Stjepan Jukić: Abstract Expressionism with a Mediterranean Touch

© Stjepan Jukić: portrait of the painter. Photo credit: @depulp.lab

"Abstract art is uniquely modern. It is a fundamentally romantic response to modern life - rebellious, individualistic, unconventional, sensitive, irritable."

-Robert Motherwell

A summerlike, Mediterranean kind of inspiration for this month of July comes with Stjepan Jukić, a 34-year-old artist from Klis, a village located in south Croatia, in the region of Dalmatia, approximately 14 km away from the city of Split. Punctuated by the rhythm and landscapes of southern life, Jukić  also known as  "Picasso from Klis", creates in total harmony with his surroundings. Stubbornly Mediterranean, Jukić seductively incorporates the colors of his Dalmatia in paintings of a deep, intimate emotional reveal. His art is dominated by refined, vibrant colors, and simple and striking geometry due to the fusion of color with gesture.  It results from his self-meditation and hope in finding the meaning of eternal existence, with the aim of expressing the "true self" in the tumultuous labyrinth of thoughts and emotions.

© Stjepan Jukić: Contemplations about the sea: installation: performance 2019

© Stjepan Jukić: La Piscine, cord, old towel, cardboard on canvas, 2021

© Stjepan Jukić: Souls in the Ocean, water-based acrylic varnish, wire, 2022

Jukić graduated from the school of Fine Arts in Split, section graphic design, where he learned ancient techniques such as etching and lithography. He pursued his studies in the design of visual communications in Zagreb, realizing after obtaining a master's degree, that he could never work captured in front of the computer. Last year, Jukić moved back to Zagreb, after 10 years of life in the capital, splitting his time between the Maksimir neighborhood and his family home in Klis, where he stays during the entire summer period. "Time passes more slowly in the countryside, one can make miracles until noon. A big city is a collective grindstone", adds Jukić. While living in Zagreb he started painting portraits, in a sort of Pollock's kind of style, while in Klis, he paints abstractions of a metaphysical character. :"I see my paintings like intimate diaries, that change over time as I get older," he explains. 

 

Sun is the principal generator of new ideas and visions for this unconventional artist. Even during the cold winter periods in Zagreb, he spends at least two hours per day absorbing any possible glimpse of sunshine. The installation "Sun in Zenith," on the old chicken coop behind his family home in Klis, is his personal tribute to the Sun. 

© Stjepan Jukić: "Sun in Zenith" - daily lineup, chicken coop wrapped in aluminum foil, 2024

SUN IN ZENITH

 

The thing that annoys my family the most, and provides me the greatest pleasure, is an activity that I cherish since decades:  prančiok / Sun in Zenith. It means to lay under the sun and do nothing.

Laggard they say, not knowing that when I do the least, my brain works the most. 

There is that moment when I'm sunbathing, my breathing slows down, thoughts disappear.

I can feel the silence of the color palette on the eyelids, I see wind through the armpits, I hear the tread of an idea. On the edge of complete relaxation and sleep. 

Here I come: Vision. Sent to see the light of day. Oh Sun, long life to you!

© Stjepan Jukić: "Sun in Zenith" - night lineup, 2024

Jukić is also the founder of La Garagia, an open gallery performative space that was initially his father's car garage. During our interview, he explained how the idea essentially came from the necessity to have more space for painting: "Before, I was very uncomfortable painting on my knees in the attic of my family house, so I decided to put into use our empty garage. It is a space open 24/07, people are gathering, we prepare coffee.... Last summer in July I organized for the first time in La Garagia a joint exhibition with an artist from Rome. 

© Stjepan Jukić:La Garagia, interior 

© Stjepan Jukić: La Garagia, interior with ambient lighting in the evening 

Before every new phase, I repaint the floor and ceiling, and completely change the setting of the gallery. For the purpose of the installation I am currently working on called "A netting of missed ideas", where on a wire netting I will arrange paper notes with the names of all the paintings never made, I will be repainting the whole space in orange. A particular attention is given to ambient lighting, the only source of lighting I use. For me, to be able to create, the space needs to be pleasing to the eye from every angle."

