Imaginative premises

The Imaginative Spaces
of Dino Trtovac

However morphologically consistent he might be – indeed,
from the very beginnings, firmly committed to
pure, resounding, and indeed Orphic colourism and
to a strictly organised structurally thought out Abstract
composition, painter Dino Trtovac nevertheless does
follow appropriate variations and advances, and from
exhibition to exhibition, from cycle to cycle, has shown
no small abilities to develop a programme set in advance,
apparently constraining, but in the relation very
elastic indeed. Hence his working CV of over a quarter
of a century has no lassitude or monotony in it, although
it does not relinquish the simple, primary and highly reductive
approaches – but always in a kind of synthesis
of orthogonally disposed fields and organically produced
The beginning of the nineties, when the war broke out in
Croatia and then in Bosnia and Herzegovina, represents
a certain caesura in his work. The vigour of solo shows
was suddenly much reduced, as was, probably, the actual
production of the work; when he once again got
down to work and to public communication, it was not

accidental that in the painter’s compositions for some
time black strips and black fields crept in, as if disconsolately
framing and imparting dramatic rhythm to his
otherwise bright and open chromatic strips, furrows and
rails. But from the middle of that decade, his acrylics
once again took on the affirmative vitalist function of creating
intense vibrations of light. Trtovac’s painting is like
visual music, taking us away into imaginative spaces of
profound reverberations.
Throughout the last fifteen years he has gone on working
with unreduced intensity, with even perhaps an
increased ardour and a need to make up for lost opportunities.
An audience sensitised to the nuances and
variations will recognise the enhanced facility and immediacy
of the impression, and will conclude that the
settled manner of composition does not stand in the
way of his giving in to the hedonism of the laying on of
colour and of sensitivity to its consonances and contrasts.
Audience reaction will also be glad to keep up
with his airy and limpid visions, Trtovac’s “pleasure in
Tonko Maroević

Sketch for an artistic

When he was still only a youthful painter Dino Trtovac
established very high criteria for his art work, to which
he has been consistent and constant for thirty years.
Brought up and formed in the tradition of Western Abstraction,
particularly influenced by the New York school
led by Morris Louis, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and
Paul Jenkins, Trtovac sought the kind of expression most
congenial to his artistic sensibility, expressing himself in
watercolours and acrylics, which lend themselves to
rapid alla prima painting, without subsequent retouching,
allow the paint to run and drip outside the actual
brush stroke, though keeping within the borders of the
conceived and set contour.In his paintings we can keep
up with the hesitancy between geometry and the free
brushstroke, of impasto and transparent applications of
Following the painterly development of Trtovac from the
1970s, when he showed up at the exhibitions of the Zagreb
Youth Salon and at regular exhibitions of the members
of the Croatian Artists Association, we can see a
kind of liberation of the form from the saturated colour
field of the painter’s canvas, which takes on rectangular
and square forms, sometimes in variations of positive
and negative, dark and light. The rectangular internal
form has grown out to the borders of the actual painting,
or, losing its firm outlines, has become attenuated
and given over to the play of planes.
“Attesting to his adherence to abstraction (in an obstinate
and resolute way), Dino not only bears out his painterly
past, his acceptance of abstraction as a creative possibility
and sincere conviction, but has also confirmed
his worldview and method, his personality and preferences.
In brief, his very self,” as art critic Josip Depolo
said in 1987, referring to Trtovac as a painter who need
to “invent” abstraction.
At the beginning of the nineties, Trtovac formed his mature
painterly phase, dominated by vertical strokes of
pure paints, with restrained and rhythmical black perpendiculars.
At his first major solo show in Zagreb’s Gradec
Gallery in 1992 he showed his large format Compositions,
painted with acrylic on canvas, combined into a
cycle that Tonko Maroević christened Muffled Fires, in

which “ we perceive the ribbons of an imperative blackness
on occasions as the basis of the composition or,
rather, those inbuilt borders that in medieval enamels
would cloisonner the fields, and in the Gothic stained
glass would at once keep apart and bring together the
brilliant, transparent nuggets of coloured glass.”
Black, direct echo of the horrors of the war, which constrained
and damped down the colour, did not hold
sway on Trtovac’s palette for very long. Once again it
brightened up with luxuriant colours, culminating in
large format paintings recognised and premiated at the
8th Cairo International Biennial in 2001, today counted
among the anthology pieces of his work.The dampened
fires have been set free completely and flare out in all
the forcefulness of the paints that the painter combines
masterfully in countless combinations and variations of
harmonic consonances. He conjoined horizontal lines
to the settled rhythmic pattern of sequenced verticals,
and these would henceforth appear more frequently in
his canvases. From the very beginnings committed to
pure painting, to the “autonomous combining of vivid
surfaces and resonant strips, far away from any figurative
association or allusion”, Tonko Maroević placed
Trtovac into a branch of Lyrical Abstraction “building his
very specific individual space and recognisable sign”.
For Marijan Susovski, “Trtovac is principled in his methods
of work, and constant, with logical development
phases,” assigning him a very high position in Croatian
painting, with the assertion that “in his paintings he has
accumulated all that ismost vital and fresh in Croatian
Abstraction today”.
Condensing the best influences that he absorbed from
his training in the Zagreb Academy of Fine Arts, in postgraduate
studies in Paris and London and in travels in
the USA, Dino Trtovac has brought into Croatian painting
a characteristic international component, without
playing down the Mediterranean wellspring.
The painting of Dino Trtovac was not unrecognised by
local and foreign reviewers, who called him a portrayer
of colour, a refined colourist, a painter of sensitive colour.
His painterly scores have been justly compared with
the art of music, “for the merging of colours extremely

clearly invokes the merging and mingling of sounds”
but also “states of dream, meditative descents when
the eye like the finest instrument starts to register scales
of different colour tones that reach it in flashes,” as Marina
Tenžera wrote, aptly calling him a “happy mystic of
colour”.For Trtovac, painting represents a kind of contemplation,
he expresses his thoughts in colour, and the
descent into their meaning stays mysterious and unfathomable
to us.
But always remaining faithful to watercolour, to that intimate
technique of small format painting, since its
foundation Trtovac has exhibited at exhibitions of the
Croatian Watercolour Triennial, and has made a valuable
visual contribution to the poetry and print albums featuring
the verses of the French poets Alain Bosquet and
J.-C. Renard published by the Biškupić Collection.
Drawing on the title of Trtovac’s exhibition of 2004, The
Painting in Continuity, on the occasion of the presentation
of the artist’s work of the last fifteen or so years,
we can very reasonably speak of the continuity of the
oeuvre, of the rare consistency with which Dino Trtovac
constantly reminds us, and once again confirms, that
pure painting and the painting as such do still subsist in
this time of artistic experimentation.

Irena Kraševac

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