Advanced Search
Nenad Bach - Editor in Chief

Sponsored Ads
 »  Home  »  Culture And Arts  »  (E) Anton Cetin deep-rootedness in the history of Croatian art
(E) Anton Cetin deep-rootedness in the history of Croatian art
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  03/30/2005 | Culture And Arts | Unrated
(E) Anton Cetin deep-rootedness in the history of Croatian art

What kind of an image of the woman or the feminine does Anton Cetín portray? Clearly, it is a woman archetype, an image of Eve, born out of purity and a clarity of perception of a unique being.

She is formed from within an inner harmony and supernatural lightness, free from all earthly encumbrance.

Anton Cetín sees Eve as a spiritual entity, one which moves without limitation, and which can be recognized only by those who are prepared to let the wisdom of creation carry on in their own inner selves, a creation in which the human as such is only a small detail.

Rudolf Wesner, Germany


Anton Cetín was born in 1936 in Bojana, Croatia. He studied printmaking and painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb where he graduated in 1964.

From 1966 to 1968 he lived and worked in Paris, France. In 1967 the image of Eve was born in Paris. Since 1968 he has been living and working in Toronto, Canada as a professional artist.

He has held over 100 one-man shows: Isetan Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1974; Art Gallery Hamilton, Canada, 1978; Heritage Gallery, Los Angeles, U.S.A.,1979; Galeria Juan Martin, Mexico, D.F., 1979; Salon XX, Bogota, Colombia, 1981; Gilman Galleries, Chicago, U.S.A., 1983; Museum of Art and Craft, Zagreb, 1986 Croatia; Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery, Toronto, Canada, 1986; Beverly Gordon Gallery, Dallas, U.S.A. 1987; Oberhausmuseum, Passau 1990, Germany; Sony Plaza Art Gallery, Tokyo, Japan, 1991; Gallery 7, Hong Kong, 1993; Museo del Chopo, Mexico, D.F., 1993; Salas Nacionales de Cultura - Palais de Glace, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1994; Museo Mcpl. de Arte J.C. Castagnino, Mar del Plata, Argentina, 1995; Museum and Gallery Center - Gradec, Zagreb, Croatia,1996; City Museum Bjelovar, Croatia, 1997; Gallery Vincent od Kastva I & II, Pula, Croatia, 1997; Gallery of Old and New Masters, Varazdin, Croatia, 1998; Art Gallery, Split, Croatia, 1998; Gallery V. Karas, Karlovac, Croatia, 1999; Art Gallery and Gallery Waldinger, Osijek, Croatia, 2000; Hermann Hesse Museum, Calw, Germany, 2000, Gallery Anton Cetín, Čazma, Croatia, 2001; Multicultural Art Gallery, Halifax, Canada, 2003; Muzej Mimara, Zagreb, Croatia, 2004; csi..., Vienna, Austria, 2004/2005 and others. He also participated in more than 200 group shows world-wide: Museum of Modern Art, Krakow, Poland, 1972; Palais de la Scala, Monte Carlo, 1973; Brockton Art Center, U.S.A., 1974; Nat. Library of France, Paris, 1978; Colectivo Palmo, Malaga, Spain, 1979; Space Art Gallery, Seoul, S. Korea, 1982; II Cabo Frio Internat. Print Biennial, Brazil, 1985; Nat. Library of Canada, Ottawa, 1990; Art Asia '93, Hong Kong; Olympic Games, Atlanta, U.S.A., 1996; Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai, China, 2000; Point K Gallery, Nice, France, 2001; Circulo del Arte, Barcelona, Spain, Centro Histórico, Mexico, D.F., Mexico, 2003 and others.

A monograph about the life and work of Anton Cetín was published in 1986. The text was written by Dr. David Burnett of Toronto. In 1975 he published his first folio of prints Eve and the Moon, and in 1988, together with Croatian writer S. Seselj published a folio Amerika Croatan America containing a poem and prints. In 1989 they were both received by Pope John Paul II in Rome. Two documentary films about Cetín's life and work were produced, one in 1990 in Passau, Germany and one in 1993 in Toronto, Canada.

New monograph about Cetin's life and art was published in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2004. The text was written by Branka Hlevnjak of Zagreb.