 

Always curious to know about the painter's first contact with art or first creation ever made, I was surprised to hear that for Jukić they were linked to sponges and dough: "I remember that as I little child when my grandmother would bake bread, I would use the dough to make sculptures. I was also an altar server in the church, so I would ask the nuns to give me dry sponges, from which I would make ikebana arrangements". 

© Stjepan Jukić: Buquês de Flores Infinitas 1, 2023. Photo credit: @depulp.lab

© Stjepan Jukić: Buquês de Flores Infinitas 2, 2024. Photo credit: @depulp.lab

The artwork of Stjepan Jukić is particular in terms of the diversity of applied techniques and materials: from varnishes, acrylic paints to plants and gauze fabric, everything that is at hand gets used! During the lock-down period in particular, when there was no possibility to get any painting material, he would paint canvases with the mixture of spinach, onion and turmeric, or even paint the frames with soil. "I enjoy working in the garden and watching the plants grow" adds the painter.

© Stjepan Jukić. In the order of slides: Slide 1: picture of the family garden in Klis. Slide 2; sketches for the garden composition, acrylic on canvas, 2020. Slide 3: Garden creation 2, rope, soil, acrylic on canvas. Slide 4: Garden creation 1, rope, soil, acrylic on canvas 2020

 

Acrylic varnish is, explains Jukić, his possibly favorite painting tool, with a wide range of reflections on the surface, and a surprising effect because once the varnish dries out, a painting can become something completely different, like in the case of the "Wheel inside the Wheels" or in the "Path of Intersections", with bubbles resulting from the acrylic varnish projected from the pump with the higher concentration of air. 

© Stjepan Jukić: Wheel inside the Wheels, acrylic varnish, ink, acrylic on canvas. Faze where the painting has not yet dried out

© Stjepan Jukić: Wheel inside the Wheels, dried painting, 2022

© Stjepan Jukić: Path of Intersections, details

On a more metaphysical level, we can observe a repetition of circular form that point out the constant artist's research of a deeper meaning. As Pythagoras would say, the circle withholds all and everything emerges out of it. The circle is the outer expression, the construction; and the point is the absolute key aspect of the symbol, the core which everything turns around. Circle elements are present in the series of works "É Vida Infinita", artist's personal stories about separations, longings and hope in future crossings.  

© Stjepan Jukić: Path of Intersections- É Vida Infinita, acrylic varnish based on water and acrylic

© Stjepan Jukić: Path of Intersections- É Vida Infinita, detail 

É Vida Infinita series follows in a way a universal ground principle, where we observe circles within circles, in circles, endlessly – everything connected with, and within each other. An infinite mesh of concentrated vibrations, of potential encounters. Jukić also brings is to the contemplation of a deeper sense of life with his works "The Core- Discipline" and "Small retrospective of circles", where we can sense life flowing in circle: we enter the world through a circular opening, we grow up in a family circle. We see the world through a circular opening (pupils) embedded in the circular iris, which in itself is a beautiful, circular cosmos of its own.

© Stjepan Jukić: The Core- Discipline, acrylic varnish, acrylic, dry pastel, pencil on canvas, 2021

© Stjepan Jukić: The Core- Discipline, detail, 2021

© Stjepan Jukić: Small retrospective of circles, acrylic, ink, dry pastel on canvas

Jukić explains how meditation that he started practicing in 20217, had a huge effect on his work, opening him to the metaphysical spheres as visions started to appear through this practice. His red faze or the "war phase" is a sort of personal diary through the ruthless cycle of this deep introspective practice, reflecting his cries, inner conflicts, and screams for help. His painting "The Outcries" from 2021 is an almost terrifying representation of a deep inner struggle, with handprints stained in red paint.

© Stjepan Jukić: The War Phase 

© Stjepan Jukić: Struggle -the beginning, 2021

© Stjepan Jukić: The Outcries, 2021

In the variety of themes and fazes, I asked Jukić if he could select a painting that he is most fond of. He stays mostly attached to the recent works, as his "Love Songs for the Mountains", that was a result of a 3-month-long research of the Tramontane northern wind, based on the poem. With a sensibility for poetical expression, Jukić fuels his inspiration for writing in his almost 30km long walks. "All sorts of things pass through a painting. My favorite thing is when someone else sees something in it," he adds. 

