreb, Metamorfoze,2012

Melcher's latest paper sculpture "Crumpled objectlessness" (transl. from Croatian "Ugužvana nepredmetnost") shows a certain inclination towards post-minimalism, by the choice of the crumpled paper, that seems unprocessed, becoming a sort of "anti-form". In this sense, the artist's personal attitude of non-conformism and even a critique of a consumerist world becomes a form on its own. 

© Mak Melcher: "Crumpled objectlessness" Gallery Josip Račić, Zagreb, 2023

The sober and sophisticated minimalist nature of "Crumpled objectlessness" brings a certain rest to the senses; the plain, empty installations leave a space for the wandering of thought, for a search for meaning. We could argue that there is even something of the Japanese philosophy of emptiness that could be found in Melcher's work, where the void is not the absence, but an element participating in the unity of the composition. 

© Mak Melcher: "Crumpled objectlessness" Galerija Josip Račić, Zagreb, 2023

As Frank Stella, one of the major figures of the minimalistic movement would say "What you see is What you see", Melcher centers the focus on the efficiency of the form as it is, staying faithful to his artistic aesthetics that highlights the beauty, essence and various purposes of natural elements in art. "When I think of art I think of spirituality, sophistication, lifestyle, and FREEDOM", concludes Melcher. 



More about Mak Melcher: 

Instagram: @makmelcher2056







Add comment


2 months ago

La detente a l infini et se plier au regle de la matiere et de sa gravite etire par la volonte d etre soutenue par Hazard et c est bien comme ca Magique expo Amen ..........

Julieta Tenreiro
2 months ago

When I think of art I think of spirituality, sophistication, lifestyle, and FREEDOM" : everything is said in this quote. His work is the truly incarnation of this. Kudos for the artist.