He has received several awards and honours for his work. In a tribute to his work, the Canadian Croatian Artist Society chose him Artist of The Year for 1986. In 1995 he received from the Government of Croatia two honours: The Order of Croatian Danica (Morning Star) with the image of Marko Marulic and The Order of the The Croatian Interlace, for outstanding merits in the field of culture. In 2001 his works were selected by the prestigious Circulo del Arte, Barcelona, Spain. Also in 2001, in the city of Čazma, Croatia, a gallery was inaugurated in his name. The Gallery Anton Cetín holds a permanent exhibit of his work.

His works are found in museums, galleries and private collections in many countries of the world: Nat. Library of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario Collection, Toronto, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Canada, Museum of Art and Craft, Zagreb, Gallery Klovićevi dvori, Zagreb, Nat. and University Library of Croatia, Zagreb; University of Michigan, Dearborn, U.S.A.; Princeton University, U.S.A.; Museo del Chopo, Mexico, D.F.; Salon XX, Bogota, Colombia; Embragel, Cabo Frio, Brazil; Salas Nacionales de Cultura - Palais de Glace, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Vatican Collection; Nat. Library of France, Paris; Oberhausmuseum, Passau, Germany; U.N., Tokyo, Japan; Circulo del Arte, Barcelona, Spain and others.

The painting of Anton Cetín is rich in signs and symbols, with a formal individuality identifiable in its time. It bears the traces of the origins of Croatia and love for the mother country. Simple in composition, and strong in its rhythms, like all poetry, it is yet deeply intimate, and then again it is universal and generally relevant. The painting of Anton Cetín prompts us to reflection and raises questions; it charges up the emotions and is a spur to our vivacity.

Deep-rootedness in the history of Croatian art

To have studied painting at the School of Applied Arts in Zagreb in 1959 in the class of Ivan Sebalj (Zagreb, 1912 - 2002) meant to have acquired firm foundations in painting, not only from the point of view of skills, but also those to do with motivation and inspiration. Ivan Sebalj was a painter who enquired into the problematics of painting, and motif was of no great importance for him. He painted always the same motifs, countless times seek-ing answers to the questions he had asked himself. In the book Uciti umjetnost by Andelka Dobrijevic (Zagreb, Opuzen 1997), in an interview about educational methods, the painter Ivan (Ivo) Sebalj, who from 1961 on also taught at Zagreb's Academy of Fine Arts, explained:

The whole system of work was directed towards the acquisition of skills. If we look at the syllabi and curricula of that time, we will see the truth of this claim. Imagine the absurdity of for a whole year nothing but techniques and procedures, lining and the like. These are all the auxiliary techniques that were part of the art of once-upon-a-time, that we can see in the museums, but no longer adapted to a single young chap of nineteen or twenty. I wanted to give students something to lift them, not to be just classroom twaddle.
At the School of Applied Arts, Anton Cetín took his certificate in mural painting, which later proved useful, enabling him to master with ease the large format paintings, even over five metres, to which he devoted himself in the 1980s. It is also one of the reasons why the dimensions of paintings do not constitute a problem for him.

At the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb he enrolled into painting, but later switched to printmaking. Although he took his certificate in prints in the class of Marijan Detoni (1964), the painter and printmaker Albert Kinert also had a certain influence on the young Cetín; he was without doubt the greatest authority in the printmaking department of the Academy in Zagreb as it then was. His islands, shaped in drawing and blotches, seen from the air, like Burned Out Krk of 1962 or the forms in the painting In the Steps of the Prophet from the same year are shaped with a firm graphic form that looks like a sign composed into a finely structured ground. And the same basic definition could well be given to the early works of Anton Cetín.

Cetín's being rooted in the Croatian history of art of the early fifties and sixties can be seen in his propensities to phantasmagoric graphic structures. The early gouaches, like that one of the Phan-tom and Woman or Wounded Bird of 1967, or the oil on canvas Phantom of the same year, are works composed in the spirit of space-phantasmagoria and hieroglyphic signs. Of course it is true that even in the early works Anton Cetín occupied his own painterly ground and filled it with his own personal preoccupations. But it is also beyond any doubt that for a short time he did belong to Informel with its tendency to be obsessed with the gloomy topics prevailing in Croatia in the sixties as the response of artists to Soviet imperialism (Hungary and Czechoslovakia), the beginning of the Cold War and the dangers from A-bomb tests. The drawing in coloured Indian ink, Seated Woman in Profile, of 1967, is a symbol of the social headlessness all around which are drops of blood (red paint). But in 1966 Anton Cetín had already taken up residence in Paris, where young people dissatisfied with the social order, had their brief revolt in the spirit of the international movement in 1968. That was the year of his first one-man show in Paris and his move to Toronto, which was to become his place of domicile.

