Josip Zanki – Statements about Josip

Flora Turner
Art historian
Cultural Counsellor
Embassy of the Republic of Croatia, London UK

Josip Zanki  is a very special artist in view of his duality: modernity, openness and playfulness on the one hand and an obsessional devotion to the traditional medium of fine drawing on the other. Highly skilled, with a consistent, immediately recognizable  style, both imaginative and patient he can be compared to a Medieval illuminator filling with “horror vacui” the surface of  the paper with intricate drawings in remarkable detail,  drawn with a never hesitating line. Zanki is continually experimenting with different media, exploring links with archaeology, science and even mysticism, often interpreting unique Croatian local customs with environmental messages and always deeply rooted in nature.

Slaven Perovic (Art historian, Etching and drawing s department Museum Mimara): Introduction  of the
exhibition Mirila of Josip Zankia

I have been keeping up with the development of
printmaker and painter Josip Zanki for some years now,
but it is only just recently that the realisation that
he is no mere printmaker and painter has made it
considerably easier to accept his way of seeing the
truth. Truth written in capitals or italics.  The way
to the truth that has completely absorbed Zanki has
been interrupted by barriers, particularly for us
ordinary mortals.  The barriers have been put there
for us by education, upbringing, the zeitgeist, and
our material everyday life.  And yet for the whole of
the time while we have been preparing ourselves to get
through our lives, in one way or another, messages
have been reaching us that can be fitted only with
difficulty into official, scientifically demonstrable
reality.  From childhood on they have whispered to us,
at irregular intervals, half-secrets about a world
that is not exactly easy to see, but clearly real
since it has been so often mentioned; sometimes we
ourselves, for some brief moment, have been able to be
convinced of its existence.
I think that one of the reasons I have been able every
time to get deep into Zanki’s graphics is the
realisation that he has continued with an intelligible
voice to point to something that has been repressed in
my consciousness, more accurately put, abandoned, but
present all the time. I am aware the whole time of my
existence that I have simply abandoned this, as I got
older and more calloused, however difficult it is to
determine what precisely is involved.
Zanki’s graphics are pictograms of an abandoned
language, a language that has survived on the borders
of civilisation but are by the sheer fact of it a
living language.  Through them he helps us to delve
into parts of ourselves that we realise we have missed
greatly when we rediscover them.  Enormous labour has
made this feasible to him, and we are left with the
task of making use of his knowledge of the impassable
paths and setting out after a sure guide.  When he
leads us to Sveto brdo and when at dawn we see Nin
below us, we get goose pimples at the knowledge that
it was our shadow, before that of Velebit, that
touched the apse of Holy Cross.

Back to the Heritage
Gallery Višeslav (the Baroque House), Nin
8 – 13 July 2007

Iva Körbler,  art historian
Institut for history of art
Zagreb

In a time of a general inflation of ideas, theoretical cynicism, and a sometimes deliberately induced atmosphere of nihilism and absurdity, where all too often the media practice a continual marginalization of authentic artistic events using cretinous excuses dressed up as editorial policies, i.e. that such events are not of interest to the general public, the Croatian artist Josip Zanki came up with a positively structured and precisely worked out idea about a symposium that would stimulate the local Croatian artistic heritage to come to life among us and cross the borders of space and time. The author of the first Croatian novel, “Mountains”, Petar Zoranić, in the 16th century described the natural beauties of the authentic historical sites of Nin, Zadar, the Velebit Range, the source of the Krka River, and the vicinity of Nin, which inspired Josip Zanki to “reactivate” these archetypical places from Zoranić’s novel on the 500th anniversary of the birth of Petar Zoranić, through a comprehensive artistic operation. This is the landscape of Zanki’s birth and childhood, and the images of nature that he systematically memorized for years in this authentic countryside have always marked him as an artist of an exceptionally specific graphic signature and approach.
Josip Zanki, however, belongs to that fairly rare type of artist who wishes to share his own visions and creative-intellectual inspirations with other artists, as to a sufficient extent he is already formed as an artist – as an artist who possesses consciousness about the knowledge and talent that can be even more successfully developed and sharpened through various interactions with other artists. Undoubtedly, nature itself is the decisive factor that allows Josip Zanki endless games and changes while submerging himself into his own creative chasm, an individual experience that reflects knowledge of the imbued functioning of man and nature, landscape and character, local customs, heritage, and traditions. Only someone who has sensed all the changes in nature throughout a day, a week, and through the merging of the seasons, with experience of the capricious wind, rain, and sea can more fully recognize the complexity of life cycles, learn the experience of surviving in the open nature of Velebit Mountain, or wait for a fish to finally bite somewhere on the open sea, and later apply this experience in order to become stronger through various artistic oscillations. Am I exaggerating? Experience tells me that in art a greater proportion survive of artists from the seacoast, the mountains, from the healthy rocks of the Dalmatian hinterland, who in their early years drank in all the strength of the sea and sun, and who always carry in themselves insights about surviving, obstinacy, and a positive defiance that drives them forward always and constantly. The children of nature are stronger in comparison to the somewhat degenerate urban children, who at the same age are very often broken by hopeless hours of practicing some instrument and the kilograms of dusty books that simply “must” be read in closed spaces, without any real any real experience of life in the open.



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