New beginnings/ Purges in the imaginary // Up
Željka Gradski & Alan Vlahov


With their first joint exhibition, Željka Gradski and Alan Vlahov show many similarities in their artistic poetics, although they communicate in completely different media – she in painting, and he in sculpture.
Their works communicate in a dual form, but although with different approaches, they are connected sometimes by the same idea and theme, and sometimes by colorism, style or composition.
At the same time, it is necessary to emphasize that the mentioned identities do not arise from the fact that these two artists are in an intimate relationship, but they are completely accidental and unintentional, even discontinuous in time.
We are talking about two artists with an original and strong expression and a recognizable personality, who have maintained the integrity of their personal artistic poetics in their works, even though they are aware of the rich Croatian and European artistic heritage.
For both, the aspiration is to show those spiritual, inner states and feelings that we cannot see, but can feel, through a kind of diary entries, notes.

The paintings from the series “New beginnings/ Cleanses in the Imaginary”, created at the end of 2020 in a combined technique: acrylic, dry pastels, ink, graphite and charcoal on canvas, with which Željka Gradski presents herself, exude latent power, very expressive in feeling. Gradski is primarily expressed in the language of abstraction, from which characters emerge – the protagonists of the scene, some trees, a miraculous machine for making stars… Descriptively, intuitively using brush stroke movements to create pictures without a classical composition that would frame the painter’s imagination, communicates thoughts, ideas and emotions in an almost abstract way. Although somewhat simpler in color than the one we are used to in Željka’s paintings, more sensual and fluid in the approach of applying paint to the base, they still burst with positive energy, which testifies to the passion for life. The crazy moment in this “chaotic imaginary”, as the painter calls it, is completed by writing the lyrics of the songs, which the artist considers essential for a particular sequence of dreamlike scenes.

Alan Vlahov presents himself at this joint exhibition with sculptures from the “Gore” series, executed in wood, with some intervention with materials such as Acrystal, laminated paper, metal, created during 2021 and early 2022. All works are partially or completely painted. The works are diary entries, interpretations of own experiences and reflections on relationships between couples, the artist’s reflections on society and the space that surrounds it. Already in the previous cycle “Diary” created in papier mache during 2020, during the lockdown, Vlahov spoke with great creative energy and sincere emotion. In the “Gore” cycle, this energy is somewhat calmer, because the sculptures were created during the period of spiritual prosperity of the artist’s private life, which was also reflected in his work. The basis of Vlahov’s sculptures are architectural elements, buttresses, arches, capitals in relation to plant and floral elements and the man who finds himself in this interrelationship, who finds his way in it. The architectural elements are there to guarantee the safety of the structure, while the plant elements connect with nature and our source. However, this imaginary world still feels fresh and easy. Inspired by nature, Vlahov builds sculptures that are witty, likeable and fresh. Color, which is an integral part of the sculpture, emphasizes its expressionistic nature, which is additionally contributed by the dynamized surface of the sculpture.

Looking at the works of Željka Gradski and Alan Vlahov, we can find a whole series of links that connect these two, at first glance, different artistic worlds. It is interesting how they arise involuntarily, quite by accident, so we conclude that two close sensibilities, similar views on life, similar reflections, similar ways of reinterpreting what has been experienced, similar artistic emotions were found quite intuitively.
We feel this in the kinship of the clouds in Željka’s Centaur in the Cloud and Alan’s sculpture Sailing, we read similar starting points for the development of the artistic idea in Željka’s Totem for Happiness and Alan’s Sympathy.
Just as Gradski pays a kind of homage to the songs that marked certain chapters of her life by writing their verses on the field of the painting, for example in the painting Let there be light, so is Alan’s sculpture Do you know where the center of the world is? a kind of homage to our great sculptor Marija Ujević, who asked the same question to Alan’s brother, when he, then a boy, visited him at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb.

In a similar way, they both approach the organization of the space in which the scene takes place – Gradski frames the scene within an oval, egg-shaped shape in the paintings Space Man and Man in an Egg, just as Vlahov places his figure within a diagonally placed oval shape in one of his older sketches.
The embracing couple, which in Željka’s painting Two in the Dark and the Star-Making Machine is accented with red color emerging from the darkness, seems to have moved into Alan’s sculpture – Mi(r); only there they are no longer hugging, but sitting facing each other and enjoying the moment.

  In the end, the spaces and inhabitants of Željka’s and Alan’s artistic worlds will come to life in their synchronicities for the first time together and before the eyes of an art audience, precisely in the fairytale space of the once neglected church of Our Lady of Carmel, which has been transformed into an exhibition space of the Alvona Gallery with the enthusiasm of the current manager.

 Romana Tekić