In his monograph about Anton Cetín in 1986, David Burnett was already able to spot, in those first years of expatriate life, a new creative phase, which took the artist off and away towards increasing painterly freedom. His painterly investigations took off from El Lissitzky, or the Constructivism of the Russo-Ukrainian avant-garde (Proun, for example, 1923); the colourist and outer-space weightlessness of Wassily Kandinsky (for example, Blue Sky of 1940) and the painterly signs of the later Paul Klee (1940). The figure of Eve, which became, and has remained, the basis of the artist's graphic and painterly quest, was born in Paris in 1967. Through this figure, since 1968, in his Canadian studio, Anton Cetín has created an original, marvellous and enigmatic painterly world of forms.

Minimalism of composition and means

Paris certainly inspired the painter Anton Cetín with its art-rich environment and the new stimuli it provided, liberating him from the dourness of Croatian Informel, from which he had come. Illustration and the print constituted his creative field, in which his sophisticated handwriting and contemporary rhythm came to the fore. In Paris too he created the germs of his preoccupations in painting, which he was to work out subsequently in Canada. And anyway, his contact with Paris has endured; both in his painting and through his artistic curiosity, Cetín has become a citizen of the world.

In the easel painting of the seventies, the formal method of painting was predominant. The contents were brought down to general symbols, gesture was lost in the name of a depersonalised universality. This was a period of the minimalisation of contents and the search for a new purity in painting. Anton Cetín took part in his work in the creation of the new painting, in which simplicity was a means towards spirituality. His palette became more open, his colour gained in significance. But not colour in the classical sense, with all its possibilities of creating spatially voluminous illusions: rather, pure colour, and non-colour, as a fact of painting itself.

Reflection on the Infinite (mixed media, 1971) is a picture of sophisticated relationships, in which the void becomes a vast spiritual richness. The relief structure of the white ground, its geometrical drawing of windows and tiny distant pink spheres, create a scene of visual and not only titular contemplation. The relief background spatters the light and can be read as whiteness with shady irregularities. It gives the impression of a cloud, of a dream. The amorphous ground is partially overcome in the upper part with a geometrical row of windows drawn in, while the universe appears in its perfect shape of the circle or the sphere. The circle/sphere is in the full cut-out of the window, which leaves the possibility for the double comprehension of the painting; as an undefined amorphous scene in front of the window, visible from the sphere, and as an everyday accumulation of presentiments an absence of knowledge, only partially interpreted through the order and meaning of the fragile geometrical form, and the aspiration to that ideal form of the circle or sphere, visible through the window outside.

The manifold response to this monochrome painting shows the artist's reduction of content to the elementary. And yet what is emphasised is form as a painterly device that sets up new relations in the concept of the painting. Perhaps this would not be anything very new in historical and in Cetín's own personal elaborations of the problems of painting, if the law of form were not so radically expressed here.

In the acrylic on canvas Space Wanderer (1971) Cetín sets up compositional relations in a similar minimalising manner. He puts the horizon in the upper third of the picture, his kind of artistic contribution, typical of the seventies, to social and ecological awareness; the earth came into the foreground. But the artist here was not dealing quite so much with ecology as with necessities and fates.

A whole series of pictures like Reflection on the Infinite, Space Wanderers and Space Wanderer of 1971, as well as many later ones, even the most recent pictures, compare the interplanetary relations of the individual to the system, in both a formal and a metaphorical sense. The artist has thus broached poetic and philosophical problems about life and the universe, through the challenge of painting.

The individuals (circle/sphere/head) in the paintings of 1971, in relation to colour and position (compacted in a sequence, above an imaginary horizon, below or perhaps before) appear as symbols of variable and contradictory associations (loneliness, danger, the bomb, a hole, desire and so on). Pictures also include other important relations between the irregularity of handwriting in the painted flat surface, the fragile geometrical drawing and the pure (industrial) poster surface. Colour in the classical sense of the word, even when it exists, is not necessarily there to be identified with reality.