Love song from the Mountains

 

The story of Tramontane, 

the wind that rushes down the mountains from the north, to stir up that small bits of insanity left inside of us. To go insane even more!

To announce the arrival of Mistral, the wind that swings lovers on friendly waves.

Lovers separating for centuries, and reuniting in ether.

One line of life that leaves its invisible but known mark in eternity.

© Stjepan Jukić: Love song from the Mountains, varnish, crushed stones from the beach, dry pastel, oil, ink, 2024

As an eternal seeker, Jukić is impregnated with atmospheres, sounds, and landscapes collected from his various travels. He points out the experience from Cuba, in 2022 as a place where he felt joy, distress, life taking place in the street, and where we start to realize how little do we actually need in life. Each year he visits a new island, and mentions tree Croatian islands that have left a huge impact on him: Šipan, Pag and Krk: "I was deeply fascinated by the silence felt on Šipan, its majestic pine trees that made me think that I will paint just pine trees when I get old. My grandmother is from Pag, and I am amazed by the olive trees from Lun, on the northern part of the island, the oldest olive grove in the Mediterranean with trees over 2000 years old, looking like they have been woven from lace. Baška on the island of Kirk is a place where I saw myself living when I get old, and also a place where I held my last exhibition". 

Olive tree from Lun, on the northern side of the Pag island, the oldest olive grove in the Mediterranean

When I asked him about future projects and exhibitions, Jukić immediately mentioned the curator Katerina Jovanović, whom he called "the curator of my soul". "I can honestly live without exhibitions, as I find them to be emotionally very challenging. About four–five years ago, Katerina reached out to me via Facebook, asking if I would be interested in showcasing my work. She is the main organizer of my exhibitions since". The series "É Vida Infinita" will be exposed as part of the Cultural summer of Klis this summer in the spaces of the Klis Fortress. Another upcoming project is also the "travelling La Garagia", in the spaces of the art school in Split, where Jukić will curate his art residence and create on site, as he does in his gallery in Klis. Spaces that tell a story and intimate scenography are his drive for the future, and we can just wish him to remain consistent and persistent in unwrapping his mesh of incredible possibilities!

© Stjepan Jukić:Sadness-natural colors, beets, turmeric, soil, ash, sand on a plastic net

MOMENTS AS REMINISCENCES OF LIFE FROM LONG AGO (extract)

 

Playing and painting on an empty canvas are moments where words are unnecessary,

and what is on the soul, sails away without thinking.

Tears that had never been shed, fractures, scars... and so much more.

The good and the bad, is in the end always good, because it has been set free, continuing

its way in the eyes of the one standing on the other side.

All those moments shaped me into something that constantly changes anyway

And there is nothing to hide there. We are as we are, and the way we are is always something good. :)

 

 
 
 

 

 

More about Stjepan Jukić: 

Instagram: @stjepan_jukic

                        @la_garagia

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Comments

IG
6 days ago

Stunning!

PHILIPPE HALIMI
6 days ago

Merci Ana de mon siege toujours le meme je me trouve devant votre article qui devoile cette artsite si talentueux de légèrté le vent soufle sur vos oeuvre ca sent la mediterannee le travail ensoleille l abstrait realisable avec Amour de cette artisite Ca .me soutiens dans mes demarches si brut .
Merci a Mr Jukic quelle talent Bravo
Une bouffe d oxygene culturelle Ana Merci.

jmarie rodrigues
6 days ago

Artiste "inspirant", authentique, sensible ; tous les choix évoqués (de vie & de production) conduisent Stjepan à suivre sa propre voie, celle de "l'INTUITION" (au sens fort et large) : cette faculté à convoquer ce qui surprend, ce qui n'existe pas encore.... Ce que produit sans retenue un "hors champs" sans attente ; bravo "l'artiste", parcours salutaire ; au plaisir d’échanger ; jmarie

Julieta Tenreiro
8 days ago

Excellent! Excellent work, Excellent content .