Vinko Šaina


Exhibition in Gallery of Hrvatsko društvo likovnih umjetnika Istre in Pula, Zagrebačka 4 can be visited untill May 31st 2024.

Labin painter Vinko Šaina persistently and gradually, without major deviations, built his artistic path with gesture, color and light that weaved a specific and fairy-tale dedication to nature. That path was primarily marked by the landscape, which was and remains the painter’s dominant determinant and has always occupied a crucial place in the author’s work. Although the landscape has been a constant in Vinko’s painting for almost half a century, we cannot classify him as a landscape painter, because it primarily serves as an inexhaustible source of inspiration and a starting point for painting experiments. Already long ago, in 1981, in a conversation with Gorka Ostojić Cvajner, Šaina stated:
…It actually all started after a trip to Normandy by plane. I was deeply moved by the experience of the earth’s structure. I didn’t want to record it, knowing that such a scene can only be truly experienced and deeply stored in oneself and later somehow transposed into painting. Perhaps that experience was the subconscious determinant of my painting, that magical scene, the whiteness of the rock dotted with the dense and dull color of the forest, the airiness and luxurious color of the sea…
In the wake of this impressive visual experience, Šaina developed his painting inspired by nature, similar to how Mondrian was also impressed by it, and by painting the shadows of tree branches in the snow, he gradually reached his neoplasticism. Vinko did not go in the direction of Mondrian’s reduction and radicalization of the natural template, but developed it imaginatively and structurally, painting bands of sea, land and sky with multicolored horizontal segments, carefully layering them one above the other. In these abstract paintings, which spring from a Norman dream, but more and more from the landscape template of the Labyrinth, more precisely its color, Vink’s specific morphology develops, growing out of a strong expressionistic gesture that alternates flatness with layering, and there is a fine gradation and gradation of the interrelationships of the painted elements. Choosing motifs that represent the basic beginnings, water, earth and air, Šaina penetrates into symbolic spheres where the earth represents the physical and material trials of earthly life, the air the cosmic essence, and the water purification. The fourth element, fire, which represents enlightenment, is present in Šaina’s paintings with the light emanating from the author’s fiery palette. Vinko’s landscape is therefore not only a skillful abstract interpretation of a real model, but primarily its metaphysical projection that also conveys the sensitivity of the author’s spirituality, which feels and interprets nature as a multifaceted and transcendental value. Unfortunately, nature is collapsing in front of us every day because we are simply not aware of it, and looking at the accumulating ecological disasters, we didn’t even deserve it. Vinko is well aware of this and wants to preserve it and, if necessary, transpose it to other worlds of space. For this reason, in some compositions of geometric indications (1999 / 2000) there will also be an objective appearance of a geometric sign, most often a triangle, which does not disturb but accentuates the imaginary landscape, and also establishes a symbolic reading of abstract compositions where, like the Clarcke-Kubrick monolith from 2001: Odysseus in space, raising your recognizable landscape, that is, nature, from the earth to the infinity of space.

This new cycle, started in 2022, Šaina, consistent with himself, leans on his previous experiences, which now continues with the reduction of color and her characteristic iconographic signs, and with an emphatic strengthening of the gesture. The recognizable horizontal lines are now reduced to just two that delimit the painted composition in the lower and upper parts placing it in a frame within the picture or more precisely, forming a screen. The reason for this is twofold. The first one is in the service of the reductionist procedures that Šaina now strives for, and below and above these lines, which now become boundaries, is a painting of a monochrome surface that highlights the basic subject of the complete composition – a picture within a picture. Another reason is the emphasis on the screen as a conscious (not) compliance with modern technology. Today, we observe everything through a screen, whether it’s television, computer and smartphone screens, or giant illuminated advertising displays. Aware of the technological expansion that far exceeds real human mental and physical resources and significantly forms a new visual aesthetic where there is less and less room for classic media, Šaina’s painting is placed in a screen format in order to be up to date with the dictates of time and accessible to the younger generations brought up on the previously mentioned screens, which visibly ironizes contemporary media consumerism, which has greatly contaminated art as well. Perhaps that is why the luxurious and exciting color of the previous paintings, created on the contrasts of intense colors, is now dying out and giving way to a quiet tonal harmony. Vinko’s immanent dualism, which runs through his new cycle, is manifested in calm compositions made of gray, greenish and bluish colors, which are confronted with restless and dynamic images where black accents prevail, rising above a dense background painted in shades of sepia and brown. However, if we look at the cycle as a whole, a gradual gradation from poetic and loose compositions to disturbing condensed painted surfaces is noticeable. The main reason for ending the long-standing colorist symphony is still Vinko’s life and creative maturity, because now he is more and more interested in structural painting processes where he pays most of his attention to the painter’s handwriting, i.e. the gestural manifestations that still spring from his innate expressive expression. The range of expressiveness varies from airy azure tones, applied with careful small strokes of the brush, to dull surfaces of a strong and suggestive gesture that partly speaks in an informal language. Šaina’s ductus is now continuous but restless, and the rhythmic intervals grow proportionally with the thickening and fading of the chromatic intensity, which takes place in a dramatic gray-brownish gamut.
Of course, we are again talking about the landscape, about what emerges and is defined by the land, about the kind we can see in the paintings of realist and impressionist French painters who painted Normandy, and which Vinko saw from the plane and embraced on that long-ago flight. The circle is closed. With his, so far, the most mature painting cycle, Vinko returned the experience of Normandy, supplementing it with Istrian experiences, to its source. Now Šaina is no longer a curious dreamer, but an experienced master who sovereignly, in the best possible way, completed his long-term painting odyssey and sailed the Normandy seas in search of new horizons.

Mladen Lučić

VINKO ŠAINA was born in 1953 in Pula. He graduated from the School of Applied Arts in Split at the department of graphics in 1972. He is a member of HDLU Zagreb and HDLU Istria.
Since 1971, he has exhibited at about fifty solo exhibitions (Labin, Pula, Rovinj, Rijeka, Poreč, Turin, Imperia, Feltre, Kirchdorf, Imola, Roette, Graz, Malinska, Umag…) and almost two hundred group exhibitions in the country and abroad ( Labin, Pula, Split, Rijeka, Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Udine, New York, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, Chaco, Comodoro, Manzano, Vittorio Veneto, Leoben, Eisenstadt, Stuttgart, Vienna, Trieste, Paris , Lisbon…), and participated in the work of ten art colonies in Croatia and abroad.
In addition to painting, he has also been engaged in gallery work since 1986, and in 1993 he founded the Alvona Gallery in the restored cultural monument, the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
He held the position of president of HDLU Istria in the period from 1996 to 1999. He achieved the status of an independent artist in 1997 and became a member of the HZSU when he retired in 2006.
In 2009, a documentary film Šliko-slikopisi Šaina was filmed about his work, produced by HRT, which brought to the screen the warm story of the author who dedicated his life to art and people.
Fine art monograph of Vinko Šain – light painter, authored by Ph.D. Berislav Valušek and prof. Roberta Tessaria was promoted in September 2017 with a monographic exhibition set up in the Labin National Museum, Labin City Gallery, Alvona Gallery and Negri Gallery.
His works can be found in numerous museum-gallery institutions and private collections in the country and abroad, and he has received numerous awards for his work.
He lives, creates and works in Labin.