In 1972 Cetín painted a light pink picture on canvas called Muse, on the ground of which a heart-shaped sign with shallow shadows, creating the illusion of a third dimension and of solid material, is picked out. The sign Muse works powerfully like a seal, a stone relief or a crystal thought. This form had appeared earlier in Cetín's pictures too (e.g., Maternity, 1967) but now it serves a different purpose, is graphically pure and simplified. It is painted almost realistically and deals like a matrix or the logo of a cover page, or better to say, the introduction into a new cycle of Cetín's works. This new oeuvre by Anton Cetín is based on figures/symbols, their elaboration and variation, in a constant investigation of the problems of painting.

The compositional appearance of space

The manner in which Anton Cetín painted the symbol of Eve, and the particular frequency with which she appears in his work, requires special reference to the symbolism of the figure.

Eve means the emotions of the human being and represents the non-rational element in humanity. She is also the concept of soul and body, the great mother of all the nations. In this sense the Eve Mother is linked with the concept of life; sea and earth are symbols of the maternal body. All the prehistoric mother goddesses were also fertility goddesses: from Babylonian Ishtar to Greek Gea. Eve the Mother is a universal symbol of refuge of warmth, tenderness and overall vital power (Chevalier and Gheerbrant: Dictionary of Symbols).

Completely unconsciously, Cetín has partially given his sign, Eve, formal elements that recall the popular and wittily composed Russian babushka, that is the wooden figures/boxes bearing the picture of a woman, who when opened up contains in herself another identical figure/box, she another inside her, and so on right until the smallest. This association is completely arbitrary and does not actually refer directly to the work of Anton Cetín, except to the idea that through the symbol of Eve, Anton Cetín has opened up his painting to all levels of association and symbolism; deeply philosophical, mythological and popular/vernacular as well.

The heart shape, which Cetín gave the name of Eve, is according to the symbols of traditional civilisations the seat of life, the will and the intelligence. It is the symbol of the inner person, his or her affective life. The heart is the seat of sense and wisdom, it is the symbol of secular and divine love.

The simple cordiform sign with universal and civilisation-related symbolic characteristics became for the artist the centre around which to compose the painterly space. At the same time this form could be transformed from an archaic three-lined and slender figure to a contemporary mask; from a pre-historic Venus to the stylised women of the people of Mestrovic; from ur-figure to contemporary sign. Many times, Cetín has used the symbol of Mother Eve as Mother Earth (Gea), painting footsteps over the cordiform figure. These are on the whole bird tracks, which in the eighties Cetín painted with increasing frequency and emphasis, either separately or together with the bird.

The bird is the symbol of the soul and has the role of mediator between heaven and earth (Chevalier and Gheerbrant; Dictionary of Symbols), while in contemporary poetry it is also the idea of freedom. Thus in the universal lexicon of figurative symbols, Anton Cetín has sung the eternal themes of freedom, arrival and departure, abandoning and abiding.

The heart-shaped form shows just how diverse and supple it is, how open to many interpretations, and at the same time suitable for working out numerous painterly problems that the artist set himself. It is a code with which the understanding of Cetín's paintings is guarded, and although originally subjective, has enough of the elements of public and universal symbolism for this mysterious form also to be a key to universal communication linking together time and place, people and civilisations, and the contemporary painting of Anton Cetín.

"In rich variations of the fixing of his own emotional motifs between lyricism and symbolism, between poetical intimation and the crystallisation of elevated ideas, Cetín creates the suggestive magic of his painterly conceptions and inspirations," as Nedeljko Mihanovic put it.

The artist's poetics, with the simplicity of his sign message, became close and acceptable. But this is not about a Pop Art formal game, in which the picture becomes a poster, and the poster sums up visual messages in some defined sign or icon in the manner of Andy Warhol, where the individual idol - figure becomes the vehicle for the whole of the composition. Anton Cetín has stuck to the area of the ongoing investigation of the contemporary picture and the problems of construction involved.

Anton Cetín is absorbed by the space of the painting. The sign has become the centre of interest in a variable context: the blue of the sea, dark nights, areas of land, window frames and the like. At the same time, the comprehensiveness of the given symbol has compelled the artist to the neutral space of the painting, suppressing confession and gesture, and pointing up the objectivity of the painterly problem and the acceptability of the message. An aspiration for the opening and closing of space has prevailed, for the creation of various of its structures, relationships of light and the internal rhythm of form, in conjunction with the fundamental maintenance of the simplicity and purity of the whole composition.

In this research into virtual spaces, in the seventies the painter gave up on the subjective gesture for the sake of the structural value of the picture. But unlike the surrealists who incline towards allegorical units, Cetín created pure formal relations, which have more in common with movie animation than the illusion in painting of three-dimensional tectonics.

The association with the cartoon film, with film shots and in general with elements in motion of the Cetín compositions of the seventies is the fruit of the artist's concept, which he was to keep on exploring. With the arrangement of his signs inside the first close-up red square, the second long-shot white square, above the deep blue inside the grey clouds, as in the picture Existence-Continuity of 1973, it would seem that a very slight effort would be required for the image to shift, for the squares to swap places, for some animation to take place in which the Eve figure appears somewhere else.

The author does not fix the figure in the classical perspective, nor does he deploy it poster-wise on the flat ground, but leaves it floating, achieving an unusual spatial levity. Opening up light, regularly-drawn squares around a space of differing structurality, he creates an impression of the distances in the film, and the eye really does expect movement. The same thing happens in the picture Remembering of 1974 - 75, in which the characteristic figure of Eve is intersected by a double white line, while above the crowned head stands the three-lined sickle moon. On the greyish white background the sign in silhouette as it were floats between lines and moon, and according to some logic of sensed distances, considering the diagonal positioning of the figure, it is to be expected that it will shift in this levitating and unstable condition.

The allusion to gravity-free conditions of the body in the deep-space, unknown, distant reaches has as much scientific justification as poetical visionariness. In the virtual world of animation, just as in the painting of Anton Cetín, the spatial wasteland caught up in the painterly frame is the work of the constructive thinking-through of the image, as well as the mirror - image of contemporary reality. The artist's literal interest in spaceships is visible in pictures named after them of 1970. But these pictures are based on a different kind of journey into the mysteries of space, that of the imagination.

Celebration of Space, a triptych of 1975 - 76, which reaches up to five and a half metres in width, in its title, just as in its dimensions, was the crown of the artist's interest in and exploration of the space experience of the object in the painting. In this majestic composition of the earth's wheel (half visible) that turns around its imaginary axis (as well as the light point of the sun) pictures float together with amorphous forms. The distinctive blue-white ground of the painting is crossed by sharp rays like some kind of communications lasers of spiritual energy. In its symbolism, the triptych is very individual and personal; it can but does not have to be intelligible, like, after all, any other abstract painting with a mysterious and metaphysical mood. But the compositional organisation is not totally intimist, because the symbols are eloquent and apart, and it is not some supernatural frozen picture of states. It is more the fruit of formal mimicry, sensed movements, known symbols in a constructed painterly space that compels to nothing at all, but does tease the eye and the feelings to search for answer.

Freed of classical perspective and the luminous illusion of space, and equally of modern poster flatness with the illusion of spatiality based on colour psychology, the film language of distance and shot is closer to Cetín. The colourist transparency of the planes, the subtlety of their indication (passages, windows, squares, lines and so on) as well as the openness to the interfusion of planes, suggest a possible animation, or a halted image of some imaginary event. Without, then, the classical perspectives of the painting and the spatially voluminous illusions, Cetín's painting responds to the new and fresh formal treatment of the painting, in which formal elements are close to other dynamic media. It is the fruit of contemporary research, the demolition of the borders of classical painting and its reestablishment in the rhythm of new compositions.

Translation of the sign

The heart-shaped form was created by Anton Cetín in Paris in 1967, but in the picture We Wonder of 1968, he painted two figures: that which he was later to call Eve, and the Adam that went with her. In time, this form changed from picture to picture, and sometimes appeared in variations in the same picture, several times. Almost like a typographic elaboration of the same letter, which appears in imperceptible changes, but always with the same meaning, so Cetín works on his heart-shaped sign.

If all the Eve figures were taken out of the pictures and put one next to the other, a sequence would be created of a fairly identical shape with unusual metamorphoses, suitable for animation, in which the basic outlines would preserve the meaning, although the angles, breadths, convexities, concavities, smiles, serious faces, open and closed eyes, crowns, caps, hair, headscarves, rounded and squarish forms, silhouettes with one outline or three outlines and so on would be different. From one figure two would be created, male and female, two women, a bird woman and so on. Like the cartoon film "Linea" of the Italian master of minimalism Osvald Cavandoli, or the meander image of Croatian radically-inclined painter Julije Knifer, where in a single graphic form countless changes take place; a figure of a man in a single stroke, or a meander in a single stroke. Unlike these two authors though, Cetín puts his single-stroke multiple-meaning sign in various spatial levels, in complex compositions of remarkable facility. Certainly an attentive analysis of his paintings would show that this facility is relative, that is that in the painterly shots of wastelands there are storms, blacknesses, secret gardens and serene skies.

Anton Cetín brought single-stroke outlines to a state of virtuosity. He devoted a triptych to them, named Three Graces, of 1976 - 77, in which with the symbolism of three circles, with dissolves and merges and so on he shows the three faces of Eve, three daughters of Eve, three graces. A frequent topic in the history of art is now painted in the totally new Cetín way, with formal means. Perhaps in system here he is close to Mondrian and his colourist rasters, to the artist who became a symbol for the formal treatment of contemporary painting, in which signs, pure colour and rhythm are the fundaments of composition. Using the same principle in another way Cetín imparts rhythm to circles and figures, and with arhythmic layouts with a minimum of colour creates a composition of contemporary painterly form.

At the end of the seventies Anton Cetín turned the contour line into the hatched line. It seems to have been as it were borrowed from the engineer's drawing, but also as if it were a stitch in vernacular embroidery. But it also appears as a formal version of the wonder at the unusual "embroidered, folk" forms of the aerial view of the ploughed earth around Calgary, which the artist visited in 1980 - 1981.

The triptych Invitation of 1978 is already of a rhythmically hatched outline. The central figure for this reason looks like an enlarged motif from some kind of exotic embroidery. Simple, one-stroke, it could serve as the designer's prototype. Placed recumbent against it is the figure of Eve, covered all over with splashes of colour, as if she were lying in flowers. The third picture of the triptych contains a framed part of featureless deep space. The triptych might be called Farewell or Dilemma because it contains three contradictory situations of some mysterious import that can be abstracted to the emotional (painterly), rational (formal) and spiritual (uncertainty of investigation). The whole triptych can be read as a visual reference to a new approach, which after 1978, during the eighties, came to life as the New Painting of the painterly reaction to minimalism. In 1980 Cetín abandoned the hard sign and freed the drawing so that, again in a single stroke, but now in a painterly sense more freely, he could form the profile of a woman. This was no longer a sign close to the functionality of prehistory, but a profile that called to mind the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. As if he had recognised her in the needlework structure of the cultivated land of Calgary, which had for a short period of time inspired his work in painting.

The new single-stroke profile of the queen is a rhapsodic flourish that is accompanied by birds, flowers, which with ease can be turned into its own facing portrait, into a picture of its own escort, into seductress, into woman of all colours and races, of marvellous hair, which sometimes is as heavy as a ploughed field. This is a woman of mature love, pure painting; a painting that is bursting with richness of expression, does not shrink from surplus of flourishes, does not despise decoration, but celebrates the return of embellishment and everything that traditionally went for natural beauty. Although in these pictures Cetín preserved his fundamental compositional scheme, even the title of Eve, during the eighties and nineties she became more powerful in colour, became richer in painterly strokes and kinds of them, through the mingling of painter's gestures and geometrical interventions. The well worked-out and refined relationship with the print, which in the painting of Anton Cetín was reflected with a certain discipline of colourism and sophistication in the handling of the levels, is achieved in the new cycle with pure painterly means.

The new figure of a woman with a bird acquired many forms. The sign was often just a squiggle over a lush playful ground, which is in itself a new ornamental image of the dynamic stroke. The fundamental elements of the composition span the even rhythm of the ground and put into the picture a new spirit, a breath of creative elation. Woman and bird, bird and flower became an obsession for the artist. The relationship between them was at base made simple, and it was this simplicity that spurred the artist to a new, better, richer and incessant exploration of the possibilities inherent in their order and the range of his own imagination. And also the personification of earth, her dual principle of the graspable and the divine, enabled the artist to speak more easily of his pain when he watched his beloved motherland being ravaged in 1991, to celebrate the recognition of 1992 and the liberation of 1995.

Through the same constructive elements, in various compositions, modifying the form, colour and rhythm, he broached universal questions in the paintings Pondering upon the Transcendental, Movement in Space and so on.

"Cetín's work is a celebration - of the universe and of infinity, of love and myths, inspiration and remembering. Of Nature. For Cetín art civilises and humanises. The artist deals with spiritual truth. He creates because he has no alternative," says Canadian Gordon McLennan very precisely.

Commitment and aesthetics

The terrifying casualties of unsuspecting victims in an event that shocked the world, September 11 2001, when the twin towers of the WTC were attacked, prompted Anton Cetín to the painting of a new cycle entitled Universe Disturbed.

With the real event and the abstraction of it into the symbol of the disturbed universe, the author set new frames for his compositions. Cetín was now to create new pictures, founded on his known painterly planes with a system of symbols that over many years had become more or less his trademarks, which had an unusual freshness and persuasiveness.

The new compositions of the paintings that had the series name Universe Disturbed, to which only the opus number is given, have a great deal in them that recall the system of musical compositions. The reduced white, red, black outlines of rectangles appear as a kind of rhythm that comes out of the framework of the painting. The rhythm is reinforced with coloured circles; alternately, perhaps everything will end in a bright red ground, in blue or white. Dismembered complex elements occur around a central but now hardly perceptible figure of Eve. Done in a one-stroke contour, she appears as a variable figure, with different hair, with a concealed bird, or without one. It would seem that she has been identified with many very different figures. In his circular deployment of the surrounding elements, with a modification to core and accompanying colours, the artist has created a series of powerful rhythms of an exciting music of painting. They are no longer composed and somewhat dreamy compositions of Eve and her bird. These are the new painterly rhythms of the twenty-first century. Their effectiveness has their own basis in reality.

In his full creative maturity, Anton Cetín has created an opus of youthful vigour. The Universe Disturbed is rhythmically new, buoyant and dashing, interesting, demanding, questioning, provocative. In these paintings, everything is familiar and all Cetín's own, but it is now put in new relationships. Cetín is here committed, involved in the human and artistic struggle for beauty, for harmony, for spirituality, for fulfillment. He has directed his creative and visual commitment against aggressiveness. That is why violent elements occur in the paintings, in the form of squares and triangles, on the whole in three colours, in red, black and green. These colours, according to the painter, have been chosen with good reason, and the forms of the triangle and square are directed diagonally in most cases towards the figure of Eve and the bird that are placed in the centre of the painting. Like a taut arrow the diagonal stresses the violent force and the destructiveness. Inside each square or triangle a form is inscribed, indicating the idea of destruction and devastation. Thus after September 11 the artist called these paintings Universe Disturbed.

The artist's commitment can be powerfully felt also in the images of views through the window (Universe Disturbed opus no. 37 - 78) of 2003, which give off a certain sense of gloom. The old theme of the window has been brought to life again. But here, the window gives a view onto a heavy and expressionist colour, onto a circle/sphere that has become part of a possible threat. This is a cycle that excites a certain feeling of unease, it asks questions and fears possible hopelessness. But the artist has not determined the answers. He has left the viewer many interpretative opportunities.

In the most recent cycle Revival (I - XI) of 2003 - 2004, Anton Cetín has once again expanded the field of painterly intervention from the narrow window frame to the whole space of the painting. In the painting, colour extends in rhythmical intervals in airy levels. There is no more agitating view from the room outside, from outside into the room. Faith and hope are established, and they give these pictures a marvellous charm of intelligible and mysterious optimism.

Instead of a conclusion

In the opus Disturbed Universe, Anton Cetín has confirmed one of his basic traits. He is a committed painter. He has always been one. As early as in his Art Informel beginnings, in his phantasmagoric prints, and later through the heart-shaped forms of Eve and the symbols that are the basic form of his expression. Cetín's commitment is universal. He is an eternal fighter for the achievement of the higher spiritual values, for a higher quality fulfillment of life. In simplicity, the artist found complexity; in a single stroke, he created the symbol of Eve, loved by all and ubiquitously intelligible.

The painting of Anton Cetín is deeply immersed in its age. Numerous events, personal and social, have determined the direction of his painterly engagement. We might well call Anton Cetín a reflexive painter, for whom the form itself is object of consideration. This is a painting of abiding power, permanent freshness, simple communication. A painting for the 20th and the 21st century.

Branka Hlevnjak

How would you rate the quality of this article?

Enter the security code shown below:
imgRegenerate Image

Add comment
Related Articles

Article Options
Croatian Constellation

Popular Articles
  1. Dr. Andrija Puharich: parapsychologist, medical researcher, and inventor
  2. (E) Croatian Book Club-Mike Celizic
  3. Europe 2007: Zagreb the Continent's new star
  4. (E) 100 Years Old Hotel Therapia reopens in Crikvenica
  5. Nenad Bach & Miro Gavran hosted by Branimir Bilic on Croatian TV 2010
No popular articles found.